You may not be a Picasso or Mozart but you don’t have to be. Just create to create. Create to remind yourself you’re still alive. Make stuff to inspire others to make something too. Create to learn a bit more about yourself. - Frederick Terral

I have always been a frustrated artist ever since I was a kid. My mind was teeming with really awesome ideas but my hands wouldn't cooperate every time I tried to translate those ideas into paper. I blamed my incapability from the lack of art galleries and the lack art supply stores in my town believing that a good source of inspiration and high quality branded materials were what I needed to become a good artist.

Decades later, I finally got out of my shell and learned that what I lacked was dedication. You don't become an artist overnight, instead, you have to work hard for it. High quality art materials can improve the output but the foundation of a good artwork is a solid skill which can only be attained by lots of practice. I've made a number of artworks since then and even had one of my artworks published and another one included in an exhibit in Japan.

Museums and art galleries are indispensable sources of inspiration and they also serve as good places to see techniques used by the masters. I've been keeping an eye on some of them for a long time so imagine my excitement when my friends invited me to accompany to BenCab Museum in Asin, Tuba, Benguet, about two years ago.

Since the photos (mostly on film) that I took that time never gave justice to either the place nor the artworks, I was determined to visit a second time.

32 Variations of Sabel by BenCab

Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the city and surrounded by hills and trees, BenCab Musem is a house that showcases the talent of the local artists and a place that preserves the culture of the highlands.

A forest outside the museum

The museum is divided into several sections and they regularly hold exhibits on two of them. On my second visit, I was lucky enough to see a painting exhibit and a street photography exhibit. It was on the latter that I learned a few things about composition that I can use in documenting my travels.

The paintings

Among the permanent galleries, the Erotica Gallery is probably the most famous. I sat on the terrace beside the gallery and watched as groups of people took turns looking at the paintings and sculptures. It was funny seeing and hearing the people's reactions. The teens tried their hardest not to show any interest while the adults snickered or teased their partners.

Erotica Gallery

Much of the galleries haven't changed although there were some missing artworks which were loaned to other galleries or museums. Still, it was refreshing to see old favorites and discover new ones.

More exhibits

While walking around, I noticed that some of the visitors had a museum guide with them which I think is just as well because, aside from the galleries dedicated to the local culture, the museum is peppered with artifacts like the Bul-ul and the Hagabi. I believe that it is important for the visitors to be educated about the cultural significance of such artifacts.

Hagabi
Bul-ul

Containers carved from bones

It was hard to find a moment of silence in the museum because the place was crowded. I could only get a few minutes of privacy in a room until a new batch of visitors would show up so I just busied myself scrutinizing the artworks and searching for other interesting things to look at.

A detail of on of Bencab's paintings of Sabel

The view from the terrace

I got to see some of the artworks in new light when I tried to avoid photobombing other people's pictures so when lunch time came I grabbed the chance to revisit the galleries and take photos.

I proceeded into the gazebo outside to enjoy some fresh air. The clamor at the museum's cafe tarnished the calm atmosphere but it wasn't enough to dampen the mood brought upon by the birds' tweets and the rustle of the leaves in the breeze.

The dark clouds in the sky looked foreboding so I returned inside, took one last look around the place, opened the heavy wooden door, and then went outside to look for a ride back to the city.

As I walked on the road looking at the hills and mountains, I couldn't help but wonder how long the museum would stay as a fortress of solitude for art and culture until urbanization overtakes and replaces all the trees with buildings and houses.

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