Images courtesy of Ged Alangui
Ged Alangui is a self-taught artist from Baguio. I first met Ged at the launch of one of the murals for the Pasig River Art for Urban Change Project. We got chatting and this quietly spoken man with the sparkly eyes told me he was getting ready to start on his mural. We met once it was finished, over coffee in Starbucks. Ged was on his way back to his home town Baguio, he’d had enough time in the big city and was looking forward to being back with his family and his beloved countryside.
Creative from a young age, Ged was the kid in the classroom the teacher called upon to help with drawing. ‘It was easy for me to draw things, more than my classmates’. He was experimenting with crayons and watercolours by age six.
Eventually Ged went to college to study mathematics, his desire was to become a pilot or a soldier. With a family history in the military and the base up in Baguio, it was a prestigious and noble thing to follow in the family footsteps. Throughout this time, he remained creative. Then in 1990, when Ged was nineteen, the Baguio earthquake hit, and over one thousand people lost their lives. This catastrophic event left Baguio isolated, without electricity or clean water. Everybody lost somebody in that moment, and the survivors were left displaced and traumatised. To help the local children deal with the trauma, a group of local artists got together and started an art in the park project. Ged was one of those artists. This was a turning point for him, where he realised he wanted to be a professional artist.
Later in 1990, Ged joined the local arts council called the Baguio Arts Guild. ‘This is formed by the more prestigious art community in the Philippines. All of them already had the prestige so that was where I had my education, being around them’. Since then Ged has been represented in exhibitions around the world including Japan, Korea, Denmark, England, the USA and Australia.
When I asked Ged about that shift from wanting to be a soldier to being an artist he told me:
I figured my paints, my brush, my chisels would be my weapons. I was a soldier of art.
Ged’s passion for his community is evident across his art projects. He is one of the artists involved with The Tam-Awan Village. The artists in residence run workshops for children, hoping to inspire future artists and encourage creativity.
In 2016 Ged was one of the artists involved in the incredible Rev-Bloom Stobosa project in Baguio. Stobosa is an acronym for the community areas that form the Barangay Balili in La Trinidad. The Department of Tourism and the Local Government of La Trinidad wanted to transform the unsightly view of crowded houses and shanties on a hill, into a community art project that would beautify the area. Based on similar projects in Brazil and South Korea, Ged collaborated with four other artists to create a proposal. Working with the local community, the artists transformed everybody’s house into a colourful collective that is now one of the defining features of Baguio when you drive into town. ‘Eventually, we got the Philippine National Police, the residents, private clubs…everyone worked together and in a few months time it was taking shape…I personally wanted them to look beyond beatification and to take care of the environment because they are situated by the river. So now they take care and are vigilant because it’s their place now, and it’s colourful. And they’re famous’.
It is his love of community, and pride of his Cordillera heritage and its culture that inspires Ged’s art. His work is dynamic, whether it be his figurative portraits of the Igorot people or the abstract paintings he creates as ‘a portrait of the landscape’. And, inspiration is found all around him. ‘I’m an outdoorsman, I love hiking, camping, tramping, most of all mountain bike riding. The images I’ve been playing with the past five to six years are all images from trekking to the mountains…When I’m on my mountain bike, everything’s a blur. And the colours are just blending within each other and I ought to capture that’.
One of Ged’s latest creations was for the Pasig River Art for Urban Change Project. This project was a partnership between the MMDA, The British Council, San Miguel Holdings Corporation, Davies Paints, and OneRedesign Manila. Eight artists were selected to paint murals along the pumping stations of the Pasig River. The aim of the project is to reinvent the Pasig River as a form of public transport. Painting the stations provides visual interest and it is hoped, will encourage commuters to reconsider what was once a popular mode of travel around the city.
Ged’s mural is a series of giant crocodiles basking in the sun. ‘When I read the project brief it’s all about the Pasig river, so I remembered Rizal’s writing about the Pasig river, I remember reading articles about the Pasig river being visited by artists a long time ago when it was in a pristine condition. There were European artists who came here to paint it. And by the way Rizal talk about it, he was very enamoured by how beautiful the river is’.
Ged immersed himself in research about the river so that he could come up with a design that was meaningful to the area. He came across pictures from when the river was a major trade route, and amongst those he found images of the Philippine Salt Water Crocodile. He found that once when the river was alive, these crocodiles inhabited the waterways.
Even if it’s a folktale, it’s a story of the Pasig river.
The pumping station Ged was assigned is in Quiapo, not only is it one of the most dangerous areas, the station itself is unique. ‘It is also like a crocodile’. This station serves as a material recovery facility. It has a trash rake and the machine that works to constantly pull rubbish out of the river makes it resemble a crocodile. ‘…there are these teeth. And the conveyer belt resembles the wavy part of the crocodiles back’.
Recently Ged has been in an exhibition called Sin-Ama which means father and child. This is a collaboration between Ged and his talented ten year old daughter Sakura.
Ged Alangui is one of those unsung heroes in the community. One of the people who use their tools to influence attitudes, and bring happiness and a sense of pride to his people. His influence is far reaching in Baguio, and will remain for generations to come. Next time you visit, be sure to check out the Tam-Awan Village and take a moment to reflect up the hills of La Trinidad. If you are interested in viewing the murals of the pumping stations you can catch the Pasig River Ferry from several locations. Check out the MMDA website for details.
You can follow Ged on Instragram @yarinageshonen