The Little Jewels of Vigan City: The Art in Tightwad?

Welcome to my first blog entry for 2010.

Blogs ago I mentioned of posting a string of blog entries of some of the not-so-talked-about historical details of Vigan City — Little Jewels of Vigan City as I named it. These are “trivial stories” that you can hardly heard of in the open or being talked about indiscreet among a collective group. And most often, these “trivial stories” were told by a reliable source inside or an insider.

Nema Crisologo Street, Vigan City, Ilocos Sur

To cut to the chase, I’ll be starting off with the first of the series — The Art in Tightwad? Ironic, huh? Also, this entry’s theme is perfectly fit for the coming Philippines national election in May, 2010.

Now, let’s begin. Last August of 2009, when we were in Vigan City, Ilocos Sur, one of our missions is to cover the heritage structures of Spanish colonial past. One of them is the Syquia Mansion — the ancestral house of the late President Elpidio Quirino’s wife, Alicia Syquia. The Mansion was built in 1830 and subsequently turned into a museum and there it houses the memorabilia of the late President Quirino. (see Spanish Highs). Also, the late president was born in Vigan in November 16, 1890 and died of a heart attack in Quezon City in February 29, 1956.

Syquia Mansion interior

As our group entered the mansion, there on the right side of the wall hangs the portrait painting of the late Elpidio Quirino — the sixth President of the Philippines — the first objet d’art that will greet you aside from the oldest “working’ carriage a few feet away from the entrance. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to it since it is just an ordinary painting. But after the tour, when I was about to step out from the century-old wooden gate, I looked at the painting afar one last time and suddenly noticed an inconsistency. Then, I’ve asked Oliver, the museum’s in-house guide about the inconsistency. And then Oliver looked at the painting. Then, at me and told me with a smile on his face about the “witty” story behind it.

The late President Elpidio Quirino’s portrat painting

The inconsistency that I’m talking about is the word “President” is not visually aligned in the middle of the president’s surname “Quirino”— it is positioned towards the right (see inset photo). According to Oliver, this portrait painting of the late president is actually a campaign poster used during the campaign period in the *1949 presidential election and was commissioned by Quirino’s staff. And the original portrait painting had the complete phrase of “Quirino for President”.

Typographical inconsistency on the painting

I thought it was just an artist’s error — a grave one. But coming from an artist’s point of view like myself, the error may not be as obvious in the painting. I know there’s something fishy behind it.

When Oliver said “it had the complete phrase of “Quirino for President”. My curiosity had felt a great thirst and suddenly, at that very moment I begin to act like Robert Langdon by asking Oliver to spill the beans on how the portrait painting ended up the way it is now.

According to Oliver, when Quirino won and elected as the President of the Philippines, “being a tightwad… I mean Ilocanos being the resourceful one came into play”, as Oliver said it. Instead of making anew, they (the staff of Quirino) simply recommissioned the same painter of the portrait to paint over the word ”for” by the same background color and voila! The portrait painting that is once a campaign poster is no longer a campaign poster. As soon as Oliver told us the meat of the story, we can’t help ourselves to look back at each other and nodding our heads as we go out from the mansion. And each of us had expressed their individual reaction to what we’ve heard of. I, personally, was stunned.

In my humble opinion, the act of over painting to conceal something grave is a smart thing to do for the safety of the many. BUT over painting something just for the sake of tightening the belt, I don’t think so — it’s a case to case basis. As for the newly-elected public figure in the highest position in a country, I think he or she deserves a better one. But whoever gave the order — may be the late president or his staff — I’m giving the benefit of a doubt.

Till the next Vigan City minute facts.

*Quirino was the incumbent Vice president then against the late President Jose P. Laurel.

Welcome to my first blog entry of 2010.

Blogs ago I mentioned of posting a string of blog entries of some of the not-so-talked-about historical details of Vigan City — “Little Jewels of Vigan City” as I named it. These are “trivial stories” that you can hardly heard of in the open or being talked about indiscreet among a collective group. And most often, these “trivial stories” were told by a reliable source within or an insider.

To cut to the chase, I’ll be starting off with the first of the series — The Art in Tightwad? Ironic, huh? Also, this entry’s theme is perfectly fit for the coming Philippines national election in May, 2010.

Now, let’s begin. Last August of 2009, when we were in Vigan City, Ilocos Sur, one of our missions is to cover the heritage structures of Spanish colonial past. One of them is the Syquia Mansion — the ancestral house of the late President Elpidio Quirino’s wife, Alicia Syquia. The Mansion was built in 1830 and subsequently turned into a museum and there it houses the memorabilia of the late President Quirino. (see Spanish Highs, https://battlefieldman.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/picture-featured-spanish-highs/). Also, the late president was born in Vigan in November 16, 1890(1890-11-16) and died of a heart attack in Quezon City in February 29, 1956.

As our group entered the mansion, there on the right side of the wall hangs the portrait painting of the late Elpidio Quirino — the sixth President of the Philippines — the first objet d’art that will greet you aside from the oldest “working’ carriage a few feet away from the entrance. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to it since it is just an ordinary painting. But after the tour, when I was about to step out from the century-old wooden gate, I looked at the painting afar one last time and suddenly noticed an inconsistency. Then, I’ve asked Oliver, the museum’s in-house guide about the inconsistency. And then Oliver looked at the painting then at me and told me with a smile on his face about the “witty” story behind it.

The inconsistency that I’m talking about is the word “President” is not visually aligned in the middle of the president’s surname “Quirino”— it is positioned towards the right (see inset photo). According to Oliver, this portrait painting of the late president is actually a campaign poster used during the campaign period in the *1949 presidential election and was commissioned by Quirino’s staff. And the original portrait painting had the complete phrase of “Quirino for President”.

I thought it was an artist’s error — a grave one. But coming from an artist’s point of view like myself, the error may not be as obvious in the painting. I know there’s something fishy behind it.

When Oliver said “it had the complete phrase of “Quirino for President”. My curiosity had felt a great thirst and suddenly I became the Robert Langdon. At that very moment I begin to act like him by asking Oliver to spill the beans on how the portrait painting ended up the way it is now.

According to Oliver, when Quirino won and elected as the President of the Philippines, “the tightwadness… I mean the resourcefulness of the Ilocanos came into play”, as Oliver said it. Instead of making anew, they (the staff of Quirino) simply commissioned the same painter of the portrait again to paint over the word ”for” by the same background color and voila! The portrait painting that is once a campaign poster is no longer a campaign poster. As soon as Oliver told us the meat of the story, we can’t help ourselves nodding our heads as we go out from the mansion. And each of us had expressed their individual reaction to what they’ve heard of. I, personally, was stunned.

In my opinion, the act of over painting to conceal something grave is a smart thing to do for the safety of the many. BUT over painting something just for the sake of tightening the belt, I don’t think so. As a newly-elected public figure in the highest position in a country, I think he deserves a better one. But whoever gave the order of over painting — the late president or his staff — I’m giving the benefit of a doubt.

Till the next Vigan City minute facts.

*Quirino was the incumbent Vice president then against the late President Jose P. Laurel.

About battlefield_man

Jocas A. See. Art director. Visual journalist. Visual communication designer. And a casual tourist

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