|Maze of installations at Tam-awan Village
|Author: Mozart A.T. Pastrano
ITS name means "lookout point." And it is, in more
ways than one.
Tam-awan, an artists’ village put up by everyone’s
favorite artist Ben Cabrera (Bencab to many) in the
outskirts of Baguio City, provides a vantage point
where you may view and embrace the artistic
temperament of the mountain hideaway.
There seems to be various ways to get there as there
are winding roads in Baguio, but the idea is to traverse
the alternative road going to La Trinidad Valley, the
route which offers breathtaking mountain slopes and
ravines, and not the citified highway proper which jeepneys take. Some 15
minutes from the city proper, just as the road swerves into a sweeping "U"
bend, there you’ll find Tam-awan. There’s a signage, and bamboo steps that
lead you up the village.
It’s basically hilly terrain dotted with traditional huts. At the first landing is the
coffee shop, which also serves as the main office, the kitchen, the dining room
and gift shop.
Beside it is the art gallery, an intimate space which you may enter as long as
you leave your footwear outside the door. Below the gallery is a working
room where I espied what looked like a computer, although I may have been
mistaken, breathless as I was with excitement.
The other huts in the village are in the traditional Cordillera style, long-limbed
and snug, graceful with their long posts and homey in their cozy, woodsy
comforts on the framed landing above. These traditional huts are for rent, and
come with their own sanitary toilets a spitting distance away. (The
board-and-lodging arrangements are very reasonable, if you’re not too picky.
Perfect for adventurous honeymooners.)
On our first visit there, the chatty woman who showed us around the place
insisted we go through the maze of on-site installations spread out all over the
landscape. There were frenzied stone formations, papier mache eggs cradled
on a giant nest, a fish pond swaddled with a fish net. There was John Frank
Sabado’s witty web of dreams. There even was a labyrinth made by a visiting
Japanese artist; it was constructed out of bamboo sticks and pages of
Japanese newspapers: you wedge yourself in, wade through the tunnel of
paper walls and come out in another part of the hill.
What I liked the most, though, was a solitary bench at a precipitous
promontory, which lops off into a sheer fall down the road. The bench wasn’t
an installation, of course, just part of the village’s facilities. Even as the bench
dangled the threat of a mortal fall, it also offered solace and serenity. It was a
gift of space, a space one can claim one’s own and yet a space that
nonetheless goes beyond the immediacy of the moment and hurtles you into
other landscapes—a haphazard mountain range of memories and possibilities.
This is what Tam-awan is about, to soak in the spirit of the place, to be
rooted, to sail with the wind, to find one’s moorings, to recharge one’s
creative energies, to string up various experiences into a meaningful whole, to
become, to just be.
I thought of performance artist Rene Aquitania giving away his gigantic plastic
canvases to dazed survivors of the big earthquake in 1990 so they could use
them as sheltering see-through "tents." Of Robert Villanueva assembling his
startling installation maze at the grounds of the Cultural Center of the
Philippines. Of filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik and his "Mababangong
Bangungot" and how we planted pine tree saplings at the spot where the
kiosk once stood on top of Wright Park. Of Ballet Philippines performing the
"Igorot" suite during the Baguio Arts Festival. Of writer Chit
Balmaceda-Gutierrez shivering with us at Camp John Hay with dear, dear
Marian Catedral. Of flirtation walk and kissing rock and boxes of dried
mangoes sent via LBC.
One needs a vantage point with which to allow art to breathe, to grow, to
become. In one way or another, Tam-awan is such a lookout point.
"This has been a long-time dream," Bencab explained Tam-awan to us during
our next visit, when we caught him there facilitating sessions for teachers from
the Philippine High School for the Arts. "And here, now, we live that dream."
[ Teachers Camp Wiki ]