November 6, 2014 / 10:19 AM / 5 years ago

Designer crafts Philippine typhoon debris into furniture art

MANILA (Reuters) - A young Costa Rican designer is turning devastation into opportunity one year after the deadliest typhoon on record to hit land smashed into the Philippines.

Bernardo Urbina, 26, was living in Cebu City when typhoon Haiyan tore through the central Philippines last November, reducing much of what was in its path to rubble in tsunami-like surges and driving about 4 million people from their homes.

Urbina later traveled to Tacloban, the worst-hit coastal city, and began buying debris and scraps of wood from residents to repurpose into pieces of furniture and works of art.

“It wasn’t just a branch that we took and we converted to furniture ... someone owned that debris, that broken headboard, that broken door frame. And we repurpose it and upcycle the material to give it more value,” Urbina told Reuters TV.

Upcycling refers to reusing an object without degrading the material it is made from.

Each of Urbina’s one-of-a-kind pieces tells a different story. A boy’s pushcart is turned into a coffee table, while pieces of discarded wood from fallen trees find new purpose as coasters.

Urbina unveiled his first collection in Cebu City in September, attracting buyers who snapped up pieces ranging from 18,000 to 44,000 pesos ($400 to $980). A second collection was on exhibit in Manila last month.

He also displays photographs of the Tacloban residents who own the house or item where the debris originally came from.

The designer said he would give 10 percent of the profit from each piece on the ‘Tacloban Prevails’ furniture line back to the typhoon survivors he bought it from.

“It’s not only a furniture company, but it’s more a system that creates a bridge of communication between the end user and the affected Filipino through furniture,” he said.

Reporting by Reuters TV; Editing by Tony Tharakan

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