Cheekbones and Silhouettes // An Afternoon at the BenCab Museum (Part 1)
We were ecstatic to finally be visiting the BenCab museum in Baguio, as we have heard so many good things about it. In fact, it would always come up in conversations with friends as one of the “must visits” in the City of Pines, and was right up there with Camp John Hay, Cafe By the Ruins, and of course, the Good Shepherd Convent, home of the best ube (purple yam) jam in the country.
For those who are not familiar, BenCab is short for Benedicto Reyes Cabrera, who is considered a master of contemporary Philippine art and was conferred the title of National Artist by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2008. This museum houses a number of his stunning masterpieces, as well as his personal collection of tribal and contemporary Philippine art.
That afternoon, we were thrilled to be joined by our very good friend Edilbert, whom I have known since the 90′s and who was in town from California to spend time with his mom. In this first of two parts, join us for a walk around the museum as we get up close and personal with our favorite pieces from the collection.
It was an eerily foggy day as we drove down the winding Asin Road to get to the BenCab Museum. What a perfect day to stay indoors and go art watching, I thought.
After purchasing our tickets at the reception (P100 per head), we stepped out into a small patio where we were treated to our first BenCab masterpiece, 32 stunning variations of his muse Sabel, rendered on Mariwasa Tiles.
My eye kept going to this particular one, as I found her expression most intriguing and, unlike the others, terrified.
I wonder if BenCab would mind it if we moved into the museum permanently? Dug the Pug is potty trained anyway, I thought. LOL!
I stepped forward to take a closer look at these fascinating, meticulous sketches by BenCab, which were part of the current installation, Baguio Artists as Culture Bearers, which runs until August 12.
Edilbert and I happened to notice the same sketch — We found out later that we were both drawn to Grace's cheekbones. Hahaha!
John Frank Sabado's mixed media piece, entitled Ancestor in the Wooden Age, got me thinking about time, technology and personal obsolescence.
Edilbert demonstrates that even while taking pictures, it's still very much all about the silhouette. Lol!
The power of art lies in its ability to raise questions, such as this one, which left me wondering whether these anthropomorphic bird-like figures were dancing or dying.
I included this picture just to mention that of all my friends, Edilbert has always had the most photogenic hands. That's all. Hahaha!
I was so excited for the guys to walk into the room where Kawayan de Guia's mixed media collages and sculptures were being exhibited — His pieces are reminiscent of Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and David Shrigley.
We got into an interesting discussion about Kawayan de Guia's Ready Made, which consists of discarded wood carvings such as animals, tribal figures, and erect penises, all painted in vibrant red.
Edilbert pointed out this little fella, whom he said looks like me. After closer inspection, interestingly enough, I think I agree.
Kawayan de Guia makes a strong statement about religion and violence in his piece, Holy Vibe.
We proceeded to the museum's section on tribal art, where Edilbert shared stories about his Kankanaey heritage.
Is this the predecessor of the ab roller that's sold on the Home Shopping Network? No wonder the Ifugaos have six packs. Hahaha!
We were fascinated by these head-hunting tools which apparently, at least for the Ifugaos, did not involve resumes nor attractive compensation packages AT ALL.
As every sculpture seemed to assume a life of its own, I almost wished they would each start speaking to share their stories. I'm sure I'd be freaked out to high heavens if that actually happened, but I think I'd listen (from a distance) anyway. Lol!
For as long as I've known him, Anthony has always been a "ladles" man.
Meet my new dog, Slingshot. Hahaha!
After some very interesting chitchat about tribal art (and ladles), we were ready to jump back into the world of Philippine contemporary art.
Froilan Calayag's After Hieronymous Bosch pays homage to the latter's Garden of Earthly Delights, one of Anthony's favorite paintings.
Though less tortured, the pale and elongated figures of Emmanuel Garibay's untitled piece remind me of El Greco, one of my favorite painters from the Spanish Renaissance.
Winner Jumalon, in this piece from 2011, makes a confident claim that there is, as its title goes, No Such Thing as Still Lifes.
After Anthony took this photo of Charlie Co's painting, Almost Mad, he turned to me and said that he was Almost Hungry. Hahaha!
Bold choice of color, geometric composition, heightened tension through the use of text… I turned to Anthony and said, How very Ed Ruscha, no? His reply, "Um, it's a door, sweetie."
I love how the light and shadows in the space extended the drama of Joel Welbart Bartolome's Spin Doctors.
I love how Alfredo Esquillo incorporated modern elements such as a plastic cup, mountain sandals and a gym bag in his 2005 painting, Ang Bagong Herusalem (The New Jerusalem).
Norberto Roldan's Medicine Cabinet No. 8 reminded me of the box collages my great grandmother Ima used to create.
You can check out a sample of my great grandmother’s collages here.
Anthony and I giggled when we saw Elmer Borlongan's Comet Hyakutake, because we, too, like to get comfy on our couch just like this fella while watching TV. By the way, we also call this our "Crab Position." Lol!
Love the colors of Roger "Rishab" Tibon's Homage to Frida Kahlo, from 2007.
When no one was looking, I leaned in closer hoping to catch the scoop from Joy Mallari's Bulong-Bulungan (Whispers).
Bring on the BenCab's, you say? Stay tuned for Part 2 of our blog post… Coming up very soon!
The BenCab Museum is located at Km. 6, Asin Road, Tadiangan, Tuba, Benguet. Telephone (+63 74) 442 7165. You can also visit their website here.