Baguio City’s inclusion into the Unesco Creative Cities Network (UCCN) four years ago was a distinction added to the many titles the city has under its cap.
But along with the prestige of being part of the UCCN is the greater responsibility of sustaining programs, plans, and policies that will maintain or even improve the gains of what has been achieved since the inception of various arts events and activities in 2017.
Believing that Baguio fulfilled the requirements of being a member of UCCN, an official of the Creative Baguio City Council (CBCC) announced in a press conference in November 2021 that the body is preparing to renew Baguio’s membership to the prestigious UN body.
Every four years, the UCCN reviews the action plans of member cities and evaluates if these plans were fulfilled as planned.
CBCC co-chair and Baguio Arts and Crafts Collective, Inc. (Bacci) president Raymundo Rovillos said the arts and creative industry of Baguio may have suffered heavily as a result of the lockdowns caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, but overall, those in the creative sector managed to weather the pandemic and other challenges of organizing those in the creative sector of the city.
He said the CBCC and the Bacci are in the process of preparing documents to be submitted to the UCCN for its assessment. Specifically, the two bodies are set to submit financial records of how those in the creative sector benefited from being a creative city, list of activities done for the creative sector, documentation of activities, and policies or action plans crafted to help sustain the creative industry of Baguio.
“More than the international accolade, the city’s membership is a commitment to place the 2030 agenda for sustainable development notably making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, sustainable and putting the new urban agenda at the heart of its future development strategies and plans as well as join the international community in the fast growing momentum for sustainable development,” according to City Budget Officer and CBCC member Leticia Clemente during the ceremonial launch of Baguio as creative city in 2017.
Shortly after Baguio’s selection, the Bacci 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.
Pioneer events then were the open air exhibition of various works of art and crafts at the Malcolm Square. Pavilions designed by Aris Go of 90 Design Studio were set up to accommodate the works exhibited at the area.
National artist Ben Cabrera was also tapped to design the Baguio creative city logo, which was a set of triangles depicting the Cordillera mountain range and carried the colors of the Philippine flag.
Among several legislations related to Baguio City’s compliance with the requirements of the Unesco, the city council also institutionalized the Ibagiw Festival – an annual event held every November dedicated to the continuous promotion of various forms of art in the city.
Events and activities have grown through the years and more venues have been opened not only as display area but also as venue to sell their creations.
Government-owned exhibition areas were at the Diplomat Hotel, the Teachers’ Camp, the OTOP hub at DPS Compound, the basement of the Baguio Convention Center, and even Session Road, which is closed every Sunday for the selling of products produced by micro and small enterprises.
Several hotels and restaurants have also opened their doors for the display and sale of art works and crafts.
In June 2020, the Mandeko Kito – an Ibaloy term for “let’s sell” – was established as marketplace for crafts. Venues were at the University of the Philippines Baguio, Sunshine Park, and for its past two stagings, at the Berkeley School.
Porta Vaga mall has also allotted the area formerly occupied by its department store for the Layad di Kordilyera, a mini trade fair of Cordillera products.
SM City Baguio has also dedicated a wider area for the display of paintings and book art exhibit.
Weaved textiles from the different provinces of the Cordillera, sculptures, metal craft, jars, among others have also been exhibited at UP Baguio’s Museo Kordilyera, Berkeley School, and at the Department of Tourism-Cordillera.
Already a picturesque city, Baguio continues to be favorite venue of photographers and those in the film industry owing to the transformation of alleys and gray concrete walls into murals.
Carantes Street is now a colorful mural depicting typical day to day scenes around the area in the 1970s; entering Baguio has likewise become more pleasant, for aside from the pine trees, colorful murals along the Quirino Highway, BGH rotund, and the PNR terminal are surely welcome sites to a tired traveler or to passersby.
UP Baguio has likewise been active in the promotion of the creative industry. In the Ibagiw Festival last November 2021, UP Baguio was host of the Agaramid Tayo, a series of online documentaries featuring collections of Museo Kordilyera; Creative Fridays – a capacity building training for the creative industry; Batok: A cultural exposition on the traditional tattoos of the Cordillera; cultural shows; and the Talastasan, an academic discourse on Baguio as a creative city.
More need to be done
Based on the city’s submission to the Unesco, Baguio’s visions were to develop “creative centers” dedicated to supporting crafts and folk art, offer workshops, studios, design laboratories, exhibit areas, setup a Baguio City Creative Circuit that will physically link existing buildings and venues to showcase the city’s creative spirit, involve other creative cities of crafts and folk arts, as well as members from the ASEAN, to take part in festivals and activities, and providing them spaces to display creative crafts and folk artworks, and partner with other members of the UCCN for the sharing of best practices.
At present, a creative circuit has yet to be realized and other ASEAN countries has yet to be included.
In the city’s action plan presented during the 12th annual meeting of the Unesco Creative Cities Network on June 11, 2018 in Karow and Katowice, Poland, a permanent venue to be called “Baguio Exposition Hub” was also planned to avoid art works being shown on a seasonal basis only. Areas considered then were the Baguio Convention Center, Botanical Garden, Burnham Park, Maharlika Building, and the Diplomat Hotel.
The Bacci has yet to formally announce a permanent art exhibition venue. The action plan also includes intergenerational transfer of knowledge and skills through tutorials.
In past stagings of the Ibagiw art festival, organizers have arranged tutorials on painting, metal craft, and backstrap weaving, among others, but in the recent festival, no tutorials have been arranged.
Continuous training of tour guides about the 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 possibility of including traditional crafts in the K to 12, and a creative crawl which encourages the public visit to heritage sites and landmarks in the city have likewise been broached but these too, has yet to be realized.
In Congress, House Bill 10556, which seeks to create a special high school for the arts in Baguio has been approved last December 2021.
Authored by Rep. Mark Go HB 10556 intend to form the Baguio City High School for the Arts to nurture young artists’ creative talents and support the city’s folk art and crafts.
This would also support the city’s commitment to upholding its creative and cultural traditions and providing sustainable livelihood to its local artisans, Go said in a press release.
As the Bacci is assessing how far it has gone in promoting art as part of a sustainable economy, we end by quoting Councilor Mylen Yaranon, who represented then mayor Mauricio Domogan in Poland, who 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 be limited to “art patrons” only but that each and every resident of Baguio should learn to value its homegrown talents, and acknowledge that works of art are products of an artist’s creativity and talent and hence also deserve to be properly compensated. – Rimaliza A. Opiña