Friday, November 21, 2014

4th Baguio International Arts Festival

Throwback Friday. This is an article I wrote in 1991. I was able to Xerox some of my old articles and had Sela re-type them. Here's one

Fourth Baguio Arts Festival
BAGUIO CITY (NORDIS) – Only the loyal followers noticed it but in early December the Philippine Art’s Magnetic Spot again shifted northwards. The same wind that instinctively brought foreign and local migratory birds to the mountains of the Cordillera are in cross-currents:
Internationally-known painter, Ben Cabrera, recording this phenomenon, came out with a Zen-like description of red waves lapping a seawall. Or an octopus (eight tentacles) riding a red tide.
“As our Festival symbol (visually) says, the cross-flow is no longer vertical, not top-to-bottom, but instead horizontal as as so to mark our praxis and advocacy of more democratizing art procs and relationships of an authentic daily sharing of sharing resources,” Bencab explains.
These artists, sounding like art critics and humourless ideologues. What he meant to say was, “Being the chairman of the Fourth Baguio Arts Festival. I say, “To hell with Manila’s art imperialists and Young Critics Circle, let us paint Baguio red and make the imposing Baguio Convention Center of the Baguio Unconvention Center!”
In 1987, the lost Sakay command headed by painters BenCab (Back from London (together with Santi, the only short haired of this very influential art gang), Santi Bose (Back from San Francisco), Willy Magtibay (back from Yokohama) installation artist Roberto Villanueva (back from Sagada and Penarubia), photographer Tommy Hafalla (back from Bugnay), performance art artist Rene Aquitania (back from Tukukan, Bontoc), musician Hec Cruz (back from Blank) and filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik (back from Berlin).
Joey Ayala opened the festival headed by anthropologist and now Malacanang shopkeeper Dave Barabas, and Myra Beltran of Ballet Philippines closed it with a new proactive dance. In between were film showings of Kidlat and the Sunflower Cooperative, Raymund Red and Joey Agbayani, Penpen, Diokno Pasilan and his Bacolod-Sagada kulintang band; Katreen de Guia and Shunt Verdun’s Lampas Isip (a TV screen turning into a meditation pond); Santi’s Mad Dog series and Magtibay’s excruciating pen-and-inks.
One night, Rene Aquitania sewed all the dirty burlap sacks into one very long tunic ala Copolla’s Count Dracula and walked past with Hec Cruz and the Blank Band’s Grace Nono on vocals), playing “Knock, knock, knockin’ on Sagada’s door.
The next two festivals had more artists from Bacolod, Manila, Pampanga and Davao Attending the Baguio artists getting their due. Villanueva, Magtibay, and Hafalla won the CCP 13 Artist Award in 1991. Lampas Isip came up with two mind-bending records. BenCab had a sold-out show in New York of his Earthquake series. Bose and Villanueva went to Australia as part of the Philippine delegate for the Brisbane Festival. Aquitania went to Europe and Pasilan to France. One of the most talented bands since Asin (believe me), the Blank, disbanded and Grace Nono came out with Tao Music.
Early this year, artist Jordan Mangosan of Bontoc, who belongs to the next generation of the Baguio Arts Guild together with John Frank Sabado, Perry Mamaril, Clemente Delim and Kiago Rosimo, went to the United Nations in New York not as a painter (although his painting was selected for one of the poster for the UN International Year for Indigenous Peoples) but as a member of a cultural group.
He was silently beating his gong watching the painted North and South American Indians prancing like Enrico Labayen and frightening the crowd with their war cries. Then somebody pushed Mangosan. Not knowing any better, he danced part-Bontoc war dance and part–Bruce Lee and shouted part-Bontoc prayers and Ilocano curses. He was so effective, according to Sylvia Mayuga, that Manhattan later that day experienced its worst floods in 50 years.
Which bring us back to Baguio on the penultimate day of the Artsfest when the Japanese Kodo Drummers beat the soul out of their percussions and what do you know, after a dry spell of more than a week, the rains came.
According to Baguio Arts Guild President Santi Bose, “In this age of information art and culture have become the new ideological battleground. Artists in the Asia-Pacific region are making new mythologies, reinterpreting hand-me-down histories, challenging and politicising art and artists.”
In this festival, 46 came from Australia, England, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Thailand and USA; 150 from other parts of the Philippines and 50 from the Cordillera.
The “original eight” of the Baguio Arts Guild came out languishing and uninspired. Kidlat, Cruz and Hafalla were not around and Aquitania did not perform. Bencab and Magtibay came out with single works. Bose decked a small room with wild sunflowers and TV. Even Mangosan presented an old work. Villanueva, the shaman, was still in Australia diagnosed with acute leukemia.


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