By Jenina P. Ibañez

CEBU CITY has been counted among the 246 UNESCO Creative Cities around the world, becoming the second Philippine city after Baguio to bag the recognition.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Audrey Azoulay on Wednesday declared Cebu as one of the 66 new cities to be included on the list of cities that push creativity and innovation as major factors in urban development.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said in a statement on Thursday that creative cities with varied income levels and populations support sustainable development actions that directly benefit communities at urban level.

Cebu was designated a creative city of design, one of seven UNESCO categories that also include gastronomy, literature, film, music, crafts and folk art, and media arts.

Baguio City was included in the crafts and folk arts category in 2017.

“All over the world, these cities, each in its way, make culture the pillar, not an accessory, of their strategy,” Ms. Azoulay was quoted as saying. “This favors political and social innovation and is particularly important for the young generations.”

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez in a mobile phone message said that the designation raises the city’s image. “Cebu City as a UNESCO Creative City of Design raises the image of the city and becomes a seal of approval and recognition in the global stage. Therefore, it is a great testimony to the city and the country of our design talents and skills and help in the positive branding of the city and country.”

He added that Cebu and DTI will work to maintain the recognition by nurturing the city’s design ecosystem “from the point of view of enterprise and investment development, talent development and education, and public awareness.”

MATIQ Hub board member Butch Carungay, as a private consultant, led Cebu’s application to UNESCO with support from local government and the DTI. They highlighted contributions of creativity to Cebu City’s economy by tracking business registrations of creative industries and sifting through export databases.

MATIQ Hub is a multi-disciplinary enabling space for creativity that focuses on indigenous materials, art, technology and innovation.

Mr. Carungay said in a telephone interview that Cebu artists export furniture and fashion products, and have strong graphics and animations industries.

“We’re a very small island with very little resources, so we have a resilient industry of being able to maximize what little we have to become a really innovative city,” he said.

He said that he hopes the UNESCO designation will kickstart more projects in the city.

“When we started this process, Cebu has a lot of gaps in hardware. We don’t have the proper infrastructure,” he said.

Continued growth of the creative industry, Mr. Carungay said, would require more hardware: creative venues for artists to congregate and create commercial projects. He also hopes to improve what he calls the creative software of the city: embedding design thinking into education and the workplace.

After joining the network, creative cities are tasked to strengthen the creation and distribution of cultural activities, goods, and services. They commit to developing creativity hubs, improving access to cultural life for vulnerable groups, and integrating creativity into sustainable development plans.

Applicants were required to demonstrate their commitment and capacity to contribute to these objectives by demonstrating a development strategy, creative assets and facilities, and the capacity to involve professional and civil society, among others.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia in a mobile phone message expressed optimism for more Philippine cities to be included in the list. “That’s great — an incentive for Cebu to become even more creative, as well as for other cities to aspire for such recognition,” he said.