CARDINAL TAGLE’S evangelism thru art

CARDINAL TAGLE’S evangelism thru art


Philippine Daily Inquirer, Sunday April 26, 2015
Global Pinoy Section, page A8
eastwind journals 159
By Bernie V. Lopez


When 12 artists and we, their supporters, went to Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle for a courtesy visit at his residence, we were tense and hesitant to present our concept of this first-ever Sacred Art Exhibit, because we did not know how he, so busy as he was, would react.


Sacred Art  Exhibit Team with Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle

(Left to Right) Gerry Isada, Badz Magsumbol, Pancho Piano, Al Perez, Nemy Miranda, Cardinal Tagle, Vic Cusi (exhibit producer), Bernie Lopez (author), Ton Raymundo, Rudolf Gonzalez, Junjun Capistrano. (Not in photo – Willly Layug, Mario Panis, Cee Cadid, Paeng Pacheco, Jonahmar Salvosa, Danny Santiago.)

He smiled, instantly breaking the ice, and said that evangelization through art was his vision. He said,”In the end, art will save the world.” He cited a comment by Pope Francis that the present predominant culture among the youth is superficiality, and we must start changing that. The young need to achieve depth. Digital propensity is nothing if you do not have a message with an impact.


So, we settled down and became relaxed. We expected to stay only for 30 minutes as he had a busy scheduled, but ended up staying more than an hour. The Cardinal had a way of making us feel at home. And he gave us his precious time, giving many anecdotes. He talked about an artist he met in Rome, Marco Rupnik, SJ, who was considered as the modern-day Michaelangelo.


The Cardinal said Rupnik established an art school which was very different those in Rome or Florence, because he began by imbuing in his art students a sense of silent spirituality, much like a retreat. One cannot start by simply splashing one’s brush based on the moment’s inspiration emerging from the heart, no matter how good one was. The heart must be prepared. It must let the Lord enter his soul and his brush. Only when one has communed with God can a Sacred Art painter actually paint for Him. One never paints for himself. He paints for others. The inspiration is spiritual, not just a matter of skill or technique. We were all in awe, because the art we all knew never had this factor. Sacred Artists, in truth, require spirituality, Cardinal Tagle pointed out.


In a rare dinner with Rupnik, Cardinal Tagle wanted to ask him to train the Filipino youth in Sacred Art, but before he could suggest so, Rupnik said he had a waiting list for the next five years. Instead, it was Rupnik who interviewed Cardinal Tagle about the Philippines, which was the center of global attention a few weeks before, because of the Papal Visit. Rupnik is considering the idea of disaster and super typhoons as Sacred Art subjects.


Willy Layug, one of the 12, donated a statue of what Palo Archbishop John Du called Our Lady of Hope (see photo below). When Pope Francis saw the statue at the Archbishop’s residence, he was in awe and said, “Ah, la Madonna, la Madonna”, touching the statue. Pope Francis, the staunch Marian loyalist, was moved by Willy’s Sacred Art.

Our Lady of Hope at the Palo Cathedral in Tacloban, Leyte. The Virgin is wearing a Filipino dress. The Holy Child is reaching for a weeping child. Sculptor Willy Layug.

Cardinal Tagle agreed instantly to be the guest speaker at the forthcoming Sacred Art Exhibit. He knew some of the twelve, who had been commissioned by the Church many times. There was Willy Layug’s Our Lady of Hope in a Filipino dress. There was Nemiranda’s The Way of Mary rosary shrine, 20 bas relief sculptures on the mysteries of the rosary that run along Ortigas from the EDSA shrine all the way to the Antipolo shrine, a pilgrim’s stations of the rosary. There was Pancho Piano’s numerous stained glass and murals scattered all over the 40-odd churches in Bicol. His obra maestra was the stained glass at the cathedral of Penafrancia. There were many more among the 12 who were commissioned by the Church to do Sacred Art.


Cardinal Tagle cited a moving story of drug addicts turned artists, a ‘life changer’. They instantly exchanged their drug tools with a paint brush. He said it was a momentous 180-degree turn, making Sacred Art a critical instrument for evangelizing wayward youth. He is hoping the 12 artists can pave the way towards training out of school youth and the poor, who cannot afford education, to be catapulted to the community of world-class Filipino Sacred Art. I felt the 12 shift in their seats with excitement, gung ho at the Cardinal’s idea.
The Sacred Art Exhibit


The idea of a Sacred Art Exhibit actually predicted Cardinal Tagle’s vision many months earlier. Vic Cusi, founding President of GreatNation Philippines, is starting programs in sacred art, sacred literature, sacred music. Cusi’s vision was a paradigm shift. He said that in the past, everyone flocked to Europe to see Sacred Art that flourished there since the Middle Ages. His dream is to establish a Filipino Art Renaissance where the Europeans will flock to the Philippines. The starter, the catalyst, is the Sacred Art Exhibit of 12 of the best Filipino artists. Cusi said, “We can easily do this because we have a wealth of world class artists. The Filipino was born with a brush in his hand. Also, we are the only Christian nation in Asia. We have the duty to lead the Sacred Art Renaissance in Asia. We have produced world-class musicians, artists, and writers for Asia.” The 12 artists were mainly selected from members of the Intramuros Visual Arts Philippines (IVAP) through the help of Nemiranda, its founding President.
The exhibit will open on April 29 at 4 pm at the GSIS Museum, which is only on invitation, with Cardinal Tagle cutting the ribbon, giving the opening talk, and giving a quick blessing of the paintings. The media is welcome at the opening, just get your invitation at or 63947-2159768. The exhibit is open to the public from April 30 to May 22. The sample paintings shown here speak for themselves. They represent the emerging Filipino Art Renaissance today. They are in alphabetical order by artist’s last name.

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