Portraits of the current and former presidents of the Philippines adorn the lobby of Malacañang Palace, the official residence and office of the highest ranking official of the land. Many of these portraits were created by famous artists, including the likes of Fernando Amorsolo.
But the official portrait of incumbent Pres. Rodrigo Duterte had humbler origins but it looks just as fantastic as the others. Created by Mart Henry “Macky” Bongabong, an artist who hails from a fishing family in the shores of Sangali, Zamboanga City, the portrait also points to the humble origins of the president.
This makes the Duterte portrait extra special despite it not painted by the most famous artist of the land!
A self-taught artist, Bongabong hails from a poor family whose primary means of income was either fishing or sewing nets. While the family’s six kids went to school during weekdays, weekends were Bongabong’s bonding time with his dad.
The artist revealed, “My late father Alberto Bongabong was a very hardworking papa. He would teach me how to sew nylon fishing nets that later became my part-time job during high school. Saturdays and Sundays were my bonding time with him as we would sit together near the port and sew as many nets as we can.”
When his mother died in 1999, the family moved to Pagadian City in Zamboanga del Sur. A few years later, Bongabong won Php30,000 in the National Poster Making Contest by the Philippine Association of Water District in Bacolod City.
He vividly remembers crying his heart out upon receiving the money, not just because it was already a huge fortune for the family but because he won at the time when his ever-supportive mother had already passed away. He said, “She would have been very proud.”