“We used different ethnic sounds and instruments. We also put a little twist to the songs, to make them sound more current, to make them more attractive to younger people,” she says. “We wanted a sound, a beat, to bridge the gap between older and younger generations. We want to bring back nostalgia for the older ones, but also to start a conversation with the kids. And we added new lyrics, putting positive values into the songs, positive Filipino values.”
And they brought in big-name singers to record these songs, including Lea Salonga, Bamboo, Ogie Alcasid, Noel Cabangon, and Joey Ayala.
The accompanying songbook includes the lyrics to the 20 recorded songs, paired with whimsical works of art created by
Members of ang INK (Ang Ilustrador ng Kabataan) and Kids for Kids, a movement founded by Bambi’s teenage children, Natasha and Isabella.
“The first song on Awit at Laro is Bahay Kubo, for my Dad, because that is my dad’s philosophy, the Bahay Kubo,” says Bambi.
Today we are at Bahay Kubo, the Mañosa family home built in the early 80s. Her father was one of the first architects in the Philippines to champion the use of indigenous materials including bamboo, rattan, and coconut shell in homes and structures with aesthetics that are clearly Filipino.
Bambi shows us around the open-air home with lofty ceilings lined with woven bamboo, and doors inlaid with coconut shell. The home is cooled naturally since the living area is wide open with no walls, the indoors fusing with the outdoors, overlooking the garden and further down, a golf course.
“When we were kids, it was dangerous since there were many bad golfers and there were stray balls that would enter the house,” says Bambi. “We got used to them whizzing in.”
For years, Bahay Kubo was a showpiece for her father’s work.
“My Dad loved having guests, so it was really an open house,” says Bambi. “Every Sunday there would be visitors, students, architects, anyone who wanted to come and see the house.”
Bambi’s house was the Maria Clara room, and her brothers’ room was the Ifugao room. Whenever visitors would arrive, Bambi and the boys would have to jump out of bed, and scamper around to get dressed in Filipino attire to match their bedrooms.
“I was a teenager so I would be out late Saturday night and I would’ve preferred to sleep in, but no, I had to get up and smile and show my bedroom to our guests,” she says. “Unlike my classmates, I could not put up any Duran Duran posters on my walls. They all had to be inside my closet, hidden from view.”
The Mañosas loved to entertain, and Bambi grew up having people in and out of the house. Her father was part of a jazz group called the Executive Band founded by Senator Raul Manglapus, and they did gigs with many international guests including King Bhumibol of Thailand and U.S. President Bill Clinton.
“Our home was set up for the band, so that they could perform, and we could all watch them from the benches. They had sessions once a month. Dad was an entertainer, everyone loved him,” she says.
Bambi’s Dad used to entertain all her friends at her birthday parties. Not only was he the clown, but he was the magician, as well.
“He would do magic tricks, his hands were really fast. He could even do pen pen de sarapen with a knife,” she says. “He was like a circus performer. My Dad loved the circus. He loved the aesthetic, the production of the circus. And he loved the animals.”
“We had all kinds of animals growing up. Dogs, cats, birds,” she says. “In our old house, we had birds everywhere. We had an open aviary inside the house with lots of parrots, and the birds would just fly through the house. It was weird.”
“In the fishpond below the aviary, there were goldfish and carp, and even a hammerhead shark. Seriously,” she says. “We used to have an open courtyard where we would dine, and there would be a parrot that would join us for breakfast. My Dad would open a pack of sugar and he would eat it. I think he must’ve died of diabetes.”
“We had chickens, hamsters, rabbits, and a monkey named Chico,” she continues. “My Dad used to dress him up in T-shirts at home. He even had barong Tagalogs for formal occasions.”
“Our home was like the circuses Dad loved like Barnum and Bailey, like Disney. He was our Peter Pan. He loved the magic, he loved the colors of the circus,” says Bambi.
The love for color, for whimsy, her Dad passed on to his children.
He designed colorful wooden furniture and toys that ended up in a store he called Dimples.
“He made what he called topsy turvy furniture, a sailboat that would turn into a stage or a little picnic table, a pumpkin table,” she says. “We would open up boxes and find something new every time. Crayons, LEGO, colored paper, and scissors, it was magical,” says Bambi.
Through her father, Bambi fell in love with art and design too.
“Art was my first love,” says Bambi. “I used to sit beside my Dad and watch him draw when I was small. What used to fascinate me the most was a tin can of 64 markers. I saw it as something as super special, different shades of green, blue. He’d teach me how to draw cubes and spheres, always in different colors.”
And so while Bambi went to Assumption College for Interior Design, she spent two summer breaks in Bali, working at Club Med. During her second summer she was back to her first love, the arts, as she worked with the Kids’ Club teaching silk painting and arts and craft.
After college, she and her friend Tisha Espiritu decided to give summer art classes for children at Bahay Kubo.
Bambi enjoyed teaching so much, she went back to school, this time to U.P. Diliman, to take her Masters in Art Education.
“Dad was happy I was teaching. He has always encouraged us, and the rest of his staff to teach or give lectures. He says we all have to give back at some point. He is always about giving back. He loved giving lectures. He would do it for free.”
Bambi founded her Creative Kids Studio in 1995, to develop children’s artistic talents, “and to help children be children.”
For 20 years, Bambi worked not only with children from her Alabang neighborhood, but with less fortunate youth in and around Muntinlupa, and later, partnering with other foundations, elsewhere in the country, including Baguio, Cebu, and General Santos. She helped children around the country develop their creativity in the visual arts, and she worked on strengthening their values and their self-esteem as well.
“We had so much fun, it was like we were playing,” says Bambi.
When her father fell ill in 2015, Bambi’s brothers asked her to come back to the family company, to help build up the Interior Design department of the office.
“I had to develop the left side of my brain, to learn how to impart the philosophy of my Dad, to keep it alive, doing things the way Dad would want them,” she says. “But I could no longer handle both the office and the studio.”
She closed Creative Kids Studio in 2015. That was when her daughters, Natasha and Isabella, started the Kid for Kids movement, working with friends they had made at their mother’s studio. Now about 500 members strong, the movement aims to promote Filipino values including the spirit of bayanihan. help the less fortunate, and push for change.
One day, Nina Yuson, the founder of Museo Pambata reached out to Bambi and asked if they could meet. Bambi shared the story of Creative Kids, and they discovered they thought very much alike. Nina invited Bambi to be on the board of the children’s museum, and she accepted.