Joey Velasco painted a giant mural of the Last Supper with squatter kids as Christ’s 12 disciples. As he painted them on by one, he interviewed them, discovering the utter pains they endured, their broken lives. Then the kids asked him why he was in tears. He said, “Because I can feel all your pains”.
eastwind journals – March 26, 2021
By Bernie V. Lopez, firstname.lastname@example.org
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This article is in memory of the late Joey Velasco, artist, evangelist, author.
Joey Velasco painted the mural HAPAG NG PAG-ASA (Table of Hope, shown below), which became an overnight sensation because of its powerful social message – the 12 apostles depicted as squatter kids. Painstakingly, Joey interviewed the 12 ‘apostles’ and made them pose for the painting one by one. Subsequently, he spent hours interviewing them, and wrote a book depicting their painful lives, entitled THEY HAVE JESUS, STORIES OF THE CHILDREN OF HAPAG“.
It was not an easy job. He had to go around various squatter areas, searching for his models, the 12 apostles. He had to plod through the mud, risk dangerous streets were tattooed teenagers stared at him, toying with darts made from barbed wire used as weapon during gang wars. He had to park his car two blocks away to avoid attention.
The 12 apostles were a rowdy dirty bunch. Joey was in tears when he interviewed them, discovering the utter pains they endured, their broken lives. They lived in a world of violence and hunger. Joey said he wished Jesus was around to rescue them. When the kids were surprised, asking why he was crying, he just smiled. They did not know he was in tears for them.
Ten-year-old Jessica (all names changed), one of the 12, was a boyish-looking girl (holding a bag on the left side of the painting). She slept atop a tomb in a cemetery with her grandmother. She was abandoned when she was five months old by her mother who eventually went crazy. She made a living by crawling on jeepney floors, wiping passengers’ shoes with a rag. She came home at eleven every evening after ‘work’.
Rene (second to the rightmost) was nine years old. In the painting, he looked like he was 30 years old due to extreme daily stress. He had to bring home two cans of sardines every evening as his ‘assignment’, otherwise his father hits him with a GI pipe. Once, his elder brother poured hot water over his head. The day Rene posed for Joey for the painting, he did not go home because he did not have the two cans of sardines, he told Joey a year later. You could discern see in the painting the fear in his eyes.
Rita (behind Jessica) was pregnant at 13 years old. She lived in a crowded squatter colony where a teenage boy slowly seduced and took advantage of her. She had a nine-month old baby. That was about 30 years ago as of this writing. Now she would be old and her daughter a full grown woman.
Tonio, eleven years old (to the right of Jesus) was a professional padlock picker and a petty thief. He was good in mathematics even though he had not gone to school. He was jailed four times. His father was jobless and his mother washed clothes for a living, if she was not playing bingo or pusoy. It was so unfortunate that children were forced into petty crimes by sheer poverty and by parents who could not cope.
Joey said it was easy to see these kids in a painting, but you had to see their homes and witness their lives if you really want to understand their pains. Joey wanted so much to live with them to really know them, but that was impossible. It was enough that he painted them as ‘apostles’ to send a message to the world. You could also love them from a distance, he added.
When the painting was almost over, he decided to treat the kids to Chicken Joy at Jollibee. Joey discovered that none of them were ever been inside a Jollibee restaurant before. They ate rowdily and ravenously, except one quiet tiny kid who could not even finish his one-piece chicken. Joey asked why he was not eating. The kid said he was saving it food for his mother who was sick and had never tasted it before. Joey bought a separate order for all the kids for their parents.
Joey had cancer of the liver. Sr. Raquel Reodica, RVM, the acclaimed healer, healed him. In return, he donated a giant mural of HAPAG, the Last Supper with the 12 ‘apostles’ to the healing center. Joey did dozens of paintings for the Lord before he died a few years after he was healed.
See related photos at “Squatter Kids Pose as Christ’s Disciples” –https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=608449560097236&set=pcb.608450270097165&__cft__=AZXpTe1fdqIyRKNyncotvJw0635QQ0ii8FayJiFek4dALFKYaZPVCmOr7gd_ujVilASK1ym1_AKJeWNDV68-lm4IFVh3H85yXLs_BIlOLtvYzeWKG-BLJbYbnsilQ7EPBpY&__tn__=*bH-R === Photos – p454 p453 p452 p451
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By Bernie V. Lopez, email@example.com
Blogger – ex-Columnist (Inquirer) – Healing Ministry – ex-Professor (Ateneo U) – Documentary Producer-Director (freelance, ex-ABS-CBN) – ex-Broadcaster (Radio Veritas) – Facebook “Bernie V. Lopez Eastwind” / Pages “Eastwind Journeys and Journals” and “Mary Queen of Peace”.