• Baguio, Unesco’s first Philippine ‘Creative City’


    Ma. Isabel Ongpin

    AT the end of October, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) announced that Baguio City had been admitted to its Creative Cities Network. This is a singular opportunity for Baguio to be in the Unesco platform for the next four years for life-long learning, cross-cultural sharing, innovation and productive transformation of its folk arts and crafts. Folk arts and crafts are already in place in the city and as a Creative City they are meant to be enhanced for both artistic and economic gains. An assessment of Baguio’s work in the area will be done after the first four years.

    The idea of a Creative City is to enliven the field of concentration it has chosen and encourage both government and private sectors towards a more sustainable and inclusive development of them. In turn, the enlivening of these fields should bring on more productivity, more employment and an increase in income, savings and investments in the sector. These results can only make for positive factors for the city.

    Unesco’s making Baguio a Creative City is a triumph for all Baguio City elements that participated and worked together to complete the tough application requirements that Unesco had set.

    From the local government beginning with Mayor Mauricio Domogan, to the City Planning and Development Office, the City Budget Office, the City Tourism Office as well as regional offices of the national government like those of the Department of Tourism, Department of Public Works and Highways, National Economic Development Agency (NEDA), and the Department of Trade and Industry; the academe represented by Baguio’ s five universities; the non-government organizations as well as representatives of the arts and crafts industries, all worked together quite seamlessly and ceaselessly to put the application together, particularly during the months of April and May this year.

    One of the first decisions of the above entities was to choose what field was best for Baguio from among crafts and folk arts, design, film, gastronomy, literature, music. The unanimous choice was crafts and folk arts.
    As part of the Cordilleran culture and identity, this choice is tailor-made for Baguio which already is a center of woodcarving, back-loom weaving, silvercraft, basket-weaving and tattoing, stemming from its Cordilleran environment and traditions. Plus, the presence of the Baguio Arts Guild and its member artists or just plain Baguio-based artists, there is a robust center of activity that is a factor in the longstanding tourism industry as well as in the individual crafts and folk arts that are presented.

    Becoming a Creative City in the Unesco network of such cities is meant to enhance them and result in their sustainability and bring on higher economic returns. By definition, creativity, innovation, higher standards will be encouraged and have a greater chance of success.

    All sectors worked on the application process, which included stakeholders’ meetings, consultations with academe and the nitty-gritty of collecting and presenting the figures, the historical and contemporary circumstances of Baguio City, its position in the arts and folk crafts scene. The city is a melting pot of migrants who joined the Ibaloi tribe of prehistory, and other highland tribes who came from the North, together with the lowlanders, the professionals, the artists, the craftsmen, the government and private institutions in the city to become a unique and fascinating mix that is expressed in a certain way of living and working. These were described and presented as suitable and promising for the city’s inclusion in the Creative Cities Network of Unesco.

    The idea is to improve the folk arts and crafts by having centers of creativity that would work and study towards bringing each to the next level, to be relevant, and sustainable, outstanding and unique.

    Already, there is much to build on – the Panabenga Flower Festival, the Gran Cordillera Festival of cultural performances, the regular trade expositions featuring the folk arts and crafts as well as the new and highly acclaimed Rev-Bloom Urban Redevelopment Campaign of the Department of Tourism (painting houses on designated hillsides in attractive colors that blend with the environment and elevate its attraction).

    NGOs are at the ready to lend a hand as their activities and goals fit into the creativity and sustainability that is the goal of the Creative City.

    One plan is a Baguio City Creative Circuit that will physically link existing buildings and institutions as venues for showcasing the creative spirit. Its present plan is to link the Baguio Convention Center for creative performances, creative spaces, and exhibits to the Sunshine Park which has a stage for open-air performance arts and creative activities for the youth, then to the Baguio Museum of ethnic and cultural displays and on to the Maharlika Livelihood Center in the market area where crafts and folk art are on display for sale, on to Burnham Park for artistic performances and horticulture and finally, the University of the Philippines in the city which has the Museoti Cordilyera. Much work has to be done on this planned creative loop which is envisioned to be a walking tour for which pedestrian lanes, and links to overpasses have to be developed.

    Finally, a center for crafts and folk arts is envisioned that will be a place where all such work can be displayed, studied, sold.

    A Creative Council will have to be organized that will steer all the necessary and planned activities that will bring Baguio to the level of a true and performing Unesco Creative City.

    From the recent track record of unity, hard work and focus that has been displayed in the application process, there is reason to be optimistic that the necessary support from local government and the private sector will happen. We await the good news from Baguio.


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