Opening Baguio’s Melting Pot

Last week, JFM participated in an exhibition called, “Baguio’s Melting Pot”, in celebration of the city’s centennial. It was to feature the many cultures and nationalities that make up the proud city of Baguio, and one of the most active is the Japanese community there.

The exhibit opened on April 18 at the Baguio-Mt. Provinces Museum, located in the middle of the city (nearby the Convention Center, and a 5-7 minute walk away from SM Baguio).

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During the opening, we were introduced to the many cultural communities that make up Baguio — the European, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Kalinga, Ibaloi communities were the ones present; not represented then were the American and the Korean communities.

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The day before the opening, it was raining so hard that everyone was glad (and relieved) that the opening day was sunny and warm. There were the messages from the representatives of the different communities, as well as presentations. The Chinese community performed a lion dance, the Japanese community, an odori; the Indian community said a prayer; while the Kalinga and Ibaloi communities chanted and performed traditional dances. The host of the program was the European community and they did a good rendition of greetings from their respective countries.

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The museum’s first floor chronicled Baguio’s history through a photo gallery of its mayors and various landmark events. The present mayor of Baguio, Mr. Reinaldo Bautista, was around to browse through the collections.

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Present too, was the 94-year old curator of the museum, Ms. Leonora San Agustin, who is credited for establishing the museum and developing its collection.

The second floor housed the impressive permanent ethnographic collection of the museum. Unfortunately, I was not able to take any photos. I had the chance the day before, during set-up, but we were caught in installing and setting up our own exhibit at the third floor that by the time we wound down, it was already late at night and I didn’t feel all too comfortable taking pictures of mummies and the like… Anyway, you have to see it to appreciate it fully.

The third floor contained the Japanese materials, collated from the Japanese communities in Baguio, the Embassy of Japan and the Japan Foundation. All these were integrated into the installation made by artist-curator, Chit Ramirez.

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The fourth floor of the museum featured the lively and informative Chinese exhibition.

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I could understand the enthusiastic participation of the Chinese and Japanese communities in Baguio, as both have deep roots in the city. The earliest Japanese settlers were the literally the builders of the city, carving the mountainside, paving what we now know (and use) as Kennon Road. Their hard work and dedication was truly one of the cornerstones of Baguio.

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The exhibition, while engaging and informative, could still be enhanced in the following years to include displays of the other cultures in Baguio, to really relay the message of the city as a melting pot.

I also heard that the museum has also future programs to engage the public. This is an interesting development as it has been some time since there were new displays in the museum. I also noticed that while the museum has strong ethnographic collection, however, it is all competing for attention as they are all on display. Maybe with the new, temporary exhibits, there will be a chance for the permanent collections to be rearranged or reconfigured.

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