Baguio has always been known as the country’s summer capital, drawing Manila residents and Koreans seeking escape from the heat. Despite cheaper airline tickets and tour packages to Boracay, El Nido or even CamSur, this mountain city has remained a favorite summer destination. Aside from its mountain views and colorful flower displays, this city of pines still boasts of its cool weather even during March and April.
Unknown to many, though, Baguio is also home to many art museums highlighting the various cultural heritages of the cordilleras. One particular museum that truly displays the ingenuity and artistic power of Filipinos is the BenCab museum.
A project of the BenCab Art Foundation, this four-level modern structure sits on a promontory and enjoys a commanding view of the cordillera mountains and the south China Sea in the distant west. It is founded by no less than national artist Benedicto Reyes Cabrera, and is “committed to the promotion of the arts, as well as an expression of the artist’s gratitude to the country that nurtured and inspired him.”
The museum houses BenCab’s art collections in addition to a number of acknowledged Filipino artists’ works of art. Seemed so far-off from the city, this four-hectare property is subdivided into several galleries; each has its own character and story to tell.
Offers art books, postcards, notebooks, and reproductions, the museum shop likewise sells handmade paper products, bags, shirts and other keepsakes. The shop uses magazine pages as its standard issue wrapper sealed with a BenCab sticker.
As my friend describes, the museum capitalizes on the natural lighting and nature’s grand display of landscape. Each floor is high-ceilinged, covered with glass windows and is adorned with art pieces. one that notably stands out is BenCab’s “32 Variations on Sabel,” a ceramic mural which BenCab completed in Mariwasa tiles.
Bulols are aplenty, especially on the third floor where the Cordillera Gallery is located. Featuring the national artist’s collection of over a hundred hand-carved Bulols or rice granary gods, this section holds as well a number of tribal artifacts and indigenous crafts.
At the spacious third floor also resides the Gallery Indigo, showcasing the museum’s latest art exhibits. It is adjacent to Patio Salvador, an open terrace used for receptions and sculpture shows.
A small section of the museum displays a sign by the door that warns guests. The gallery contains works with images that may be offensive to minors and to certain individuals, evidently suggestive to its name, Erotica Gallery.
A nook below a flight of stairs, the contemporary art gallery greets guests. Highlighting the artist’s paintings and pieces of sculpture, this section is truly a sight to behold. notably on display are some of the grand works of the country’s finest – Cesar Legaspi, Arturo Luz, Ang Kiukok, Victorio Edades, and Jose Joya.
Our famous national artist likewise allocated a gallery showcasing his own masterpieces. The most celebrated of which is the “Series of Sabel,” a collection of paintings which show how BenCab had varied his rendering of his muse Sabel. Sabel is a scavenger or “taong-grasa this national artist met in Tondo.
After feasting one’s eye on the abundant art pieces, Café Sabel at the ground level promises to fill one’s hungry stomach. The beauty and uniqueness however of each art pieces have already stuffed my brain of wonderful thoughts that eating is not an option. The café has a nice design but some paintings on the wall looked too remote.
From the museum’s balcony, I was delighted to see the beautiful rice terraces-inspired garden. The mountain slopes are just as breathtaking as well as the small nipa hut at the center of a small pond. Walking through it intensified my excitement all the more. Though it was only four in the afternoon, fog covers the place. But the stubborn fog did not stop me from following the trail down the garden where various vegetables, strawberries, coffee, and sweet potatoes are planted. An aviary housing peacocks and an assortment of birds, and an animal farm with ducks, turkeys, and other local livestock further thrill me.
The BenCab museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays from nine am to six in the afternoon. Admission fee is one hundred pesos only. Students and senior citizens with valid identification card, however, may enjoy a twenty percent discount.
April 12, 2011
* This trip was years ago. Again, putting the proper label to each post for my boys’ reference should they decide to explore the Philippines, Baguio in particular.