To be able to remember and reminisce has always been one of life’s greatest blessings, and ironically, burdens. It is one of life’s greatest teachers as it relies on real experiences rather than hypothetical scenarios. Some also see it as an escape from all the noise of their current realities, finding solace in memories of the “good old days,” as some wish to call it.
The ability to remember is one of the most fascinating aspects of the human experience. With this, all the members of the Xavier School family have been given the opportunity to learn about remembrance, and to learn what the human experience is composed of, with the unique art exhibit entitled: The Testimony of What Remains. The exhibit, which was recently displayed in the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), houses the various works of art of Fr. Jason K. Dy, S.J., and is now temporarily located in the third floor of Angelo King Multipurpose Center (MPC); it has been made available for public viewing from 7 AM to 4 PM.
Fr. Dy entered the Society of Jesus on May 30, 1998, and was ordained a priest on April 4, 2009. He is presently doing his special apostolic training in Liverpool Hope University in the United Kingdom, and he is taking postgraduate studies in creative art practice as well as art history and curating. The exhibit was put up with the assistance of Fr. Aristotle Dy, S.J., Ms. Jeraldine Ching, Sir Binggoy Panlilio de Ocampo, Ms. Cecil Padilla, Ms. Karen Flores, Mr. Boots Herrera, Ms. Rica Estrada, Mr. Hisugan Jarme, Jr., the Xavier School and Mary the Queen Jesuit Community, the Loyola House of Studies, and the Xavier School administration, faculty, staff and students.
I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to be toured around the exhibit by Ms. Jeraldine Ching, one of the main proponents of this exhibit, and to hear her insights and discuss some of Fr. Dy’s works. Upon entering the room, I immediately noticed the wall to my right, which was covered in pieces of paper. After I looked at them more closely, they became envelopes with intentions, either for prayers, thanksgiving masses, etc. Only after hearing the story behind it did the piece start to reveal its meaning and message. Wherever Fr. Dy would celebrate mass, he would receive envelopes with money inside and the intentions written on the back from the different people who were present. He collected every single one of them because each of them represented a memory of his. What was overwhelming and simply remarkable was the sheer diversity, from names to parishes.
Some of his works were also inspired by the Gospels themselves, namely, Pick Up Your Mat and Walk, an excerpt from the Gospel of John (John 5:8). It was composed of 19 makeshift crutches on a wall, and on each crutch was a picture of a person’s face and a message. Again, sharing in Fr. Dy’s memories and hearing the story resulted in the work receiving the adoration and respect it deserves. Each crutch represented a person who has been healed of different ailments. The letters in the pictures were their thanksgiving messages to Mother Mary, as there are many Marian shrines in the area of Cebu, where they are from. Personally, it evoked the idea of the universality of God’s healing presence as the work contained stories of various people with various ailments, and some of the messages were in Tagalog and some in different Visayan dialects.
Another interesting work is Wax of Desires. It is composed of 12 boxes with melted candles inside, each with a different color. After hearing Ms. Ching talk about the piece, it presented me with a glimpse of our current society. The candles all came from the Simala Marian Shrine in Sibunga, Cebu City. Each color represented what the person prayed for with that candle. For example, green was for prosperity. The size of the box represented the number of candles used to pray for a certain intention. The taller it was, the more people prayed for the intention the color represented. It was surprising to see that most people prayed for things concerning vocation or prosperity, but only a few prayed for the forgiveness of another’s soul. However, it really did appear to be realistic after I reflected on the prayer habits of people, and so it begs the question of what the priorities are in life these days.
Despite the works being aesthetically pleasing and all, it was not enough for one to fully experience the exhibit. With that, how does one get the most of it? Fortunately, Ms. Ching gave me a rather simple, but effective suggestion: sit down in silence, and let the different pieces bring about your own personal memories, then relish these memories. Now that is what the entire exhibit, the experience, is all about.