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BenCab, Kidlat Tahimik: Pandemic 'blessing in disguise' for artists |

Arts and Culture

BenCab, Kidlat Tahimik: Pandemic 'blessing in disguise' for artists

Jan Milo Severo -
BenCab, Kidlat Tahimik: Pandemic 'blessing in disguise' for artists
From left: National Artists BenCab, Kidlat Tahimik / Jan Milo Severo

MANILA, Philippines — National Artists Kidlat Tahimik and Benedicto Cabrera believed that the pandemic due to the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was a blessing in disguise for artists.

In a separate interview with the media during the Ibagiw Creative Festival in Baguio City last weekend, the National Artists for Film (Kidlat) and Visual Arts (Cabrera) both said that artists have more time for their arts because of the lockdown.

“The pandemic is something, the country, the economy, everything is being affected. Pero for artists, I think, it’s a blessing. Kasi lockdown, it means locked-in ka. You have more time to focus, nakakapag-pintura ka, you have time to introspect, it comes out in your work. So para sa akin, personally, I came face to face with me and my ideas. I think a lot of artists are like that too,” Kidlat said.

He, however, admitted that artists who sell their artworks through exhibitions are greatly affected by the pandemic.

“'Yung mga artists na nage-exhibit, ayan, nahihirapan sila kasi virtual gallery so di makapunta ang tao,” he said.

Cabrera, most popularly known as BenCab, said that he was impressed with the new paintings of Baguio artists at the recent exhibit called "Interlinked" in Baguio Convention Center.

“This pandemic, in a way, is a help because artists stay in their studios to create. Of course, there’s less socializing, but the ones I’ve seen in the new exhibit now, they came out with very good pieces of work. So it’s a blessing in disguise for the artists,” BenCab said.

The two National Artists from Baguio were part of this year’s Ibagiw Creative Festival. Kidlat showed his art installation that paid tribute to Enrique, a Filipino slave of Ferdinand Magellan, who is believed to be the first man to have circumnavigated the world. Meanwhile, BenCab hosted a woodcarving contest in his museum.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) promotes cultural tourism in Baguio as the Tourism department remains optimistic that initiatives such as the Ibagíw Festival will sustain the treasured traditions and art forms of the city.

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said that the DOT will continue to promote Baguio as a creative city and support its development for arts and culture. The move to highlight Baguio’s cultural tourism comes as the city celebrates Ibagiw 2020, a month-long creative festival that showcases its rich and vibrant culture and history.

“Baguio is more than just its natural wonders, and we want more Filipinos to rediscover what UNESCO designated as a Creative City for Crafts and Folk Arts. Initiatives like Ibagiw will certainly help revive tourism in the region and jumpstart the local economy,” Puyat said.

Puyat visited Baguio to see Ibagiw 2020’s highlights such as its lineup of creative crawls and series of tours that showcase Baguio’s artistic and cultural heritage sites.

The Ibagiw Creative Festival tour began at the newly-refurbished Baguio Convention Center, with an ongoing exhibit called “Interlinked.”

Members of the media also visited the exhibition "Art in the Park" in Sunshine Park to witness different activities such as spot painting by local visual artists, craft demonstrations by local artisans such as textile-weaving and woodcarving, and a photo exhibit of native plants in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, those who want to participate in the crawl can explore the Mirador Hill, a nine-hectare Jesuit property that offers breathtaking views of Baguio and Benguet’s breathtaking views. This can be followed by a trip to the BenCab Museum, where works of BenCab, other Filipino masters, and rising contemporary creatives are on showcase.

Another itinerary stop that is part of the creative crawl is Ili-Likha Artists Village, the brainchild of Kidlat Tahimik. Built around trees redesigned with recycled materials, the village showcases artistic works, and serves as an inspiration hub for local and emerging artists.

This can be followed by a trip to the Mandeko Kito Artisanal Market, an arts and crafts fair organized by the University of the Philippines Baguio, to feature local talents in the Cordillera Region. Lastly, guests can visit the Museo Kordilyera, the first ethnographic museum in the northern part of the country. Its collection includes works that celebrate the regional culture and the heritage.

DOT’s support of Baguio’s rich cultural heritage and craftsmanship in woodcarving, silver craft, weaving, tattooing, and more could help support the livelihood of locals and help the city recover from the pandemic.

“The pandemic has brought on challenges for everyone, especially those working in the tourism industry. Creative crawls bring guests to places they may not have visited before, thus supporting more locals. This means no one gets left behind as we rebuild tourism,” Puyat said.

RELATED: Artist finds mental health healing from painting, mounts exhibit for COVID-19 frontliners

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