Eric “Kidlat Tahimik” Oteyza De Guia
‘Cultural Observer’, Filmmaker
Interviewed by Pink-Jean Melegrito
Editor’s note: Although Kidlat Tahimik notes the big changes in Baguio such as population increase, uncontrolled migration, more vehicles, and impinged environment, he sees the lively cultural life of the city as the crossroads of artists hailing from neighboring provinces and of course from the Cordillera highlands. He also dwells on how artists here depict the influence of the Cordillera lifestyle in their artworks. A “Balik-Bahag Movement” advocate, he believes that a strong focus on our local culture by artists can be a catalyst for our people to rediscover the Filipino people’’ “Indio-Geniusness” – a term he proudly coined from his Ifugao woodcarver-guru’s mispronunciation of “indigenous” as “in-die-genius”. Excerpts follow:
This city was practically carved out by the Americans to serve as the seat of government during the summer. Art in those days was just seen in Western books. We were trying too hard to be Americans, to the point of actually “culturally copying” from the Americans what we see in them. From that premise, when I was growing up, I was mainly influenced by Western art styles. When I entered UP Diliman, that was when I realized how Americanized I was. But as time passed, I saw nationalism grow – seeing colonialism, 400 years of our colonial past – and then the questioning started: Where has Cordillera culture gone?
In the late 70s, I did the short film Perfumed Nightmare that explored the Cordillera images and consequently the Filipino soul. Later on, the Baguio Arts Guild (BAG), which I co-founded, started to develop on the meanings of different Cordillera rituals. Currently, some BAG members have branched out to other art groups (Tam-awan village, VOCAS, Maryknoll Art Gallery, etc.), and other groups focusing on Cordillera culture have grown (DKK, BIBAK, Chico, etc.).
I think that our artists here should develop more interesting painting and sculpting styles depicting Cordillera life; more theater plays about Cordillera rituals; incorporation of Cordillera musical instruments; research of authentic rhythms, costumes and dance movements; and the new field of computer graphics is actually a big potential for (creating animation, comics, etc.) on Cordillera mythology. Immersion in real Cordillera villages could provide more insight, understanding of the content of the artwork, thus it becomes more relevant to both the artists and the Cordillera people. #