Come the summer months of March, April, and May, locals and visitors go to the city of Baguio to escape the heat that permeates the lowlands. Officially designated as the Summer Capital of the Philippines in 1903 and as a chartered city in 1909, Baguio is, geographically, part of the province of Benguet located in the cold mountainous region of Cordillera in the island of Northern Luzon. Its average temperature of 15 to 23 °C (59 to 73 °F) and its great mix of metropolitan and indigenous cultures attract local people and foreigners alike.

Baguio is a union of ancient and modern.

Baguio is a union of ancient and modern.

First developed by the American officials in the Philippines in the early 20th century as a hill station, Baguio boasts of a highly urbanized city of pine trees and of hillocks that are coupled with cold breezes which make it a destination for travelers who hope for a highland retreat.

People love Baguio's cold weather and nearness to nature.

People love Baguio’s cold weather and nearness to nature.

Along with this, it celebrates rich indigenous cultures that have withstood different phases of colonization in the Philippines. Baguio serves as an access point for the neighboring highland provinces of the Cordilleran mountain range, consequently making the city a melting pot of diverse kinds of peoples and cultures.

 

Indigenous Baguio

As a convergence zone of nearby provinces in the Cordillera region, Baguio is a thriving space for indigenous peoples. Almost 60 percent of the population is of different groups of indigenous peoples. These groups are more popularly known as Igorot. Ethnolinguistically, these peoples are divided into various groups which include Bago, Isneg, Bontoc, Ibaloy, Ifugao, Kalinga, Tinggian, and Kankana-ey. The traditional culture of these groups is maintained by the younger generation who has developed a conscientization to assimilate their ways of life with modernization.

Baguio serves as the breeding ground for artists from all over the Cordilleras. According to the Baguio-based Kidlat Tahimik, a world-renowned film maker known for his critiques of neocolonialism, these art makers are “culture bearer artists”1)Rappler. “#ShareBaguio: Kidlat Tahimik on the culture bearer artists of Baguio.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 30 Dec.2014. Web. 19 Sept. 2015. . They carry with them and their craft a strong sense of the community that reflects the rich customs and beliefs of the indigenous peoples of the Cordillera.

In Baguio, Cordilleran art is showcased in the many museums that are built within the city and in its nearby province of Benguet. Aside from the well-known Kidlat Tahimik who has built Ili-likha Village, an artistic fortress for local artists, Benedicto Cabrera and his museum have also greatly aided to the promotion and preservation of art from the northern highlands of the Philippines.

A 15-minute ride from central Baguio, BenCab Museum exhibits contemporary and indigenous works of arts. Seen in this picture is 32 Variations on Sabel (2008, Glaze on Mariwasa Tiles) by Benedicto Cabrera.

A 15-minute ride from central Baguio, BenCab Museum exhibits contemporary and indigenous works of arts. Seen in this picture is 32 Variations on Sabel (2008, Glaze on Mariwasa Tiles) by Benedicto Cabrera.

A National Artist for Visual Arts, Benedicto Cabrera introduces these artistic creations to people through BenCab, a museum that houses a mix of contemporary works of art and indigenous crafts of the Cordillera. Aside from the different galleries that are displayed in the museum, people can enjoy the exquisite panorama that the museum offers as it is located on a promontory.

Hand-carved from hard wood, these figures are rice granary gods called bulol. Indigenous communities in the Cordillera revere bulols for a promise of plentiful harvest.

Hand-carved from hard wood, these figures are rice granary gods called bulol. Indigenous communities in the Cordillera revere bulols for a promise of plentiful harvest.

Other distinguished artists in Baguio who have contextualized cultural conservation in their works are mixed media artist Santiago Bose who co-founded Baguio Arts Guild, weaver Leonarda Capuyan who started Narda’s Handwoven Arts & Crafts, writer Cecile Afable who wrote extensively about the Igorot identity, and painter Willy Magtibay who was also a pioneering member of Baguio Arts Guild. The youth also lends their creative talent to the prosperity of art in the region by dancing and performing in the famous Panagbenga Festival, an annual thanksgiving celebration in Baguio.

 

Metropolitan Baguio

As a city home to many immigrants from the other parts of the Philippines and from other countries as well, Baguio has seen major changes in the recent decades. A significant number of these people have contributed to the economic development of the city. Several establishments have been built to deliver financial sustenance to the city.

For the local and international tourists, it is impossible not to be immersed with the different types of local and foreign cuisine that are served in the abundant choices of dining in the city. This influx of restaurant establishment has created “food tourism” in Baguio.

Tourism Director for the Cordillera Region Purifacion Molintas describes Baguio as the “service center” and the “nerve center of economy” of Northern Luzon2)Rappler. “#ShareBaguio: Cordillera a ‘fortress of adventure'” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 26 Dec.2014. Web. 19 Sept. 2015.. Many road developments are at works in the city to permit smoother flow and movement of goods and products from the Northern provinces. Providing numerous employment opportunities for the locals, the industry of business process outsourcing is also flourishing in the city. The city has also capitalized on people’s knowledge of the English language as a source of income as seen by the several English training centers that cater to foreign students from different parts of Asia like China, Japan, and Korea. The intermingling of different local and international peoples is very vivid throughout the city as signages are sometimes printed with, for instance, Korean translation.

Another distinct characteristic of Baguio is its night activities. The animated energy that pervades after daytime entices locals and tourists alike. This is epitomized by the night market that is set up along Harrison Road just in front of the famous Burnham Park in the city’s center. From nine in the evening to the early hours of dawn, locals set up tents and cubicles to sell their products to people. Goods and products are sold at extremely affordable prices. People can choose from a massive selection of bags, shoes, clothes, accessories, souvenir items, and decorative wares. The night market not only provides income to local people but also gives visitors a chance to learn from and interact with them.

Baguio is never idle during night time.

Baguio is never idle during night time.

Baguio is more than the cold weather, the pine trees, and the picturesque knolls. Although the city has become cramped throughout the years, Baguio’s allure comes from the enduring safeguarding of its culture. These indigenous people have welcomed the arrival of immigrants and have embraced the advent of urbanization and, in turn, have conceived a lifestyle that preserves their traditions and incorporates them to the ways of the metropolitan.

 

By Lea Salen Peralta, ASEAN Correspondent from Philippines

 

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References   [ + ]

1. Rappler. “#ShareBaguio: Kidlat Tahimik on the culture bearer artists of Baguio.” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 30 Dec.2014. Web. 19 Sept. 2015.
2. Rappler. “#ShareBaguio: Cordillera a ‘fortress of adventure'” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 26 Dec.2014. Web. 19 Sept. 2015.