BAGUIO holds a special place in my heart: I’ve gone on annual pilgrimages of sorts to the chilly city for four years now, and each time I leave more inspired, reinvigorated, and reenergized – partly due to the locale’s intimacy with nature, more so because of the many creative venues and galleries the city has to offer (but also from the retail therapy of haggling bargains at the famed Harrison Road Night Market).
In late 2017, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Creative Cities Network heralded Baguio the Philippines’ first creative city – the Cordillera hub joining the ranks of Jaipur, a textile and artisan capital in India, and Turkey’s multicultural Istanbul, among others – for its vibrant culture of craftsmanship and folk art.
Nestled in the mountains of Northern Luzon, Baguio City is a colorful region that boasts a long history of artisan values – ranging from folk art expressions to woodcarving, silver craft, weaving, and tattooing.
This is probably why the likes of Pambansang Alagad ng Sining and art collectors’ favorite Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera and National Artists and filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik have always seen Baguio City as their true homes.
The pair has remained staunch champions of artistic expression in their hometown, establishing two of the largest venues for art in the locale: the Ili-Likha Artists Village just along Session Road and the BenCab Museum in Tuba, Benguet.
Kidlat Tahimik’s Ili-Likha Artists Village is a charming complex that resembles a sprawling treehouse, it’s architecture embracing the presence of robust trees and incorporating indigenous design in its fixtures and furniture. The multi-level establishment hosts a number of art spaces, as well as a handful of restaurants that champion vegan and sustainably-sourced food.
Meanwhile, the BenCab Museum seems to need very little introduction – largely popularized by the 2014 “hugot” flick “That Thing Called Tadhana,” where JM de Guzman and Angelica Panganiban explore the gallery while pondering their respective love lives. The four-storey BenCab Museum, not only exhibits the works of its namesake artist and pieces by the Filipino masters, but also boasts a rich cache of indigenous art – from anito carvings to traditional burial artifacts.
Elsewhere, the Tam-awan Village in Pinsao Proper, uniquely blends home-grown aesthetics and exquisite Cordilleran craftsmanship with its artist collective’s vision of a village straddling both the modern and nature-centered Baguio of old. Meanwhile, the iconic Mt. Cloud Bookshop, which hosts the “Third Monday from the Sun” open-mic poetry reading session every third Monday of the month, has transferred from its former location in Casa Vallejo to Yangco Road, Baguio City.
See you again soon, Baguio! I’m excited to embark on my next creative pilgrimage./PN