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BAGUIO CITY’S ART SCENE IS HURTING

BY JESSICA PAG-IWAYAN

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Covid-19 pandemic is not just a serious threat to public health. It has also made the world economy extremelyvolatile. Businesses both big and small have been hit by this crisis. But if these establishments can feel the effects of Covid-19, how much more the freelance workers and independent artists such as painters, sculptors, and storytellers?

The situation in the Philippines’ very own first creative city, as awarded by the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, can answer that question. 

Baguio city, once alive with art—live performances, gallery exhibits, and art stores owned by various local artists—is now a ghost town. Since the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was implemented, shows have been cancelled, galleries and artists’ small stores have been closed.

Teetering on hunger

National Artist for Film Kidlat Tahimik gives Manila Bulletin Lifestyle a glimpse of how this pandemic is affecting Baguio city’s art industry. This isolation period, Kidlat says, will give artists time and space to hone their arts and crafts. But financially, it is a big challenge,especially for younger independent artists. 

“We are all adjusting to the new normal—new rules and new protocols,” he says. “I’m sure that most artists are taking this time to take art deeper into their hearts. After all, you have nothing to do but just to be productive.” 

Kidlat, the Father of Philippine Independent Cinema, owns some art establishments in Baguio—Oh My Gulay, a restaurant and community art space, and Ili-Likha, a community of small food stalls owned by local artists. These were once venues of art shows and exhibits. But with Covid-19, these establishments have been closed, the livelihood of their tenants put on hold. 

“We just opened a Women’s Month show on March 6 where we had 42 artworks created by women, but we had to postpone it because on March 14 the ECQ was implemented,” Kidlat continues. “We are hoping that the post-Covid time will come soon and the streets will once again be alive, and we can resume the show.” 

As a respected artist with established businesses, the 77-year-old artist is aware that he has a luxury not everyone has. “I am among those who are in the comfortable income bracket, I am not forced to hunt for food,” he says. “In our art space at Oh My Gulay, we have to find ways para hindi mabigla ang unemployment ng mga taosa restaurant (we have to find ways to help our restaurant staff deal with their sudden unemployment).” 

Kidlat been working with Baguio city’s local government to address the needs of artists hit by the Covid-19 crisis. “I’m trying to make a donation to that fund,” Kidlat says. “Marami rin akong alagang (I also have my own roster of) young artists who I help by working with them or giving them employment. But aside from financial contributions, I think when things start to settle down a bit, I will find those individuals who are in the borderline of hunger and check up on them. I’m hoping that soon they will find ways of augmenting their income.” 

An artistic website

Baguio city Mayor Benjamin Magalong shares with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle that the LGU is now working with the town’s artist groups to find ways to elevate the art scene despite the crisis. 

“They are hurting. Believe me they are hurting,” the mayor says. “We know that artists usually earn based on what they sell. They are very dependent on the creative economy. But these days, they don’t have customers or clients because physical exhibits have been prohibited.” 

He reveals their plan for putting up a website dedicated toBaguio City’s artists. “What we are going to do now is we will shift online, to e-commerce, to help support and protect them. But this will only cater to the visual artssector. How about those in the performing arts?” he asks. “There are no cultural shows now. That’s why we engage the creative sector here and discuss how we can help artists from different sectors.” 

According to Mayor Benjamin, this website will be unveiled soon. 

With all of these trials, Kidlat has a message to every artist. “Ang mga artist malakas ang pakikipag-kapwa at pagmamalasakit (Artists are naturally thoughtful and caring). It’s a good time to reflect on that,” he says. “Once post Covid-19 era comes, whatever changes we think will happen, maybe we can work together. Also, let’s respect nature, whether through our ideas or through concrete action. I hope artists can lead the way.” 


Source: Manila Bulletin (https://lifestyle.mb.com.ph/2020/05/06/baguio-citys-art-scene-is-hurting-2/)

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