FIFTEEN paintings by Federico Aguilar Alcuaz hanging at Waterfront Pavilion Hotel in Manila are the subject of a five-year “tussle” between the family of the late National Artist and the hotel that has hemmed and hawed in returning them despite admitting it does not own them.
The hotel is owned by taipan William Gatchalian, whose son, Sherwin Gatchalian, is running for the Senate.
Aguilar Alcuaz had resided in the hotel and made his suite his studio since 1968 until his death in 2011.
Christian Aguilar, son of the artist, said the hotel had admitted the paintings were merely “on loan” to it but had ignored his entreaties for them to be returned.
Last January, he said he hired a lawyer to formally demand the paintings back but, though the hotel’s lawyer promised to comply, the paintings remain unreturned.
Tristan Tobes of Gancayco Balasbas and Associates, legal counsel of Waterfront, said he could not comment.
Aguilar said he had been demanding the return of the paintings since 2011, after his father died.
Proclaimed National Artist for the Visual Arts in 2009 by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Aguilar Alcuaz, however, was not conferred the order after the proclamation was challenged by several critics who brought the matter to the Supreme Court.
Petitioners did not challenge Aguilar Alcuaz’s proclamation since he went through the formal nomination process. They opposed the proclamations of four others who did not pass through the wringer.
It was only in 2012 that the high court ruled against the four. But by then Aguilar Alcuaz had passed away.
Last April 14, he was finally conferred the order posthumously by President Aquino.
Christian Aguilar said nearly all of the paintings were untitled except for two veritable murals, “Proclamacion de la Nueva Republica” and “Beatification of San Lorenzo Ruiz,” both done in 1981, a very important year in Philippine history.
It was in 1981 when Ferdinand Marcos lifted martial law (critics said it was a mere “cosmetic” lifting) to ease Church-State relations and prepare for the visit of Pope (now Saint) John Paul II.
During his visit, the Pope beatified Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila and Companion Martyrs at Luneta Park, the first beatification outside of Rome in history. (Lorenzo Ruiz and Companion Martyrs were subsequently canonized in 1987 in Rome.)
Aguilar Alcuaz’s mural is a landscape genre showing the mass of people attending the beatification.
Christian Aguilar said the two large works were “most significant” since they were titled, as it wasn’t customary for his father to title his works.
All 15 paintings used to hang at the Rotisserie on the third floor; it was the painter’s favorite hangout.
Aguilar said his father never asked for payment for the paintings to be hung.
The restaurant is gone now since the area was renovated in 2013, two years after the artist died.
In late 2014, the renovated third floor was opened with an Alcuaz Room, where “Proclamacion” and “Beatification” are now displayed. The other works are put in storage, the artist’s son said.
Aguilar Alcuaz had stayed in the hotel since it started operating in 1968 as Manila Hilton under the Delgardo Brothers (Delbros). It later changed hands and became Hyatt Pavilion and now Waterfront Pavilion.
Aside from his suite, the National Artist used to have a separate room which served as his studio and storage.