CORDILLERA ADMINISTRATIVE REGION — Creative tinkering by the mind has become another tool for innovative approaches to Cordillera Administrative Region’s (CAR) environment and conservation undertakings.
Faced by threats of curbing biodiversity loss, stopping deforestation, and the often-tiring labor of restoring ecosystems, action-oriented people on environment and preservation work in the government, private and civil-society groups say they welcome ideas thought out- of- the- box to bolster environments protection, restoration and conservation efforts.
Pragmatic approaches dominate in conservation and protection efforts in highland CAR. One of the most recurring themes in contemporary environmental theory I the idea that for a natural environment to flourish, people need to change their relationship with nature.
A simple change in public policy is not enough. Obligations to future generations, environmental education and commitment must go hand in hand.
And, creative art can stir up a wellspring of understanding on conservation efforts and stimulate others to join in environmental work.
Researchers have proven that art, for that matter, can provoke a stimulus response from a viewer, a neurological underpinning in the brain region that involves experience in emotion and goal- setting activation when viewing art.
The same is basically true when viewing environmental art. Meaning, the art viewed upon can be of several subject matters but the reception by the brain is the same – of emotional experience.
Local artists in CAR who have long dabbled on environmental art have tried to confront environmental issues, provided conceptual ideas to re-imagine a better nature and even tried to offer challenges to conventional environment and nature conservation approaches.
CAR’s 1.81 million hectares, of which 1.53 million hectares are roughly upland sand in which 5.5 million hectares are officially considered water drainage or storage, need different approaches to stem the region’s losing an estimated 500 hectares of forest cover yearly, as reported to the Climate Change Commission (CCS).
Headway by local CAR artists on environmental issues was recognized by the Creative Arts Fund, launched by Wildlife Asia to provide Southeast Asian artists with support that depict environmental society, biodiversity and wildlife.
Living art of CAR can be found in the likes of about 3,000 artists mostly concentrated in Baguio City and in La Trinidad, Benguet, who keep art culture humming. These artists have earned for the Baguio City a feather in the cap as an art capital.
To mention some, there is Rolande Bay-an, who hails from Kapangan, Benguet. His remarkable art work, the typical working Ibaloy, became typical art subject but his first works depicted their modest family home devoid of the trappings of wealth.
Later, Bay-an molded scenes of Baguio City and Benguet in its early days arts that truly depicted these highland areas in its true misty way and his colors didn’t stray from any embellishment.
Then there is the BenCab Museum managed by Benedicto Cabrera. Housing about 12 galleries, these glow with the culture, traditions of the Cordillerans and protection, preservation and conservation of the highland environment.
There is the Tam-Awan Village, located at Pinsao Proper, Baguio City, an captures indigenous aesthetics fitted in a city (Baguio) setting, from the concepts of artists.
There is Museo Kordilyera, located inside the campus of the University of the Philippines (UP) Baguio, and holds priceless artifacts and others unique only to the tradition and culture of the highlanders.
There is the Ili-Likha Artist Village, located at Assumption Road, Baguio City and headed by Eric de Guia, and known Philippine-wide as Kidlat Tahimik. It’s a village of “collaborative arts” and promotes the culture and nature of Baguio City.
One may, by chance, happen to meet on Baguio’s thoroughfares, Venazir Martinez, a young artist who was able to transcend depiction of regional identities but rather, a highlander and lowlander of the same footing. Or, in clearer terms, being are one of the same blood, regardless of region.
There is the Baguio Botanical Garden where there, can be watched, artists at work or your portrait made if you desire.
There is Arko ni Apo, at Pinsao proper, Baguio and managed by artist Ben Hur Villanueva. It is a home-gallery studio.
At Kilometer 3, Asin Road, Baguio City, can be found Woodcarver’s Village, where highland woodcarvers display their splendid skills in woodcarving and their fine crafts.
There is no shortage of local artists, sculptors and art institutions in the region, like Jed Alangui, Jordan Mangosan, Rishab Tibon, Benjamin Cabrera, Saint Lous University (SLU) Museum of Arts and Culture, Bell House Museum, Kigao Rosimo, Benjie Mallari and grandchild, Ryelle, Leonard Aguinaldo, Gilbert Gano Alberto, Angello Aurelio, and the list that goes one and on.
The point here is that many CAR artists an sculptors feature their works in an assortment of styles and subjects as diverse illustrations of the natural biodiversity set-up of Cordilleras interwoven into its culture and tradition.
Creative Arts Fund, which has been helping artists from countries like the Philippines, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and Malaysia believes environmental art will inspire art viewers “to care about nature and empathize with forest communities.
“And environmental art, or supporting the production of it, is a good way to do this,” the Creative Arts Fund stressed.
Optimism was expressed by Creative Art Fund that art on nature can trigger positive change at the grassroot level, which is about, “connecting with something outside of one’s self.” And it opens people to receive a message.”
City observes after being queried about this topic said art can be a form of medium where the young can release their pent-up emotions and direct these into constructive undertakings.
They pointed out the matter of young people painting negative graffiti on walls and buildings in Baguio City during night hours and, in the process, daring city authorities and the Baguio City Police (BCPO) to identify and arrest them.
Likom Balmaceda who resides in Baguio said, “Instead of these persons splashing graffiti along walls as a direct challenge to authority, they should instead engage in productive art and join the throng of Baguio artists only too willing to help them.”
Graffiti painting is a problem in the city. It destroys the image of the city as well-disciplined. Art can offer a way for those playing cat and mouse with the police to mend their negative attitude to something they can contribute to the Bagui public, the observers explained.
Graffiti has also become a problem in La Trinidad, Benguet and other areas in CAR. Graffiti painting on walls, particularly if not permitted, can fall under and offense of vandalism.
“They do not have to start on environmental art, per se. Just begin by doing constructive art,” they further stressed.
Creative Arts Fund has been set up to provide fuel and inspiration to aspiring artists to turn their vision into reality and to take personal action for the environment. Some CAR artists realize they cannot wait for things to change from the above, meaning, from the bureaucracy.
That the think there isn’t me to wait, hence their motivation on environmental art, to inspire many to look at environment in the profound way that they visualize it in art.
In fact, many residents in CAR give recognition to their local artists as “visualizers of the new artists on environment.” Yolanda Pimes, from La Tridinad, says she imagines the present crop of artists and the next generation will help shape the public’s outlook of the region’s wildlife and ecosystem.
Bartolome Saliped, a highlander, said, “If our local artists can create what they can imagine, then ideas into art becomes an integral part of highlanders, lowlanders and others from different regions living in CAR that thrive with our sustainable biodiversity.”