April 2, 2023

No words can truly define Baguio’s initiative to maintain its designation as a creative city. It sets the bar on how other local government units in the Philippines promote culture and the arts.
Our inclusiveness and empowerment of our artists make Baguio distinct from the rest of the country. This strengthens Baguio’s unique identity. This commitment is usually observed every Sunday in Session Road. The festive vibes are a shift from the horrendous experiences of the city and its citizens during the pandemic.
The festive vibes can be attributed to the booths and especially to our street performers. Some of them have become a sensation, especially in social media. They are the reason the city’s tourism is blooming. For that, the city is grateful. However, I have an unpopular thought regarding some of our street performers in Session Road on Sundays.
Last Saturday, Marlon Aquino (who is the husband of my college professor, Jennifer Aquino) and I discussed whether street performers such as cosplayers and buskers can be considered mendicants. I thought of that again today since I observed there are already too many of them in Session Road.
I do not tend to question the city’s promotion of creativity and the arts, its will to innovate to continue being a creative city, nor agree on the State taking advantage, monetizing, or intervening with one’s talent. Even last year, I believed a proposal to regulate our street performers is irrelevant and restricts their creativity and freedom of expression.
However, the influx of street performers seems to lose its purpose of showing their talents, crafts, or entertaining the people. The increase in performers is fine, but with their number, how many actually intend to showcase their talents or entertain? How many are genuine artists or performers? Are they devo-ted to the craft?
I also realize this matter when seeing a cosplayer, funnily shaking his container in front of spectators, which I interpret as a form of monetary begging. I hope I am wrong. Nevertheless, as humans, everyone needs money. We don’t have a right to question one’s diskarte to earn a living. And in a moral context, there are not violating someone’s right.
How about in the legal context, are they considered mendicants? Although the coverage of the Anti-Mendicancy Law limits to beggars and children, categorizing our street performers as mendicants is still doubtful.
Nonetheless, is it not quite unfair for those who are poor not to beg for donations, and yet, on the other hand, street performers who I assume are financially capable are exempted? Perhaps one might argue that street performance is not a form of begging since, in return, artists provide entertainment and art. Entertainment would include singing, dancing, and even comedy. Arts would fall under anything considered something aesthetic in the human mind. Both are also worthy of being compensated and recognized.
In another scenario, is it then unfair that people will patronize or give more donations to a mascot for showcasing any talent he has than, let us say, a typical manong who sells chicharon or balut? Moreover, they are two different individuals and means, yet both have the same motive to gain money at the same place (Session Road).
But the State will prefer the mascot man to perform while the manong is prohibited from selling in Session Road. Assuming both are not paying taxes, law enforcers would apprehend manong but not the mascot man for violation. Is this not a case of double standards? One might argue, they only perform once a week. How about a full-time student who finds time, possibly once a week to sell? Here’s a problem on how the city treats social equity.
Just so you know, these are just some thoughts that do not necessarily reflect my personal belief. But I believe it is high time to reconsider regulating our street performers. It is for their own protection as well, especially those genuine artists and performers and to safeguard the integrity of the city as a creative hub.
The city has to have standards. Sooner or later, we might see art that might be inappropriate. Self-proclaimed artists might bastardize the reputation of what our street performers have earned. Indeed, arts and talents are subjective. Everyone is entitled to it and has the right to express it. But if everyone claims to be an artist, and latently uses it for monetary gains over passion, then art has lost its value and genuineness.