By Dr. Jaime C. Laya
The creative trio Lisa Periquet, Trickie Lopa, and Dindin Araneta did it again. Already under their collective belts are the eagerly awaited art exhibits and concerts at Makati’s Salcedo Village Park and the Annual Art Fair in the Ayala Commercial Center Link Parking Building. Now add the recent Nonesuch Fair at the Peninsula Manila.
There has been none such (really!) event for at least 30 years that presented the ultimate in Philippine art and antiquities. Sponsor high-end Breguet watches had a booth but everyone else offered take-homeable antiquities and avant-garde objects.
The likes of Kit Roxas, Floy Quintos, Jaime Ponce de Leon, Rolf, and Liz Lietz, the Esposos, Nora Ignacio, Omeng Esguerra, Alex Ayco—legends all in the Philippine art trade—brought out hidden treasures. The best in Philippine jewelry, ceramics and earthenware, santos, furniture, paintings, textiles, engravings—were for all to admire. Quality and, naturally, price were at nosebleed heights.
Discreetly among cameos and peinetas in a cabinet were a magnificent and super-rare 15th century gold half-moon pendant and earrings excavated in Butuan. I shouldn’t have asked but I did—I could bring them home for an eye-watering high seven figures. Gold tamburin (Spanish Regime necklaces like opulent rosary beads) weren’t too bad, although a magnificent 18th century tinik cross with thorn-like points was something else.
Traffic was heavy and I arrived 25 minutes too late for a print of an 1850s Santa Ana procession. It had a six-figure tag, however, so my distress wasn’t unbearable. Nearby was an impressive three-part wall-sized set of the 1852 Francisco Coello map of the Philippines. A Tausug grave marker already had a red sticker, destined for Paris’ Musée du Quai Branly.
Further on was a wall of Amorsolos and a European find, a colorful Joaquin Ma. Herrer painting. Also repatriated from Europe were solid ivory santos and a heavy silver pendant with an ivory San Andres, Manila’s patron saint, brought there hundreds of years ago via the Manila Galleon.
I admired a foot-high image of the Virgin looking like the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy (Guan Yin) still with traces of gilding and polychrome and an exhausted, patient Christ of heavy molave. I also liked a coffee table, strikingly contemporary, one corner of narra burl and the rest in black kamagong. The price was high though reasonable but alas, my house is full.
Excitement of a different level was supplied by an 18th century Virgin with flying robes high on an elaborate andas. Alert fairgoers immediately recognized the image as that of Ozamiz City’s patroness Nstra. Sra. del Triunfo, missing since December 1975. Bataan’s Pol Foronda found an old photograph and posted it on Facebook side-by-side with a photo of the Nonesuch image.
In the ensuing uproar, the consignor, young dealer J.V. Esposo contacted Jessica Soho of GMA7. He revealed that he bought the statue from the estate of a collector-dealer but that after restoration, he will return it to a rejoicing Ozamiz, poorer in cash (reportedly mid-six figures) but richer in good karma.
Notes: (a) There is no statute of limitations for stolen objects under Philippine law. The object has to be returned by the possessor to the legitimate owner who has no obligation to pay for it. The possessor goes to jail if he knowingly purchased the stolen object. He escapes criminal liability if he is an innocent buyer for value and in good faith. He can always claim reimbursement from the seller. What happens to the seller is another story; and (b) Nstra. Sra. del Triunfo is scheduled to return to Ozamiz City on Dec. 8.
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