The family of 30-year-old artist Bree Jonson who died in La Union Saturday is requesting that autopsy on her body begin soon. The family is also pleading that her mother, Salome Jonson, who arrived in Manila from Canada Monday morning, September 20, be exempted from her 10-day required quarantine and allowed to reunite with her daughter.
This is according to the artist’s cousin, Jill Villanueva Palarca, who spoke to ANCX on behalf of their family in Davao, Jonson’s hometown. “As of this morning we just got word kasi that medyo tentative pa yung schedule ng autopsy. We just really wanted the autopsy to be done quickly and properly kasi the days are running,” Palarca said. “The message we got is that the doctor is not available. Yun lang alam namin.”
Later, Palarca messaged ANCX to say that the autopsy remains “delayed,” adding Jonson’s father, aunt, the police, and the family’s legal team are unable to enter the medical facility “because the neighboring cadaver is Covid-infected so now it has become more complicated. Reasons for delay are piling up.”
Jonson’s body is currently at the Ilocos Training and Regional Medical Center in San Fernando, La Union. “They are trying to extract the body from the public hospital para madala sa private funeral parlor where they can do the autopsy,” Palarca told ANCX. It’s still not sure if the autopsy can be done within the day, she added.
The Inquirer reported Sunday evening that Jonson was found unconscious in a room in a San Juan hostel at 4:30 AM the day before. According to the report, she was with Julian Ongpin, son of businessman Roberto Ongpin, who was arrested after police found cocaine in the hostel room he and Jonson were in.
“We did not know if she was already dead [when we arrived at the hostel],” the San Juan town police chief Maj. Gerardo Macaraeg told the publication. “So we had her brought to the hospital where she was pronounced dead on arrival.” Macaraeg added he cannot tell yet what caused Jonson’s death and that they have already requested for an autopsy.
“We want the autopsy done right away because as of last night, we already read so many stories about her death and we want to clear up that none of these, whatever has been written, none of them has been verified yet kasi nga the autopsy has not been done,” said Palarca who is requesting that some of her cousin’s friends refrain from posting details that have yet to be verified.
Jonson was a beloved figure in the Manila art community. Since Saturday, many of her artist friends have expressed their sadness over her passing.
“Bree is one of those rare artists whose concern is to fundamentally enlighten us with the current state of the world through her art, however mysterious some [of her works may be],” said the artist Gregory Halili who got to work with Jonson in a group show. “She loves nature and we talked about its decline, but also its hope…People love her because she’s very intelligent and speaks her mind. We will deeply miss her.”
Jonson just turned 30 last July. Her full name is Breanna Patricia Jonson Agunod. She graduated in 2012 from the Ateneo de Davao and later moved to Manila to pursue her art. “She’s always been a very creative child,” said Palarca who babysat Jonson when they were young. “She dabbled in many things: music, art. Her mother was the one who encouraged her to be artistic, because her mother also dabbled in the arts herself. Her mother is also a skilfull artist but never really pursued it.” Salome Jonson moved to Canada following her daughter’s decision to forge her painting career in Manila.
Palarca, a teacher in Ateneo de Davao, described Jonson as “very smart, very philosophical, such a deep thinker.” She said she was one of those who encouraged Jonson to pursue her art in Manila because Davao might not be the right environment for her kind of talent and art. “We know that she’s been happy and successful,” Palarca told ANCX. “There was a bit of a struggle in the beginning, as with any starting artist, but we know that recently she’s been having some success in her exhibits.”