THE City of Baguio aside from being designated as Creative City by Unesco for Crafts and Folk Arts, also takes pride of having two living National Artists Benedicto “Bencab” Cabrera for painting and my wedding sponsor Kidlat Tahimik for cinema.
To my recollection, Baguio has been a haven for artists that even prior to my Manila schooling, there has been numerous creative activities of the so-called seven art disciplines that include musical concerts and art exhibits.
I missed the painting exhibit of the original Tahong Bundok members at the old Pines Hotel in the late 70s perhaps because I was still unsure whether I can take up a course of fine arts or not. Back then, there were numerous folk singers like Art Mina, pianists like Valerie and Dave Tabligan. Well, there was the Bagiw rock band of the Carantes family and the mid-80s saw the Blank and the birth of the Pinikpikan band with Grace Nono.
When we started the Baguio Arts Guild sometime in 1985, the Baguio Convention Center, the Melvin Jones Grandstand and even the tree covered areas at the Burnham Park practically became our exhibit areas.
Today, we have ballet dancers like Jacqueline Anne Go-Ramon, belly dancers like Karen Navarette Anton, tenors like John Glenn Gaerlan, sopranos like Kay Balajadia-Liggayu, pianists like Deb Bautista, Richard Cariño and Marjorie Ann Atos Javellana and saxophonist like Joanifer Abubo, not to ignore the break dancers, rappers and rockers who are practically breaking their leg just to put up a show. Also recently, there are buskers like Kieran Yangot at Session Road especially when its uphill side is provided for street artists.
We still have a lot of woodcarvers that can actually be considered sculptors. Recently, my daughter and I visited the Arko ni Apo of the Villanuevas along Long-long Road just within the Tam-awan area. The place is another must see place for those who want to see an atelier or an artist’s workplace. I’ve known Benhur and Bumbo Villanueva for years and their home studio offers an alternative venue for art appreciation and collection.
The Victor Oteyza Community Arts Space (Vocas) located at the top floor of La Azotea Building along Session Road is another destination for art students, museum goers and even vegans because there is no other place like it. Vocas is owned and managed by the De Guias and the place has an area for painting exhibits, stage for performances and art installations.
There is also the Ili Likha Artists village within the university belt that houses a uniquely looking cinematheque branded as “Sinematik ni Ikeng” by the Father of Filipino Independent Filmmakers, Kidlat Tahimik himself. The Ili Likha has a variety of cafe and foodie centers that supplements the artsy up-cycled atmosphere carved out of twisted metals, recovered timber from fallen trees and discarded parts from old houses. If you happen to chance upon Kidlat and have time to chat a bit, most likely, you will be hearing words such as “Sariling Dwende, macdonalization and hollywood formula.”
More than the painters who render art on canvasses, we also have mixed media and installation artist not to discount those who does graffiti but does not vandalize on somebody’s property.
Maricar Docyogen of Bookends book shop asked me to show-up when a group of graffiti artists were allowed to paint on the sliding gates and walls of the former Skyworld condominium that serves as trading center for used items. It was originally our idea to convince covert graffiti artists to not only come out in the open but also express themselves in a more meaningful way as opposed to what is perceived as vandalism. With Maricar, myself and the designated police officers whom we met assuring us that they already received the notice about the “street art” activity, the art rendering began at about 9 p.m. as soon as the building occupants closed the gates.
Lastly, I’d also like to congratulate the organizers, staff, participants who supported the YMCA Design Museum including the art of upcycling fashion show which turned out to be another first in the city of Baguio. Aside from Eros Goze and Hilson Busoy whom I have joined in the ‘90s Inabel Fashion Show, I saw the works of Hans Jeo Rapanan, Karu Villanueva, Laydeh Alberto, Oliver Calub, Ayra Longsiab, Twinkle Ferraren, Jan Paul Martinez, Glory Maglana Payangdo, Kristoffer Tabili, Archie Vergara, Julienne Paran, Jairus Sumineg, and Indiana Vince.
Also at the YMCA Design Museum, I saw the impressive Kinetic Art of Arch. Dulthe Carlo Munar of Saint Louis University whose woodwork truly amazes spectators. A one-of-kind contraption of Tuba, Benguet multi-media craftsman, photographer and sculptor Clinton Anniversario was showcased joining the ranks of other innovative designers. With the creative energy getting stronger among the artists, artisans and even crafts people, I firmly believe that Baguio City deserves to claim the branding as the New Art Capital of the Philippines.