A FESTIVAL has put the city on the world map for arts.
On its 23rd year, the Baguio Flower Festival is now touted to be a pulse point for the arts and a convergence for culture and heritage, themed “A Celebration of Culture and Creativity” in line with the recent distinction of the Mountain Resort as a testament to the continuing fusion of creativity the city holds.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) bestowed Baguio its inclusion to the Creative City Network (CCN) re-affirming the city as a hub for art and culture and a hideaway for the artists to rejuvenate, recognizing the festival as a testament of creativity.
The forefather’s vision
The festival’s father, Damaso Bangaoet, who thought of the celebration 23 years ago, would have been proud to stand tall with Macario Fronda, composer of the hymn, whose opus reverberates.
The barometer for the festival is not found on any calendar, the start of the season is marked with locals gently humming its tune, out of jest for its anticipated redundancy during the weekend parades or nostalgia for its Maestro who now plays it for the angels.
The tune of the hymn is dedicated not only to the city but to the entire region, creating the rhythmic melody depicting the terrain of the highlands culled from an ancient Bendian dance, depicting a ritual of celebration.
The BenCab touch
National Artist for Visual Arts Benedicto Cabrera [BenCab] stamped his seal in creating the logo for Baguiio in the CCN combining the majesty of the Cordilleran mountain ranges and the fields of art.
Unwittingly, BenCab, years ago chose an idyllic spray of sunflowers by the then 15 year old Trisha Tabangin who won an art contest which gave the festival a face.
Today, BenCab created a traditional Cordillera design for mountains with 3 mountain ranges: 5 on top, 3 in the middle, and two at the bottom. The colors of the middle mountain range were based on the Philippine flag with the top and middle ranges depicting architecture, sculpture, painting, music, poetry, dance, and performing arts.
The city was included in the CCN for local works of crafts and folk arts of the Cordilleras inspired the various interplay of architecture, parks, textile, fabrics, furniture, and furnishing fashion accessories, paintings, sculpture, homes and building designs in Baguio City Under Unesco all creative cities commit to develop and exchange innovative best practices to promote creative industries, strengthen participation in cultural life, and integrate culture into sustainable urban development policies.
The creative crawl: The visual, film and literary arts
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.
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 trace the blossoming of art in the city in the 70’s, making the city play host of local and international art festivals which has until now, put us in the art map of the country and the world.
The Weaving industry
Weaving is an age old craft among the people of the region with designs, color and pattern for each of the Cordilleran provinces.
Adelaida Lim, of the CCN said “Weaving is a creative power of women in the Cordillera; cloth is involved in the life from birth to death, in sickness and in health. A baby is cocooned in it, the sick wrapped and healed in it. Couples are clasped in it and at death one is buried with it.”
The most popular of weavers is the late Narda Capuyan who started in 1972 in La Trinidad weaving blankets from recycled acrylic yarns, a family planning nurse, whose hand knitting hobby attracted the mothers, encouraged them to weave to keep them busy from making more babies.
She revived the Cordillera Ikat tradition designing and dying threads in vibrant colors to suit contemporary taste and has earned international acclaim.
The art of tattoo
The ancient art of tattooing is inspired by tradition throughout the Cordilleras.
One of the most famous of all tattoo artisans is the elderly, Maria Oggay more popularly known to the world by her native name “Whang–Od,” who accommodates visitors daily, as she taps on skin and marks her patrons with her signature.
Whang–Od’s ink is composed of the mixture of charcoal and water that will be tapped into the skin through a thorn end of a lemon or pomelo tree.
The hand tapped tattoo in Kalinga the technique called “batok” dating back to thousand years and is said to be more painful that the machine tattooing system.
Metal crafts / carving and sculpture sector
The birth of the pioneer mining firms in the region beckoned the start of the thriving gold and silver craft starting in the late 1800s to the early 1900s.
Silver craft was introduced by the congregation of sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary with the pioneer; St. Louis Center Silver Shop, owned by the missionaries signaled the opening of more shops and small business to craft and sell silver crafts which symbolize traditional culture of Filipinos.
While the woodcarving industry was brought into the city by skilled artisans from the province of Ifugao.
Cristina Villanueva from the University of the Philippines Baguio library said “God statues along with animal images slowly found their way to Baguio City where interest in these figures showed an increased demand after the 2nd world war.
Woodcarvers along with Buybuy (soft broom) and strawberries were on top of the shopping lists of tourists who visited Baguio in the 50’s. The woodcarving industry gained international prominence when the Philippine woodcarvings were displayed in the 1963 New York World Fair.
Today, Cordilleran woodwork like bulols (Ifugao demigods carved in wood) has become a thriving creative economy for many which now include furniture.
Now among the Creative Cities Network, the city continues to uphold the arts as well as its individuality, sustaining the very industries which have been endemic since time immemorial.
This article cited excerpts from Alex Castro’s, “That Knack on wood, The Baguio Tourist” and Homer Novicio’s “The Ifugao woodcarvers: sculpting lives.”