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A year later, director JP Habac recounts how his first collaboration with IKEA Philippines “Hapag” changed his expectations on ads

“Bibihira 'yung mga ganoong klaseng brand na nag-tatap sa mga malalaking social issue,” JP shared.

MANILA, PHILIPPINES — As a nation rooted in family bonds, Filipinos take every opportunity to celebrate and gather with loved ones. And what better time to get everyone together than the grandest time of the year — Christmas. We all look forward to the end of the year for a complete reunion with our families, whether that means blood relatives, or in the case of many members of the LGBTQIA+ community, one’s chosen family. “Sa chosen family na madalas nangyayari sa LGBTQIA+ community, mayroon at mayroong naiiwan,” award-winning Filipino director JP Habac began to ponder.

JP is all too familiar with the struggles that his fellow queer people go through. What the most awaited season of the year is for the majority, may be the most daunting for those individuals who are yet to come out to their loved ones. This social situation is one that IKEA Philippines directly addressed in a creative collaboration with the filmmaker. 

With its affordable yet high quality furniture and decor, IKEA has quickly grown to be a beloved brand in the Philippines, after landing on our shores in November 2021. From the beginning, it was already clear that Filipinos and IKEA share the same values in building a home: you can put all the furnishing you want in a house, but it is only through love and acceptance that it becomes a home. This belief has empowered the brand to create a safe space for everyone, both physically and emotionally, by bringing relevant domestic and social issues to light — an objective that JP shares.

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Exactly one year after its release, JP Habac and IKEA Philippines’ first collaboration and its profound message still hold true today. adobo Magazine had the opportunity to sit down with the director as he looked back on the inspiration behind the video, the importance of using your platform to address social issues, and how his partnership with IKEA set his expectations for future projects.

When homemaking meets filmmaking

The Swedish furniture manufacturer and the homegrown film visionary may be two cogs spinning in separate wheels, but they are united by a single direction: to lend their voices to those who are silenced, and to bring forward the issues that continue to vitiate society. “Sobrang laking struggle ng coming out for members of the community kasi sobrang significant yet challenging din n’ya. Challenging process s’ya sa mga queer people to no longer hide their identity. ‘Pag hindi ka out, parang mayroon kang double life na sobrang stressful. Ang hirap na mayroon kang tinatago at hindi mo magawang maging totoo lalo na sa harap ng mga mahal mo sa buhay,” JP shared. This predicament has served as his and IKEA’s inspiration for their video, Hapag. 

In this clever story, the item that binds and solidifies the messages of love and acceptance is IKEA’s Ingatorp extendable table. JP used this piece of furniture as the anchor for the plot. “Actually, ‘yung working title pa na ginawa ko noon for this is ‘Extended Family.’ Yung brief s’amin is ipakita ‘yung product, which is ‘yung table na na-eextend. So parang ako, maganda s’yang play on extended family. Ano ba ‘yung extended family, lalo na dito sa Pilipinas na mula sa anak hanggang sa pamangkin at sa tito’t tita, kapag Pasko? Mag-kakasama ‘di ba? Ganoong klaseng extended family tayo. ‘Yun ‘yung naging thought process ko kung bakit ganoon ‘yung naging title na nilagay ko while conceptualizing the ad,” he explained. 

A year after its release, the video remains relevant to audiences with its heartwarming depiction of familial bond, authenticity, love, and acceptance — all of which were exactly what JP wanted to convey to people. “Kapag nasabi mo na ‘yung truth mo, kapag nakapag-come out ka na, parang it’s a celebration. Wala nang maiiwan, wala nang masasaktan,” he reflected. 

Overcoming this challenge is a big milestone for any member of the community, but JP hopes that this notion could be stamped out soon. “Sana paonti-onti na hindi na maging big deal ‘yung coming out, kasi wala namang straight people na nag-cocome out na, ‘Uy straight ako.’ Bakit kapag bakla, lesbian, or trans, kailangan mag-come out? Sobrang stressful n’ya. So sana dumating ang panahon na hindi na big deal ang pag-come out.”

Sobrang grateful ako na maka-work ang isang big brand tulad ng IKEA to actually tell stories na pinapakita ‘yung struggles ng community na part ako,” shared director JP Habac.

On the importance of openness

Taking on an impactful proposition such as this could be intimidating, but with the right people and through avid support, the wall of fear comes crumbling down. JP has found his strength through Secret Menu, a full service creative and production house of which he is part. 

From the get-go, JP and his team at Secret Menu worked together to ensure that their creative vision aligns with their shared advocacy with IKEA. JP recalled: “Open dialogue s’ya with Jan (Pineda) sa Secret Menu. Binigay n’ya s’akin ‘yung buong creative freedom to come up with the concept. Once na-conceptualize ko na s’ya, I developed it with Secret Menu. Sobrang open noong collaboration with Secret Menu, pero hindi nawawala siyempre ‘yung goal talaga ng ad — kung bakit namin s’ya ginagawa for IKEA at bakit namin s’ya ginagawa as storytellers.”

Memories behind the scenes

To tell the story truthfully, the actors that were tapped for Hapag are all members of the LGBTQIA+ community: from the character of the son, down to the group of glamorous grandmas from the Golden Gays — a local non-profit organization that provides support and care for elderly LGBTQIA+ people. JP recounted that he had already worked with the group even before the Hapag film. And although this isn’t the first time he’s seen them transform from your ordinary lola to an extraordinary glamorosa, the magic of seeing them in drag doesn’t fade. “I think ‘yun ‘yung isa sa mga core memory ko while doing that project. Ang saya lang katrabaho ng mga lola!” he grinned.

As with any artist, JP shared that one trait that he noticed and admired about the Golden Gays is their pride in their craft. “Gusto nilang ginagamit ‘yung sarili nilang gowns, ‘yung sarili nilang wig. Tutulungan mo na lang sila when it comes to makeup, pero gusto nila gamitin ‘yung sarili nila. Kasi parang ‘yun ‘yung puso nila — ‘yung pag-peperform, pag-dadrag. Talagang ‘yun ‘yung nag-fufuel ng buhay nila. Nakaka-tuwa na makita ‘yung proseso nila.”

This harmony between the director and the group culminated in a small yet significant interaction between JP and the current President of the Golden Gays, Monique de la Rue, also known as Mama Mon. “Hindi ko alam kung naaalala pa n’ya ‘to, pero sobrang tumatak s’akin ‘to,” JP began. “After noong shooting, noong pauwi na kami, niyakap ako ni Mama Mon tapos sabi n’ya, ‘Thank you dito, direk.’ Yun lang, tapos ako parang, ‘Aw, thank you po!’” he fondly recalled.

Two creative worlds sharing a singular voice

One can say that working with a famous and respected international brand that shares your values is a dream for any creative, and JP just had his dream come true. As a loud and proud advocate of social issues big and small, it seems the stars aligned for him and IKEA through Hapag. “Sobrang saya kasi bibihira ‘yung mabigyan ang isang filmmaker ng ganitong klaseng opportunity na sobrang open din noong brand to tell stories like this,” he raved. He shared that he also saw a previous advertisement from IKEA that tackled domestic violence, and voiced his praise for the brand. “Sobrang galing kasi bibihira rin ‘yung mga ganoong klaseng brand na nag-tatap sa mga malalaking social issue.

Hapag is only one step on the journey towards more empathetic marketing, but it’s enough to kindle a movement in JP’s heart. As he continues his venture into making more commercial materials, he wishes to follow the same path of social awareness with his future projects alongside other brands. “Sana tularan nila ‘yung IKEA!” he bantered. “Kidding aside, sobrang grateful ako na maka-work ang isang big brand tulad ng IKEA to actually tell stories na pinapakita ‘yung struggles ng community na part ako. Sobrang laking bagay noon for me, na hindi lang kami para masabi na, ‘Ang diverse noong cast, ang diverse ng project,’ pero ni-rerepresent nang tama ‘yung stories and struggles ng community. So sana, mag-sunod-sunod ‘yung mga ganitong klaseng projects with big brands pa na may platform to tell stories of inclusion, of diversity, of true representation noong mga minorities. Sana mag-tuloy-tuloy s’ya kasi sayang ‘yung platform na binigay s’atin kung di naman natin gagamitin sa tama,” he emphasized.

The first of many achievements to come

The fervent devotion to addressing social issues that both JP and IKEA displayed in Hapag has not gone unnoticed. At the prestigious Asia Pacific Tambuli Awards 2023 held last July, Hapag was awarded the Champions for Humanity Bronze Award under the Building Character/Digital and Social Media category. JP has been awarded and nominated several times for his other creative films, but he shared that this is the first he’s received for a commercially made video. “Yung mga past TVC projects ko, never ko na-experience na magkaroon ng award. Kaya sobrang memorable ng experience na ‘to kasi bukod sa sobrang mahal ko ‘yung nailabas kong ad, I think bonus na lang siguro ‘yung award.”

“Sobrang showbiz pakinggan pero noong binigay s’akin ‘yung project, noong naka-trabaho ko ‘yung Golden Gays, tapos ‘yung talents na kasama namin na nag-portray ng characters ay members of the community din, sobrang rewarding na noong experience na yon. Tapos to be awarded pa noong Tambuli Award, parang sobra-sobra ‘yung ibinigay na recognition for the whole team. Sobrang thankful ako kina Patrick (Marcelo) sa IKEA na talagang sobrang open nila doon sa mga sina-suggest ko for the project,” JP imparted.

During the awarding ceremony, IKEA Philippines Marketing and PR Manager Patrick Marcelo also spoke about the brand’s intention of shedding light on social issues: “More than the recognition or award, our main goal at IKEA is to create a better everyday life for the many. This includes promoting diversity, inclusion, and equality — making everyone feel welcome. We hope that this campaign inspires even more inclusive stories from more brands in the industry.” 

“It’s important for us as a brand to work with partners who share the same values as us. We are glad to have Secret Menu and JP Habac in bringing our campaign to life through a locally relevant and inclusive story,” Patrick expressed.

Watch IKEA Philippines’ new Christmas ad #MakeSpaceForMagic here:

Learn more about IKEA at ikea.com/ph and find out more about JP Habac’s works with Secret Menu at kroma.ph/secret-menu 

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