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2018
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Steering policies to sustain Baguio as a creative city
by Rimaliza A. Opiña

CREATIVE CITY -- National artist Benedicto Cabrera, more popularly known as BenCab, graced the first Creative Baguio Exhibition Hub at Malcolm Square in February this year to celebrate Baguio’s inclusion to the Unesco’s Creative Cities Network for being a creative city for crafts and folk art. -- JJ Landingin

Baguio goes by many names. It is the country’s Summer Capital, the City of Pines, the educational center of the north, convention center of the north, flower city, and recently, a creative city in the field of folk arts and crafts, as cited by the United Nations Educational Scientific Cultural Organization (Unesco).

The last one, although another global distinction for Baguio, demands for the city to come up with policies to sustain its inclusion in the Unesco Creative Cities Network.

The job to make Baguio reach the feat started in 2017 when through the initiative of the Department of Tourism-Cordillera, submitted its intent to be part of the global network. Baguio, along with several other cities in the Philippines submitted their papers to Unesco.

How Baguio developed into an arts hub

As a melting pot, Baguio has become a magnet for people of various backgrounds to make the country’s official summer capital as their base – including those in the arts, such as National Artist for Painting, Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera. For them, Baguio is the place where they can best express their creativity.

The weather, the environment, and a community that welcomed the artists and their ideas were the perfect formula that helped bring out those colorful paintings; those melodic poems and verses, those intricate carvings, and those bestselling novels. Under such atmosphere, there is a myriad of subjects that they can explore and express through their medium.

Baguio-based artists would soon start making a name in the international scene. Santi Bose, Kidlat Tahimik, BenCab, Narda Capuyan, and several artisans became synonymous with the highest standards in arts – be it in painting, sculpture, film, photography, fashion through traditional fabric design, and jewelry design, among others. And whether it was on purpose or not, they helped put Baguio in the world map of arts and crafts.

In the 1980s, some of these artists formed the Baguio Arts Guild. Several projects mainly geared towards promoting arts and crafts while incorporating Cordilleran culture were done through its initiative. Budding artists were trained by the best in the field. The student-artists eventually founded their own arts galleries or have branched out and formed their own groups. Others, like independent filmmaker Ferdinand Balanag,directed several movies and documentaries, such as “Walking the Waking Journey, Best Director in the South Asian Filmmaker Category in the Silent River Film Festival, in Irvine, California in 2011.

Former BAG member Jordan Mang-osan along with other artists, helped establish the Tam-awan Artists Village. It is now one of the tourist destinations in Baguio where works of various artists are on display and where cultural performers showcase indigenous dances of the Cordillera provinces. Mang-osan has successfully ventured in his craft and is presently one of the few solar painters in the Philippines. Aside from Tam-awan Village, he also established a roofless studio in La Trinidad, Benguet.

Like pioneers of the BAG, succeeding members kept the torch burning by taking under their wings up and coming artists. This branching out has helped cement Baguio’s reputation as a venue for creative expressions.

In 2017, Baguio got the Unesco distinction as a creative city – the first in the Phi-lippines to have earned such international distinction. It is among the 16 cities in the world accorded such feat.

The ASEAN and DOT-CAR’s RevBloom

The Philippines’ hosting of the 2017 ASEAN Summit was eventful in so many ways. It was in one of the meetings during the summit that Baguio’s “application” for recognition at the Unesco Creative Cities Network was broached.

Taking off from the success of the RevBloom, brainchild of DOT-Cordillera Director Marie Venus Tan, the project aims at Revving up, Reviving, Revisiting, and Revitalizing Baguio as a tourist destination. With the passion to continue with what she started in RevBloom, Tan assembled a team to prepare all documents that needed to be submitted to the Unesco.

She personally followed up from concerned offices documents that needed to be prepared. She burned the lines to ensure that all requirements are in order before these are submitted to Unesco.

The pressure did not end there. Tan, in an interview with the Courier in November, recalled that from her office here in Baguio City, she was constantly in touch with coordinators of the Unesco in Paris, France just to be sure that any questions they have about the city’s application was answered promptly.

In October last year, the efforts of various sectors paid off when Unesco formally announced that Baguio got the distinction as a creative city – a first for the city and the Philippines for such honor.

Not resting on laurels

The distinction is indeed an achievement, but it does not end there for the recognition comes with several obligations that required collective action not just from the city’s policymakers, but from people who will benefit and mostly be affected by these policies – the artists and artisans.

Shortly after the announcement, the Baguio Arts and Creative Council was formed to serve as a policy-making body for the various initiatives in the city’s bid to comply with requirements of the Unesco.

The very first in their agenda was of course, to celebrate by sharing to the public what it is like to be declared a creative city.

Early this year an open air exhibition of various works of art and crafts was held at the Malcolm Square. Pavilions  designed by Aris Go of 90 Design Studio were set up to accommodate the works exhibited at the area. During the exhibit, the Baguio community feasted their eyes on some of the best pieces of art, crafts, and even performances right at the historic Session Road, and the Malcolm Square, so named after Justice George Malcolm, author of the Baguio City Charter. It was also during the exhibit where the official logo of the Baguio Creative City was unveiled. The logo, created by BenCab, depicts the Cordillera mountain range and shows the colors of the Philippine flag.

What about struggling artists?

Baguio being included in the creative circuit is also welcome news for “lesser known” artists like Willie Teves, who, despite many years as a painter and cartoonist still considers himself “struggling.”

He said that of the hundreds of artists who made Baguio their home, only a few are successful while the rest live by the day. He said he knows of a lot of people who are artistically inclined but set aside their passion in the arts to pursue a more lucrative career. Others, on the other hand, completely abandon the idea of earning from art because of the notion that it is not economically rewarding. 

“Mahirap ang dinaranas ng isang struggling artist na katulad ko kasi survival lagi ‘pag walang-wala talaga,”Willie laments. He said while artists who already made a name in the industry are able to command a higher price for their works, struggling artists and newbies have to manage with the price that clients “dictate,” not what they feel is the real worth of their work.

But like their famous counterparts, Willie said they also invest blood, sweat, tears, money, and concept in their works, but sometimes clients undermine the effort they put in each piece they create.

“Hindi ko alam kung lahat kami makikinabang sa pagiging creative city natin. Kung sa gobyerno kami aasa, pahirapan,” Willie said, but remains upbeat that something worthwhile will turn-out from being declared a creative city.

In fact, he envisions a city  where in every barangay, there is a community arts hub where art habitues can visit, not just to buy products but also to learn local culture.

“Sana magkaroon ng hub for community artists sa mga barangay at makakatulong ang gobyerno kung magbibigay ng puhunan at sa marketing,” Willie said.

Creative crawl

Creative cities are required to develop and exchange best practices to promote creative industries, strengthen participation in cultural life, and integrate culture into sustainable development policies. 

According to Unesco, the distinction is within the framework of the implementation of the United Nations 2030 agenda for sustainable development and the new urban agenda.

For Baguio, it is obliged to implement within four years an action plan to enhance the creativity in Baguio by designating creative spaces in the city and by allotting funds for the development of folk arts and crafts.

The action plan was presented during the 12th annual meeting of the Unesco Creative Cities Network on June 11 in Karow and Katowice, Poland by councilors Mylen Yaranon Elaine Sembrano, and Dir. Tan.

Included in the plans of sustaining creativity is for the works of art to be shown not just in exhibits or seasonal shows but in a permanent venue to be called “Baguio Exposition Hub. Areas being considered are the Baguio Convention Center, Botanical Garden, Burnham Park, Maharlika Building, and the Diplomat Hotel.

There are also plans to “pass-on” this creativity through intergenerational transfer of knowledge and skills.

Incidentally, a member of the Arts and Creative Council, Engr. Aloysius Mapalo, then representing the academe, envisioned that there should be a continuous training of tour guides about folk arts and crafts heritage of Baguio and the Cordillera, dialogue with the Commission on Higher Education, Department of Education, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority for the possibi-lity of including in the K to 12 curriculum traditional crafts.

Mapalo, who was recently appointed as the Baguio tourism officer, also suggested coming up with other events such as a “creative crawl,” which encourages visit to heritage sites and landmarks in the city. 

Aware of the plight of artists like Willie, the action plan also involves development of a “creative economy.”

The action plan, which has been presented to the city council for its adoption, tasks the city council committees on market, governmental affairs and personnel, tourism, urban planning, and laws to legislate policies and allot funds for livelihood projects where culture and creativity are enhanced.

The committee is also tasked at educating the public that “artists should be paid.”

The committee will also help in the promotion and marketing of products made by artists. This way, artists and craftsmen who undoubtedly helped promote Baguio will truly be recognized and rewarded for their work.

Yaranon, who represented Mayor Mauricio Domogan in Poland, said educating the public about the great contribution of creative minds to the city will avoid a repeat of the incident last year where the creation of the artist who designed the Baguio Christmas Tree drew public criticisms dwelling mostly on the negative side of the artwork.

The councilor said that as a creative city, she hopes that the action plan will be able to reach out to every stakeholder and that appreciation of creativity will not only be limited to “art patrons” but each and every resident of Baguio should learn to value of its homegrown talents.

SYNONYMOUS TO ARTS’ HIGHEST STANDARDS -- Sculpture, along with painting, film, photography, jewlery design among other skills, helped put Baguio in the world map of arts and crafts. -- HFP

 

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
:: Creative Baguio title slips prospects into the creative community’s mind
:: Baguio’s folk and country sounds

PWU Baguio
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
Congressman Ronald M. Cosalan
Department of Health – CAR
Grab
John Hay Management Corporation
National Grid Corporation of the Philippines
New Media Services
Pag–IBIG Fund
Pines City Colleges
Sangguniang Panlungsod
SiTEL

ABC360
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
GMS Technology
Governor Crescencio C. Pacalso
Maybank
Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan
Mayor Romeo K. Salda
Mother Earth Deli Basket
Nagomi Spa
Narda’s / Sunflower Ridge
NIIT
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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