Carlos 'Botong' Francisco's 'The Pageant of Commerce' gets freshly scrubbed

Freshly scrubbed
By Walter Ang
June-August 2009 issue
Metro Home and Entertaining Magazine

Detail from "Pageant of Commerce."
Twelve feet high and 24 feet across, Carlos Francisco's "The Pageant of Commerce" provides a dramatic panorama for visitors to one of the lobbies of the Eugenio Lopez, Jr. Building. Known also as "Pag-iimpok" or "Thrift," this oil on canvas created in 1956 is on loan from the Lopez Memorial Museum and was mounted at its current location in 2000.

The painter, popularly known as Botong, was a muralist from Angono, Rizal and was one of the first Filipino modernists along with Galo Ocampo and Victorio C. Edades who broke away from Fernando Amorsolo's romanticism of Philippine scenes. He was declared a National Artist for Visual Arts posthumously in 1973.

Commissioned by the Ramon Cojuangco family, the mural was intended for the Bank of Commerce and was initially displayed at the bank's Sta. Ana branch. In the mid 70s, the family had the mural put up for sale and it passed through several collections before it was acquired by the Lopez Memorial Museum in 1996.

The museum ensures the safety of its pieces, even works on loan. "For example, when the museum lent works to a museum in Spain, we called them to find out the climate there so we could start acclimatizing the works to their temperature and humidity, even before the works were boarded onto the plane," says Maita Maronilla - Reyes, the museum's consultant for art conservation.

The Botong mural is checked every quarter. "Aside from the lighting, humidity and temperature, we do visual inspections of the work itself to check for dirt and molds," she says. The mural had its last major cleaning in 2003 and in a recent check earlier this year, Reyes noted that it was time for another cleaning.

A chemist conservator who specializes in the "security, safety and survival" of art works, Reyes trained at the Facultad De Bellas Artes of the Unibersidad Complutense de Madrid and at the International Center of Conservation in Italy.

A five-person team rotating in shifts of three was formed to execute the meticulous cleaning. The mural was divided into a grid of 12 inch squares from a total of 288 square feet, and the staff had to thoroughly go through each square to remove surface dirt as well as treat it for molds and accretions (secretions and excretions left by insects). "Once the cleaning is completed, an ultraviolet-stable matte varnish is applied to protect the mural from the degrading effects of light," she adds.

"Not many people know this, but to attend to the needs of private owners and collectors, the museum provides conservation and restoration services through the Roberto M. Lopez Conservation Center," she says. "The goal of conservation is really to stabilize works of art. Our work involves preventing and arresting deterioration caused by natural and human-related disasters."

For details, call the Lopez Memorial Museum at 631-2417 or email