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Portraits for ransom?

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The last time I visited the Provincial Tourism Office the lone portrait that adorned the walls of Benigno Aquino Hall was that of our present Governor Eddie T. Panlilio, done by the prolific portrait artist Rafael Maniago.

When I read Punto’s front page a few days back that the portraits of other Kapampangan governors were being "held hostage" in the dark ceilings of the same building, I thought that the act was quite reckless and imprudent.

For one million pesos or the lack of it, such treatment of the paintings was uncalled for. The irony of it was that the alleged perpetrator was the Arts, Culture and Tourism Office of Pampanga, which is supposed to protect, preserve, and conserve the cultural heritage of the Kapampangan people.

The portraits in question are not merely works of art. The fact that most of these were executed by an outstanding Kapampangan artist – Rafael Maniago who now resides abroad, make them even more valuable as masterpieces. One of the portraits was also done by Alvaro Jimenez, a MOKA recipient for visual arts and famous for his letras y figuras works. That these portraits honor the men and women who were the leaders of our province render them priceless as these are part and parcel of our patrimony as a people.

I am not even an art expert to start with, but any person with enough common sense would know that it is very harmful to keep paintings dumped in some dark, dreary and dusty ceiling. In some instances, that will be tantamount to destroying the art work.

Aside from threats from insects and rodents that could deface the paintings, there was also the question of the vulnerability of the art works to the elements. Humidity and temperature are also variables that must be taken to consideration. I just hope that the roof of Benigno Aquino Hall does not leak, or else it is a sad good bye to those portraits. It will be something like reckless imprudence resulting to homicide.

The intent to make the necessary restorations to the portraits in their current weathered state was laudable. However no matter how good the intention was the action has spoken for itself.

During the transition period that the Provincial Tourism Office was supposedly waiting for the one million pesos to be released it should have assured the proper handling and treatment of the paintings in question. How many square feet of wall space does the Benigno Aquino Hall have, in excess of the required amount needed to display Among Ed’s portrait?

In the divisiveness that haunts the Capitol in this present administration such petty matter as the restoration of the governors’ portraits need not have any political color and should not be about taking sides. In this instance that our cultural heritage is at risk, it is the side of the Kapampangan people that matters most. Art must take precedence over politics.

Previous columns at http://chingpangilinan.multiply.com.

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