Baguio’s rich cul­ture through the eyes of artist Kid­lat Tahimik

Baguio’s mixed her­itage lives in Kid­lat Tahimik


In Baguio, there is an en­chant­ing struc­ture adorned with rain­bow mo­saic stair­cases, paint­ings, and var­i­ous re­cy­cled mis­cel­lany. This as­sem­blage of cu­rios lends the space an oth­er­worldly vibe. This is Kid­lat Tahimik and his fam­ily’s Ili-likha Artist Vil­lage. What seems at first glance to be a mere amal­gam of art­works and raw ma­te­ri­als turns out to be a beau­ti­ful, cu­ri­ous, dis­tinct gem in the busy streets of Baguio city proper.

It took many years to fin­ish Ili-likha, but it took Tahimik even more time to fin­ish his lat­est film Ba­lik­bayan #1 (Me­mories of Overde­vel­op­ment Re­dux III). He started the film in 1979, but it was fin­ished—or at least be in a state ap­pro­pri­ate for re­lease—35

years later. “I still haven’t com­pletely said good­bye to the film. I’m still tweak­ing it, al­though I don’t think the story’s go­ing to change much,” he wrote in an ar­ti­cle for

Nang, a film mag­a­zine, in 2017. The ex­ten­sive process is not with­out its fruits. The film about En­rique de Malacca, Mag­el­lan’s slave and trans­la­tor, whom Tahimik sur­mises to be the first per­son to travel the world, took him to film fes­ti­val cir­cuits in Tokyo and Ber­lin in 2015; the lat­ter was where he re­ceived the Cali­gari Film Prize. Three years later, el­e­ments from Ba­lik­bayan

#1 still res­onate in his work. For this year’s Art Fair Philip­pines, Tahimik looks within his roots and presents his works as a sculp­tor—some­thing he learned through his films. Here, he ex­hibits the Ifu­gao goddess of the wind called In­hab­ian in con­trast with a de­pic­tion of Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe’s iconic pose. The in­stal­la­tion also fea­tures the work of his son, visual artist Kid­lat de Guia, which ref­er­ences de Malacca’s voy­age. The in­stal­la­tion ex­am­ines the di­verse ori­gins of Filipino cul­ture as well as the re­main­ing su­pe­ri­or­ity of colo­nial imag­i­na­tion.

More than these ideas about cul­ture, the ori­gin of Tahimik’s tra­di­tional yet ex­per­i­men­tal body of work is his dwende. “We all have our own way of fram­ing the world,” he re­marks. “For the lack of a bet­ter term, I call it my dwende. And no two peo­ple have the same dwende.”

He ex­plains that our dwen­des are in­formed by our up­bring­ing and cul­ture. Tahimik, who was born and bap­tized as Eric de Guia, took up speech and drama at the Uni­ver­sity of the Philip­pines-Dil­i­man with fel­low fu­ture film­mak­ers Behn Cer­vantes and Lino Brocka. Af­ter be­ing elected pres­i­dent of the uni­ver­sity stu­dent coun­cil dur­ing his fourth year, he went on to get his MBA at the Whar­ton School of Busi­ness. But six months into his econ­o­mist job in Paris, his artis­tic sen­si­bil­i­ties got the best of him. It took him to a farm in Nor­way one sum­mer where he “[flipped] hay half of the day, and [wrote] a play the other half.” He even­tu­ally gar­nered the at­ten­tion of Werner Her­zog, who helped pro­duce his first film Maba­ban­gong Ban­gun­got (Per­fumed

Night­mare), which earned ac­co­lades from Su­san Son­tag and Fran­cis Ford Cop­pola.

Baguio, where Tahimik was born and cur­rently re­sides in, re­mains an in­flu­ence, one way or an­other, all as part of his own dwende. It stands as an al­most-me­gac­ity flanked by what he calls a cos­mopoli­tan out­look on one side, and an in­dige­nous mind­set on the other. Tahimik’s films, be­gin­ning with his first, cri­tique this mélange of di­vi­sions per­vad­ing the city, and the Philip­pines as a whole—the rich and the poor, West­ern val­ues and colo­nial val­ues—through lens that are screened with hu­mor, daily lives, and an un­canny sense of hon­est eyes.

“We all have our own way of fram­ing the world,” he re­marks. “For the lack of a bet­ter term, I call it my dwende. And no two peo­ple have the same dwende.”

Ili-likha started con­struc­tion in 2014. The space also has its own cin­e­math­eque where Kid­lat Tahimik shows his films.

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