A masterpiece issue

"Botong Francisco was not only an artist but a historian as well."



The works of Carlos Modesto “Botong” Francisco continue to make headlines years after the famous Filipino muralist’s death.

Botong Francisco, one of the Angono group of famous artists, died in 1969 but one of his murals depicting the struggle for freedom of the Filipino people, is now the subject of an ownership issue between the City of Manila and the National Museum.

Buhay Party-List Rep. Lito Atienza, a Manileño to the core, is incensed that Botong’s mural masterpiece originally owned by Manila and used to be an imposing presence in Manila City Hall’s Bulwagang Antonio Villegas is being kept by the National Museum without authority or the necessary documents

“Botong’s masterpiece heritage rightfully belongs to the City of Manila even if some say it’s better to be in the National Museum for more people to see,” said Atienza. He recalled that the masterpiece mural, which measures 24 x 93 feet, was turned over to the National Museum for retouching and restoration of damage from the elements, but was never returned to Manila City Hall.

Atienza, a former two-term mayor of Manila, said he would file a resolution in the House of Representatives for an inquiry on who was responsible for the anomalous transfer and whether someone made money on the priceless masterpiece some curators claim is worth at least P440 million if auctioned.

Botong’s work was commissioned by Villegas and completed in 1968. Atienza, who worked under then-Mayor Villegas, recalled that the mayor was criticized for raising funds to have Botong’s mural retouched and restored to its original state. This was why it was temporarily turned over to the National Museum—because they have artisans who can do the delicate work. Botong’s work in the mural depicting the struggle of the Filipino people is described by some art critics as a composition of sequential historical events put together like a symphony. To be able to achieve this, the man was not only an artist but a historian as well.

That the mess up of Botong’s masterpiece’s rightful place happened during the watch of former Mayors Erap Estrada and Fred Lim is not any wonder. The two tough guys can never be considered as having an iota of appreciation for the arts. Atienza, on the other hand, studied architecture before going into politics.

Botong Francisco name is synonymous with other great Filipino painters like Fernando Amorsolo, Edades, Galo Ocampo and Manansala.

Newly elected Manila Mayor Isko Moreno supports Atienza on getting back the Botong mural to grace the Bulwagang Villegas.

Atienza laments that the young people of today are mostly glued to their cellphones and social media accounts and have no sense of history. Botong’s other masterpieces include works on such historical events like the Mass at Limasawa and the execution at the Luneta of national hero Jose Rizal.

The mural masterpiece and subject of ownership dispute is composed of several panels in sequence from the Spanish colonial era to the American occupation up to the US grant of independence to the country on July 4, 1946.

The late former President Diosdado Macapagal corrected this error in history, rightfully designating June 12, 1898 as the true date of Philippine independence when Filipino revolutionaries drove out the Spaniards from our shores. But then a new invader came in under Admiral George Dewey who imposed on the Filipinos America’s misguided policy of “saving their little brown brothers.”

We hope this does not offend some of those having breakfast while reading the newspapers or listening to the news. Senator Ronald dela Rosa who wants to equal the President’s colorful language, said “sh*t happens” when commenting on the case of a three-year-old girl who was killed in the line of fire during a police buy-bust operation against illegal drugs.

Well, sh*t did happen under Mayor Isko Moreno’s shoe while inspecting the area near the Bonifacio monument in Manila. So furious was the mayor he immediately sacked the police precinct commander in the district for allowing homeless people to desecrate the area by dumping human feces right below and around Bonifacio’s monument.

Speaking of poor people, the latest Social Weather Stations survey reported a 42-percent increase of hungry families or 11-million Filipinos who are malnourished for lack of food. But this is something most of us already know without the SWS conducting a survey on the matter.

Topics: Social Weather Stations , Isko Moreno , Carlos Francisco , Antonio Villegas
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