BAGUIO CITY – Rains pelted the giant work of street artist Venazir Martinez during her opening Sunday, December 20, that may serve as blessing after nearly three months of hard work including climbing up on steel pipes or rappelling down the wall.
With guests, many of whom indigenous peoples here, flocking to the work that adorn the 100 meter wall of the Caltex station at the former PNR Compound, rain come pouring as she emotionally thanked the Igorots that have taken her as their own as well as the National Center for Culture and the Arts for supporting her vision.
The artwork’s centerpiece is a thirty feet mural depicting the different indigenous groups in the Cordillera.
Starting from the walls 10 feet high, figures of highland people in their traditional garb try to get to the centerpiece, some walking, some running and some trying to scry where they are going with their hand on their forehead.
The centerpiece is a 13-figure works 18 feet tall each, depicting people from the different IP groups here dressed in their own traditional loincloth and vest for the male and tapis for the girls.
One is a priest chanting and dancing, some carrying gongs or plainly dancing the tayaw (traditional dance) and one apparently late for the “festivity”.
“I thanked the local people for taking me as their own, even though I am from the lowlands, particularly Tarlac,” she said in a mix of English and Tagalog, as some of her friend artists of Igorot lineage butcher a native black pig that should have been cooked.
“We should be sipping now hot broth from the cooked meat, but then the rains,” she noted as tears flow from the artist’s pretty face mixed with rain from above. Instead the meat was given as “watwat”, or take home meat for the 40 something guests.
Martinez, in her talk, narrated how she came to like street art and her journey to realize her “Hilibana” arts that started at the walls around the city.
“It was a two year journey from (being) a Fine Arts student (at the University of the Philippines – Baguio) to street art which is now the Hilibana arts (her patented art work),” she narrated.
“From visual psychology to anthropology and visual arts, it was two years of immersing myself into street arts. To improve my art and by immersing myself to a community, that is not mine, which thankfully accepted me,” she said with voice breaking.
Martinez started the mammoth task last September right after doing her portion of the Kalasag works to honor frontlune workers against the coronavirus disease at the Sunshine Park some 200 meters away.
Martinez, who turned 23 on October 1, saw part of her mural got vandalized just after her birthday. But instead of seeking retribution by filing a case, as investigating cops persuaded her, she forgave the perpetrator and instead asked him to help her restore the work. She even offered that they could work on a project in the future.
Last November, she was chosen by national artist Benedicto Cabrera as one of his collaborators to a giant work at the Baguio Convention Center for the Ibagiw arts festival that included some of the who’s who of Cordillera arts like Roland Bay-an and Leonardo Aguinaldo.
“This (Baguio/Cordillera) is now my home, although I will not say that Tarlac is not my home too. I love Tarlac,” she added, as the pig cried its last “owik”.