The huge mandalas of Session Road are an eye-catcher

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ART IN DIFFICULT TIMES: Giant mandalas like these designs by crochet artist Adelaida Guia were on display along downtown Session Road on Sundays, when the thoroughfare is turned pedestrian. (Photo by EV ESPIRITU / Inquirer Northern Luzon)

BAGUIO CITY, BENGUET, Philippines — Giant mandalas have caught the eye along downtown Session Road that artists would pedestrianize on Sundays.

Tourists came closer to examine the intricate patterns of these works. ONE Mandalameaning “circle” in Sanskrit, is a geometric design associated with Hinduism or Buddhism, made for the purpose of meditation.

But potential buyers would be shocked by the price tags on these designs. For example, a 10 foot tall (3 meter) mandala with a diameter of 3 m (120 inches) would fetch a whopping 50,000 pesos.

Sometimes their creators, like needlework artist Adelaida Guia, were offered lessons instead—which she quickly turned down.

“I don’t teach. You can do what I did — learn from YouTube,” she advised a Baguio resident.

The mandalas were on display again when Session Road hosted a street bazaar with florists alongside stalls selling vegetables, garden plants and startup foods ahead of Valentine’s Day.

“Lucky” venture

Guia, who is also a customer service representative at a call center, said she discovered her passion for mandalas when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

A mother of five, married to a Cordilleran, she and her family moved to Baguio in 2016, four years before COVID-19.

Like many residents, the Guia family had to develop coping mechanisms to deal with the lockdowns, ever-changing quarantine rules, and constant fear and uncertainty during the first two years of the pandemic.

Guia said crocheting has been a hobby of hers since she was a child.

So she realized early enough when the pandemic started that crocheting mandalas “made me happy”.

The intricacies of the mandala were “too difficult to do initially,” said Guia, who studied the techniques behind the art form online.

In her small exhibition space on Session Road, she put up a sign explaining that her pieces were inspired by American crocheter Helen Shrimpton’s “Mandala Madness”.

Guia recalls that putting together a “heartbeat” mandala design was her biggest challenge.

She said it would take her just over two weeks to complete a smaller mandala, one of which she recently sold for 15,000 pesos.

love for crochet

Guia grew up in Sta. Mesa, Manila, raised by a mother who also loved crocheting, she said.

“I used to make crochet products for home economics classmates,” she recalls, adding that she uses the money she earns to buy gifts for friends.

She enrolled in accounting at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, but did not complete her degree.

Later, while raising her family, her husband and children helped in the family craft business she started called Abikaka, which is an anagram for “kakaiba (uncommon)”.

Guia is delighted that her eldest daughter, 22-year-old Danielli, has also caught the crochet virus.

She said Danielli learned the craft herself, without her mother having to teach her.

Her other children have pursued other crafting skills, and products they made, such as rag dolls and earrings, are now also available for sale at Guia’s booth.

—EV ESPIRITU

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