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Acclaimed artist Bree Jonson, 30, found dead in La Union hostel

By SAAB LARIOSA Published Sep 20, 2021 4:14 pm Updated Sep 21, 2021 5:17 pm

The Filipino art scene mourns a young soul with the death of young artist Bree Jonson.

Authorities confirmed that the 30-year-old was found unconscious in a hostel in San Juan, La Union. Julian Roberto Ongpin, an art patron and the son of billionaire businessman Roberto Ongpin, was her companion on the trip.

Bree was last seen alive when she and Ongpin returned to their room at Flotsam & Jetsam Hostel at 3 a.m. on Sept. 18. Around 30 minutes later, Ongpin went out to ask for help from the hotel staff. Bree's cause of death has not yet been determined pending an autopsy.

On Sept. 21, Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Police General Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar ordered Regional Director of Police Regional Office 1 PBGen Emmanuel Peralta to conduct a  thorough investigation into Jonson’s death, according to the PNP’s website

“Nasampahan na ng kaukulang kasong may kinalaman sa iligal na droga ang kasintahan ni Bree Jonson na si Julian Ongpin matapos itong mag-positibo sa drug test at makuhanan ng cocaine sa kanilang inuupahang kuwarto sa isang resort sa La Union. Sa aking huling pakikipag-usap sa RD, PRO1 PBGEN Emmanuel Peralta, nagdesisyon ang Provincial Prosecutor’s Office na palayain si Ginoong Ongpin habang ini-imbestigahan ang kaso,” said Eleazar.

Local police seized some 12.6 grams of illegal drugs and based on the report of the local Crime Laboratory, Ongpin tested positive for drugs. Ongpin was inistially arrested and later released by the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office while the investigation is being conducted.

Eleazar said the PNP is waiting for the autopsy results before filing additional charges against Ongpin. He added, “Bilang magulang, alam kong mabigat ang inyong pinagdaraanan ngayon kaya sa pamamagitan ng patuloy naming imbestigasyon ay mabibigyan ng linaw kung ano nga ba talaga ang nangyari.

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Jonson was known for art that utilizes animals and plants "to critique the relationship that humans have with their environment, and the divide that has grown between them, a divide that displaces them as Other, different from humans, and lower in importance and hierarchy." 

Her art sought "to bring out the innate wilderness in human nature, to culminate a sense of interconnectedness, and ultimately to move away from anthropocentric worldview to one more inclusive of multiple species."

Inspired by Aesop's fables, her mother's work as a veterinarian, and her own wildlife explorations as a child, Bree left a career in engineering to become an artist. She exhibited her pieces in numerous galleries and fairs around the Philippines.

She also had solo shows in Kuala Lumpur's OUR ArtProjects Art Studio and Singapore's Yavuz Gallery.

Fine art and auction house León Art Gallery mourned the passing of the artist.

"Jonson's passing is undoubtedly a major loss to Philippine Art. León Gallery offers its sincerest condolences to both the family, friends, and those individuals who were deeply moved by Jonson and her art," the Makati-based gallery captioned.

Banner photos from Bree Jonson's Instagram