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A painting featuring Pope Francis and several Filipino celebrities has been making the rounds on social media this week, ahead of the pontiff's visit to the Philippines.
Reaction to the piece, a 29" x 24" oil on canvas painting entitled "Salubong" by visual artist Dante Hipolito, has been mixed, with netizens taking issue with the personalities featured on the artwork.
The painting shows Governor Vilma Santos as a farmer leading celebrities and personalities such as Gary Valenciano, Sen. Grace Poe, Dingdong Dantes, Marian Rivera, Coco Martin, and presidential sister Kris Aquino in a vibrant rural setting.
Contrary to popular belief, however, the painting is neither a political ad nor a paid advertisement.
In an interview with GMA News Online, Hipolito said the painting was inspired by his faith and his fondness for the Pope. It was his wife, however, who requested that he put faces of her favorite celebrities and personalities in the painting.
"Hindi ko ginawa yun para sa masa. Hindi ko iniiisip yung masa, o kahit sinong tao. Mapagbigyan ko lang 'yung asawa ko," Hipolito told GMA News Online in an interview.
After he posted his artwork on Facebook, a friend took interest and requested for a copy, which the latter then posted on his own account.
The digital copy painting of the painting has since gone viral, leaving the painter's family overwhelmed by the turn of events.
But while some netizens have put forth harsh accusations, Hipolito has mastered the art of ignoring bashers. He said that as long as he knows that he did not intend to hurt anyone, it's fine; after all, the paiting was originally for his and his wife's personal enjoyment only.
"Wala akong tinitira, wala akong pino-promote. Trip lang namin itong mag-asawa. Wala akong intensyon kahit kanino," he said.
The painting has drawn the attention of some of the celebrities featured on it.
According to Hipolito, Gov. Vilma Santos has even requested a replica of the painting. Hipolito, however, has turned her down, remaining faithful to his decision to make the piece a part of his family's personal collection.
Meanwhile, Gary Valenciano, who is a born-again Christian, welcomed his presence in the painting, expressing his desire to see it at exhibits.
The official Facebook page of Marian Rivera has also shared the painting online.
Amid the minor controversy, Hipolito said he respects the opinion of people about his painting.
"Hayaan na lang. Hindi ko naman ikamamatay 'to. Lilipas rin yan kasi ang mga Pilipino naman, madaling makalimot," he said.
"Makaka-recover ako at mamamataya ang issue in a natural way. Makakalimutan ang issue pero matatandaan ang pangalan. Pabor pa rin naman sa akin yun kaya hayaan na lang."
But one thing that bothers the artist more than anything.
"Nagdaramdam ako kapag si Pope na ang tinitira. Okay lang yung mga artista, pero 'pag si Pope, hindi ko na gusto," he said. — JST, GMA News