Tibaldo: Convergence of arts in the city

THE city of Baguio has been a favorite destination of art lovers, artists, musicians, poets and even street performers. Now that Baguio is designated as the country’s first Creative City under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), we are destined to expect the unexpected in the area of creativity and artistry. There is something unique in Baguio other than its cool temperature and that is the warm acceptance and abundance of anything creative from the wood carved Barrel Man, fiberglass trophies to the operatic voices of the city’s sopranos and tenors. Yes, of all the seven arts, namely, painting, sculpture, dance, theater of drama, architecture, music and celluloid art to include cinema, photography and digital arts, we have stalwart artists like Kidlat Tahimik and Bencab for visual arts and John Glen Gaerlan with Kay Balajadia for music.

As to the category of crafts and folk arts as indicated in the Baguio’s title in Unesco, we have the continuing and age-old tradition of traditional dances that locals from the various upland provinces perform in the schools and in special occasions.

For woodcarving, woodworks and stone craft that falls under sculpture, we have Wigan, the son of Reynaldo Lopez-Nauyac of Asin Road and sculpture awardees Gilbert Gano and Alfredo Dul-ang.

For the crafts category, I have actually interviewed and documented several of the Baguio-based artisans and entrepreneurs engaged in basketry, weaving and even jewelry. I remember having interviewed Felix Cachero of the Saint Louis Jewelry Shop, Evelyn Ibay and the workers of Ibay’s Jewelry Store, Virginia Duligas and the loom weavers of Easter Weaving Room and the late Narda Capuyan of Narda’s Handwoven Arts and Crafts of which we have a collection of wall hangers, scarves, fashionable items and even a neck tie that Manang Narda gave as a gift.

Recently, we visited the workplace of Rovilyn Mayat-an whose unique handbags are still on display at the Malcolm Square for the Creative Cities where one can also grab silver jewelries and souvenir knives at metal industry display booth.

Also at the Malcolm Square, there are clustered exhibits for painting, sculpture, literature and even coffee and food stalls for the gustatory delights of visitors checking out the place. During the February launching, the square practically became the center attraction of the city with the unique display booths that are itself an architectural interplay of space and place with non-conventional cubicles serving as display areas designed by Architect Aris Go. In those booths, one can have a tribal inspired tattoo or “batek” performed by local talents performing the age-old method popularized by Ina Whang-od of Buscalan, Kalinga. One can also opt to have the non-permanent henna tattoo or have a portrait sketched in pencil or charcoal by the Pasakalye artists led by Maricar Docyogen who now sits as a member of the local creative council.

During her recent travel to Malaysia, Maricar purposely observed the busking activities there saying that music is the main activity of the artists that includes young professionals. Accordingly, the buskers or performers who have permission to act or perform in public generally gets rewarded in the form of money but other gratuities such as food, drink or gifts may be given. A space is provided for them according to Maricar and the one she saw was in front of a government owned building.

The buskers are members of a busking club and they renew their permits annually for a minimal amount. With the Baguio city council studying the possibility of allowing buskers or street performers to do their thing in the city, Maricar hopes that the fee is affordable by local talents.

In her Facebook post, Maricar announce that city buskers can be seen at the square in the afternoons until February 24 and it will be all local performances doing hip-hop, cultural shows, acoustics, drums and flute among others. Those who want to share their talent are likewise invited to perform during those days, she added.

Tourism Director for CAR Marie Venus Tan shared her view when she commented, “A new vibe has arrived!! Being a Unesco Creative City. Baguio’s artists and Artisans are now owning it and we are loving every bit of the resurgence! This is how it should be! Let us all get into the groove and support! It’s the beginning of a REVival of being the real “cool” BAGUIO!”

As among those challenged by the message of Unesco Philippines Secretary General Lilia Ramos–Shahani during her talk at the launching, don’t be surprised if one day you will see me breathing fire at the plaza as I did in the mid-eighties with other artists before we organized the Baguio Arts Guild.

"The designation of Baguio as a CREATIVE CITY is not only an honor for the city alone, but a triumph for the Philippines and the creative communities throughout the country" these were the words of Sec-Gen Ramos-Shahani during the Baguio Creative Hub launching adding “This endeavor will definitely provide more opportunities for Baguio’s creative community to be recognized at a wider scale. We anticipate the formalization of the Baguio City Creative Council as a means to strengthen the legal framework and institutionalize the roles of various stakeholders.”

As for me, we continue to keep the artistry high and soaring with the hashtag #CreativeBaguio and #BaguioPhilippinesArtsCapital with the hope to stir the creative sectors to give Baguio a big boom as catalyst of creative economy.
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