Montreal·Video

Meet the Filipino Montrealer behind some of Canada's most spectacular ice sculptures

Ross Baisas immigrated to Quebec from a town in the Philippines renown for its woodcarvers. He's now an award winning ice carver at the Montreal Casino.

Ross Baisas was recruited from the Philippines to work as an ice carver in Montreal

Ross Baisas's cowboy-themed ice sculpture at the Ice Magic Festival in Lake Louise last year. (Submitted by Ross Baisas)

Ross Baisas kneels before a block of ice.

He etches a light outline of a palm tree on the front of the rectangular block using a chisel.

"As an artist … I look inside the ice block and picture whatever characters I am going to put in it," he says.

Once Baisas has the image in his mind, the power tools come out. He first uses a chainsaw to take out large pieces of ice. Then he uses a set of chisels, each one a different size, to create the overall shape of the sculpture. The final step involves using a blow-torch to make the texture of the block shines. 

One hour later, Baisas' vision comes to life: a farmer on a bull, sitting beneath a leaning palm tree.

Ross Baisas carved a bull and a farmer sitting beneath a palm tree. He says it reminds him of the Philippines. (Craig Desson/CBC)

It's all in a day's work for Baisas who is a kitchen artist at the Montreal Casino, where his work is displayed inside its restaurants.

For Baisas, ice carving isn't a job — it's a vocation.


Watch Ross Baisas at work:

The ice carver

CBC News Montreal

2 years agoVideo
1:46
The ice carver 1:46

Baisas immigrated a decade ago from the Philippines, a country not known for ice. He's from a village called Paete, which means "chisel" because the town is famous for its wood carvers.

He learned the trade from his father, who is also a wood carver.

From left, Ross Baisas pictured with his sister, father, mother and brother. (Submitted by Ross Baisas)

Baisas says carving wood isn't all that different from carving ice, so he quickly accepted a job offer from the Montreal Casino when they recruited him from the Philippines.   

"I said, 'Yes!' I'm going to express myself to a different people, in a different country."

Since immigrating, Baisas has learned some French, has gotten married and had two children.

"You have to adapt, you have to blend."

World champion

Ross Baisas and his brother Antonio Baisas won the Public Choice and Carver's Choice awards in January 2019 at the 16th annual Ice On Whyte Festival in Alberta, for their sculpture of a dinosaur skeleton. (Submitted by Ross Baisas)

According to Baisas, there are no more than a dozen ice carvers in Montreal, and a major motivation for him to come to Quebec was the opportunity to compete in ice carving competitions. 

"I thought about the passion first. I didn't think about … how am I going to live there."

Ross Baisas and his brother won first place for their moose carving, made out of snow, at an international competition in Banff. (Ross Baisas )

Outside of work, he travels the country to take part in ice and snow carving tournaments with his brother, Antonio. The pair have won titles in several international competitions, including in Banff and Edmonton earlier this year. Baisas has also travelled as far as France and Poland to compete.

"My passion is carving. My passion is art."

About the Author

Craig Desson

Producer

Craig Desson is a producer and journalist at CBC Montreal. He was born in Montreal and has lived in Ottawa, Toronto, Germany and Sierra Leone. Craig has also worked for CBC Radio.

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