TOWNS Foundation Inc. is known nationally and internationally as an organization that seeks to recognize Filipinas who render outstanding service in the nation’s service. Its vision is that the empowered women serves as catalysts for national development towards improving quality of life. The foundation seeks out women who are not only exemplary in their field of work but who, through their area of expertise, have dedicated their lives to strengthening the country and their community. As such they become catalysts for positive change.
It is this nominator’s belief that Charming Baldemor embodies all the above-mentioned qualities. Many women can be artists, but only a few make it their life’s mission to use their aesthetic gift to protect the environment, sustain an age-old artistic tradition and uplift the quality of life of their economically-challenged community members.
Coming from a prestigious family of artists (internationally renowned painter Manuel Baldemor is Charming’s uncle), Baldemor hails from the town of Paete, Laguna. Paete is an area known for its huge population of artisans and craftsmen.
A graduate of the College of Saint Benilde, Baldemor has been recognized as one of the top wood carvers in the country. True to her DNA, Charming achieved excellence in the field of wood crafts without receiving any formal education on woodcarving, instead, she honed her skills through the mentorship of her artistic family members (woodcarving has been the Baldemor family’s occupation for almost 50 years). She has cultivated a loyal following from wood sculpting aficionados who purchase her works. Recently, Charming’s creation has been internationally recognized as a craftswoman of modern wearable art, when her work was featured in no less than Vogue Italia.
Charming has used her celebrity and expertise to strengthen two advocacies that she holds dear: 1) the promotion of the craft of Philippine woodcarving as an art form and as a source of meaningful livelihood for local (especially female) artisans and: 2) the practice of environmental responsibility in wood carving by the use of sustainable and repurposed wood.
In order to promote these advocacies in a provincial and national scale, Charming set up CBS or Charming Baldemor Studios. CBS is intended to impart wood carving skills to young, budding artists, to showcase impressive wood carving creations.
Through Charming’s efforts, several artisan families in Paete are given a source of livelihood. As such, they have not abandoned the art of woodcarving in favour of other (perceived) more stable income generating professions. The new crop of wood carvers is also a more environmentally conscious breed thanks to Baldemor’s constant awareness campaign regarding wood conservation and practices for sustainability and repurposing. It is through Baldemor’s efforts that a centuries-old town tradition is sustained in an ecologically responsible manner.
As an artist, a Paetenian, an Eco-warrior and a woman, Charming Baldemor cared greatly for the difficulties that wood carving artisans in her home town of Paete, Laguna found themselves in. For decades, Paete was known as the bedrock of artisans, particularly in the genre of wood and paper crafts. In recent years, the industry had barely survived as the influx of cheap, Chinese knock-offs flooded the local and international market. As a result, many younger Paetenians were ready to abandon the centuries-old craft of wood carving in favor of more lucrative income generating occupations. To complicate matters further, the abundance of illegal loggers and irresponsible manufacturers continued to deplete the forest of its greatest resource: trees.
In order to address all these issues, Baldemor used her skill as wood carver and teacher as well as the cache that her illustrious family name brought, to uplift the status of wood carving in the local and international scene. An international recognized expert in her field, Charming also sought to seek out livelihood opportunities for the Paetenian wood carvers while teaching these carvers how to source their wood responsibly.
Charming recognized that in Paete, entire families were involved in the wood and paper industry. She set up a shop that patronized “home-based” production – where the whole family collaborates on the entire production process – father does the carving, children help in the milling, wood preparation and sanding, mother handles finishing and the admin work, costing, orders and delivery. Baldemor continues to teach the entire family both direct and soft skills in order to guarantee professional work and practices.
She unabatedly shared concepts relating to sustainability and protocols on how wood can be sourced without the need to cut down trees. Baldemor would scour the archipelago looking for old wood that could be repurposed while at the same time teaching artisans how to work with sustainable timber. Further, she would also assist in giving the artisans financial assistance in order to buy materials, tools, as well as to address their basic daily expenses.
It takes incredible dedication and patience to make a dying industry survive, much less thrive. But Baldemor is relentless in her dream of showing the world just how beautiful the wood works of Paete are. Much of the money she earns from the sale of her art works go to support this advocacy. A warrior for the upliftment of the status of women, Baldemor has paid keen attention to promoting women wood carvers.
Baldemor uses her art as only an empowered woman should: to nurture, cultivate, educate and empower a community whose members represent what hopefully will not be the last of a dying breed of wood crafters. In sustaining these people and their craft, she is preserving a centuries old art form. In introducing new methods of responsible material sourcing, she helps protect the environment. It is because of all these that Baldemor is the embodiment of the Filipina as a Powerful Artist.