Years and years ago, we were at a homeschooling picnic in San Diego. Children were running around, parents were standing around and talking. I saw that my husband was speaking to an elderly couple. After a few minutes Bud strolled over to me and said, “I just met a guy who is from the Philippines. He has a painting, and he wanted to know if you knew anything about a painter named Amorsolo.”
“Of course, ” I said, “he was a National Artist in the Philippines.”
I walked over to the fellow and heard quite a story. It was the end of World War II, and this man, an American mestizo from Zamboanga had been hidden by a family friend in Manila. As the boats were leaving to repatriate Americans, his mother gave him a painting and told him to hang on to it. She also gave one to his sister. These people left for the U.S. and once on this side of the ocean, didn’t look back. He went to a Catholic men’s college in the Midwest, had a marriage and a career. Now he was facing eye surgery and was hoping to sell the painting for whatever it was worth.
One of my best friends in Manila advised us to send him a slide of the painting. Then via word of mouth, the story spread. A few weeks later the mother of another friend called us and said she could sell the painting. She was a delightful, exuberant lady, and dealing with her was a joy. She said she was on her way to visit her son and would call us when she got back. So we waited.
After a few weeks, we found out that our wonderful buyer’s agent had died unexpectedly. We let it go, because it was against the Filipino value of delicadeza to pursue a sale under such sad circumstances.
A few more weeks passed, and the sale came back to life. A buyer had seen the slide and wanted to buy it. We packed the large painting into our van and took all the kids on a field trip to Los Angeles.
The buyer gave us directions to his house, it was up in the hills and had a gorgeous view and amazing gardens. He was a Filipino collector in Manila. He was very polite, and stepped forward to look at it. “It’s an Amorsolo,” he said, “It’s nice.”
He handed over a bank check and we said goodbye.
This is a fuzzy scan of the slide. There is still one painting out there – it was given to the owner’s sister. She didn’t know it’s value and allegedly let go of it at a yard sale. Perhaps one day it will bubble up again.