FORMERLY THE Diplomat Hotel, the Dominican Hill and Nature Park in Baguio City was recently repurposed to serve as an art gallery. Outside the building were installations by National Artist Kidlat Tahimik, while inside was a showcase of other installations, sculptures, and paintings by local artists like Maela Jose, whose huge mandala-inspired canvas that hung at the ground floor of the once grand hotel.
Designed by Fr. Roque Ruaño (who also designed the University of Santo Tomas’ Main Building), Dominican Hill was originally a retreat house (from 1913 to 1915), and then it became a school called Colegio del Santissimo Rosario (from 1915 to 1918), and then a hotel. Now, it is a heritage site that has been owned by the City of Baguio since 2005, and, as mentioned, was used as a temporary art gallery to host the art exhibition Kulay ng Siglo, which was an activity in the first ever “Entacool” event.
Following Baguio City’s conferment in 2017 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a Creative City, specifically when it comes to crafts and folk arts, the launch of the “Entacool” festival cements Baguio as center for creative pursuits and it is also a step toward sustaining the UNESCO designation.
The “Entacool” festival, which ran on Nov. 10-18, had a series of art exhibitions, workshops, fashion shows, and talks, among others. There was also a photo exhibit by Baguio artists, including National Artist Benedicto Cabrera, featuring scenes of the picturesque city. On view at Bell House in Camp John Hay, the exhibit runs until Jan. 6.
“Entacool” comes from two words: “entaku,” a Cordillera term meaning “let’s all go” and “cool,” which is what the Summer Capital of the Philippines is known for being.
“Entacool” literally means we should go to Baguio and see the cool arts it has in store for us.
A partnership between the Baguio local government, the Department of Tourism (DOT)-CAR, Tourism Promotions Board, UP Baguio, and Baguio Arts and Creative Collective Inc., “Entacool” aims to become an annual festival with the goal of raising public awareness about Baguio’s creatives and creativity.
Baguio is usually associated with the Panagbenga Festival, a flower festival which is celebrated every February. Back in the 1980s, the city was known for the Baguio Arts Festival, but it wasn’t sustained.
Now, the organizers and stakeholders involved in “Entacool” want the new festival to hold its ground and not suffer the same fate as its predecessor. Its objectives and rationales, among others, are to build the image of Baguio as a creative hub, celebrate local culture, and to provide avenues for inclusive growth for the creative industry.
To see the importance of arts and culture for inclusive growth, the city of Baguio is planning on mapping its art industry. So far, what the city has done is to locate where the art and crafts hubs are. According to Creative Economy Development Council of the Philippines founding member Paolo Mercado, who talked about the importance of industrializing creativity during the festival, Baguio’s centers of artistic flow are concentrated in Session Road and Asin Village.
Baguio’ artistic culture revolves mostly around woodcarving, silver craft, weaving, and tattooing. The UNESCO website said there are 56 local institutions in Baguio that are directly devoted to the art sector, totalling a gross receipt of $1,113,258 million.
But Baguio City councilor Mylen Yaranon said that the city, with a total population of 350,000, doesn’t have the data on the number of its artists and it hasn’t mapped out yet the impact of arts on the city’s society.
She said there are many unregistered artists in Baguio and they want to encourage them to join labor unions so that they can be part of a better bargaining discourse and agreement. One of the goals is to upgrade their crafts to become more than the usual pasalubong pieces like keychains and ref magnets.
The idea of a clear and well-structured art industry will encourage and engage the community members to become the both innovators and entrepreneurs, which, Mr. Mercado said, will lead to inclusive growth. He pointed to Indonesia’s Pekalongan City, which was the first UNESCO Creative City in Southeast Asia in 2014. Called the Batik City, Pekalongan produces handmade batik (dyed cloth) items that have gone from traditional to high fashion products, which help sustain the city’s economy.
While the first “Entacool” was only a week-long celebration, the festival also launched another first, a forest bathing activity, which anyone can do at any time.
Inspired by the Japanese concept shinrin-yoku or a visit to a forest for relaxation, forest bathing at Camp John Hay among its famous pine trees, just means communing with nature. Forest bathing is free for all, but the LGU will put a cap on the number of trekkers who can do the four-kilometer walk at one time. The ramble can be done in less than two hours depending on how fast one walks.
When inside the trekking area, one doesn’t only hear the rustling of the leaves and the chirping of the birds, but the calming melody of bamboo wind chimes made by local artist Edgar Banasan, which he installed permanently in eight stations.
Because the intention of forest bathing is to be one with the trees, the birds, and the insects inside the forest, trekkers are discouraged from talking to each other and from using their gadgets. The health benefits of forest bathing are the lowering of one’s blood pressure and stress levels, and the improvement of mood, which, in turn, can boost the flow of creative juices. In Baguio, creativity and inspiration aren’t rare. — Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman