Befitting an Honorable Man: Bobby Mañosa
Joseph Javier reacts to the fiasco surrounding the National Artist Award for Bobby Mañosa
September 19, 2017
Written by Joseph AdG Javier
Photographed by Ed Simon of Studio 100
In the never-ending debate on what Filipino Architecture is, maaliwalas is just too lame. The definition is nebulous, a facile recourse. In this circus called the Philippines, it’s an argument used by clowns to buttress their case for Filipino Architecture. Bobby Mañosa refused to be limp about it and defined it with exactness and declared: Filipino Architecture is the bahay kubo. Modernist clowns like me laughed and even mocked, but when confronted with the same question, could not offer a better answer.
His was a cause that was controversial, celebrated and painfully lonely. His design discipline and candor was unlike any other that I can think of in Philippine architectural history. He proposed a design lifestyle that is truly Malay, sincerely Filipino, when his very appearance betrays his lineage—and that should put many of us to shame. His works were green decades before sustainable design was fashionable and profitable. Studying Mañosa’s creations versus those of National Artist laureates in Architecture, one wonders how and why this champion of Filipino Architecture has been denied recognition for so long.
The recognition came, unfortunately bestowed by a proponent who dragged the Awards—and the entire country—down into the gutter. After half a decade, the honor that was dishonorably invested was honorably revoked.
The acclaimed modernist writer Lois McMaster Bujold said, “Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself.” Now that the integrity of the National Artist Awards has been rightfully restored, it is time to bring Francisco Mañosa back into the Pantheon of the immortals where he truly belongs. This time, in honorable circumstances befitting an honorable man.