Painters offer ‘Yolanda’ thanksgiving gift

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TACLBOAN City, May 11, 2015 -– Given what they consider to be a second life, nine prominent Leyteño artists paint a “thanksgiving mural” as a token of thanks to God and the Church.

The undertaking originally embarked on as a project for profit with feasibility studies in place, the project of painting the Sto. Niño Church’s 18-foot ceiling mural would soon become an extravagant sign of gratitude for lives spared during super typhoon Yolanda.

“For each of us to do this mural is a thanksgiving,” said Crispin Asensi, a member of KasiKasi Art Association that undertook the painting of the mural.

Mural made by Yolanda survivors mounted on the ceiling of the Sto. Niño Church in Tacloban City (Photo: Ei Ballesteros)

Survivor artists

“We are survivors of typhoon Yolanda and are still here given the chance to paint once more and to thank God for this new life,” he added.

According to, working on the project gave all nine artists different feelings, but a sense of religiosity dominated. “We got closer to God and felt our work was being blessed because we were doing our work while the Mass was going on,” he recalled.

Asensi was joined by other professional artists: Ernie Ybañez, Rico Palacio, Dante Enage, Archie Zabala, Archie Prisno, Billy Pormida, Jass Diaz and Jun Olimberio.

History of renewed faith

The oil canvass painting, seen at the entrace of the iconic church, depicts the history of the local church’s faith and devotion to Señor Sto. Niño de Tacloban, as well as details that explain the transfer of the Sto. Niño fiesta celebration from January to June 30. The painters can only describe the obra as “a legacy”, a unique, once in a lifetime undertaking.

According to some historical accounts, on the Sto. Niño image’s return voyage to Tacloban, following repairs made in Manila, the ship that was carrying it was gutted by fire. The ivory image was then jettisoned before the ship completely. It is said that right after the image went missing, a cholera epidemic broke out in Tacloban claiming countless lives.

Following long days of search, word reached the local government and church leaders that the image was being venerated in a remote community in Semirara island in Antique province. A group of men were tasked to retrieve the icon, which they were able to do so in secret as the local folks were not willing to return the image.

New look

The icon finally returned to Tacloban on June 30, 1889. It is believed that on the same day, people sick with cholera started to recover and the local economy flourished once more. This marked the beginning of a more fervent devotion to Señor Sto. Niño de Tacloban.

Although the original plan of painting the entire ceiling of the church would have taken four years, the final output was the mural at the main entrance door.

The Manila-based architects who conceptualized the design of the newly-rehabilitated Sto. Niño Church edifice deemed it better to do away with the original plan considering the installation of mosaic windows. (Eileen Nazareno-Ballesteros/CBCP News)

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