The Art of the Mountains-A A +A
Friday, August 30, 2013
MY EARLIEST recollection of art was a giant labyrinth made of bamboo set at Burnham Park. I was amazed by its sheer hugeness (or maybe I was just small back then) and had a blast running around its span.
Later on, I was educated to find out the structure was made by the late Roberto Villanueva, the piece was also set up at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
That was my first encounter with the arts as a child. I would always associate Baguio City with thespians, paintings and writers, not knowing, I would enter into one of its forms.
Since then, this mountain resort has been the home for nomadic artists, giving them a sense of belonging and endless stream of inspiration.
It is said, the cool weather plays a harmonic tune for the arts to which many have fallen in love with making the city their studio, converging with nature, and exploring its vastness making the City of Pines the backdrop of many art pieces, stories and music.
Being a melting pot of culture, the city has also been home for various ethnic groups from all over the region giving the city a wide range of cultures and a venue to display arts, crafts, weaves, rituals and beliefs.
Schools of living tradition abound in the different barangays in the city, mostly focused on the performing arts, giving native dances from all regions a chance to be highlighted here.
Traditional industries, like weaving, food processing as well as crafts are also displayed in the city, making it a showroom for the entire Cordilleras.
Songs, dance, theatre, rituals, tangible and intangible heritage of the people of the Cordilleras can be seen at its best in the Mountain Resort, allowing visitors to take a peek of what the region offers and keeping the flames of the art industry alive.
Thriving in the nooks and crannies of the city are areas catering to various artistic expressions may it be for the visual, literary and performing arts, giving each one its place. A certain charm attracts artists here, saying the atmosphere of the city cultivates artistic expression, mediation and camaraderie of sorts.
Local art historians (those who have been in the art scene for so long they know of each artist by name or appearance) trace the blossoming of art in the city in the 70s, making the city play host to local and international art festivals which has until now, put us in the art map of the country and the world.
Artists from all over the country and the world all wanted to go up to the City and well… just thrive on art and thrive they did decades upon decades after the City’s art debut.
Suffice to say pioneer art groups in the city who began the long line of groups were Tahong Bundok headed by Pyx Picart and the Baguio Gallery by Des Bautista and Linc Drillon and later the formation of the Baguio Arts Guild by the late Santiago Bose.
The Tahong Bundok and BAG still stand today together with the collection of Bautista exhibit at Iggy’s Inn at South Drive.
The art fever continued on to this day with the city becoming home to National Artist for Visual Arts Benedicto Cabrera or BenCab as he has been fondly called who has set up his Museum in nearby Tuba which he calls his life dream.
Entering the millennium, the city is still home to the many arts groups still thriving here and led by the artists who saw the birth of the art scene here, each giving a unique peek for visitors and art lovers.
Internationally renowned filmmaker, Kidlat Tahimik set up The Victor Oteyza Community Art Space (VOCAS) is at the heart of Session road, serving as a convergence point for artists and filmmakers.
Another art space is now set up along Assumption road, by Kawayan De Guia, son of Kidlat, which is likened to VOCAS.
Chanum Foundation’s Tam – Awan Village, set up by Bencab, Solar Painter Jordan Mang-osan and Chit Asignacion in the late 90s still stands and is celebrating its 17 year anniversary.
Chanum Foundation, Inc., founded in 1998, began to reconstruct Ifugao houses in Baguio with the view of making a model village accessible to people who have not had the chance to travel to the Cordillera interior.
Today there are close to 30 house artists in Tam-awan Village who make up the monthly exhibits and one man shows as well as international exhibitions on Cordilleran art making highland artists a cut above the rest.
Arko ni Apo fronting Tam – Awan village also is going strong under the auspices of Ben-Hur Villanueva and his son, Bumbo.
Restaurants, cafés all over the city have likewise paid homage to the arts led by Café by the Ruins, Hillstation known for its art exhibits and good food.
Many areas in the city sporadically host exhibits like the Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary, the Baguio Country Club, Camp John Hay Manor and Camp John Hay itself serving as a venue for art and culture activities.
For many years, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) has declared Baguio City as a one of the official sites Heritage Month programs and Arts month activities recognizing the artistry of the city and the heritage of its people.
The City has maintained its moniker to be a mecca for the arts and safe to say, it will remain for many years to come, as long as there are artists who will continue to be enthralled by its charm, the arts in the City will stay alive for as long as we please.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 31, 2013.