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Creative Baguio title slips prospects into the creative community’s mind
by Rose Celine R. Jimenez

CITY OF ARTS -- A pedestrian passes by the murals featuring indigenous peoples, such as the Ibaloys, near the Victory Liner terminal at Upper Session Road. -- Rose Celine Jimenez

With the “creative city” title at Baguio’s doorsteps, concerned local and transient artists hope that tomorrow will be different from their current situation of choosing between reality and passion.

Avrane Blas Pagadian, known as “Blas” by his fellow artists in the Pasa-kalye, explained that his parents discouraged him from pursuing his passion because of the notion that there is no money in the arts.

“Ganun pa rin mindset nila. Kaya tuluy-tuloy lang ako. Malay mo in thefuture, may biyaya ang Father Creator,” he said in hopes that life will improve after the rough conditions of sailing the waves launched at artists like him.

Being a 22-year-old experienced artist from several fields like digital arts and traditional crafts, Blas said he and other artists expect that genuine appreciation for them and their works springs with the promise of a more stable future in the city’s road to modify its development according to the objectives of a creative city.

The Creative Cities Network of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UCCN) has designated Baguio City as the new member on crafts and folk art when the list was posted on Oct. 31, 2017 on its website.

Along with the city, 63 other cities from different countries were designated as creative cities with the creative field they applied for such as Mexico City and Dubai as cities imbued with the art of designing and Seattle as a city of literature.

As creative cities, member cities are mandated to strengthen international cooperation with cities that have identified creativity as a factor for sustainable development and to treat creativity as an essential factor of their development.

The network further specified that members should construct creative and innovative facilities, broaden opportunities for artists and professionals in the cultural groups, improve participation in cultural life, and incorporate culture and creativity in the development plans.

Baguio Councilor Mylen Victoria Yaranon, chair of the city council committee on public works said, “Kasi hindi natin sila napapansin dati eh. Imagine it has to take somebody outside to recognize what Baguio really is. Our artists are going out being hired by Bonifacio Global City. Being designated as a creative city is now a big factor. Now we have to recognize our international artists as well.”

In the 12th annual UCCN meeting conducted from July 11 to 16 in Poland, the city committed to implement its four-year action plan, which includes the construction of centers dedicated to the arts, linking of places in the city which is exhibited in the Baguio City Creative Circuit (BCCC), and establishment of an annual arts festival for the local community and artists.

The city government, the academe, Department of Tourism-Cordillera, Department of Trade and Industry-Cordillera, and the Baguio Arts and Crafts Collectives Incorporated (BACCI) assembled into a council to organize the specifics of the city’s commitments to the UCCN.

A total of P670 million of the city budget will be allocated to accomplish the action plan, along with its study preparation, management of the buildings, and overseas-related activities like familiarization trips.

The Diplomat Hotel, Maharlika Livelihood Center, DTI’s LGU-ABC Center, BIBAK Center, Baguio Post Office, and the Old City Auditorium area will serve as the spaces for the creative centers of the city that will be open not only for the artists but also for the community and the tourists to explore and use.

Based on Yaranon’s proposed resolution, these centers are envisioned to be environments that will foster a community-focused atmosphere in the pursuit of freelancers, startups, and micro-business to find work, collaborate, and grow as they interact with each other. 

Workshop and demonstration studios, design laboratories, exhibit areas, and collaborative spaces for the artists and the public will be built into the creative centers.

Facilities and design of the centers will be customized depending on the needs of the artists and the arts and crafts it will host.

In cooperation with the artists or “creative,” selected employees from the city government and government agencies will manage the centers to maintain order inside the buildings.

Yaranon said, “Most of the city’s tourism relies on the tourist spots, which are deteriorating. So this is also one way to improve. Because we have the thrust now as a creative city, we can have adaptive reuse of these old buildings into a creative center or museum.”

The BCCC will connect existing established creative spaces such as the Baguio Convention Center, Sunshine Park, Baguio Museum, Burnham Park, and the University of the Philippines Baguio with its Museo Kordilyera through new pedestrian lanes or links to showcase the city’s creative vitality, to promote the city’s create products, and to inspire tourists and residents alike to appreciate and embrace creativity in their urban daily routine.

This year will kick-start the yearly Baguio City Creative Arts Festival in November, as the city government identified locations like Tam-Awan Village, Ili-Likha, BenCab Museum, Museo Kordilyera, and Café by the Ruins for various art appreciation activities like displaying galleries of artworks, film-showing, and music performances which will all be open to the public.

Its first celebration will be limited to the artists and the local community in order to build meaningful awareness and appreciation on why Baguio is a creative city before opening the spaces in the city for national and international artists in the succeeding years.

The first “Baguio Arts Festival” began in 1989 through the initiative of the Baguio Arts Guild to create the city as a premier venue for arts and will now be revived as a commitment to the UCCN for raising awareness about creativity and the arts and to the international learning exchange of ideas and culture between countries.

Maricar Docyogen, president of the Pasa-kalye Group of Artists and a member of BACCI, said, “Hopefully, promotion of all upcoming artists ang goal. Pero in reality, we will not be able to do that. But it becomes a platform already because with the festival, we are coming up with a website where we can anchor artists who want to join, who want their works or events to be promoted.”

Aside from the government-initiated projects, the initial step of mapping the registered and informal creative businesses is currently in progress through the collaboration of the Asian Institute of Management and UP Baguio’s research teams.

Preparation to incorporate the arts into the curriculum from elementary schools up to universities and the revision of the comprehensive land use plans to fit the UCCN’s objectives are ongoing.

DOT-Cordillera Director Marie Venus Tan said, “The way the Unesco creative cities works, they look at creativity as driver for economic resurgence and prosperity. We create a demand. The people who are into production of these artistic offerings are given opportunities for livelihood. It boils down to economic benefit.”

She added, “The survival of the city is hinged on people keeping it and preserving its true identity. People would like to come here because we kept our identity. The heritage parks, the history of the city defines itself. For as long as these heritage sites are protected, then I think tourism will prosper and will be sustainable.”

Tan said that Baguio has always been the creative’ nest due to the number of artists and this inspired her to revive the art scene as part of DOT-Cordillera’s “REV-BLOOM!” initiative by applying the city in the UCCN.

REV-BLOOM is an urban rehabilitation tourism campaign, which aims to recreate the city as revitalized Summer Capital and mountain resort through immediate, practical, and long-term responses to the city’s challenges.

Docyogen shared, “Promotion and marketing depend on  the objectives of the artist. Are you doing it for self-expression or for other purposes? But it is reality that many artists themselves don’t know how to promote themselves. Of course, gusto namin may pera para pambili ng materials and pambayad ng bills. This is why may creative economy. To help artists market themselves internationally na rin.

Along with the predicted outcomes of the development of Baguio as a creative city, artists like Blas also expect that the predictions will materialize after the many years of their community being unrecognized.

Blas fell in love with art at five years old when his teacher tasked them to draw the places they wish to go to when they grow up.

He said, “Wala akong pakialam sa pera. Hindi naman nagre-revolve ang buhay sa pera.”

Throughout his life, he bounced through different creative fields like traditional arts, which include painting and drawing, cultural and traditional dances, and traditional music despite his parents’ disapproval. He then shifted to cultural crafts to earn more money for his materials.

The young artist claimed that traditional cultural products are more marketable because of remaining interest towards it despite the long duration of time it takes for them to be bought. He added that visual artists have difficulty selling their works in the city since there are only a few arts collectors among residents.  

Brought about by financial difficulties and the parents’ discouragement, he explained that the number of painters and weavers are decreasing while the ones who still hold the tradition of weaving in secluded areas are getting older. Only a few youth, or none at all, will continue the art.

Blas, standing amidst all these circumstances, said that he finds the designation appropriate because of the number of the cultural artists who are in the city right now.

He observed, however, that, “Dapat may fair treatment sa mga craftsmen na indigenous din. ‘Yung mga weaver na hindi under sa company, wala sa council. Although may isa from Ifugao. Ang gusto ko sana ay mabigyan ng pagkakataon ang mga communities.”

Blas said the local community and the city government can help alleviate the weight of their community’s struggles if they will only know and continue to listen to their grievances and troubles so that they will know what to do or how to respond.

WONDER IN MUSIC -- Leandro Kieran Yangot II, 22, a Baguio busker, sings with a smile, as he serenades people from all walks of life passing through Session Road on a gloomy afternoon. -- Rose Celine Jimenez

Other news
:: The school’s role in shaping young talents
:: Baguio City moving beyond 109 through culture and creativity
:: Designing a creative city for Baguio’s crafts industry
:: Adding Cordillera culture into Baguio’s cullinary industry
:: Preserving the Ibaloy culture through School of Living Traditions
:: Literature thrives in a city above the clouds
:: What is a Baguio film: A docu in the making
:: Woodcarvers, weavers, & Baguio’s crafts industry
:: Steering policies to sustain Baguio as a creative city
:: Baguio’s folk and country sounds

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Technical Education & Skills Development Authority – CAR
University of Baguio

Baguio Central University
Baguio Country Club
Benguet Electric Cooperative Inc.
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources – CAR
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Department of Health – CAR
John Hay Management Corporation
National Grid Corporation of the Philippines
New Media Services
Pag–IBIG Fund
Pines City Colleges
Sangguniang Panlungsod

Assumption Medical Diagnostic Center
Baguio Center Mall
Baguio Water District
Choobi Choobi
Congressman Mark O. Go
Councilor Leandro B. Yangot Jr.
Curamed Pharmacy
Department of Environment and Natural Resources – CAR
Department of Public Works and Highways – CAR
Department of Science and Technology
Fabulo Beauty and Image Salon
Far East Pacific Commercial
Filipino–Japanese Foundation of Northern Luzon, Inc.
Ganza & Solibao Restaurants
Gen. Benjie B. Magalong
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Governor Crescencio C. Pacalso
Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan
Mayor Romeo K. Salda
Mother Earth Deli Basket
Nagomi Spa
Narda’s / Sunflower Ridge
Northern Luzon School for the Visually Impaired, Inc.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Montessori, Inc.
Philex Mining Corporation
Police Regional Office – CAR
Regional Development Council – CAR and National Economic and Development Authority – CAR
Regional Tripartate Wages and Productivity Board – CAR
SN Aboitiz
Tony Boy Tabora
Veterans Bank


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