by Meanne M. Mijares
It will soon be Christmas and we all know that Jesus Christ our Lord is the true reason of the season. Year after year, we are always being reminded of this truth. During the preparations for this much-awaited day, I am being strongly drawn to two, yes two, paintings by the late former Salesian seminarian, businessman-turned-visual “heartist” (an artist who creates art from the heart, since he did not receive formal training as a painter.) and philanthropist Joey Velasco and that for me, sum up what Christmas is about because Christmas is a joyous celebration with so many banquets and celebrations being held all over the world. But I would like to share my two cents’ worth on the two banquets he painted about-hope and love.
His paintings Hapag ng Pag-asa (Banquet of Hope) and Hapag ng Pag-ibig (Banquet of Love) spoke many volumes indeed about the love of God. Hapag ng Pag-asa, most especially called attention to the entire country and it was reprinted into postcards, calendars, and posters for every Filipino household. Indeed, Sir Joey was not only able to change his life but also the other faithful who were moved with his works and were inspired to do something for the poor and marginalized. It looks a simple painting but carries a very powerful message. The Lord used the “heartist” in Sir Joey and the transformative power of art to call people together to put love into action to awaken the message of love, sharing and generosity in our slumbering, parched and weary souls-with of course, the help and grace of our Lord no less.
“Hapag ng Pag-asa” is about twelve street children, representing the Filipino folk instead of His twelve apostles who invited our Lord to share a meal with them. The children many not have enough but they anchored their lives and hopes in Him. What makes the painting so special is because of the loving presence of our Lord who knows all our hurt, sufferings and problems that we face in our lives. We see ourselves in the plight of these twelve children also clinging to Him who knows the desires of our hearts, who has the power to answer our prayers and solves our problems beyond our dreams. Through this painting, Mr. Velasco reminds his children and to all of us as well about the importance of food consumption and avoidance of wastage as hunger is problem rooted by greed. It also reminds us to put Christ our Lord at the center of our lives, whether it is Christmas season or not.
“Hapag ng Pag-ibig” is the follow-up to the earlier work and represents the children in an innocuous safe place where they are loved and cared for. This was painted during the time when shelters were being put together to take in the children and their families. Mr. Velasco was said to give color to each child’s visual rendering when each unit was being constructed in Hapag Village located in Amparo, North Caloocan. In reflecting on this painting, it says that in eternal life, we enjoy the loving company of our Lord. Where there is no more hurt, pain, hunger or thirst only happiness, joy and peace infusing the beauty and grandeur of Heaven.
In summary, these paintings and other previous works turn out to be more than just a platform of Mr. Velasco’s masterpieces. It is an eye-opener to the plight of the needy, oppressed and troubled. In due course, it is a representation of Jesus Christ-the real Emmanuel, dwelling in our midst.
They say art imitates life. But for Sir Joey, art transforms life. Considering himself a “socio- spiritual realist”, as he made artworks to reveal the realities of life, he reinvented the visual landscape to make known his own tale of hope and healing and by bringing the Lord Jesus closer to the Filipino people.
His paintings empower us to partake of His banquet of hope on earth so that we may have a generous share of His greatest banquet of love in Heaven. May our hearts be buoyed up with hope and love all year round, all the days of our lives. May we always celebrate a joyful Christmas with Jesus truly alive in and with us!