Baguio: A City For Creative People
Manila, Philippines — They say that Art is the journey of a free soul. Art defines the local culture and it also makes a destination more interesting. This is one of the reasons why museums are frequented by tourists. From the paintings to the sculptures, to the real stories behind their work of art, museums tell a story or two about the culture of the region and the country in particular. I must confess, the best experience I had in Paris was when I finally saw the Mona Lisa painting in person.
While In Baguio a few weeks back, I noticed newly painted murals around the city. I promised myself to come back soon and write an article about it. Yesterday, Titanium Runner, a Facebook friend, posted photos of a mural located near the Victory Liner Bus Terminal. This inspired me to research and interview at least one of the artists behind these murals.
Baguio City is not just frequented by tourist for its cold weather. I personally love Baguio because this is a melting pot of various cultures, traditions, and cuisines of the Mountain Province, Benguet, Kalinga, Abra, Cagayan Valley, and other nearby provinces.
But did you know that Baguio is also hailed as a creative city by UNESCO? Baguio joins the likes of Chiang Mai in Thailand, Seattle and Kansas City in the US, Mexico City in Mexico and Yamagata in Japan as a city of creativity. Other than the cool climate and the breathtaking views, Baguio is also home to a lot of artisanal finds, woven art, handicraft, and indigenous wood carvings.
There’s another reason why the Summer Capital of the Philippines is a city of art: the colorful murals.
Recently, the colorful murals in the city is catching the attention of people. People are stopping by the streets to catch a photo of themselves in the Instagrammable view. You might think that the murals are created by a group of professionals — but would you believe that it’s created by a young artist?
Meet The Artist
One of the colorful murals in the city was created by Venazir Hannah Martinez, a multi-disciplinary street artist. The Out of Town Blog team had an opportunity to speak with the artist, where she shared her experiences from graduating to the entire process.
Born and raised in Tarlac City, the melting pot of different linguistic groups, Venazir’s a cum laude graduate with the degree of Bachelor of Fine Arts in the University of the Philippines Baguio.
During her 3rd year in the university, the course she took, History 3, taught her to focus on the cultures of the different ethnolinguistic groups in Cordillera Region. While studying each reading that the professor handed to her, she felt like she’s visualizing, painting the words, while reading them.
She was too interested in the topic that she started integrating the subjects into her art and created a whole new world.
The Outline Behind The Murals
Venazir started doing street art for her mini-thesis. She “vandalized” a whole barangay to prove her point: That is to popularize and inculcate to the public a simple theory called Gestalt’s. The artist created simple designs which tell a story about the Gayaman tattoo and made a series progressing evolving to a big mural design. Her goal is for people to connect them and create perceptions.
After a series of experiments, she decided to create bigger, complex designs wherein everyone can really connect. This is where she started to have interests in street art as a medium and using the subjects she loves.
The start was never easy for Venazir. She had to wake up at 2 AM to start her art, with no one with her. She submitted permits to the city for her murals but received no response. She also asked endorsements from government agencies by they were too slow.
The works of the street artist delineate cultural relativism. It stitches the crossing of traditions of our multi-faceted influences and identities of Filipinos on how we subject ourselves in the creation of cultural connection through identity formations and integration of facets.
Venazir’s street art was created as a tool for promoting cultural emblems and their identity markers portraying the importance of cultural diversity as a physical link to the public through a series of interconnected art.
As Venazir presented establishments of her advocacy, everyone was supportive and the project continues as it was sponsored by the Department of Tourism CAR and Davies Paints in line with Baguio as a part of UNESCO Creative City.
Venazir believes that identity is power. Our country is rich in culture, it’s up to you on how you will find the beauty in each territory.
I love the fact that DOT and the City Government of Baguio are supporting on these initiatives: Allowing local artists to participate in the promotion of arts. I just hope that apart from murals, we can also see art installations in some of the parks in the city.
I hope other cities, towns, and provinces will also encourage locals to showcase their own culture by following Baguio City. It can be a mural, like Baguio City or an Art in the Park, like Makati. Filipinos are art-driven people. With the rich culture that we have, partnered with the skillful hands of the artists, we too can share our own stories.
The next time you see the colorful murals of Baguio, snap a photo and think about the story that lies behind them. As I finish this story, I’m virtually slow-clapping and typing at the same time. Let’s support these types of initiatives and when you chanced upon Venazir in the streets of Baguio, say Thank You! for a job well done!
Also read: Baguio City Travel Guide