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Manila paying P20 million for ‘Botong’ mural

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Manila has agreed to pay the National Museum P20 million as payment for the restoration of the mural by National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco that used to be installed on the wall around Bulwagan Villegas at the Office of the City Mayor.

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Damagoso said the city would work on the return of the famous painting after he consulted with members of the city council to allocate funds for the restoration effected by the National Museum.

In his reply, the mayor said they are bent on getting back the mural, because the said masterpiece belongs to Manila.

He has ordered his staff to check possible water leakage from the upper floors of the city hall building that had caused stains on the upper portions of five paintings, plus the added dust and stains accumulated in the over four decades following its installation.

He likewise sought the assistance from the National Museum on how to properly care for the said mural to ensure it will be appreciated by generations to come.

It was learned that the interior design of the original location is now being prepared in preparation for the return of the masterpiece to its original place.

The mural had suffered extensive damage over the years due to a plumbing problem in city hall.

In 2013, former Manila Mayor Alfredo S. Lim requested that it undergo restoration under the supervision of the National Museum, with funding for the project coming from the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority.

After the restoration was completed in 2015, the masterpiece was put on public view at the Senate Session Hall of the National Museum of Fine Arts in February 2018. The museum is right across Manila City Hall on Taft Avenue.

According to a post on the National Museum’s Facebook page from 15 February 2018, an approved landmark agreement was made in 2017 by former Mayor Joseph Erjercito Estrada and the Manila City Council, which allowed “the original paintings to remain at the National Museum for enhanced public access and appreciation.”

In 1968, Manila City Mayor Antonio J. Villegas commissioned a painting from National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco. The result was “Filipino Struggles Through History,” composed of a series of four paintings for Manila City Hall. The huge mural depicts significant events in the country’s history — from the great rajahs who ruled Tondo to events in the American period.
The artist finished what was to be among his greatest artworks shortly before he died on 31 March 1969. In 1996, the mural was declared a National Cultural Treasure by then National Museum director Gabriel S. Casal.

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