Episode 152 – A Life Well Designed: The Legacy of Pinky Santos and the Influence of Filipino Art on the Lived Environment

“If there was one thing to take away from this story, I would hope that it’s motivation for you to go create something.” -Antonio “Miko” Javiniar

This is a story about chairs.

Whether you knew it or not, the rattan and bamboo hourglass-style peacock chair that has been seen in photos and homes for over a century traces its origins to the Philippines.  In fact, the first photo taken in what’s often been referred to as the “photographer’s chair” was taken at Bilibid Prison in Manila.  Vox’s short doc on YouTube is a good primer on the chair’s history and influence.

Photos:  Huey Newton / Black Panther Party; “Jail Bird In A Peacock Chair” / El Paso Herald.  Re-published by Esquire Philippines.

And whether you knew it or not, if you’ve ever seen the chairs at Gracias Madre, Pink Taco, the Ace Hotel, or even in the movie Jurassic Park, you were looking at the art and designs of Pinky Santos, including her own take on the peacock chair.  She designed furniture for the renowned and influential Fong Brothers, and then eventually for her own design house in the Philippines, fulfilling a life-long dream.  And she drew, doodled, and painted.

Photos courtesy Antonio Javiniar.

And while all of that is notable on its own, we know Pinky not because of chairs, but because, for a time, she was part of the extended family at Search to Involve Pilipino Americans, where Producer Mike and guest host Gerlie Collado both worked, and where her kids, Antonio / “Miko” and Kat spent their time after school.  So to us and so many others, Pinky, Antonio, and Kat were family, nothing more, nothing less.

Photos by Michael Nailat

Last June, Pinky passed away, leaving behind Antonio and Kat, both of whom have grown into incredible creative people in their own right.  And rather than let their loss fade into memory, Antonio made sure to tell the story of his mother’s incredible body of work on his Instagram, a story so beautiful that we had to have Antonio on our show to share it with all of you as well.

We often celebrate the most visible and notable people in our community, and we’ve interviewed a lot of them on this podcast.  But it’s also important to tell the stories about the less well-known but just as remarkable people in our own lives as well.

Pinky Santos was so many things to so many people:  a humble industrial designer, an eager artist, a supportive mother and friend, a chaser of dreams.

This is a story about chasing those dreams.  This is a story about finding family and community wherever you go.  This is a story about the art we experience in our daily lives while rarely ever thinking about their origins and the artists that created them.

This is a story about Pinky.

Photo courtesy Antonio Javiniar

Listen to or download the episode through the embedded player on this page, find us on Mixcloud or subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts here. And for folks on Spotify, you can take a listen to us here.

Have you seen or sat in one of Pinky’s chairs?  Do you have a story you think we should tell?  Let us know by leaving a voicemail at (805) 394-TFAL or emailing us at thisfilipinoamericanlife@gmail.com.


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