What To Know About The Stolen Amorsolo Painting Worth Millions

Two thieves recently stole Fernando Amorsolo’s “The Mango Gatherers” from the Hofileña Museum in Negros Occidental—here’s what to know about it. 

In the morning of July 3, 2024, two masked thieves entered the second floor of the Hofileña Heritage House and Museum in Silay City, Negros Occidental. Together, they stole a painting by National Artist of the Philippines Fernando Amorsolo, reports Eugene Adiong of The Manila Times. The city’s heritage advocacy group, Silay Heritage, later announced that the painting was “Mango Harvesters,” a 12 by 18-inch work from 1936. The 88-year-old painting was the sole target of the thieves, as the second floor also housed works by other prominent artists like Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo, Juan Luna, and Ang Kiukok, as Erwin Delilan of Rappler reports. 

The stolen "Mango Harvesters" (1936) painting by Fernando Amorsolo
The stolen “Mango Harvesters” (1936) painting by Fernando Amorsolo

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The specific value of the painting was undisclosed. However, multiple news sources have reported that it is worth millions of pesos. It is currently owned by the Hofileña family, under the collection of Ramon Hofiĺeña, a renowned art collector who passed away at the age of 87 in 2021. 

The painting is particularly exceptional as Amorsolo executed it during his “golden period” (1920s to 1940s). Many critics consider works made at this time to be among the artist’s finest, as he had reached a peak of productivity, according to The Philippine Art Gallery. The period also saw him winning first prize at the New York’s World Fair for his piece “Afternoon Meal of Rice Workers” (1929), as well as a UNESCO gold medal of recognition (in 1959).

How The Theft Happened

Glazyl Masculino of The Manila Bulletin reports that police have identified one of two suspects involved in the crime based on closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage.

A pedicab driver who had driven the pair from the museum to a city public plaza (from which they took a jeepney), was able to identify the male suspect, who had taken off the mask while riding the cab. Unfortunately, he was unable to identify the female suspect. 

Hofileña Heritage House and Museum
Hofileña Heritage House and Museum

The two thieves gained access to the museum by entering under the guise of visitors. They used fictitious names and a city address in the guest logbook, entering through a six-person group tour, shares Lt. Col. Mark Anthony Darroca in Adiong’s report. They left with the painting concealed in a bag after 15 minutes. 

Local authorities will not reveal the suspect’s identity until they have filed a case, as the investigation is still ongoing. Police have reason to believe that the two individuals are part of an organized group that has been committing petty crimes, Masculino adds.

A PHP 25,000 Reward 

In a post announcing the theft, Silay Heritage asked the public to “Please help in the recovery of this important piece of Philippine art.” They are currently asking those with any leads or information to contact the Silay Philippine National Police, or report to their nearest authorities regarding the matter. 

A poster asking the public to provide any information they might have about the theft
A poster asking the public to provide any information they might have about the theft

On July 6, 2024, Silay Mayor Joedith Gallego told the Daily Guardian in a phone interview that the city will be offering a reward of PHP 25,000 to anyone who could provide information that would lead to the arrest of the aforementioned suspects. 

“I don’t care about the prices of the paintings,” shares Rene Hofileña, the museum’s administrator and brother of Ramon Hofileña, with Carla P. Gomez of Inquirer.Net. “I just want to keep my promise to my brother to keep the museum going so the public can continue to enjoy his art collection.”

Banner photo from the Silay Heritage Facebook page.

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