Story & photos by Joshua Berida
Baguio has always been the go-to destination of many from Manila or other parts of the country during summer. Its cold temperature and familiar attractions make it a suitable place to spend a few days or weeks.
Recognized under the crafts and folk arts category, Baguio recently became a part of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (Unesco) Creative Cities Network, which includes 180 members from around 60 countries. A first for the country, Baguio deserves a second look from tourists who are out for a culture crawl for their next visit.
As a new member of the Creative Cities Network, Baguio’s main objective is to promote creativity as a means, not just for artistic expression, but also for sustainable development, integration of creativity and culture into development of local communities and the creation of innovative and creative hubs that would provide opportunities for the artists.
In celebration of the UNESCO designation, the city sponsored “Creative Baguio” in February that brought together artists from different specializations with distinct narratives based on their diverse backgrounds.
Staged in Malcolm Square, the occasion gathered Baguio’s artists known for their skills in basket weaving, metal crafts, tattoo art, carving and sculpture. Baguio Creative Council Chairman Adelaida Lim, Secretary-General of the Philippine National Commission to Unesco Lila Ramos Shahani and Baguio City Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan graced the event that showcased the city’s creativity and culture. National Artist for Visual Arts Benedicto R. Cabrera, popularly known as Ben Cab, unveiled the Baguio Creative City logo.
On exhibit was the native basket, one of the main products of the region. The weaving required to make the basket represents the different sectors involved that worked for the Creative Cities listing. “It’s also about connectivity, the booths in the pavilion show, the connectivity of one sector to another,” University of the Philippines Chancellor of Baguio Dr. Raymundo D. Rovillos said. “Creativity thrives in a culture of openness,” he further added.
The city’s addition to the Creative Cities list will hopefully draw tourists’ attention to creative spots, such as Arko ni Apo, Tam-awan Village and the Woodcarvers’ Village. The large mural painted on the Stobosa houses in nearby La Trinidad is also a must-see.
Means of storytelling
The city has a creative vibe even before it was named by the Unesco. One of the popular destinations during a weekend trip is the Ben Cab Museum that features a collection of the artist’s work. After the inclusion on the list, Baguio aims to broaden their artist base by promoting and showcasing their talents. One such artist is Lito Malaggay, who creates wire sculptures and hails from Sagada. He unwittingly discovered his artistic talent while composing songs. “I just found a piece of wire and started to sing. After my song ended, I forgot I was holding a wire. When I looked at it, I saw that it had a shape,” he said.
“I’m not into welding [wires], I just use my hands to make a sculpture. I want to tell my story as an Igorot. I want to transfer my skill to others and change misconceptions about us. [Now] I help prisoners make something extra. The skill [that] I managed to teach helps them to earn a living. I also learned more about myself and my culture through my work,” he further added.
The tattoo art of the Cordilleras, the basket weaves, the wire sculptures all carry the narratives and skills of those who made them and form a huge part of the cultural heritage they want to pass on.
Passing the baton
“One of our challenges is how can we transfer these skills to the youth,” Rovillos said. “That’s why we have plans and proposals to transmit these skills through vocational courses. Other than these, we also propose [giving] assistance to the artists, [and find ways] on how different sectors can help them so they can continue their craft, [by having] just and fair labor relationships, and incentives.”
Being the first Philippine city in the Unesco Creative City list, it is the local officials’ and tourism officers’ hope that other cities will garner the same recognition, given the country’s rich cultural heritage. An inclusion in this network opens doors for both artists and cities where growth is promoted by integrating creativity and art into their programs that can lead to job creation, sustainable development and richer cultural identity of their respective cities.