International Ilonggo lifestyle designer PJ Arañador pays tribute to his mom through the establishment of a resto that showcases and celebrates the rich culture of his hometown Iloilo City.

“We are opening this place in honor and in memory of my mother,” PJ stressed of his Wawa Heritage Restaurant in E. Lopez St., Jaro district.

Wawa is a homage to his mother who was called by her grandchildren such name because they could not pronounce the word “Lola.”

Newfound moms

PJ said he may have already lost his mom but nevertheless found several more mothers in the community of women beneficiaries of PLDT-Smart Amazing Gawad Kalinga (GK) Village in Sooc, Arevalo district.

Kitchen jobs

“Aside from being a place where they can sell their products both for home and fashion, Wawa can also give employment to some women who can work in the kitchen,” he added.

Food for one meal

PJ also plans to include workshops for their children and a feeding program where customers can offer the other half of their paid meal to GK Sooc recipients and other communities.

New beginning for GK moms

“This is just the beginning for the GK mothers who are now busy in production of orders from Manila and other places. With creativity and hard work of GK Sooc residents, they can do more and achieve more,” he exclaimed.

Working with craftsmen

“I think I cannot imagine my work without humanity. My heart is really for working with the craftsmen,” said PJ who came home from his glittering jobs in various places in Asia, South America and Africa.

PJ wants to teach the Ilonggos to make more useful and marketable designs using discarded tarpaulin materials that Smart is supplying to them for free.

Used tarps for garments, high-end furniture

He envisions this small handmade enterprise that he helped build with GK Sooc families to grow into something more by inventing more creations like garments and high-end furniture – all using recycled tarps.

From trashy to flashy creations

The chairs in the resto are covered up with used tarps that they made artistically and painstakingly by hand – a unique and craft that one wouldn’t realize that it’s made of something already considered trash.

The candle holders and other decorations are made of woven tarp materials. The restaurant even hosted a fashion show that paraded their most popular creations today – fashion bags made of tarps.

From rags to riches

Starting from scratch of just an old “kamalig” (warehouse), PJ and GK Sooc community transformed the place into a restaurant celebrating Iloilo’s heritage, culture, people and food.

Motherly love, lessons

“Wawa now stands as a symbol of cooperation and collaboration between willing groups and the community. Most of all, it reflects hard work that is inspired by every mother’s love for her family, and a mother who taught her son to always give back to the place that nurtured him,” said Smart Communications.

From trash to cash

The GK Sooc women are beneficiaries of a livelihood program being implemented by PJ and wireless services provider Smart Communications, Inc. (Smart).

They have partnered with GKonomics, Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), Business Fair Trade Consulting, and Sooc Social Ventures for the endeavor.

Dubbed Project Zero, the program aims to provide income to families through recycling of tarp materials previously used as Smart’s billboards and banners – turning them into artistic and useful objects like bags, home furnishings and ornaments.

The livelihood initiative aims for zero unemployment and zero garbage by making products with zero electricity and carbon footprint, said Smart Communications.

Food for families

“We are happy and proud that some generous souls gave us hope. Seeing our crafts being highlighted gave us a sense of accomplishment and purpose,” GK Sooc’s Kapitbahayan president Ana Ylio was quoted as saying.

“This is what’s keeping us busy nowadays. If you had visited our village before, there used to be so many of us who are jobless. Thanks to Smart, PJ and other groups who are helping us, we now have a livelihood that’s helping us mothers provide food to our families everyday – hope it continues,” said Ana.

Photo credits: Smart Communications