The 12 children in the painting are real people the painter, Joey Velasco, discovered in poor areas of Metro Manila and Quezon City.
After treating them to meals, Velasco took their pictures and retreated to his room to start working on the painting.
Velasco said, the children, aged 4-14, reveal a story of a greater hunger than a plate of rice could satisfy.
He said, ”It was they who touched my soul. Through them, God spoke to me and moved me to paint their stories and tell others about their lives.”
The young girl standing at the extreme left, where Judas appears in the da Vinci painting, is 10-year-old Nene.
Velasco met her at the Manila North Cemetery, where she and her family lived as squatters among the graves.
Onse, 9, sits at the table, his plate cleaned to the last crumb, he listens to Jesus to feed his other hungers.
The child, who scavenges with a push cart, has a father addicted to drugs and a mother who works as a strip dancer.
Itok, another scavenger who at 11 is the family breadwinner, sits at the right hand of Jesus.
According to Velasco, Itok spent time in jail after being caught in a number of robberies.
Another child in the painting does not live in Quezon City.
Velasco placed a small Sudanese boy under the table eating the fallen scraps with the cats.
The artist explained, “The skinny child is not one of the hungry kids who roam our busy streets at night. He is “an imaginary symbolic figure” who in the past “had satisfied himself with unnecessary food, (but) now finds himself under the table seeking spiritual crumbs.”
The children featured in the painting are no longer in the areas where Velasco originally found them.
Through his partnership with Gawad Kalinga, an organization dedicated to sheltering the homeless, the 12 children and their families now have homes at Romeo Cabrera Village in Quezon City.
The children’s stories are featured in the book “They Have Jesus: The Stories of the Children of the ‘Hapag.’”
Note: This piece was emailed to At Midfield by Danny Gagelonia, my Kuya
I've been a journalist all my life and am so passionately in love with the Philippines, warts and all. Our country will really prosper only if we stand up to be counted and not leave it to self-serving politicians and the corrupt to sell out the Philippines. Andres Bonifacio, Jose Rizal, and Ninoy Aquino did their bit. So should we.
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