“Hapag ng Pag-asa” (Table of Hope)

Program: Cheche Lazaro Presents (Episode 22)
Presented by: Unlimited Productions, Inc. and ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs
Aired on: April 20, 2014 (ABS-CBN Sunday’s Best)

VIDEO LINK: http://www.probetv.com/2014/07/clp-22-hapag-ng-pag-asa/

Twelve street children, scruffy and in tattered clothes, breaking bread with Jesus Christ was once considered a radical idea for a painting. Almost nine years after it was first made public, Hapag ng Pag-asa is now probably the most reproduced contemporary art by a Filipino of our generation.

Joey Velasco’s 4 feet by 8 feet mural has travelled here and abroad and in the process touched lives — some say, haunted — many Filipinos. The story behind the oil on canvass painting is no secret: A successful entrepreneur struck by a life-threatening kidney disease takes up painting lessons and after six months decides to do a Da Vinci, minus the 12 apostles and using street children as his models. He finishes his masterpiece after a month and a half, which turns out to be just the beginning of the painter’s Epiphany, as well as that of his art and the people he meets. Velasco looks for his models to personally know them. Three years later, in 2008, he successfully helps each of his models secure shelter at a Gawad Kalinga village — an event that inspires the painter to create Hapag ng Pag-ibig, another version of The Last Supper with Jesus Christ supping with the same 12 happy street kids with a Gawad Kalinga village behind them.

Velasco died in July 2010 at the age of 43. He was still helping his models then.

On April 20, Easter Sunday, Cheche Lazaro Presents goes back to Velasco’s journey, and follows up the individual passages of the street children the painter wanted to help and save from society’s harsh realities.

Then aged 4 to 14, Velasco’s models — Itok, Nene, Joyce, Tinay, Emong, Onse, Buknoy, Michael, Dodoy, Jun, and Roselle — were given a better chance at life after Hapag ng Pag-asa. Today, at 10 to 25 years old, they all continue to face life’s constant battles — some of them winning, some of them still struggling. One has lost the fight all together last year — at age 18 — due to complications at childbirth.

Hapag ng Pag-asa, the painting, has been an eye-opener to many Filipinos. The children of Hapag touched Velasco’s soul, led him to listen to God and moved him to paint their stories and tell others about their lives.

Their story is far from over.


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