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Baguio City moving beyond 109 through culture and creativity
by Aileen Refuerzo

-- Jogin C. Tamayo

Every city is unique. Beyond cultural, geographical, demographic, and economic differences, creativity is a common denominator for the Creative Cities.” -- UCCN

On Oct. 31, 2017, Baguio City joined the ranks of 180 cities from 72 countries that made it to the Creative Cities Network (CCN) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco).

The first Philippine city to receive the designation and only the fifth in Southeast Asia, Baguio made the cut through its notable crafts and folk art specifically basket and cloth weaving, woodcarving, silverware, and ink or tattoo.

With the distinction, Baguio City is now bound to fulfill UCCN’s mission “to strengthen cooperation with and among cities that have recognized creativity as a strategic factor of sustainable development as regards economic, social, cultural and environmental aspects.”

“By joining the network, cities acknowledge their commitment to sharing best practices, developing partnerships that promote creativity and the cultural industries, strengthening participation in cultural life and integrating culture in urban development plans,” the UCCN mission statement reads.

The UCCN says joining the network is a lasting commitment and “involves a participative process and a forward-looking approach” and requires cities to present “realistic action plans including specific projects, initiatives or policies to move along a sustainable urban development path.”

The UCCN has six core objectives:

1. Strengthen international cooperation between cities that have recognized creati-vity as a strategic fact of their sustainable development;

2. Stimulate and enhance initiatives led by member ci-ties to make creativity an essential component of urban development, notably through partnerships involving the public and private sectors and civil society;

3. Strengthen the creation, production, distribution and dissemination of cultural activities, goods and services;

4. Develop hubs of creativity and innovation and broaden opportunities for creators and professionals in the cultural sector;

5. Improve access to and participation in cultural life as well as the enjoyment of cultural goods and services, notably for marginalized or vulnerable groups and individuals; and
6. Fully integrate culture and creativity into local development strategies and plans.

These goals are carried out both at the international and local levels through the following “areas of action: sharing experiences, know-ledge and best practices; pilot projects, partnerships, and initiatives associating the public and private sectors and civil society; professional and artistic exchange programs and networks; studies, researches, and evaluations on the experience of the Creative Cities; policies and measures for sustainable urban development; and conduct of communication and awareness-raising activities.”

Aside from crafts and folk art, the network covers other artistic fields namely design, film, gastronomy, literature, media arts, and music.

A total of 37 cities compose the arts and crafts sub-network including the cities of Carrara in Italy, Nassau in Bahamas, Limoges (France), Cairo (Egypt), Tunis (Tunisia), Gabrovo (Bulgaria), Ougadougu (Burkina Fasso), Porto Novo (Benin), Pessoa and Joao in Brazil, Jacmel (Haiti), Duran and Chordeleg (Ecuador), Tetouan (Morocco),  Isfahar (Iran), Al-Ahasa (Saudi Arabia), Kutaya (Turkey), and Madaba (Jordan) among other cities.  

Closer to home, there are Chang Mai (Thailand), Icheon (South Korea), and Baguio’s sister city Hangzhou (China).  Others are Suzhou and Jingdezhen, both in China, Kana-zawa and Sasayawa in Japan.

Battlecry: Creativityfor sustainable urban development

Unesco says the UCCN serves as “a laboratory where member cities develop creative solutions to the world’s most pressing development issues.”

It is part of the pursuit of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by providing "a platform for cities to demonstrate culture’s role as an enabler for building sustainable cities.”

The 2030 Agenda or the Sustainable Development Goals aims to address 17 global goals that cover social and economic development issues including poverty, hunger, health, education, global warming, gender equality, water, sanitation, energy, urbanization, environment, and social justice, according to Wikipedia.

As members of the UCCN, the creative cities have become part of the “frontline of Unesco’s efforts to foster innovation and creativity as key drivers for a more sustainable and inclusive urban development.”

The XII annual meeting of the UCCN held in Poland last June 12 to 15, which focused on the theme, “Creative Crossroads” emphasized the need to “connect and co-create” and “to stimulate innovative collaborations across the different creative fields, geographic regions, and disciplines.”

Member cities provided inputs on how they can pave the path towards sustainable cities in relation to the key thematic approaches to the 2030 Agenda: Creativity for the People (Engaging citizens to build cities for all), Creativity for Prosperity (Stimulating sustainable growth and entrepreneurship), and Creativity for the Planet (Fostering resilience and environmental awareness).  

Councilor Mylen Yaranon who attended the confe-rence said the UCCN Vision for 2018-2021 was developed highlighting the interconnection of six themes: development and growth plus production and circular economy, welfare development plus sustainable development goals, and education and knowledge plus international relations.

Baguio City’s journey

Baguio City is a melting pot of Cordillera and lowland cultures.  Being the gateway to the region, it serves as show window of the rich culture of the Cordillera ethnic groups.

The Cordillera culture and identity figure prominently in the city’s art scene and in fact, the Baguio Creative Council says native crafts and folk art continue to thrive and remain as an important component of the city’s tourism industry.  Steady gains have been noted in the so-called “verticals of creativity” which include woodcarving tradition, the backloom weaving practices, the silvercraft and basket-weaving, and the art of tattooing.

“However, these crafts and folk art face the challenges of continuity and sustainability due to breakdown in inter-generational transfer of knowledge and skills, lack of institutional support and the need to ‘value up’ these arts and crafts in order to meet the increasingly discriminating taste of local and international demands,” the creative council notes.

This and the need to sustain the growth of the city through “sustainable and inclusive” initiative means such as culture and creative industries served as the driving force for the government and the academe to seek UCCN membership.

“The vigorous campaign made by the government and academe sectors helped bring the city to the fore. But this would not have been possible without the creative contributions not only of the folk artists and the craftsmen but the other creative in the other fields as well,” the council says.

The city and partner organizations presented action plans that include facilitation of trainings for capacity building, incentives for creativity and innovation, market linkages through promotion and marketing locally and internationally, and mapping and enhancement of creative spaces.

The council says that the creativity-driven developmental goal is most appropriate to Baguio being inhabited by diverse ethnic groups with rich history and unique traditions.

“By positioning Baguio City as a creative city, we send the message to the present and future leaders of government and private sectors that sustainable and inclusive development of the city can be realized,” the Council says.

“It will also enliven the creative sectors and encourage them to continue innovating, becoming more productive, generating more employment, increasing household incomes, savings, and more investments in the sector.”

Newly installed City Tourism Operations Officer Aloysius Mapalo says the Creative City title carries with it the mandate and responsibility to live up to the designation as such. 

The designation lasts for four years and within said period, each city member has to prove its worth and fulfill its obligations to maintain its inclusion in the list.

Rising up to the challenge

For the 109th Charter Day anniversary celebration, the city drumbeats its UCCN designation as carried in the Baguio Day theme, “Celebra-ting and moving beyond 109 through culture of creativity.”

Mayor Mauricio Domogan expresses the city government’s commitment to pursue the UCCN’s founding principle of placing culture and creativity at the core of the city’s sustainable development plans by actively pursuing government support and collaborative programs in partnership with the creative sector.

“We must take advantage of the UCCN program to highlight our unique cultural heritage in the international scene and at the same time harness our creative sector as an avenue to achieving sustainable development,” the mayor said.

Mapalo says among the courses of action that the city can take is the promotion and sustainment of industries that incorporate creative skills under the concept of creative economy.

Paulo Mercado, president of the Creative Economy Development Council of the Philippines who has been guiding the city in its UCCN endeavor, envisions Baguio City as a model or pioneer site for creative economy where creativity will be tapped as a strategic factor in attaining sustainable development.

Councilor Elmer Datuin who chairs the city council committee on tourism and special events, Mercado early on expressed willingness to work with the city in clustering the various arts groups in the categories of crafts and folk art and create avenues by which each group can unite their efforts and work together to further develop and promote their crafts and artistry as a primary tourist attraction at the same time uplift their livelihood.

“The idea is for these loose businesses to grow into their full potential and become large-scale industries to benefit both the city and the artists through the concept of creative economy.  This is in keeping with the poverty alleviation end of the 2030 Agenda,” Datuin explains.

Mapalo said the 1st International Baguio Arts and Creatives Festival slated this November will serve as a test case for the city in implementing the creative economy concept.

The pioneering event hatched to fulfill one of the city’s commitments to the UCCN is now being vigorously pursued by the city government, Department of Tourism and Department of Trade and Industry Cordillera offices in collaboration with the newly formed Baguio Arts and Crafts Collectives Inc. composed of groups representing the various creative fields and other private groups.

“We will see about how we will fare in bringing about this festival in November and after, we will work on how we are going to sustain it,” Mapalo said.

Apart from the festival, the other commitments of the city to the UCCN, according to Yaranon, are the setting up of creative centers possibly at the Post Office site, the Baguio Convention Center, Benguet-Ifugao-Bontoc-Apayao-Kalinga (BIBAK) area and the Maharlika Livelihood Center; the designation of a creative circuit targeted to cover Burnham Park, Baguio Museum, Sunshine Park, University of the Philippines Baguio until the Baguio Convention Center to be incorporated in the city’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP); and the revitalization of the sister city program to integrate arts exchange activities, which she said will provide exposure to local artists in the international market.

In the Poland conference, Yaranon presented the programs of action in achieving the sustainable development goals which include the conduct of research and data base of the different crafts and folk arts in Baguio City and Cordillera, mapping of the creative sector, inclusion of the city government policies on Creative City in the CLUP, implementation of more projects for the development of the city’s creative sector like the creation of a creative circuit and redevelopment of existing buildings into creative hubs, conduct of trainings and seminars for the leveling up of crafts, preservation of Cordilleran culture through the different creative fields, and provision of financial and logistical support by the city government to Creative City endeavors.

Datuin said legislative measures have been initiated for the creation of the City of Baguio Council for Culture and the Arts with multi-sectoral membership which would oversee the promotion of culture and the arts in the city.

He said the creation of the Baguio Creative City Council has also been proposed to take charge of the concerns of the crafts and folk art field, being the city’s UCCN specialty. 

Datuin who attended the 2nd International Creative Cities Workshop and Sub-network Meeting in the Field of Crafts and Folk Art last April in Icheon, South Korea advocates for the prioritization of the small and medium crafts and folk art enterprises to enable them to upgrade, promote, and market their products and establish their niche and in the process improve their economic status which he said is the very aim of the creative economy and the UCCN’s part in the 2030 Agenda.

City Budget Officer Leticia Clemente, focal person to the UCCN and Yaranon, however, said that the city’s creative city programs must be inclusive of all the fields because of the interactive way the Baguio community works.

“We cannot set aside other fields and promote just one because all of these are integrated.  There should be a holistic approach so that all the fields will boost one another which will benefit our city.  In the long run, we can also vie for more UCCN slots for the other fields,” Clemente offered.

Yaranon added that Baguio’s cultural make-up necessitates the integrative development of all the creative fields which is also encouraged by the UCCN which also promotes inclusivity in its programs.

The UCCN, she said, encourages member cities to focus on one field as a starting point but also champions its use it as “an active lever to harness the transformative potential of culture and creativity.”

Mapalo, however discounts the seeming conflict on the schools of thought.

“We can always marry the two ideas. Since crafts and folk art serve as our reason for making it to the UCCN, then there is reason to give it initial focus but then we can nurture the other fields at the same time and gain more designations why not.  But the aim is not have many but our aim should be to promote creativity in general,” he said.

Indeed, the city may still be in the birthing stage in its creative city efforts so that labor pains are necessary and unavoidable. But challenges notwithstanding, sights must be set on the fruit that looms.

As the creative council said: “Becoming a member of the Unesco Creative Cities Network is a platform for life-long learning, cross-cultural sharing, innovation, and productive transformation of the crafts and art forms…”

… And with it, the realization of the dream for a creativity-fueled sustainable Baguio City.

Other news
:: The school’s role in shaping young talents
:: 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
:: 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
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
GMS Technology
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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