Baguio: 4 Cool Art Centers to Make Your Trip Stand Out
Christa De La Cruz | Feb 12, 2014
With a significant mercury drop (READ: as low as 8.1°C last January 20) in Baguio City, it’s more than tempting to spend the whole day curled up in bed (or cuddled up with someone under the sheets, if you’re lucky). But come on, you didn’t waste six to eight long hours on the road—and survived the traffic jam in Camiling—to reach only as far as the hotel lounge and plop yourself in front of the fireplace, right?
There’s a lot of things to do in and around the City of Pines—pick strawberries at La Trinidad, climb the more than 200 steps ascending to the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto, and take a photo with the huge Saint Bernard Dog and the pink-maned horse at the Mines View Park.
Of course, you can always seize the day (well, more like half an hour) and pay a hundred pesos for a ride on a swan-shaped rowboat (or the flat-top kind with a feline head) at Burnham Park.
If it’s not your first time in Baguio and/or you’re not that interested in the regular tourist attractions, why not immerse yourself in the local culture by visiting the places we recommend below?
1. VICTOR OTEYZA COMMUNITY ART SPACE (a.k.a. VOCAS)
- LOCATION: La Azotea Building, 108 Session Road, Baguio City
- HOURS: Tuesday to Sunday, 11 am - 8:30 pm
Right smack in the busy Session Road scene is a 6-storey building that nestles an eccentric art space and organic restaurant on the topmost floor. In this Narnia-like world, there’s half-a-galleon, a small house, turtles and lizards made of rocks, and sticks and twigs shaped like fishes floating overhead.
Opened in 2004, the art space was conceptualized by alternative filmmaker and Philippine cinema icon Eric de Guia (a.k.a. Kidlat Tahimik) as a tribute to the late Victor Oteyza, one of the "Thirteen Modernists" who ushered in Philippine modern art after World War II. Since then, it has become a venue for various art-related events and cultural performances.
On regular days, guests indulge in the trademark salad of the in-house restaurant, “Oh My Gulay!” while savoring the art pieces on the walls.
2. LAPERAL ANCESTRAL HOUSE
- LOCATION: No. 14, Leonard Road, Baguio City (near Teacher’s Camp)
- ENTRANCE FEE: Php 50
- HOURS: Weekends & Holidays, 10 am – 6 pm
The daunting 3-storey and all-white mansion is hard to miss when stuck in one of Baguio City’s congested roads leading to Wright Park (clogged during the holidays, at the very least). The Victorian-style architecture, a display of the Laperal family’s affluence, reminds you of the fictional Halliwell Manor if you’re from the generation that followed the TV show Charmed every Monday night.
Owned by one of Baguio’s most venerable clans in the 1920s, the structure has acquired its own collection of eerie ghost stories. Like most buildings in the Philippines that have lived through World War II, the Laperal House was transformed into a garrison by Japanese soldiers and allegedly became a place of death. Caretakers say that the restless spirits of the tortured haunt the house up to this day.
You may or may not believe these tales, but wait until you pass by the skullcap used as décor on the windowsill by the staircase.
Stories of a little girl peering through the attic window, a woman in white going in and out of the house in the evening, and noises from inside the rooms in the dead of the night are just some of the add-ons in Lucio Tan’s purchase of this house in 2007. Sources say that the magnate drops by from time to time but only for brief visits.
The ancestral house wasn’t open for public viewing until November 2012, when the Ifugao Bamboo Art Exhibition was launched there by the Asin Bamboo Carvers Guild, through the efforts of the Philippine Bamboo Foundation and Tan Yan Kee Foundation. Juxtaposed with the dusty furniture in the manor’s half-empty rooms are bamboo carvings that line the foyer up to the dining room at the first floor. The exhibit showcases the works of Ifugao carvers of the ages-old wood-carving industry in Tuba, Benguet, the same town that has been mass-producing Baguio’s (in)famous “barrel man.”
With this shift to the more sustainable bamboo material, the carvers aren’t limited any more by the rapid decrease of hardwood in the area. Also, they’ve stopped using the dated design of the Native American man, and have instead turned to carvings which highlight Ifugao traditions—keeping their heritage alive and intact.
3. BENCAB MUSEUM
- LOCATION: Km. 6 Asin Road, Tadiangan, Tuba, Benguet
- ENTRANCE FEE: Php 100 (Php 80 for students/senior citizens)
- HOURS: Tuesdays to Sundays, 9 am – 6 pm (Closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day)
- WEBSITE: www.bencabmuseum.org
Speaking of Tuba’s wood-carvers, one can also visit their small stores lining Asin Road, which is usually draped heavily with fog because of its higher altitude. Past the wood-carvers’ village is the expansive BenCab Museum of National Artist for Visual Arts Benedicto “BenCab” Cabrera.
The museum boasts of BenCab’s extensive art collection of contemporary art, indigenous objects from the Cordilleras, bul-ol installations, art pieces from the maestros of Philippine art, and his personal works. Like most buildings in Baguio, the museum’s structure starts at street-level then goes down to the third floor. Level 2 has the enclosed erotica gallery, so keep an eye on your child unless you’re prepared to have THAT talk.
Every end of the year, the museum also displays a review of past artworks in the gallery aptly called “RE:VIEW.”
“Sabel,” inspired by a real-life vagrant, is a recurring image in BenCab’s works. It’s also the name of the museum’s downstairs café where guests can take a pit stop before exploring the Ecotrail. A secret garden behind the mist, the sprawling property right below the museum features a pond with ducks and geese, an organic farm, and Cordillera huts.
4. TAM-AWAN VILLAGE
- LOCATION: 366-C Pinsao Proper, Baguio City
- ENTRANCE FEE: Php 50 (Php 30 for students/senior citizens; Php 20 for kids below 12 y.o.)
- HOURS: 8 am – 6 pm
- WEBSITE: www.tam-awanvillage.com
More of the Northern Luzon highland architecture can be seen in the Tam-awan Village right back in Baguio City. A brainchild of the Chanum Foundation, Inc., the village is a recreation of a traditional Cordillera community in what used to be the grazing land of Pinsao. Knocked-down huts were transported and minimally reconstructed with original materials.
Guests are given a map upon entering the village as a guide to the seven Ifugao houses and two Kalinga huts—each with a different function—which are distributed all over the property. Installation art can also be found behind the tall grass, above the pond, or near the picnic area.
Be wary of how the map scales the area, however, because the next thing you know, you’re far up the eco-trail in search of the Dream Catcher installation art, and there’s no turning back. Been there, done that!
At the end or start of the trail—like the glass being half-empty or half-full—is the Village Gallery and Craft Shop selling paintings, printed shirts, and other artworks. This diversity in art is further proven by the mural right outside the village with the signature “Garapata” image of a Manila-based artist.
After picking up a bit of art and culture from here and there, you can go back to your fancy (or budget) hotel and bury yourself under the duvet (or your sweater). But then again, there’s the big mall and the ukay-ukay flea market!