World Expo is a large public exhibitions varying in character and are held in different cities in the world that usually last for three weeks to six months. The main attractions at world’s fairs are the national pavilions of participating countries. Bureau International des Expositions(BIE; English: International Exhibitions Bureau) has served as an international sanctioning body for world’s fairs. BIE-approved fairs are of three types: universal, international, and specialized.

Currently there are only 15 countries that hosted World Expositions and United States has the most number of cities that are venues for the event. World Expo 2010 Shanghai, China is record breaking with 73.08 million visitors, costing $4.2 billion ($58 billion including infrastructure) with an area of 528 hectares participated by 250 countries and international organizations.

The first Filipino World Expo participation was dated back in 1904 held in St. Louis and it wasn’t a good experience for the Philippines. One thousand one hundred Filipinos were shipped to the venue by the American colonial government in the Philippines to be part of the Philippine Exhibit that includes Filipinos from different provinces. Members of the Philippine delegation died of pneumonia because they are forced to perform traditional dances while scantily-dressed in their cultural attires in the dead of winter. Cordillerans’ “head-hunting culture” and “appetite” for dog meat was also highlighted in the event that attracted the most interest and publicity.

Philippine Pavilion in the Seattle World’s Fair 1962
Man in the Space Age

The Philippine Congress and Private Industry both appropriated about $250, 000 U.S dollars to create the Philippine Pavilion and to ensure Philippine participation in the Fair on a grand scale. The interior of second floor shows to distinct advantage the beautiful capiz shell lamps, shaped in the form of carabao heads, and a wooden screen typifying several species of Philippine hardwood.

Additional highlights and historical facts of the Philippine Pavilion 1962:
1. 1st Prize Winner of 1962 Seattle World’s Fair
2. Two-level Pavilion
3. Four Major Parts: The Land, The People, Commerce and Industry, Life and Culture
4. Philippine Week: July 9-15, 1962
4.1. Peak Attendance: 67,529 (Tuesday, July 10, 1962)
4.2. Seattle World’s Fair opening ceremonies attendance: 51,510 (Saturday, April 21)

Arkitekturang Filipino

Two-level Philippine Pavilion, Seattle World’s Fair 1962
Entrance to the Philippine Pavilion-Handicraft Industries, Seattle World’s Fair 1962
Exterior View of the Philippine Pavilion, Seattle World’s Fair 1962

Philippine Pavilion in the New York World’s Fair 1964
Man’s Achievement on a Shrinking Globe in an Expanding Universe

The Philippine Pavilion in New York World’s Fair 1964 was designed by Otillo Arellano shaped after a salakot, a familiar wide-brimmed, peaked sun hat worn throughout the Philippines. The pavilion’s main building, surrounded by a moat and reached by three bridges was decorated with many rare woods brought from the islands. Twelve large intricately carved panels, designed by artist Carlos V. Francisco, depicted the story of the islands and on the second floor of the main building was an exhibit showing the advances of Philippine industry and some of the cultural activities found on the islands.

The Pavilion occupied 15,000 sq. ft. in the International Area. In a 500 seat open-air theater, young Filipinos presented a program of dances; Tinkling (Bamboo Dance), Itik-itik (Duck Dance) and Pandango sa Ilaw (Dance of Lights).

Arkitekturang Filipino

Exterior view of the Philippine Pavilion, New York World’s Fair 1964
Detail and Section of the Philippine Pavilion, New York World’s Fair 1964
The Philippine Pavilion and The Unisphere, New York World’s Fair 1964

Designed by national artist for architecture Leandro V. Locsin in collaboration with the engineering firm Trans-Asia (Philippines) Inc. The Philippine Pavilion in the Osaka World Expo 1970 was well received and was judged one of the ten most popular pavilions at the exhibition.

The Philippine Pavilion occupied a small corner lot opposite the large Canadian Pavilion, Locsin felt it had to make a strong architectural statement despite the limited building budget. Otherwise, it would be overwhelmed by its spectacular neighbor.

“Dramatic roof sweeping up from the ground was intended to express the soaring prospects and future-oriented outlook of the Filipino people. The architectural message was that although the Philippines is a young and developing country, it has a progressive spirit.”(Nicolas Polites in his book on Locsin)

Native materials like fine Philippine hardwoods are used extensively throughout the pavilion. The pattern of the narra planking on the ceiling directed the eye up toward the apex. Panels of capiz shell in the skylight diffused a warm interior light. A large capiz chandelier added a spectacular focal point to the pavilion. The chandelier now hangs over the central stairway in “Ang Maharlika”. (Not yet installed when the pavilion was photographed)

The exhibit in the pavilion was a photo essay covering the history of the Philippine islands form their mythic origins to the present day. Interspersed with the photos were small exhibits of artifacts. On the ground floor were exhibits of native products while basement housed a small art gallery of contemporary Philippine art and sculpture.


Exterior view Philippine Pavilion, Osaka World Expo 1970. Credit also to philSTAR for the photo.
Section of the Philippine Pavilion, Osaka World Expo 1970
Interior of the Philippine Pavilion-Central Staircase, Osaka World Expo 1970

Philippine Pavilion in the Hanover World Expo 2000
Humanking, Nature, Technology

Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM), the export promotions arm of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) lead the Philippine participation for the 2000 World Expo held in Hanover, Germany. Entitled “Filipino: Faces of A People,” the Philippine presentation focuses on the country’s greatest asset: its people. Highlighted are the fields where Filipinos are known for abroad: information technology, entertainment, design (fashion, architecture, houseware), visual arts (painting), and the service industry. In order to show the strength and versatility of the modern Filipino – as an individual and as a nation – the Pavilion emphasizes the unique Filipino personality: a curious blend of a Western mind, Latin spirit, and Asian soul.

The Philippine Pavilion is a steel and bamboo structure interpreted in modem form. Covering 1,302 square meters, it features new technology in photography, digital imaging and graphics. Design by avant garde architect and designer Ed Calma of Lor Calma Design and Associates (LCDA) designed the Pavilion using primarily bamboo materials indigenous to the country. According to Arch. Calma, the Pavilion’s design is such that “spaces and information are reasserted, reinstalled by a fragmented echo of the existing materials – the bamboo.”

Another young Filipino architect, Melissa LaO, masterminded the installations inside the Pavilion. The main exhibit area is divided into four clusters, differentiating various fields of endeavors entered into by Filipinos. In the Pavilion, graphic images of people at work in electronic assembly plants, animation, studios, and backroom operations show the Filipino’s flexibility and adaptability to fast-changing technology.


Philippine exhibit, Hanover World Expo 2000
Jeepney (Public mode of transportation in the Philippines), Hanover World Expo 2000

To be continued.