December 10, 2022

What grave injustice it is to take photographs of artworks in this digital world because art cannot be interpreted without its soul and spirit when physically encountered. This is when the virtual cannot make up for this reality. It is best to see an art exhibit in person.

The Baguio Convention Center has been restored to its purpose of being the home of the finer strands of life in this part of the country.

The intentions of Imelda Marcos to put art and culture under the typical Igorot home-inspired convention center were made superficial, more so after their exile.

After the celebrated the Anatoly Karpov versus Victor Korchnoi international chess tournament in 1978, not much importance was placed on this site because nothing could equal the famed chess blitz. The center became the venue for the Baguio Arts Festival in the 80s after the EDSA Revolution when homegrown artists Santiago Bose and national artist Kidlat Tahimik began a core group of varied media artists to gather and form the Baguio Arts Guild.

Relocating Manila artists like Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera, Roberto Villanueva, and Adelaida Lim, among others drew attention to Baguio City as the destination for art lovers and artists. The rest of the story is best captured in the ongoing exhibit, “Alimuom”, at the basement of the newly-rehabilitated BCC.

The huge mixed media collaborative artworks at the entrance of the BCC are statements about the vibrant artists’ community hereabouts. These tell the stories of the lifeways in this mountain region where all the tribes have gathered as one but remain distinct in heritage. They are meant to be studied in detail because each image is meaningful and because each artist has contributed his piece to this mural.

Bong Sanchez has placed an indoor installation entitled, “Banal na Kaew ni Ibagiw of the Moss Holywood Tree” as part of the Alimuom Exhibit. This is a statement about healing rituals as they apply to this Covid-19 pandemic. The elements of the ritual are best appreciated after one reads the artist’s personal handwritten statement.

On the left side of the entrance is a small room that shows Olie Olivete’s exhibit, “ Coded: Queue R. Here: Is no contact, good contact?” This is an amusing discourse on the pandemic and the many episodes that have touched our lives, particularly that of being subjected to QR codes.

All the highlights of the 20 months since the lockdown are articulated in the varied images in the room, the QR codes of each artwork should be scanned for the story (which I failed to absorb). One wall has the conflicts in the views of people on what was going on, “Conformity-Resistance, Obsolete – Updated, Identity – Dissimilarity, Security – Paranoia” are titles of the works using objects that we encountered in these times, this was accomplished through a collaboration with Ibagtit artists who put images on cut pieces of wood.

Again, the details are best scanned one by one for better appreciation.

I appreciate the way the artist framed each work with a mat. This was one way of stating how each artwork was in its own space.The “CABIN.NET1” and “CABIN.NET2” are literal cabinets of artworks of being cooped up. Everyone had cabin fever in the immediate phase of the lockdown.

Olivete uses the image of the male and female inside the cabinet with their myriad of thoughts and the factors affecting their world. “SAYO-TOYS”, captures the sayote as the way of life of these parts and survival during the pandemic in the carvings of Dehan Taguyungon.

The most striking was the work entitled, “A Patchwork Orange”. Olivete said that ‘we have blanketed ourselves with the cold comfort of blue screens at night.’ The blanket is represented by the patchwork of different plastic wrappers of things ordered online which serves as ‘retail therapy’ which is sewn together by a displaced seamstress in this pandemic. There are many other artworks that are part of the one-man exhibit.

‘Alimuom’ is the title of the exhibit of various works of visual artists of Baguio means “the sweet smell that permeates the earth after the touch of the gentle summer rain.” “A reminder of home, spaces of care, of ecology.” This exhibit shows contemporary works by artists in Baguio City  in celebration of  “Ibagiw”, the festival of culture and crafts.

An AVR plays where different personalities involved in the exhibit speak about the past. Some about how the space was once used in “The Baguio Art Archive Project: Histories, Developments, and Trajectories”.

Perry Mamaril’s untitled work made from water vine, rattan, bamboo, and led light welcomes you to the basement. This work to me is a semblance of man who finds comfort surmounting obstacles. Mamaril was among the artists who participated in the early arts festivals.

“Tinagtaga” by artists Tessie Baldo, Jepoy Bertrand, Siegrid Bangyay are a series of high fired stoneware made from Sagada clay glazed with a mixture of local soils and cobalt. They describe the artworks as “a woman guardian expressing, compassion, grace, prosperity and fertility” which are part of the experimental process of using the medium.

Baguio-Benguet Photographers Hikers Artists Club presented their works in an installation on black cloth using digital photographs. This captures the portraits of elders in an unusual installation. The well photographed memories of culture bearers are the theme of this piece.

Alfonso Dato’s Etched Scars and Memory Glyphs, acrylic on canvas, is textured art. He canmake fine details in two dimensions. Dato is able emboss details on canvas.This must be viewed at the gallery to be appreciated better.

Patric Palasi’s “Futurity” is a new dimension to his artistry in mixed media on canvas. This artist used to paint with coffee and has rediscovered acrylic and new themes. This piece projects a query about being indigenous.

Ben Hur Villanueva’s sculpture “St. Vincent de Paul” is included in the exhibit. This piece outlives the bronze artist.

Julian Almirol’s “Salaknib ti Masakbayan”, pyrography on compressed rice hulls is among the works that uses burning as the medium of expression. The rice hulls are used as canvas of this art piece. His other work “Unsung Heroes Frontliner”, 12×16, is a smaller work on the same compressed rice hull canvas.

Sultan Mang-osan has captured the finer uses of solar and electric pyrography in his artwork on the handwoven baskets of the Cordillera. This artwork preserves the traditional design of the baskets.

Leonard Aguinaldo’s “The Baguio Stories” captures the story of the old Aringay – Baguio railroad that was proposed by the English officials who came at the turn of the century. According to journalist Frank Cimatu, this is the artists reaction to the ‘railroading’ of the Baguio City market and the ‘civilizing’ done by the colonizers. This artwork is a print made from the large rubber sheets that Aguinaldo carves as his canvas.

My descriptions and photos do not give enough for these works to be appreciated.

Please visit the BCC to see them and for you to be proud of the hub that is the soul of the people through its artists.