Favela art eyed to boost tourism in Benguet village

BENGUET, Philippines – Drying of laundry in the verandas in houses that have sprouted through the years on the other side of Balili River along Kilometer 3 in La Trinidad – more known as ‘Stone Hill’ – is a common sight.

But if plans push through, the place will soon be transformed into a giant art piece to become a sort of colorful, magical, tourist attraction.

In a council meeting held early this week, newly-appointed Department of Tourism (DOT) Regional Director Marie Venus Tan unveiled her proposal of transforming the Stone Hill landscape into a Favela-inspired work of art.

Favela art first earned popularity in Brazil, where heavily populated urban informal settlements characterized by substandard housing and squalor were turned into a tourism destination by painting houses in a rainbow of bright colors through the Favela Painting art project created by Dutch artists, Haas and Hahn.

La Trinidad is the neighboring town of Baguio, and Stone Hill is the village that separates them. While Baguio is considered the tourism center of the Cordillera region, La Trinidad takes pride of its strawberry farms as a continuing destination outside the urban city.

Tan said rapid growth, commercialization, and lack of a comprehensive development and zoning plans have caused the degradation and deterioration of Baguio and La Trinidad as prime tourist destinations – thus the need to revitalize the area's grandeur through re-greening and re-blooming.

She said she has already built partnerships with private corporations to sponsor the painting materials as well as flowering plants that will be hanged for additional beautification. Initially, Tan said Boysen and Davies, two paint manufacturers, have agreed to sponsor the project for Stone Hill.

But the La Trinidad local government unit has yet to conduct public consultation before plans are finalized.

Saturnina Wanawan, a barangay official of Balili who chairs the Committee on Environment and Tourism, said Stone Hill is home to more than 500 households. While she supports the plan of the DOT, she emphasized an exhaustive consultation with the concerned residents must first be conducted.

"As long as the people would agree,” she said in Ilocano.

Meanwhile, Tan said her agency is now working closely with at least 15 local artists of the Tam-awan Village Artists (TVA) for the design that will be used when painting commences.

Jordan Mang-osan, president of TVA, said that the Stone Hill used to be a mountain of sunflowers and limestone rock formations. He said they are banking on this concept for the designs that will be presented to the tourism department.

Tan said the painting project concept for Stone Hill was likewise presented to officials of Baguio with a focus on painting houses at Quirino Hill. The tourism director targets to have the walls of Stone Hill and Quirino Hill painted before the celebration of Panagbenga next year for a “twin destination” concept.

She explained that the beautification plan is in consonance with the Baguio-Boracay Redevelopment Task Force created in 2013 by President Benigno Aquino III under Memorandum Circular 47 to revitalize both cities as clean and livable cities.

DOT-CAR coined the campaign “Revbloom Baguio” – short of revitalize and bloom – and this shall resonate in La Trinidad, Tan said. The campaign will be launched in October as Tan envisions that by December 2015, Baguio and La Trinidad should already be blooming with pride as green tourism destinations. – Rappler.com