Celebrating History Through Paper Crafts

Posted on 30 March 2021
By NQC Secretariat

is already a buzz surrounding the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Victory at Mactan. One can read about it online or sometimes, pops up on your social media news feed.

This year, the country commemorates the Victory at Mactan and other related events – collectively known as the 2021 Quincentennial Commemorations in the Philippines (2021 QCP) with the National Quincentennial Committee (NQC) taking the lead through the Executive Order No. 55, s. 2018.

The NQC spearheads the 500th anniversary of the Victory at Mactan in April and the 500th anniversary of the Philippine part in the first circumnavigation of the world from March 16 to October 28.

The 500th anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines, on the other hand, is led by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte said “let us all take part in the 2021 Quincentennial Commemorations slated this year so that we may bring our history, culture, and traditions closer to our hearts.”

Likewise, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin M. Andanar called on Filipinos to celebrate and participate in the year-round event, “even if we are facing the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that we, the Filipino people, participate in the National Quincentennial Commemorations. We just do not remind ourselves what happened hundreds of years ago, rather we are looking back to the foundation of how the Philippines was established and how it shaped our culture and traditions. This reminds us of our roots, and let’s tell the world our story and the Filipino identity.”

One may visit the NQC website at www.nqc.gov.ph, which is home to an online lecture portal, art competition, the Lapulapu Monument design, the quincentennial songs, educational videos, and documentaries among others. One interesting segment on the website you come across is the Paper Crafts; here we get to view and download printable cut-out paper dolls of Lapulapu and other history makers – and paper boats too!

is one special inclusion on this set – Miss Universe 2018 and National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) arts ambassador Catriona Gray. She also has an online show for NCCA, Kultura: 101 which streams via the @NCCAOfficial facebook page.

According to the NQC website, the first batch of the Quincentennial Paper Crafts Series was launched in July of 2020 featuring historical characters like Lapulapu, Rajah Humabon, Rajah Colambu, Juana, Ferdinand Magellan, Juan Sebastian Elcano, Enrique de Malacca, and Antonio Pigafetta.

The paper dolls are designed by Abegail Purisima, a BA History graduate of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. She immersed herself in the 16th century Boxer Codex which contains descriptions and the earliest known illustrations to our ancestors. You can visit her social media sites @pureautumnarts.

The paper crafts series is part of the NQC’s online activities to promote and popularize to children the spirit of the 2021 Quincentennial Commemorations in the Philippines and the world of our ancestors.

The paper dolls are downloadable for free on the official website of the NQC www.nqc.gov.ph.

Family Arts & Crafts Time

The quincentennial paper crafts give learners a chance to explore and learn a piece of our cultural heritage and history. What better way to explore the imagination and vision of this segment in the 2021 Quincentennial Commemorations in the Philippines than to actually do these paper crafts – with our children.

The paper crafts are pretty much download friendly, all one has to do is navigate the NQC website to a button titled “Paper Crafts” (an icon resembling a paper-folded boat) – there, individual paper dolls and paper boats can be viewed by clicking on each button to view the image, right click on it, save image as – click save and voila the paper doll or boat file is now saved on your device, ready for printing.

This writer recommends printing the dolls and boats on thicker substance paper other than a bond paper, as the latter is too light to stand without sticking it on something heavier. In this activity, we used vellum specialty boards with 220 GSM (grams per square meter), glad I found some old stocks in my paper stash.

As for the paper boats, children will need the assistance of parents or guardians since it would involve using a cutter for the intricate details. We still use the vellum specialty boards as base – and you can modify it by putting cut-outs of old styro cups (or anything that can do the trick) on the base of the boat to make it float on water to protect the paper – you may also modify it further by printing smaller versions of the dolls and placing them on the boats ready for voyage on a tub or a rain puddle.

This activity brings back memories making paper boats back when we were children – rain let us create hurriedly made paper-folded boats and frolic in the rain looking for puddles or streams to set sail our paper boats. Some good old times, right there.

Samantha Andrea, 9, also suggests that we stick the paper dolls on popsicle sticks and make a puppet show with Lapulapu’s story on spotlight– that would make for another great activity.  “It was fun making the paper dolls and educational too, I also learned that the Battle of Mactan happened on April 27, 1521 after watching the video papa showed us” Samantha said.


Executive Order No. 103 (s. 2020) embraces a Filipino-centric point of view, according to the NQC, where magnanimity, compassion, and humanity prevailed as our ancestors helped the starving crew of the first circumnavigators  — the Armada de Maluco, also known as the Magellan-Elcano expedition– as well as the bravery of the warriors of Mactan.

Rai Bollozos Sanchez, a local historian in Cagayan de Oro City and part-time faculty at the Liceo de Cagayan University, shares how these paper dolls can help educate children on history creatively.

“It’s very catchy because it will not only introduce the coming of the Spaniards in the Philippines but also showcases the pre-colonial culture of our ancestors. Like the manner they dress, and most importantly the Balangay and the Caracoa“, Rai Sanchez said.

Sanchez also hopes that this paper crafts initiative of the NQC would make the Department of Education realize its importance as a learning tool for elementary pupils in teaching especially on pre-colonial history.

“The National Quincentennial Commemoration does not only celebrate the introduction of Christianity to the Philippines but would also celebrate our pre-colonial past. Even though documented from a colonial point-of-view, from the documentation of Pigafetta, he was able to preserve those practices and in turn, some of it is visible in our current IP communities. In that case, well preserved ang kasaysayan and mas ma-preserve pa sa umaabot nga henerasyon (our history is well preserved and future generations can preserve it even more),” Sanchez said.

According to womenshistory.org, paper dolls became popular during the mid-19th century to mid-20th century as modern technology made printing and reproduction easier and cheaper – even newspapers and magazines published paper dolls to illustrate current fashion trends for girls and women.

However, the 60s and 70s saw its decline in popularity, perhaps due to more technological advances that led to the creation of the plastic dolls. On the other hand, paper dolls still remain popular among avid collectors.

Environmental Planner Angelie Azcuna-Collera, Head of the Center for Human Development at the University of Science and Technology of Southern Philippines (USTP), said “I find these paper dolls reminiscent of those days when we were young–those that you buy from a sari-sari store and then we dress up the paper dolls with the free paper dresses. Looking back, that nurtured creativity and it made us, children then, relate to the characters of the paper doll–that is how I see these quincentennial dolls would influence kids this day in appreciating our history and culture, in general.”

Visual narratives often spark curiosity and the imagination. Joe Bacus, a critically-acclaimed filmmaker from Cagayan de Oro, co-founder of the Cine de Oro Film Festival, and director of the film Markado: The Moon Devourer, which has been well received in numerous film festivals here and abroad, weighs in on this NQC project.

“I believe in the power of visuals. Nowadays nga infested na atoang multimedia with western and some Asian cultures and rare kaayo ta makakita og atoang own, kinahanglan kaayo nato ni,” Bacus said. (Nowadays, our multimedia content is infested with western and some Asian cultures, it is rare to see our own, we need this.)

Bacus also said that if we need to compete with pop culture, this project will definitely help us. In today’s world, to be globally accepted and competitive, we copy narratives that are not our own but still, we achieved less.

“The only way to be recognized is we have to learn to accept una og kinsa ta (who we are) and next – ipromote atoang own identity nga ma proud ta, ganahan ko ani na project“ (promote our own identity that makes us proud, I like this project) Bacus said.

Michael E. Bacol, a multi-awarded visual artist and art teacher from Cagayan de Oro City shares some insights on the NQC paper crafts and how future editions of the project may be improved.

“I think this would help by keeping our tradition looking back when we were young without gadgets. But I don’t know with the kids now, if they still like this idea. I think this is a good tool, perhaps with our new technology now, we could also adapt to it to attract interest from our new generation” Michael Bacol said.

Bacol also said that these paper crafts and other initiatives may be integrated into apps (computer applications) for children about Philippine history to adapt to the current trend among young learners.

“For the paper dolls, perhaps, a portion of the paper cut-out page can be utilized for a statement or description who Lapulapu and the other characters are, so that children will know who they are and what their contributions are to history, much like to that of the Balangay paper craft page” Bacol adds.

Bacol also thinks that coloring tools or books about Lapulapu and others would be a good addition to the NQC activities to further get children and young learners to participate even more.

Dr. Steven P.C. Fernandez, the Founding Director of the Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) Center for Culture and Arts Studies and Founder and Artistic Director of the Integrated Performing Arts Guild (IPAG) tells us “Dolls are synonymous with childhood play, as these still mean to us now. But beyond being toys, these playthings are embodiments of a community’s narratives. These dolls non-consciously embed a mindset that molds the child’s world. Embodying the most profound portions of our nation’s narratives in these representations of our heroes and martyrs (tangibly in three-dimensional or paper-cut forms) can reinforce our identity and pride.”

Dr. Fernandez also says that from pre-modern times, dolls represented what a community strove for, as mediums for religious yearnings among the shamans, to the icons of our saints that manifest our deep spirituality.

Fernandez, however, also tells us how consumerism may affect these representations.

“Dolls can remind us of our nationhood. However, there is a downside to this as dolls, being playthings, may also be representations of the trivial. So, too, are its means of production. Whereas its significance can lie in dolls’ representations, their function in a consumerist society such as ours can demean the significant embodiments of what these dolls represent” Fernandez said.

Fernandez also said that doll manufacturers will definitely consider the marketing interests (thus profits) doll-making can generate. “The enrichment of a national consciousness is thus lost to our children who will see dolls are mere playthings, companions to leisure.”

“This is where a composite plan requiring thorough evaluation, where our education, political, business, and consumer sectors synch a focused direction in doll-making with our narratives as setting” Fernandez said.

These insights give us an overview of that the paper-craft dolls and boats have deeper meanings and evoke pleasant memories as well as creating more memories with today’s generation and beyond.

The paper crafts project of the National Quincentennial Committee brings with it a fun learning experience through time, at least in that segment of our history, that children would not only see these as mere dolls. Perhaps, there will be more activities and paper-crafts that feature our culture, heritage, history and diversity as Filipinos.

We celebrate Lapulapu and the ideals, sacrifices and bravery of our ancestors. Through these paper dolls and paper boats, we not only commemorate the events that help shape our country’s vibrant culture and history – but also celebrate the imagination of our children in keeping the stories alive through these paper crafts – and the rich cultural learning it brings. (Shaun Alejandre Yap Uy/PIA)


This story was originally published by the Philippine Information Agency.

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