In October 2017, Baguio City, already known as the Summer Capital of the Philippines, earned a new title when it became one of 64 cities around the world designated as UNESCO Creative Cities. It was a recognition that the UP Baguio Office of the Chancellor, representing Baguio City’s academic sector, helped secure.
UP Baguio’s commitment to promoting art and culture in Baguio City is hardly a surprise, as UP’s constituent university in the north has been doing exactly that for the past 30 years, and perhaps for even longer than that.
The UP Baguio Summer Arts Extension Program (UPB-SAEP) began on April 18, 1988 as the Summer Arts Festival, which took place in the campus of then UP College Baguio (UPCB). “And when we say festival, consider the magnitude of it,” recalls Dr. Elizabeth Calinawagan, dean of the UP Baguio College of Arts and Communication, who headed the Summer Arts Program for years.
Back when the UPCB was under UP Diliman, and with funding provided by the UP President’s Committee for Culture and the Arts, UP Baguio annually opened its gates to the inhabitants of the city and the nearby provinces for the month-long Baguio Summer Arts Festival. The event featured a wide variety of art workshops for children and even adults, musical and theatrical performances by guest performers and groups, distinguished artists and musicians from around the country and even abroad who would facilitate workshops, food fairs, and arts and crafts fairs. In short, the much-anticipated summer event organized by the then UPCB Division of Humanities was a celebration of every artistic endeavor, from the traditional to indigenous to the modern. Dean Calinawagan even recalls partnering with the University of Baguio in holding the Summer Arts Festival.
The Summer Arts Festival was, in turn, inspired by an even older tradition. According to an article in the program for the 1990 Baguio Summer Arts Festival, the event was “also in truth a revival of UPCB’s annual sponsorship and hosting of the National Arts Festival from the ‘60s and ‘70s.” The political upheavals of the ‘70s eventually ended the National Arts Festival, but when then UPCB Dean Patricio Lazaro encouraged the revival of the Summer Arts Festival in 1988, he intended “to make these activities truly of service to the community at large” and “to promote the development of cultural work and activities [in the Cordillera and] in Northern Luzon.”
The healing power of the arts came to the fore after the 1990, the year the Luzon earthquake struck. Despite the devastation, the UPCB decided to continue holding the summer art workshops for the children of the UPCB community and the stricken Baguio City.
The art was therapeutic for the children, who expressed their emotions through their drawings and artistic forays, recalled Prof. Io Jularbal, Chair of the UP Baguio Committee of Culture and the Arts (CCA) and head of the Program for Indigenous Cultures, in a panel interview with Ms. Czarina Calinawagan, committee member of the CCA and Summer Arts Program, and Ms. Jhoan Medrano, coordinator of the UP Baguio Summer Arts Program 2018.
Fortunes shifted for the Baguio Summer Arts Extension Program in 2002, when UP Baguio was elevated to a constituent university. Without funding from the PCCA, a full-blown festival could not be sustained, but the UP Baguio College of Arts and Communication maintained the art workshops under the Summer Arts Extension Program in partnership with the UPB-CCA.
“We were able to sustain it, even with the little earnings that came in,” says Dean Calinawagan. “It’s really not a business, anyway. It’s a service, so we charge only enough to sustain the program.” While some workshops were offered for free, others had a minimum registration fee. What little the UPB-CAC earned from those was usually given as honorarium to the facilitator, although some of the guest artists who served as facilitators were perfectly willing to share their knowledge free of charge. “There are those who believe in our advocacy, in the spirit of extension work.”
UP’s academic calendar shift posed new challenges for the program, as UP’s “summer” break shifted to June to August. Last year, the UPB-SAEP organizers tried out a new schedule, spacing the workshops over a series of Saturdays instead of an entire week. It did not work out as planned, however. “We had fewer enrollees,” Medrano says. “The gap between workshops was too long to sustain the children’s enthusiasm.” Taking this as valuable feedback, they redrew the schedule for the 2018 SAEP for a week in April, May, and hopefully June.
Since 1988, the workshops and programs UP Baguio offered for children, teenagers and adults grew in number and scope. Some of the notable programs include: advanced acrylic painting; art appreciation; basic drawing and cartooning; basic animation; basic broadcasting for teens; basic acting; community-based creative writing and arts; Cordillera music and dance; dance and musical instruments; documentary filming and showcase; debate and argumentation; humanities workshops for both students and teachers; new and advanced journalism and creative writing methods; language teacher education and curriculum development as well as materials and aids advancement for teachers; mask-making; doodling; mobile photography; oil painting; poetry and script writing; portraiture; still-life, figure and advanced drawing; rubber-stamp workshop; terracotta sculpture; toy-making; traditional arts; even pop-singing, musical theater and street theater.
With such a varied array of choices, it is no wonder that the UPB-SAEP is such an anticipated event for the parents and children of Baguio City. For two to four weeks in April and May, children of all ages would come to the campus to attend these workshops. UPB arts and humanities faculty, and established artists, writers, musicians and theater performers from Baguio City and around the country serve as facilitators.
UP Baguio has also brought the art workshops to the communities and provinces of the Cordillera Administrative Region as an accessible and affordable means to promote artistic and cultural expression and education among the children and teachers in places such as Sagada, Mt. Province, Kiangan, Ifugao, and Laoag, Ilocos Norte.
And for many parents within the UP Baguio community and Baguio City itself, the UPB-SAEP has become a long-standing tradition. In fact, many children of UP Baguio faculty and staff benefitted from the workshops. Some grew up to become UP Baguio faculty themselves. A case in point is Czarina Calinawagan, daughter of Dean Calinawagan, a proud alumna of many a workshop in her childhood.
It is also a trendsetter in Baguio City. “Other organizations now are offering their own summer arts workshops, which are patterned after ours,” says Jularbal.
As noted in a paper submitted during the run-up to the UP Gawad Pangulo for Excellence in Public Service, which the UPB-SAEP won as one of eight top public service programs in UP: “The reinvigoration of cultural life on campus is one of the SAEP’s initial priorities since its creation. This would pave the way for the program to become the cornerstone of UPB’s aspiration of being the center of Arts and Culture in the region. So far, the revitalization… of culture and arts has been gradually achieved. UP Baguio is also recognized as a hub for arts and cultural learning by different academic and community oriented institutions in the region.”