Journeys of creatives cut short in Bontoc accident

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The tragic Mt Province bus accident claims the lives of artists, musicians and performers, all on a trip in pursuit of their own causes

ARTISTS, ADVOCATES. Gerard Baja, David Sicam, Tado Jimenez, and Christian Cabardo are among the casualties in the Mt Province bus accident. Photos from their Facebooks

MANILA, Philippines  Tado Jimenez went on what he described as a “long trip” as part of his advocacy for the environment, but the comedian was not alone in the ill-fated ride.

With him on the bus were fellow artists, each on his own journey, personal or professional – cut short by a tragic accident.

On February 7, a bus fell into a ravine in Bontoc, Mt Province, ending lives of Jimenez and other artists Marcial Baranda Jr., David Sicam, Gerard Baja, Bam Morillo, and Christian Cabardo, and at least 8 others. 

Tattoo business owner Marcial Baranda Jr., was set to give a talk to tribal tattoo artists about health and safety aspects of their craft. According to GMA, Baranda, who was part of Jimenez’s group, was reportedly looking to get a tattoo from traditional tattoo artists.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that the group had been visiting the Butbot community to witness the vanishing craft of body art, done by locals in the area.

In addition, the group was reportedly composed of photographers, artists, musicians, and filmmakers, who joined Sicam in celebration of his youngest son’s 4th birthday. Sicam had previously traveled to Kalinga province, and he had hoped for his sons to experience traditional celebrations with the locals.

Sicam’s wife Abby and their children, aged 7 and 4, survived the accident.

The 35-year-old was also a member of bands Makiling (previously known as Makiling Ensemble) and Kinaiya. He was a vocalist and composer who sang about travel, nature, and Philippine culture.

Sicam was also reportedly among those who created the 4-kilometer long “peace mural” mural in Camp Aguinaldo.

In an interview with GMA, Sicam’s Makiling bandmate Diwa de Leon performed what was meant to be a duet for their 4th album.

Alaala ng nagdaan…O, kay lamig ng paligid, nadarama ang iyong kawalan,” sang De Leon as a tribute to his friend of 20 years. The lyrics, he said, were written by Sicam. (Memories of the past going through my head. Oh, how cold this place is. I can feel your absence.)

Another musician and visual artist Gerard Baja, head of visual group Ilaw, did not survive the accident.

Ilaw often performed shadow puppet productions with Sicam’s band Kinaiya playing in the background. The groups would collaborate on creating a new experience, one that combined the visual and the auditory.

Watch one of their performances here, uploaded on Gerard Baja’s YouTube:

Also a casualty was 32-year-old Solar News creative head Bam Morillo. According to his Solar News colleagues, Morillo was a quiet yet adventurous person.

His friend, Clift Daluz, head of Solar News Online, described Morillo as “a wounded healer, a dependable friend [who] and had a good heart and a generous soul.”

Several of Morillo’s friends bid him farewell with the words “Ride in peace” on his social media accounts. (Morillo was known as a cycling enthusiast.)

Meanwhile, 34-year-old filmmaker and graphic and tattoo artist Christian Cabardo died Sunday, February 9 in Manila due to serious injuries sustained after the crash. He had been traveling to meet Fang-od, a traditional tattoo artist in the area. 

According to first-hand accounts by survivors, the bus lost control before falling deep into a ravine. Initial reports linked the accident to loose brakes.

The Land Transportation office suspended all 238 units of the Florida Bus line. –

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