PALO, Leyte – The Archdiocese of Palo, Leyte unveiled last Holy Tuesday a Stations of the Cross that gleaned the story of Jesus Christ’s ultimate sacrifice with the Calvary of the people when typhoon Yolanda hit them in November 2013.
The Leyte Stations of Pain, Grief and Arising Hope is one of three monuments for typhoon Yolanda created by Mindanao artist Rey Mudjahid “Kublai” Ponce Millan as gifts to the people of Leyte funded by Smart Communication Inc. The other two are the Eternal Flame Memorial Garden on the front yard of San Joaquin Parish Church also in Palo, Leyte, which became a common grave for hundreds of those who perished in the typhoon, and the Surge of Hope monument at a junction island in barangay Calogcog of Tanauan, Leyte, which is also a common grave to over a hundred victims.
The art rendition of the Stations of the Cross framed in glass and steel shape as candles with a teardrop is based on the words of Brother Karl Gaspar CSsR in his book, “Desperately Seeking God’s Saving Action: Yolanda Survivors’ Hope Beyond Heartbreaking Lamentations launched late last year. Gaspar appropriated the new stations of the cross, which starts with Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples to derive meaning and healing from the trauma brought about by the 2013 super typhoon. These are installed along the sloping driveway of Gonzagahaus, the Archbishop Residence in Palo, Leyte.
“As I read the words, I felt the agony of our people once again and somehow found peace, a deeper understanding of our faith,” said Archbishop John F. Du as he formally accepted the donation and later led the first recitation of the Stations. He urged the locals to go through the Stations often as it is open to the public.
Smart with the support of the Palo Archdiocese and Tanauan Mayor Pelagio Tecson, tapped Millan to build the monuments in the affected communities to also serve as beacons of hope, a reminder to never to give up even when faced by devastation and challenges as severe as the ones posed by Yolanda.
“My work not only speaks of the tragedy Yolanda brought to the people, but of the surge of benevolence that poured in from all over the world, as well as the renewed Christian faith the survivors manifested as they picked up the pieces of their lives,” Millan said.
The chapel in the Eternal Flame Memorial Garden at the San Joaquin Parish Church has an arched altar that has a bas relief of what Yolanda represents – from the devastations on the lower left corner of the arch that show people helping each other up toward the top of the right portion of the arch. On the left portion of the arch are the people recovering, praying, growing flowers in common graves, getting help from everywhere, and coming together in prayer. Outside the chapel are figures of smiling people, in memory of those who perished.
“These memorials will remind us not only of the lives lost to Yolanda but also of those who helped so survivors can get on with their lives and bounce back from the devastation. Smart, along with other companies under the leadership of businessman Manny V. Pangilinan, has committed to assist in the long-term rehabilitation of the communities affected by Yolanda,” Ramon R. Isberto, head of Public Affairs at Smart, was quoted as saying in an earlier press release about the monuments.
With more than 400 buried in the parish church’s ground right after the storm, Millan also built the garden’s centerpiece, the Eternal Flame, a sculpture of a giant candle that has two hands in prayer as its flame. Around it are candleholders for the bereaved and anyone who wants to light a candle and say a prayer for all those who perished. “Here lies love, here lights love,” the granite marker nailed on the sculpture reads.
On its reverse side is a poem about the people and their faith.
We were broken, yet we lived on,
in losing, we found our true strength.
We hanged on to the only remaining handhold
during the storm that stripped us down;
our faith, our Savior, our God.
In remembering, we stood up,
We prayed, and then we praised
The ever-living God in joyous incantations.
As we light our homes and our souls
with the eternal flame of Christ's love.
Meanwhile, along the Tanauan highway in Brgy Calogdog is “Surge of Hope.”
The main structures are two spiral curves measuring 14 feet, the estimated height of the typhoon surge, but made in a way that the more observant will see an infant curled up securely within the curves.
On the left are abstracts of aid workers and volunteers while on the right are similar figures, but this time depicting the survivors. In the middle stood a mass of figures that are building and holding each other up, releasing a flock of birds to the sky, topped with a rainbow and more birds.
Both monuments are a testimony to the survivors’ deep faith, based on the stories gathered by the artist from the people during his visits there.
Like the Eternal Flame, a poem can also be read to bring enlightenment on what the monument represents, and in remembering what the people have been through.
It came as a surge
Like never before.
That stripped us out
Of everything we had.
They came as a surge
Of helping hands and compassion.
Fanning our faith
Into a burning fire of hope.
We rose, we built,
Strengthened by a surge of love.
With fortified faith
we prayed, we shared.
Companies under the Mr. Pangilinan’s leadership have also set up a memorial for the survivors of Typhoon Pablo in Cateel, Davao Oriental as part of efforts to help rebuild affected communities. The Cateel Memorial is also made by Millan.