SAN FRANCISCO – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) office in San Francisco last month facilitated the return of paintings to Philippine possession to fulfill the wishes of a World War II veteran.
In June 2019, HSI was contacted by the son of a former U.S. soldier who had legally purchased two Fernando Amorsolo paintings while stationed in the Philippines near the end of World War II.
Upon his passing, the family wanted to donate the paintings to the government of the Philippines to preserve and exhibit the paintings in the most effective way for the Filipino people. HSI San Francisco Special Agent David Keller arranged the handover with the assistance of the Philippine Consulate General.
“As members of the Filipino-American community are aware, the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco has recognized the need to reach out to the Filipino-American community across all generations to spark interest and pride in our roots to become positive agents of change,” said Consulate General for the Philippines Henry S. Bensurto, Jr. in San Francisco. “By building networks and partnerships, we aim to increase our awareness and consciousness and appreciate of our Philippine history and culture. We are excited to receive the donation of the two paintings thanks to the hard work of the [agents of] Homeland Security Investigation’s Cultural Property, Art and Antiquities investigations.”
Fernando Amorsolo (1892-1972) was best known for his lighting technique and his representation of Philippine culture. The two donated paintings were painted by Amorsolo in 1936 and 1938. They are scenes depicting rural Philippine life.
HSI special agents in the Cultural Property, Art and Antiquities Program, conduct investigations to disrupt the illicit trafficking of cultural heritage. The goal of these investigations is to identify and repatriate stolen art and cultural heritage to its rightful owner. HSI works closely with international law enforcement partners around the world in this endeavor.