Our Surprise Encounter with BenCab
We are thrilled to present Part Two of our blog post from the BenCab museum in Baguio — This time, we invite you to feast your eyes on the delicious masterpieces by BenCab himself, then join us for a little shopping at the museum gift shop, where, apparently, destiny had a most wonderful surprise waiting for us.
Like a kid in a candy store, I peered through the glass walls into the light-filled BenCab Gallery. This is gonna be fun, I called out to Anthony, who didn't hear me as he was busy shooting tribal wooden spoons in the next room.
Wandering into the gallery alone was an incredibly surreal experience. Every masterpiece seemed to stare right back at me, each one pulsating with the vibrant, intense energy characteristic of the revered artist.
And there she was, the beautiful Sabel, the vagrant woman whom the artist first sketched and photographed in the 60's and who has become a recurring subject in his oeuvre up to the present.
"In her plainness he saw beauty… In her weakness he saw her native wit and strength." (Rene Guatlo on Sabel)
"The Sabel image has become BenCab's vehicle for the transmission of intensely emotional moods. When pushed to the limits of abstraction, the Sabel image serves as a fertile ground for the investigation of shape and structure." (from museum website)
Edilbert shared how he was moved by this painting, which, I learned, took inspiration from a photograph that was taken in Stockton, California in the 1930's, when anti-Filipino sentiment in the US was at its peak.
You can read more about this painting from blogger Ruel Gaviola here. (Thanks for the info, Ruel!)
I kept gravitating towards this powerful portrait of an Ifugao Man from 2008. Not only was I attracted to the sculptural lighting and dramatic sunset, I found myself transfixed by his piercing, cautious gaze.
I particularly enjoyed this 1994 painting, entitled Reunion, which left me feeling warm and fuzzy. Group hug, everyone!
Someone's obviously got his head in the clouds…
I secretly wanted to try sitting on this chair made out of Ginebra bottles, but was afraid it might not be able to support my weight, especially after that crazy buffet breakfast at the Country Club. LOL!
I love marbles so much that I used to keep an emerald green one in my pocket in Grade School, believing it had some kind of magical power (over my teachers? Hahaha!).
Couldn't pass up this opportunity to shoot a self-portrait, of course. Hahaha!
I took a deep breath as we entered the Maestro Gallery, which housed works by the country's most revered painters and sculptors.
This one is by one of my mom's favorite painters, Araceli Dans, whose work often includes highly meticulous depictions of fine, draped fabrics.
Love the dreamy palate of Jose Joya's untitled piece from 1960.
How I would love to ask Arturo Luz why black is separated from white in his 1994 piece, Jarlets No. 5.
Here, Arturo Luz turns his masterful hand to sculpture and summons a duality of "anitos" — male and female? good and evil? — out of native wood.
Cafe Sabel takes on the colorful and vivid character of the muse after whom it was named. Oh, and don't you love how Anthony just marched right into my frame and positioned himself perfectly for maximum exposure? Lol!
I refrained from taking a succulent macopa (Malay apple) out of fear that I might be eating an actual art installation. Hahaha!
I started explaining to Anthony how I loved this assemblage, which was very Duchamp, and how it made me reflect on class struggles and gender politics, when he eventually whispered, "It's just a stack of chairs, sweetie." LOL!
Edilbert and Anthony pose for a souvenir photo by the tree that gave Baguio its title, the City of Pines, which, by the way, is also the name of the street I grew up in.
Interesting how friendship, just like great art, becomes more precious over time. Edilbert and I have known each other since the mid-nineties and have continued to stay in touch, even if we now live in separate continents. Love ya, Voix!
You haven't been to Baguio if you don't have the quintessential solitary dewdrop photo in your camera. Hahaha!
From the cafe's restroom, I couldn't help but eavesdrop on a conversation between two waiters about the best way to chop up the whole roasted lechon that was sitting in the kitchen. Suddenly hungry, I decided to just take some self-portraits as a distraction.
As we savored the last few moments of a stunning sunset, we decided to head out. But not before a quick stop at the museum gift shop, I insisted.
I was excited to get this book as a souvenir and, knowing that BenCab lived next door to the museum, I asked the lady at the gift shop if it was possible to have him sign my copy.
Imagine my shock when she returned only two minutes later with the signed book. I couldn't help gasping, You mean he's… HERE?!?
Lo and behold, there he was. We could not have asked for a better ending to our visit than a surprise encounter with BenCab himself. Hats off to you, Sir!
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.
Feel free to revisit the first part of our blog post here. Hope you enjoyed the tour!