I’ve always loved the paintings of the late Filipino artist Joey Velasco. He had touched the canvas with the brush of an artist who had seen the Hope anchored on a Personal Jesus, the Jesus who shares his last supper with street urchins in the poorest side of Metro Manila.
The 12 children in the canvas are real children found by Mr. Velasco in the slums of our city.
After treating them to meals, Velasco took their pictures and retreated to his room to start working on the painting.
Velasco said, the children, aged 4-14, reveal a story of a greater hunger than a plate of rice could satisfy.
He said, ”It was they who touched my soul. Through them, God spoke to me and moved me to paint their stories and tell others about their lives.”
The young girl standing at the extreme left, where Judas appears in the da Vinci painting, is 10-year-old Nene.
Velasco met her at the Manila North Cemetery, where she and her family lived as squatters among the graves.
Onse, 9, sits at the table, his plate cleaned to the last crumb, he listens to Jesus to feed his other hungers.
The child, who scavenges with a push cart, has a father addicted to drugs and a mother who works as a strip dancer.
Itok, another scavenger who at 11 is the family breadwinner, sits at the right hand of Jesus.
According to Velasco, Itok spent time in jail after being caught in a number of robberies.
Another child in the painting does not live in Quezon City.
Velasco placed a small Sudanese boy under the table eating the fallen scraps with the cats.
The artist explained, “The skinny child is not one of the hungry kids who roam our busy streets at night. He is “an imaginary symbolic figure” who in the past “had satisfied himself with unnecessary food, (but) now finds himself under the table seeking spiritual crumbs.”
The children featured in the painting are no longer in the areas where Velasco originally found them.
Through his partnership with Gawad Kalinga, an organization dedicated to sheltering the homeless, the 12 children and their families now have homes at Romeo Cabrera Village in Quezon City.
The children’s stories are featured in the book “They Have Jesus: The Stories of the Children of the ‘Hapag ng Pag-asa (Table of Hope).” (reprinted from a news article)
It was a sad time when the artist passed away last July of 2011. Hubby was able to attend the memorial service since both he and Mr. Velasco were alumnae of Don Bosco Technical School.
Hapag ng Pag-ibig is the sequel to the Table of Hope (Hapag ng Pag-asa). The same streetkids are now enjoying a bountiful feast. The reward for never losing hope and faith.
- Weekly Photo Challenge: Hope