DESPITE the popularity of foreign brand names today, a new breed of Thomasian graphic designers is taking the commercial market by storm with its funky products and uniquely Pinoy art works. Team Manila Graphic Design is all about reinventing Filipino lifestyle through new forms of art media.

Established in 2001, Team Manila has eight men at the helm. Founders Jowee Alviar and Mon Puzalan teamed up with classmates Randy Evasco, Paul Guadalupe, Nathan Dalud, Lyndon Justo, and Rosmen Cura from Advertising Batch 1997 of the then College of Architecture and Fine Arts (CAFA). They were also members of the UST Mountaineering Club (USTMC) where they met Leah Bonzo, the only girl in Team Manila.

“Una pa lang mabuti na ‘yung samahan namin hanggang pagka-graduate. Si Mon napunta sa ibang graphic studio at nag-aral naman ako ulit. Nung nagkasama kami, napagkasunduan namin na itayo na ang Team Manila,” Alviar said.

“Magkakabarkada lang talaga kami, nagkataon lang na mayroon kaming business,” Bonzo said.

Recently, Team Manila took home the Best Album Packaging of Slapshock’s Novena in this year’s Awit Awards, a work that also won at last year’s NU Rock Awards. Team Manila spent many sleepless nights getting the right texture and the right style for the album, and all the hard work eventually paid off.

Their individual works also appear in other popular Filipino brands like Human, Bench, and Tribu. They have also done layouts for publications like MTV Ink, Pulp Magazine, and Lucerne. Team Manila also won Best Director Award at the 2003 MTV Pilipinas for its work in Slapshock’s music videos “Numb”, “Queen” and “Wake up,” when it collaborated with another USTMC alumnus, Xander Angeles, the photographer behind the controversial coffee table book, The X book.

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With its unique style of infusing Filipino inspired themes and designs splashed on the electronic canvas, Team Manila wants to take Philippine digital art to the next level by giving the country a more “edgy” but truly Pinoy personality.

“Our main goal is to give our country an identity. From websites to billboards, everything will have a character,” Alviar said.

Incorporating its belief into their products, the team designed t-shirts with local themes, like Jose Rizal, historical landmarks, still life, and simple objects that define the everyday lives of Filipinos like jeepneys and street vendors. Its other products include purses, bags, and calendars.

Even after only three years in the business, the group has already reaped many awards and gained big clients.

They said their success today is thanks to their hard work and their Thomasian background.

“Magaling kasi ang CAFA pagdating sa business at art, yung iba kasi, artistic lang, pero naiiwan na yung business side ng Advertising,” said Alviar.

All the members are skilled in different forms of graphic art like video-editing, printmaking, photography, and layouting. And although they have their own forte, the members stressed that they share responsibilities in running the business and trying to be versatile in their work.

From mountains to Makati

According to Bonzo, the whole concept of starting a graphic design business arose during one of their usual group sessions in USTMC.

“What was great about joining USTMC was that it taught us organization and preparation. It made us flexible,” Bonzo said.

Even though the team is busy with projects, it has never lost contact with USTMC, members and friends. Members still spend time by the USTMC hang-out near the grandstand to relive their old days, talk, laugh and play a friendly game of Frisbee until the sun sets.

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Living in a quaint little townhouse in Makati with college buddies and doing business in shorts and slippers is truly mixing business with pleasure. Official work hour begins after nine at night with rock music blaring on the speakers and a bottle of cold beer standing beside the computer.

“Maganda kung sarili mo ‘yung lugar, kasi hawak mo ang oras mo, puwede ka pang mag-ihaw sa likod ng bahay at walang magagalit. Hindi tulad sa corporate offices na medyo stiff,” Alviar said.

They said that there is no downside in living together; it’s even a plus for them because it allows the group to be comfortable and accessible all the time.

“Magkakasama na kaming gumagawa ng mga project nung college sa isang bahay kaya sanay na kami sa isa’t isa,” Mon said.

Their studio, located at Unit 2 Ecoville Townhomes, Metropolitan Ave., Makati City; Tel: 899-15-70, has a more spacious workplace compared to their previous ones, and has small store to sell their products.

Only in their 20’s, the members of Team Manila still have a long way to go. Their unwavering dedication to their craft has brought them this far, gaining respect in the fashion and art scene. But it doesn’t stop there as more opportunities are sure to come knocking at their door.

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