Apart from being the “Summer Capital of the Philippines”, Baguio City is also hailed as one of most creative cities in the world. Thus, as Iba ‘Yan continues to explore the prominent tourist destination, they took the opportunity to acknowledge the exceptional talent and stories of three inspiring visual artists on the last day of National Arts Month.
As the city prides itself for its homegrown talents, including National Artist and the Master of Contemporary Philippine Arts Benedicto Cabrera, well-known filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik, multimedia artist Jordan Mang-Osan known for his solar paintings, and sculptor, painter, and teacher Ben-Hur Villanueva, these masters have served as inspirations to the new generation of artists, such as Paul Erick Danao. He uses his talent in mural painting to help his family survive during this pandemic.
Host Angel Locsin met Cordillera culture advocate, visual anthropologist, and street muralist Venazir “Vena” Martinez, who discovered her interest in arts at a very young age. Her family and teachers encouraged her to enhance her talent by joining competitions, like editorial cartooning and poster making. She followed her heart and pursued a degree in Fine Arts in the University of the Philippines – Baguio and discovered her love for other culture during her stay there. After graduating in college, her interest in social sciences, anthropology, and local history ignited more and integrated those in her work.
In 2017, she explored graffiti art by doing spray paint in a barangay in Baguio City, which she called “Ginayaman” – a tattoo design from Ifugao that translates to “a friend of a warrior.” Since then, Vena has spread Ginayaman in different places around the city and people began to follow the flow or continuity of her artwork. So, she thought of elevating this street art experiment.
She decided to make it more relatable to people by incorporating red strings, which according to her is a “unifying element which encapsulates every individual, every ethnolinguistic group of the Cordillera region”. Besides, it symbolizes the major material used in Philippine weaving tradition, and went on to call this whole street art project as “Hila-bana”.
Moreover, she imparted that the inspirations behind her art are her friends who are cultural advocates of the Cordillera region. Thus, she’s very thankful to the Cordillera community for accepting her and making her feel the sense of belongingness. Most of the people who collaborated with her were construction workers, since one of the goals of the “Project Hila-bana” was to provide more employment opportunities for people who just really want to do or practice art. “Art is an emotional and spiritual pursuit. It’s always for the society, not just for me. Hindi lang siya dapat nagca-cater sa sarili mo,” Vena said. Iba ‘Yan gave a little token of gratitude for her, which were two baskets of groceries.
Angel then went on to meet Maricar Docyogen, the president of Pasa-Kalye Group of Artists and the owner of Bookends Bookshop, the popular tambayan of Baguio City artists. From being a mere bookshop, it has become the hangout place of artists since 2016 as they began flocking there to participate in an activity called “Sketch Mo...Buhay Ko”, which aims to raise funds for dialysis patients.
One of the people helped by the bookshop is visual artist Angelica “Angie” Rosalin, who has loved art ever since she was a kid. As young as three years old, she has already learned how to create comic strips and learned how to do letterings in high school. She may have taken Architecture in college, but at the back of her mind, she knew that what she really wanted was to become a full-time artist.
Before becoming one, she first worked as a design officer. Although it was a stable job and it helped her provide for her family, she still got frustrated and unhappy because all she yearned to do was paint.
Eventually, Angie mustered the courage to fulfill her dreams and follow her heart when she finally decided to leave her job. She submitted samples of her paintings to the Pasa-Kalye group of Artists and successfully became part of the group. She currently volunteers to post her work online, which she considers as a way of giving back to the group who wholeheartedly embraced and accepted her.
Angie admitted that the pandemic has greatly affected their group, so they had to think of alternatives to continue their advocacies, such as the online art auction called “Helping Hand”, in which most of the proceeds go to their beneficiaries. While the local government has been very supportive of them, she hopes that the private sector could also do the same through various means. Iba ‘Yan gave Angie a pack of groceries that she would want to share with the group.
Lastly, the host met Jherwin Libatique. a visual artist and a cultural dance performer who was helped by the Pasa-Kalye Group of Artists. He shared that ever since he was a kid, he was already taught by his grandfather how to play the nose flute and gong as it’s part of their tradition, especially during wedding ceremonies. As he went to Tam-awan village in Baguio City motivated her to be involved in arts, as well.
He admitted that even though there were people who supported him in the craft and path that he chose to take, there were also some who tried to discourage him from what he loves doing. Yet, he took those as a challenge to do better instead.
One of his inspirations was his ex-partner, who supported him in his passion by providing him art materials when he had nothing and when he was just starting. But it was also during that time that he was able to join the Pasa-Kalye who provided him everything he needed. He said that for you to be a successful artist, you have to go through a lot of challenges and be strong enough to overcome them. Iba ‘Yan also gave him baskets of groceries as a token of appreciation.
Lastly, Angel gathered Maricar, Vera, Angie, and Jherwin to tell them that the program pledges to purchase 100,000 pesos worth of artworks from their group, as well as to promote their website and the artworks that they are selling. Besides, all the members were also given art materials.
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