February 3, 2023

In this pandemic era, if you have not visited the beautiful and newly-renovated Baguio Convention Center or if you are probably planning to take family and friends for a quick Covid tour these holidays, I suggest you take time out and visit the very impressive contemporary art exhibition called “Interlinked” at the BCC’s temporary Mezzanine Art Gallery and the installations of Kidlat Tahimik at the entrance and the lobby.

The Interlinked exhibit is curated by Erlyn Ruth Alcantara – a curator extraordinaire.   Erlyn’s succinct and meticulously written prose is complemented by Master Ompong Tan’s superb photography of the participating artists, graphics, and technical knowhow.

Kidlat Tahimik’s   installations, on the other hand, are part of a study for Spain’s 500 Anniversary of Ferdinand Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe on March 15, 1521. Both are part of the Ibagiw Creative Festival. The gallery is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the exhibit has been extended to Jan.15, 2021.

Of course, you must take into consideration the required protocols:  wearing of masks, face shields, social distancing and number of people per batch who can visit.

At the entrance to the lobby, one would be transported to Neverland with Tahimik’s huge installations which include a big ship with Enrique at the helm and the native hut with animals.

According to Kidlat (de Guia) Sr., Kidlat’s eldest son, the symbolism of the installation is   meant to welcome you back to “indio-genius” knowledge that has made Magellan’s travels successful. At the lobby, you will also find the ark, symbolizing the battle of the two wind goddesses:  Marilyn Monroe (Hollywood goddess) and inhabian (the Ifugao goddess of the wind). There is also a “tsunami” of bululs on the other side.

The “Interlinked” art exhibition displays the art works of 34 artists from the first generation to the 4th generation, a lot of them have carved a name for themselves in the annals of art.

Well known or sprouting, their works are exquisite.It was a challenge for Erlyn considering time constraints in mounting the exhibit. “We could not do an open call for artists to participate. It had to be by invitation.  The selection was not only based on the artists’ names and their track record but also on the kind of art mediums and on the themes of their artworks. I also wanted all the artists to have brief artist’s profiles. Just assembling the information or any drafts from 34 artists was a tall order in itself; the writing was another story. But it had to be done because I have seen in past exhibitions over the years, that many viewers like to read the texts. Baguio has an intelligent and curious gallery audience, so we owe it to them to give them new information or contribute to their knowledge.”

The 15 mediums selected were woodcut, oil painting, acrylic, water color, terra cotta, stoneware pottery, solar pyrography, screen print, pewter, mixed media, installation art, graphite and charcoal drawing, clay monoprint, bronze and brass sculpture, and brass repousse.

“The gallery was a created art space. The bleachers in that section are retractable,” explains Erlyn.

She adds: “The exhibit panels were built and a lighting system installed. So that gallery space is temporary. I am hoping that it can continue to be maintained as a gallery for at least a year while large gatherings are still not allowed in the time of Covid.”

Erlyn continues, “The city needs an accessible public venue for exhibitions.  I think it’s about time we have a long-term, permanent exhibition venue that is accessible. Personally, I keep imagining the Court of Appeals building (across Narda’s) as a public gallery. Sana maibalik ang paggamit nito from the national government to the city. That building is accessible by walking or by public transport and close to Session Road. A long shot probably but not impossible.”  If you haven’t seen the Baguio Convention Center, it’s worth your visit. It is an art work by itself. There are stairs to the left and right of the lobby ascending to the mezzanine and there are more comfort rooms to cater to the public It even has a covered driveway and is now gated.

A glimpse of appreciation from nine-year-old Erinn Martini Chaguile when she wrote in the Interlinked logbook, “I am proud of being a Baguio local, I am proud of our culture because of these art pieces.  The best!”

Credits to Spyke Pat-ogan for the photos in my last week’s Lifestyle article “The Many Talents of Martin Masadao.”