At the BenCab museum

IT WAS last month when I went to Baguio City for a vacation and for some sighting. I thought this trip would be a regular one just like my previous visits in the City of Pines and summer capital of our country.

Touring the popular hot spots of Baguio City was part of my itineraries whenever I'm in Baguio.

I was accompanied by my Ate Care, someone whom I can consider as a local of Baguio for having stayed there for several years now.

We visited the usual tourist spots such as the Burnham Park, Baguio Cathedral, Mines View Park, Wright Park, Camp John Hay Base, The Mansion, and the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).

But one of the interesting places in Baguio that did not ring a bell to me was the BenCab Museum. The place was recommended by my ate's schoolmate. My sister brought me to the BenCab Museum on the last day stay in Baguio.

I have been to several museums but nothing beats the Filipino pride by just visiting this place. Art is something that is created with imagination and skill that is beautiful or that expresses ideas or feelings. The statement somehow reflects the humble beginnings and level of artistry of a renowned and multi-awarded Filipino artist Benedicto Reyes Cabrera or BenCab.

The BenCab Museum, name of which was derived from the artist who is widely hailed as the master of contemporary Philippine Art, has a breathtaking view of mountains, farm hills, mini-forest, and a glimpse of the South CHina Sea.

The BenCab Museum is at Kilometer 6 Asin Raod, a brief 15-minute drive from the center of Baguio City. It houses various artworks by several artists, showcased in different galleries including paintings, drawings, prints, and sculptures, some of which were donated by established and emerging artists in the local scene.

Upon our arrival, we paid a P100 for the regular entrance fee. Walking through the alleys of the four-level museum, the artworks were placed in several galleries. The different galleries in the museum are the BenCab gallery, Cordillera Gallery, Erotica Gallery, Philippine Contemporary Art Gallery, Sepia Gallery, Maestro Gallery, Print Gallery, Patio Salvador, and Larawan Hall.

Artists' collection of rice gods or bul-ol, including other indigenous artworks on the northern Philippine highlands such as lime containers, tribal weapons, and other evidences of the rich culture of Cordillera region were displayed.

One of the artworks that amazed me was the Bulol Installations. The bulol installations embody the lives of the Ifugao communities of the Cordillers that are centered on cultivation.

Bulols or rice gods sculptures emphasize the male and female genitalia representing fertility and abundance.

Majority of the sculptures were depicted in various positions (standing, dancing, squatting), which also refer to their origin. Religious artifacts, particularly the estampas or prints of religious icons from the 18th century are also preserved and displayed at the BenCab Museum.

Most of the popular themes of the hand-printed religious icons were church dogma, life of Chris, patron saints and angels, and chancery. All of the designs of these icons were inspired by church retablos, virinas, and sacramental objects. The hand-printed icons are from the original engravings of Francisco Suarez, Vicente Atlas, Phelipe Sevilla, Ysidro Paulino, and other anonymous artists. One of the significant artworks of artist BenCab was his art piece named Sabel.

In his gallery, there are many forms of Sabel - a portrait, a collage, and other visual arts. Indeed as communication arts graduate, I can't help but be amazed and interested to personally see, touch, and have a photo with all of artists' artworks inside the museum.

It was unfortunate that during our visit, the BenCab was not around.

People at the museum share that you are lucky if you to meet BenCab who occasionally visits his collection and museum.

BenCab would be seen sitting quietly at the corner while tourists focus their eyes on all artworks, not knowing that the man behind this museum is just there waiting to be noticed.

BenCab started to paint on pavement and on walls at the age of seven. He first received his first award in poster contest when he was in sixth grade in Tondo, Manila with his human rights themed entry.

From there, BenCab started to develop sympathy for the underprivileged.

BenCan have been constantly traveling back and forth in Europe and the Philippines to be exposed in various artworks and styles.

With over four decades of career as an artist, BenCab has already won several major art awards including the Gawad CCP Para sa Sining.

It was also in 2006 when the University of the Philippines (UP) alumna was conferred the Order of National Artist for Visual Arts by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at the Malacanan.

Definitely, one day was not enough for me to really go through each artwork displayed at the museum and appreciate all of its meanings.

One of my realizations with my BenCab Museum experience is that one should be able to appreciate the history being emphasized and carved through these artworks.

It was really a feast of arts for me. Visiting the BenCab Museum on the last day of my vacation was the perfect clincher.

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