Sunday, June 8

Botong Francisco at the PGH

I was at the PGH last night because I wanted to capture the portals I had submitted that have gone live this past week. But because I had somewhere else to go, I wasn't able to go inside to reach the hallway murals. I stayed at the flagpole area and the lobby. 

There were five murals inside. A hospital lobby isn't really the best place to stand back and admire those murals. There were too many distressed people worrying about the state of their loved ones. I didn't really have the heart to make them move to the side so I could take full detailed photos for portal subs. But a closer inspection lead me to a marker in between one of the panels which said that the murals were by Carlos Botong Francisco. Yes, the National Artist Botong Francisco. 

I knew two have already been submitted as portals: Awit ng Maharlika and Ang Albularyo The Healer. I had a renewed appreciation for them, as well as the other three.

This morning, when I checked out information about the murals online, I found out that only 4 of those 5 murals belonged to the original series by Botong Francisco called “The Progress of Medicine in the Philippines." The oil on canvas measured 2.92 meters by 2.76 and 
"depict the history and development of medicine in the country from the pre-colonial period, the Spanish colonial period, the American Occupation era, and the modern era of the 1950s."

First, a correction from art expert Ana Labrador: Because the paintings are oil on canvas and not made directly on the wall, they are properly called paintings, NOT murals. “Murals are defined as paintings done directly on the wall and have been conceived as integral to the architecture. These paintings are not murals since they have been commissioned in 1953, 43 years after the PGH opened to the public." Given the number of people who pass through the PGH lobby, the paintings have probably been seen by millions. But distressed patients aside, the paintings were also “the least written about of all the artistic works of Carlos V. Francisco."

Photo from Dr. Rico Quimbo's Flickr.

But all the years of humidity and thick crowds have lead to the paintings being as distressed as the patients there. So in 2007, the National Museum stepped in and took down the panels for restoration, which was funded through a cultural preservation grant from US Ambassador Kristie Kenney. They had a photographer make reproductions and that's what we now see in the PGH lobby. Meanwhile, the original panels are now in the National Museum.

The restored paintings at the National Museum.
Photo by Buen Calubayan from the GMA online article.

If only four of the panels are by Botong, that means that the fifth panel, the green one, has been added much later. I'm no art expert and couldn't identify paintings by artist on sight, but somehow that last painting was different from the others. It was probably added to "continue" the story of medicine in the Philippines since Botong's ended in the 1950s. The question now is: Who made that last panel?

Not by Botong: The mysterious fifth panel.

Of course, if it's only for Ingress portal submission purposes, I doubt that the casual player or NIA Ops would ask for the painter or a portal would be more valuable because it was by a National Artist. But if you're a geek like me, one of the joys of playing Ingress has to do with "accidental" learning about things like history and public art. The itch of not knowing would be there to scratch until you learn for sure who made the darn thing. 

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