One of Botong Francisco’s Most Famous Murals is Now on Display at the National Museum
After four years of painstaking restoration, National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco’s Filipino Struggles Through History is finally viewable to the public. According to the National Museum, it is “arguably Botong’s greatest extant work of art—and among his last, as it was finished only months before his death on March 31, 1969.”
Also known as History of Manila, the series of paintings documents the history of the Philippines from pre-colonial Tondo to the end of the American colonial period in 1946. It was commissioned by Mayor Antonio J. Villegas for the Manila City Hall back in 1968, and declared a National Cultural Treasure in 1996.
Over the years, however, the murals fell into grave disrepair. According to this 2013 article from ABS-CBN, water seeped through part of the mural, causing it to fall off the wall. Then-mayor Alfredo Lim sent the painting to the National Museum for extensive restoration. There was a even a bit of a kerfuffle as people wondered where the “missing” murals went, until former Tourism Secretary and National Museum Director Gemma Cruz Araneta clarified the matter.
Last year, Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada and the Manila City Council signed an agreement to keep the paintings at the National Museum, so as to make them more accessible to the public. In return, the National Museum will provide Manila City Hall with more durable reproductions of Struggles Through Filipino History.
Three out of the four paintings are on display at the Old Senate Session Hall, in the Old Legislative Building of the National Museum of Fine Arts. The fourth painting will soon be unveiled at the Vicente and Carmen Fabella Hall. According to the National Museum, it “depicts Mayor Villegas’ progressive vision for the City of Manila, grounded on a proud past of Filipino leadership and the fervent nationalism that he himself vigorously promoted and is well-remembered for.”
Entrance to the National Museum is free, so if you’re in the mood to soak up some culture, this iconic and historically significant work of art will be well worth the trip.