Baguio City never gets old. it is still one of the most visited summer destinations in the Philippines. With its cold weather, lovely landscapes and laid back ambiance, both young and old love heading to Baguio during their lazy days. Aside from sightseeing, enjoying the endless parks and picking strawberries, though, Baguio is also an art destination. In a place where culture is rich, where the breeze send chills to your bones and where the scenery can be blue and green and anything in-between, finding inspiration is easy in this city.
With that said, museum hopping should be high up on your list.
Originally, our goal was to go to Sagada, but when we learned that there were some museums around Baguio, we decided to take a 5-hour side trip to fuel our imaginations.
From Burnham Park, you can take a cab to reach Bencab Museum. Note that there are only a few vehicles that pass along the road of Bencab, though, so it would be highly advisable to ask the cab driver to wait for you. The fare from town to Bencab is roughly Php100.
Bencab Museum is located at Km 6 Asin Road, Tadiangan, Tuba, Benguet. It is a 20-minute drive from Burnham Park. The museum is composed of the masterpieces of our National Artist Ben Cabrera and other arising contemporary artists. It is a four-level building with a cafe and a scenic garden where nature can be enjoyed. You can visit it from 9am to 6pm from Tuesday to Sunday. The entrance fee is Php120 for adults and Php100 for students.
Benedict Cabrera or Bencab is one of the most respected and renowned visual artists in the Philippines. He has been noted as a best-selling painter of his generation and is currently living in Baguio City. Bencab museum is where he completes some of his artworks, which usually portray Filipino individuality and universal human expressions.
Bencab Museum is not your usual museum. It is a place where art and nature is celebrated. The museum features the rich cultural heritage and traditions of the Cordillera and presents a collection of ethnic artifacts and native crafts.
“Bulol” or the Igorot rice god is a traditional sculpture in Northern Luzon. It is made of narra wood and is usually kept in granary representing wealth, fertility, happiness and well-being. Bulols are commonly carved as a male and female couple, but can also be carved individually.
The most intriguing spot in Bencab Museum is probably the Erotica gallery consisting of painting and wooden sculptures that depict sexuality. As the advisory says before you enter the exhibit space, “The gallery contains works with imagery that may be offensive to minors and certain individuals.”
After an hour of losing your imagination in enchantment, you can enjoy a cup of coffee at Cafe Sabel located on the lower level as you enter the farm and the garden of the museum. It is named after Sabel, BenCab’s iconic muse. It is inspired by a real-life scavenger from Tondo, Manila whom he photographed and sketched in 1965.
The garden of the museum is my favorite spot. It has a panoramic and stunning view of hills, vegetation, and the pond in the backyard. You call also see the South China Sea in the distant west and for an additional fee, you can even visit the strawberry fields and roam around the hills.
Most of the people who visit Bencab Museum will drop by Tam-awan Village afterwards. It is located in Pinsao proper and is described as “the garden in the sky” because you have to climb it to rove around it. Tam-awan or “vantage point” showcases the different Cordillera huts, crafts and galleries.
Chanum Foundation, Inc. started the reconstruction of Ifugao houses in Baguio. They make a model village for people to experience the Cordillera interior and history. The village now has 7 Ifugao huts and 2 Kalinga houses. They used the original materials in the huts and they only add new cogon roofs.
The Ifugao houses in Tam-awan village is reconstructed by traditional artisans and though the houses looks plain, small and simple, the architecture is exquisite. There are no nails or any hardware on these houses, yet they have lasted for several generations. For Php50, you can already visit the village and have locals tour you around to explain the traditions behind the houses. For example, there is a so called “fertility hut” or “dukligan” where it is traditional for Ifugao couples to stay for a month to mate. If the woman fails to conceive within that period, the man can sleep with another woman without renouncing their marriage. The same also applies to the woman. This is to see who is infertile between them.
There is also a venue for art exhibits and workshops in Tam-awan village, a cafe where you can enjoy the native coffee, an antique shop where you can buy pasalubong, and a show that showcases the different dances of the Cordillera. In the art exhibit, there are artists who can make a sketch of you and it’s also a popular site to witness the sunset.
(RELATED: 5 New Pasalubong Must-Haves from Baguio City)
Visiting Tam-awan is refreshing as you are welcomed with the lush gardens. Again it’s not your typical museum, it is full of tall grasses, trees and it really requires a trek.
8:30am: Cab (Town to Bencab Museum) – Php100
9am to 11am (enjoy Bencab Museum) – Php120
11am to 12:30pm (enjoy Tam-awan Village) – Php50
1pm Cab (Tam-awan to Town or GL LINER going to Sagada) Php100
*Note: the standard rate of having a cab wait for you is Php300/hour. If you are only going museum hopping as a side trip, it’s advisable to ask the cab to wait for you because there are only a few vehicles that pass by Bencab museum.
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