Issue of September 2, 2018
Mt. Province

70th Courier Anniversary Issue
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UC confers honorary degrees on BenCab, Kidlat Tahimik
by RVerdore and A SJ Lara

DOCTORS OF CULTURE & ARTS -- The University of the Cordilleras has conferred the degrees Doctor of Humanities, Honoris Causa on National Artist for Visual Arts Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera (top photo) and Kidlat Tahimik on Aug. 24 during UC’s 72nd commencement exercises. BenCab and Kidlat are flanked by UC Chairman Jesus Benjamin D. Salvosa, Trustee Nene S. Bowman, UC President Ray Dean D. Salvosa, and members of the UC Saeng ya Kasay cultural ensemble. -- UC photos

Two internationally-acclaimed artists were conferred the honorary degrees Doctor of Humanities, Honoris Causa by the University of the Cordilleras during its 72nd commencement exercises on Aug. 24, in recognition of their contributions in the field of culture and arts.

National Artist for Visual Arts Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera and multi-awarded independent filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik, in their commencement addresses, reminded the graduates of their responsibility to promote and preserve the culture of the Cordillera.

Cabrera recalled being introduced to the region’s rich culture in the ‘60s describing it as “truly original.”  He noted the aesthetic qualities of the region’s artworks which are showcased at the BenCab Museum. BenCab also underscored the importance of taking care of the environment which is among the advocacies of the BenCab Art Foundation.

“As residents of these mountains and valleys, it is important that we acknowledge and respect this shared heritage (and) making sure that our environment is protected is equally important,” Cabrera said.

Kidlat Tahimik, who is born and raised in Baguio City, addressed the graduates with an unconventional commencement speech in the form of a three-part artistic expression.

Kidlat presented his installation art depicting the Ifugao wind goddess Inabyan juxtaposed with the “Hollywood wind goddess” Marilyn Monroe, and the Filipino filmmaker who decides to “tell the local story.” This was followed by a 15-minute clip from his film “Memories of Overdevelopment” which served as a prelude to a performance of a toga-clad Kidlat as a graduate of the “University of Hollywood.”

His live performance narrated the story of a Cordilleran filmmaker who returns to his home in the rice terraces with the goal to produce a blockbuster film. He soon reconnects with his indigenous culture and decides to tell the local story represented by Kidlat removing his toga to reveal himself wearing a bahag while toting his iconic bamboo camera.

Kidlat synthesized his performance to remind the graduates to tie the skills they have acquired in UC with their culture.

“Your culture, whether it’s Cordilleran culture or culture from Mindanao, culture will give an extra ingredient to your college knowledge. It will give you a sense of liwanag behind that shield. It will give you an extra power so that you can utilize your diplomas to serve your communities and your people,” Kidlat said.

Kidlat reminded the graduates not to be ashamed of their ancestral knowledge, which colonizers considered as backward, primitive, and shameful.

“Huwag mahiya sa katutubong kayamanan. Embrace our Cordillera culture which is as sophisticated as Egyptian or Chinese culture because it is balanced with the spiritual world and Cordillera elders were quite knowledgeable with ecological balance,” he said.

Kidlat informed the graduates that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s designation of Baguio as a creative city should not be taken lightly.

He lamented that most Baguio officials place arts and culture on the backburner. Unlike Angono, Rizal, which is the birthplace of national artist Botong Francisco, the artist-friendly local government unit has automatic appropriations for arts and culture and even has a desk to deal with artists and culture-related activities.

The desk is separate from the tourism desk.

“Unlike in Baguio, every year, artist activities have to start from zero to get support from City Hall. Just because we are not taxpayers like malls,” Kidlat said.

Kidlat, son of the first lady mayor of Baguio Gene de Guia, sees the newly formed Baguio Creative Arts and Crafts Council (BCCAC) as a private initiative to help change the attitude of City Hall towards art, especially that the city is located in the heart of “Igorotlandia.” 

He said that he agreed to be a member the board of trustees of BCCAC conditionally: “If City Hall’s lackadaisical attitude towards the artists sector is not institutionalized in a mutual respect framework, I will step down as trustee because BCCAC cannot operate in a vacuum if the Unesco recognition is to be sustained.” 

The two artists were among the founding members of the Baguio Arts Guild which staged local and international art festivals in the city.

Kidlat and BenCab were included as members of the Baguio Creative Cities Council with BenCab for painting and Kidlat for performing arts.

UC confers honorary degrees on individuals who have exhibited passion, integrity, and excellence in their respective fields. In recent years, UC conferred Doctor of Laws on Vice President Leni Robredo and Doctor of Pedagogy on Ramon Magsaysay Award laureate Randy Halasan.

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