How rivals for Manansala's works became his true champions

Carmela Fernando, ANC-X

Posted at Jul 08 2018 11:16 AM

The members of the Friends of Manansala Maritess Pineda (left) Cora Lopa and Mita Rufino (in pink) with 'State of the Art' host Iza Calzado. Handout

MANILA -- One of our most prominent national artists, the late Vicente Silva Manansala (1910-1981), has made his mark on the art world with his signature transparent cubist style of painting. Inspired by the works of Picasso and Cezanne, he added his sense of realism to his figures, and founded a group of Filipino Neo-Realists and was one of the Big Three in the local modernist movement. 

You might also know him better as “Mang Enteng,” as his friends fondly called him. 

And speaking of his friends, three of them shared their endearing story recently to "State of the Art," the new show hosted by Iza Calzado focused on the Philippine art scene. Together, they form the Friends of Manansala Foundation, Inc.

Maritess Mendoza-Pineda, one of the foundation’s three pioneers, describes how it all started. “It was so funny because before we formed the group, we were sort of competitors,” she says of her fellow art collectors Cora Lopa and Mita Rufino. 

Every year, the three of them vied for one free painting that Manansala would give away to the first visitor on his birthday. The three ladies would then show up at his Binangonan home at exactly midnight to get that painting. 

At first, their individual yearly visits to the Manansala home were about collecting the latest piece from Mang Enteng. But this race for art soon turned into Sunday group hangouts, developing into a warm and strong friendship with the Manansala couple that lasted for several years. 

After Manansala’s death, his granddaughter Ronna Manansala joined the three ladies to form the Friends of Manansala Foundation, Inc. as the official proprietors of the artist’s work. They continue to celebrate his birthday by holding retrospective shows in the Metropolitan Museum or Ayala Museum every two years, and have published a book featuring prints of his paintings for students to appreciate. 

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Sadly, they still encountered inauthentic pieces. In 2012, the group intercepted an auction offer for a copy of Manansala’s “Birdman” (1973) at Christie’s in Hong Kong. And in 2015, Lopa learned of offers for three fake sketches in just one month. 

Now, the foundation is more focused on documenting and cataloguing his works to help preserve his legacy. 

While many of his paintings now grace private collections, the public can continue to enjoy viewing his works at the Vicente Manansala Gallery at the Museum of Kapampangan Arts at the Holy Angel University in Angeles, Pampanga; the Singapore Art Museum; the Philippine Heart Center Medical Arts Building; the National Museum of Fine Arts; the Vicente Manansala Shrine in Binangonan, Rizal; the Lopez Memorial Museum; and the Cultural Center of The Philippines. 

There are Manansalas at the The Honolulu Museum of Art; and The Philippine Center in New York City as well.

You may also request to view the Private Manansala Collection of FMF, as owned by Pineda, Lopa, and Rufino, or request a viewing at Salcedo Private View (adjacent to Salcedo Auctions) in Salcedo Village, Makati City.

Catch "State of the Art" every Sunday at 11 p.m. on the ANC-X block of ANC, the ABS-CBN News Channel.