FIVE men in their 30s and an 18-year-old apprentice have been going to church almost every day since September to paint the ceiling of the Saints Peter & Paul Parish of Bantayan town.
At the first stroke of their brush on the bare ceiling of the 438-year-old church, they knew they have been put on a mission.
That mission is to present a visual liturgy that will “remind (the Bantayanon faithful) of the love and mercy of the Lord,” as how parish priest Fr. Joselito Danao puts it.
Known to the Bantayanons as “San Pedro, San Pablo,” the Bantayan church is the first parish established outside of Manila. Built in 1580, the church has undergone many repairs but has been able to keep intact a large part of the foundation and walls made of coral stones.
Because of the establishment of the church, the Bantayanons were also among the first to be educated by the Spanish frailes. Today in modern times, the Bantayanons will be the first to have a church that can be likened to the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.
The Bantayan church has a rectangular shape, a gable roof and a high ceiling. It’s a long way to the altar from the threshold, about 150-200 meters. Until August 2018, its ceiling was bare.
FEEDBACK. Fr. Joselito Danao, parish priest of Saints Peter & Paul Church, gives the artists his feedback on their work so far. (SunStar photo/Alex Badayos)
Paris Avilino, who leads the team of creative artists commissioned by Fr. Joselito Danao and the parish council, says he knew this was a dream come true for him and his fellow artists--that they are able to express their art that people can see every day and appreciate.
It has become a labor of love for them. The first few days were daunting. To be up there painting in hot condition (they have to contend with the ceiling heat) was like atoning for all the wrong they had done in their lives.
Painting the church ceiling was their form of prayer. No words are said but they feel a sense of having done something good and right, they say.
The team is composed of Avilino, his brother Alvin Pastor, University of the Philippines Fine Arts-schooled Shielo May Duterte and Ivan Zaldarriaga, Cheno Encarnacion and 18- year-old Bantayanon Aldwin Canoy.
By mid-November, the section above the altar has been completed. It depicts The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and The Resurrection in a feast of bright colors. It is a sight to behold.
THE TEAM. Parish priest Fr. Joselito Danao (in blue), the brains behind Dibuho Kisame, and the artists (from left) Sheilo May Duterte, Ivan Zaldarriaga, Aldwin Canoy, Paris Avilino, Alvin Pastor and Cheno Encarnacion. (SunStar photo/Alex Badayos)
LEAD ARTIST. Paris Avilino puts on the finishing touches. (SunStar photo/Alex Badayos)
When the entire ceiling is painted, it will be “a visual catechism” so that those who hear mass will have a better understanding of what he preaches at the pulpit, Fr. Danao says.
“We are adding this work of art to this House of God to make it a space for learning, searching and expressing. Art cultivates the ability to imagine a future and so transcends the present moment,” Fr. Danao says, quoting Megan Mitchell on www.reflections.yale.edu.
Dubbed “Dibuho Kisame: A Ceiling Painting Project,” it has the blessings of the Commission on Culture and Heritage of the Archdiocese of Cebu.
It is an ambitious project entailing a cost of P3 million minimum.That is why the parish community is making a supplication for help to raise funds.
It is soliciting help from the townsfolk, Bantayanons who are abroad, and benevolent individuals or institutions to bring the Dibuho Kisame to full fruition. San Pedro, San Pablo has been witness to countless milestones in the lives of the Bantayanons for hundreds of years. Bantayanons feel a sense of pride and comfort in having Saints Peter and Paul Church in their midst. After all, it is a religious institution that is steeped in history.
Bantayan, one of the three towns composing Bantayan Island in northern Cebu, is famed for its Holy Week celebration with the bongga procession of centuries-old religious icons.
When Holy Week comes next year, devotees will all be looking up as they enter the church. The Dibuho Kisame will be finished by then.
BEHOLD. The murals of The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and The Resurrection are the first to be completed. (SunStar photo/Alex Badayos)
IMAGES OF HOPE
“In this time of hardship and difficulties, let us put images of hope, love and redemption, not just for ourselves but also for the generations to come,” Fr. Danao says. “Art and beauty address the human need for hope. This because Beauty is the reminder of ‘meaning beyond senselessness’.”
As for the artists, Dibuho Kisame seems to have been intended for them, “para gyud ni sa amoa.” Duterte says that except for Canoy, all of them are in their 30s and physically conditioned. This means they are prepared to tackle the mental, psychological and physical challenges of painting murals on a church ceiling so big that it overwhelms them sometimes.
When they get tired of painting skies, clouds and wings, they hie off to the neighborhing town of Sta. Fe to swim or to relax and simply to see God’s creations. “Manan-aw una ta og tinuod nga langit,” Duterte tells his fellow artists.
Dibuho Kisame is an act of God, “kilos ito ng Diyos,” Avilino says.
Donations to Dibuho Kisame: A Ceiling Painting Project may be directly given to the parish office or deposited in the following bank account:
PNB Account Number 302760000884 (USD)
PNB Account Number 302770004645 (PHP)
The account is under the names of Alvin Leonides M. Cavada (chairman, finance committee), Rafaelito Y. Carabio (treasurer, finance committee) and Joselito E. Danao (parish priest).