The Art Lover’s Guide to Baguio
Galleries and artists' villages immerse visitors in Baguio's thriving art and culture scene.
Baguio, at any time, draws artists from all over the country—more so during February, when the Philippines celebrates National Arts Month and Baguio City itself pulls out all the stops for the Panagbenga, or Baguio Flower Festival. Here, editor Shine Selga contemplates the sights of Baguio through an art-lover's eyes.
Tour Baguio for one day—or even just half a day—and you'll see how immersed in arts this city is. But that's not to say that Baguio isn't urban. It is now—highly. And while some may despise establishments like Henry Sy's SM erected right smack in the middle of its heart, desecrating the rural feel of the place, I find no protest for it. A mall is just but a speck of inconsistency in this city of flourishing art and culture. If you know where to look, you can carve out a little piece of heaven to call your own. I did.
The Artists' Refuge
Take Session Road, for instance. Scattered along this street are mats of various trinkets sold not by any ordinary peddlers, but by artists who have found expression in crafting intricate baubles and elaborately hand-painted or hand-woven bags.
On this same street, atop the La Azotea building, is one gallery-cum-restaurant that's a treat to the senses—VOCAS (which stands for Victor Oteyza Community Art Space). Owned by the great independent filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik, it is no surprise to see an eclectic mix of artworks on display in this establishment. Upon entering, guests are greeted by a 15-foot wooden sculpture of the Lady Justice, as interpreted by Kidlat's similarly artistic son, Kawayan.
Tam-awan Village and Arko ni Apo Gallery
If you want to veer away from Baguio's main thoroughfare, take a cab ride from Session Road, ask the driver to bring you to Tacay Road, and you'll find not just one art nook, but two: Tam-awan Village and Arko ni Apo Gallery.
Tam-awan Village, established by famous artist Ben Cabrera (more known as Bencab), is a quaint village consisting of about less than 20 nipa huts housing various paintings and sculptures crafted by established and fledgling artists. Some of the huts are rented out to guests who want to immerse themselves in authentic mountain living, with only a bulb and a makeshift toilet as luxuries. One or two, aptly named "fertility huts," are especially "designed" for couples who perhaps want to share intimacy enveloped by the very cool Baguio air.
Thirty minutes is enough to finish touring the little village, but take a moment to rest a while and take in the nice scenery from this side of Baguio. If you feel a little adventurous, ask the villagers for directions to a path that would lead you farther up into the mountain. If you're fortunate enough to have a clear sky above your head, you'll be treated to a breathtaking view of the South China Sea.
There's also a souvenir shop in the village, offering trinkets like bracelets, anklets, and even snacks. But perhaps the best souvenir you can give yourself is a sketch made by Baguio artists themselves. At times, there are more than five artists rendering your sketch in their own medium, and all you have to do is sit patiently as they get busy with their drawings. You're not even required to pay a fixed amount; but do give a decent enough donation as a thank you to such gifted artists.
Another nook flourishing with art pieces is Arko ni Apo Gallery, owned by renowned artist BenHur Villanueva. Stay a while to sip a cup of their deliciously brewed coffee or treat yourself to a piece of art sold in the gallery.
Directions to Tam-awan Village from www.cityofpines.com: To find the village, proceed to Bokawkan Road which is behind Camp Allen, turn left at Ferguzon Road which leads to the Easter Weaving Room, and then right to Tacay Road which is an uphill climb. Upon reaching the top of the hill, take a right turn and this road will bring you to Tam-awan Village. If you proceed further on, the road will take you to the town of La Trinidad.
Browse through the gallery below for more scenes from Shine's trip.