“A scientist also produces masterpieces,” said Bruce Tolentino, deputy director general for communication and partnerships of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). The best artists and scientists, according to Dr. Tolentino, are “the same kind of people” in terms of their unyielding commitment and dedication to their life’s work.
These words marked the closing of a special day-long event entitled Si Manansala at ang Masaganang Ani (Manansala and a Harvest of Plenty, translated by creative writer Frank Hilario) held on 29 January 2014. In commemoration of Philippine National Artist Vicente Manansala’s 104th birthday, the event launched a partnership among IRRI, the Friends of Manansala Foundation, Inc. (FMF), the National Museum of the Philippines, and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA).
The partners are exploring options to preserve and relocate to a more secure viewing space IRRI’s two mural-sized Manansala masterpieces, declared as Important Cultural Properties of the Philippines by the National Museum. The paintings are currently located in the cafeteria and dining room of the IRRI headquarters in Los Baños.
The day’s activities included a special viewing of the paintings, on-the-spot sketching and painting sessions with invited artists, an art market, and a special exhibit of Manansala pieces, on loan for the day from private collections. Artists, art enthusiasts, members of the media, and IRRI staff gathered in the IRRI cafeteria in the afternoon for a standing-room-only symposium on the life, work, and influence of Manansala in Philippine art.
Maritess Pineda, FMF president, shared stories about Manansala welcoming her and other admirers to his home, and how art became the locus of friendships that lasted their whole lives. Of the two paintings, she said, “It is such a great honor to find such treasure in here at IRRI.”
National Scientist Ben Vergara, speaking as a trustee of the National Museum, revealed that the Manansalas were already present when the Institute was formally dedicated in 1962. Dr. Vergara has worked at IRRI for several decades and was in attendance during the dedication. This little piece of history may have come as a surprise to some in the audience, but perhaps not so much for those who know the origins of the Institute. IRRI was established with support from the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, in partnership with the Philippine government. The Rockefellers are known to be patrons of both the arts and sciences. David Rockefeller, Jr., a fourth-generation descendant of the prominent family, viewed the paintings during a recent visit to IRRI with his wife, writer and filmmaker Susan Cohn Rockefeller.
Also a speaker during the symposium was Nemesio Miranda, senior artist and head of the Committee on Visual Arts of the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA), who took his first art workshop under Manansala, whom he calls “Mang Enteng.”
Ronna Manansala, an artist in her own right, revisited her memories as a granddaughter of the national artist, who advised that she should always produce the best work possible.
Dr. Ana Labrador, assistant director of the National Museum, shared her deep admiration for Manansala and underscored the need for various organizations to collaborate in conserving important pieces of art.
Students from the neighboring Philippine High School for the Arts performed several folk dances inspired by the Manansala paintings. Lucky guests took home paintings generously donated by visiting artists for a raffle. Artists included Hermes Alegre, Rey Arcilla, Lito Balagtas, Cee Cadid, Cris Cruz, Buds Convocar, Ember Crisostomo, Fil dela Cruz, Anna de Leon, Rudolf Gonzales, Boy Mata, Nemesio Miranda, Francis Nacion, Roel Obemio, Al Perez, Omi Reyes, Ephraim Samson, Aner Sebastian, Migs Villanueva, and Joseph Villamar. IRRI’s own Paul Hilario, curator of Riceworld Museum, also donated a piece for the raffle.
Proclaimed National Artist in 1982, a year after his death, Manansala is known for his trademark transparent cubism. In November 1984, the Manansala paintings at IRRI underwent preventive conservation. Production of limited-edition prints of the two Manansala paintings at IRRI was also launched during the event. For more information, contact Paul Hilario at .