ROLAND Bay-an or Lakay Roland was born in October 1953 in Baguio of Ibaloy descent. His artistic journey began in a rundown yet vital city hub called Dainty, a fixture from old Baguio days now gone. After studying architecture between the years 1979-1998, he waited on dignitaries, bishops, lawmakers and common folk who would discuss political happenings over hot coffee and a slice of cake.
He shares having maintained a makeshift studio in a tiny space in the cafe where he painted during his free time. He would playfully display his early works on tables at that cafe for folks to notice. And indeed, he was accidentally discovered by Bayard Aquitania who flippantly remarked, “May artist pala dito” upon discovering his hidden studio space.
Bay-an would later be mentored by artist-friend, the late UP Baguio Professor Darnay Demetillo as he took an active part in the group called “Tahong Bundok” in 1982. The artist that
encouraged Bay-an to become a full-time painter was 2006 National Artist for Visual Arts
(Painting) Benedicto Cabrera. Among his contemporaries was another Baguio legend, the late,
Santi Bose. Bay-an became a resident artist of Tam-awan village from 1997-2010 where he
became a pillar; enkindling kindness and willingness to discuss art with young artists who had
His works were featured in the 2005 Korea Biennale 17 International Arts Festival in Daejeon, South Korea along with Philippine representatives, Rishab Tibon and 2006 National Artist for Visual Arts (Painting) Benedicto Cabrera. Bay-an has also exhibited his works at the Darwin Visual Arts Association Gallery and in Hawai’i as part of a Tam-awan Village Group show.
Recently, he co-founded the PasaKalye Group of Artists – a launch pad for many aspiring talents and an active force in conducting accessible art engagements for the local community.
Bay-an: A Master Impressionist
After exploring realism, Bay-an settled for impressionism as an approach as this liberated the artist in him – enabling him to produce free expressions. Bay-an spent long years mastering his signature slash and dash technique.
In this set of works, he conjured up on canvas representations based on sheer memory his articulation of Ibaloi-ness – the Ibaloi ritual, dignified, and with a candid take on elusive female Ibalois in their homes and in social functions, farmscape, and the riverscape as among his main subjects. He employed the alla prima or direct painting on canvases using subdued earth tones in acrylic renditions mixed with pastel hues.
He is Baguio’s very own J.M.W. Turner. Roland Bay-an is undoubtedly an unorthodox artistic genius, a street artist whose artistic prowess commands respect and admiration; a seasoned and celebrated Ibaloi master impressionist!
To Roland, the canvas is a dialogue – it concerns both the imminent and active re-imaginings of home – as it once was, how it will always be in his mind’s eye.
People may wonder, why does he experiment? Why use lines and colors that have little to do with existing reality? Why this now?
To understand the many dimensions of this dialogue, one needs to ponder intently by the
riverside to spot his pastel earthen treasures under the pristine waters; to grasp the grandiose of
nature he steadily looks from a distance to spot how a human is a mere dot in a conjuring landscape of dust and air.
To relate to his women images, he imagines the warmth of a mother’s bosom and the coming and going of her precious breath. To simply connect to the Ibaloi
community festivity or peshit, recall the pulsating earthy tone that emanates from the long, solid
body of the solibao and the overlapping human-made beats – voices that echo freedom and
belonging at the same time.
To truly grasp a Bay-an painting is to awaken the tenderness that is demanded of a soul. It means to look, in a primordial sense, for some reason to believe. – By Fara Martia Manuel Nolasco, co-curator (gallery 2600, Baguio Convention and Cultural Center – exhibit runs from July 13 to August 28, 2022)