Bree and Julian
Filipina artist Bree Jonson (right), 30, and Ongpin scion Julian Ongpin, 30. Police found her lifeless body was found on Saturday in La Union, north of Manila. Ongpin was arrested on drug charges. Image Credit: Media

Manila: The death of Filipina artist Bree Jonson, 30, who was found dead in a hostel, remains wrapped in mystery. Police found her lifeless body in La Union, 266km north of Manila on Saturday (September 18, 2021). Her companion, Julian Ongpin, son of a Filipino billionaire, was arrested on a drug-related offence.

Jonson is from Davao, hometown of Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte. Ongpin is from Manila. Jonson's family is requesting that an autopsy on her body be conducted immediately, local media quoted that artist’s cousin, Jill Villanueva Palarca, as saying on Tuesday.


The circumstances surrounding the young artist’s death remains a mystery. Amid claims of suicide attempt, police said they are investigating. Police have yet to release the cause of Jonson’s death. Doctors at the Ilocos Training and Regional Medical Center, where she was later brought, declared her dead on arrival.

In a statement sent to media late Monday night, Philippine National Police Brig. Gen. Emmanuel Peralta, director of Police Regional Office 1, said "operatives from San Juan Municipal Police Station immediately responded to check on the veracity of the reported incident.” Peralta said police found "the lifeless body of Breana Patricia Jonson Agunod” and said "she was with Julian Roberto Ongpin.”

Jonson's family earlier said they did not know the two were involved. Jonson was a Filipino contemporary artist who left a career in engineering. After a brief stint as a musician, she has since focused her time on making-art.

Bree Jonson and her mother Salome.
Bree Jonson (left) with her mother, a Canada-based veterinarian.

Her mother, a veterinarian, have had a big influencing her artistic choices. She participated in exhibitions regularly. Her latest solo exhibitions included “Notes on Stillness” at Yavuz Gallery, Singapore, and “Writhing“ at OUR ArtProjects, Kuala Lumpur.

“As of this morning, we just got word that tentative pa yung schedule ng autopsy (schedule of the autopsy is tentative). We just really wanted the autopsy to be done quickly and properly kasi (because) the days are running,” Palarca said. “The message we got is that the doctor is not available. Yun lang alam namin (that’s all we know),” Palarca told local media.

Jonson’s family is also pleading that her mother, Salome, 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.

Hold-departure order sought

General Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar, chief of the Philippine National Police, ordered an investigation into the artist's death on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the artist’s mother Salome had asked the Philippine Department of Justice (DOJ) to issue a hold-departure order against Ongpin for his possible involvement in the death of the artist.

Jaime Ongpin arrested, released

Julian Ongpin, son of former trade minister Roberto Ongpin, was arrested after cocaine was found in the room. He was charged for possession of illegal drugs. He was later released after posting bail.

His father Roberto Ongpin is the founder of online gambling company Philweb and property developer Alpha Land. The elder Ongpin also controls Atok Big Wedge, a listed mining company, later transforming it into an investment holding firm.

Forbes estimates the elder Ongin’s net worth at $1.8 billion as of May 19, 2020. He was a former Minister of Industry during the regime of former Philippine strongman Ferdinand Marcos. His younger brother, Jaime Ongpin, was appointed finance minister in 1986 by the late president Corazon Aquino.

Bree art
Born in 1991, Bree Jonson completed an Industrial Engineering degree from Ateneo de Davao University in 2012. Her mother, a veterinarian, have had a big influence in her artistic choices. Bree Jonson participated in exhibitions regularly. Her latest solo exhibitions included “Notes on Stillness” at Yavuz Gallery, Singapore, and “Writhing“ at OUR ArtProjects, Kuala Lumpur.

"I'm reaching out to you, [Justice] Secretary Menardo [Guevarra]... asking for an immigration lookout bulletin order because of Julian Ongpin's possible involvement in the death of my daughter Bree Jonson," Salome Jonson said in an interview with Filipino channel ANC. 

"I also requested for this DOJ [Department of Justice] frontline a hold-departure order for Julian for possession of illegal drugs," she added. She feared that Ongpin might have already left the country.

"Democritus" by Bree Jonson (from Therion Mythos at OurProjects Gallery, 2014) Image Credit: Photo by Bree Jonson