Balai na Ilagan celebrates arts and culture in Isabela provinceBy Kara Santos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Ilagan, the capital town of Isabela, is best known for being the home of the world’s largest wooden armchair—the butaka.
The humble reclining lounge or rocking chair with a lengthy back and extended arms made of narra wood and intertwined rattan strips, has come to symbolize the province’s fine woodworking industry.
But beyond the traditional industry, the arts and culture scene is blossoming in the province. Nowhere is this more evident than in Balai na Ilagan or House of Ilagan.
Formerly a convent, Balai na Ilagan was set up by the Stewards and Friends of Ilagan Inc., as a communal space to nurture artistic talents of locals and provide a multipurpose hall within the diocese.
Here, in the pleasant grounds tucked beside St. Ferdinand Parish Church, local artists can learn from workshops, hold concerts, or just find solace in the peaceful surroundings.
The house brimming with art in every nook stands as a testament to the vibrant arts, culture, music and literature scene in the province.
Wall-to-wall murals of forest scenes painted by local artists adorn the interiors of the Friendship Hall in the main building. Jungle foliage is interspersed with bright flowers, wildlife, mythical creatures, waterfalls, and birds in flight, bringing the outdoors in.
An ornate wooden door from the old convent carved with flowers and intricate details has been restored and is still used in the main entrance of the building while more doors serve as ornamental pieces inside the house. On one side of the hall is a grand piano for aspiring musicians.
Balai na Ilagan echoes the air of reverence of the nearby church. Vines drop down from the balcony lining the stairs, framing the walkway below with fresh blooms.
Though locals can use the space for free, a caretaker ensures that the grounds are kept clean and orderly and the plants well-cared for. The grounds are used by students to practice plays, presentations and musical numbers.
A library also offers a wide range of reading materials and displays promising artwork by students from workshops.
Aside from providing a space for music and art-lovers, the Stewards and Friends of Ilagan also conducts youth development activities and livelihood training courses for the less fortunate, and ties up with institutions that promote productive skills such as Tesda to enrich the lives of the locals.
It promotes culture and the arts by showcasing audiovisual presentations of native and international literature, music, arts and sciences; inviting speakers for cross-cultural learning; and holding competitions related to music, as well as painting and photography contests.
Balai na Ilagan is at Sta. Ana St. cor. Rizal St. Bagumbayan, 3300 Ilagan.