It moves mountains. Gets us through hard times. Brings peace of mind. Keeps us on a straight path. Helps us get around obstacles. Gives us courage when we are afraid. Fills our hearts with love.
This Christmas season, Boysen proudly presents Dibuho Kisame.
Dibuho Kisame, loosely translated as ceiling painting in English, is a story of a group of artists led by Aris Pastor, who was asked by Father Joy Danao, a parish priest of the Saints Peter and Paul church in Bantayan, to paint the ceiling of the church.
Bantayan is a sleepy paradise island situated to the west of the northern tip of Cebu. Bantayan Church, the first and oldest parish in Cebu, was founded in 1580 by Augustinian priests. It was destroyed by the Moro in the 1600s, but was rebuilt in 1839 and finished in 1863. Located in Bantayan town proper, the present church is nearly 160 years old. Today, it gleams white against the blue Bantayan sea and sky especially when the sun strikes the Mactan stone cladding.
Aris and his team started painting in September 2018 and finished the project a year later. The themes of the artwork—Creation, Fall of Man, and Redemption—have parallels with the lives of some of the artists. In fact, Aris called Father Joy’s offer a miracle. Without it, he would have transformed himself into a manager instead of doing the thing that he loves most… art.
He called his buddies from his alma mater, the UP Cebu College of Fine Arts, to help him with this monumental work. The following artists answered the call—Cheno, Alvin, Shielo May, Pierre, Ana, Law, and Ivan. They met young local artists when they started the project, and invited them to join the team. You will see the names of all the artists in the credits.
They literally labored day after day, coping with severe physical conditions like climbing bamboo scaffolding supported by steel posts to reach the canvas (ceiling) which was 60 feet or 18 meters high, as well as dealing with temperatures that would climb as high as 40 degrees Celsius. Homesickness was also something they had to deal with since none of them were from Bantayan.
Another challenge aside from painting a canvas which was situated above them which caused a lot of physical strain daily, was that they really couldn’t see at any given time what they were painting in its totality. If they went down, they still couldn’t see it because the scaffolding hid it from view. The images they had to paint were so immense that they resorted to using a traditional grid technique. Each artist was given a grid at a time to paint. They just had to trust the grid and had to work with each other as seamlessly as possible.
Finishing the work is one thing. Finishing it with discipline, grit, mastery, and love, despite all the trials, is another.
The ceiling painting is a marvel to behold and draws so many local and foreign tourists.
Behind the Scenes of the Film Documentary
I heard about the Dibuho Kisame project when Jude Crisostomo, the director of this documentary, called me up and told me that he saw some of his friends load gallons of paint on a bus in Cebu City that was destined for Hagnaya Port in the north of Cebu. That is more than a hundred kilometers in distance, and on a good day with light traffic, it would take 3 hours to get there. More if you take a bus. At the port, they had to transfer the paint to a ferry headed for Santa Fe, which is another hour. From there, they had to take public transportation from Santa Fe to Bantayan town proper, which takes another 30 minutes. This in itself was already a trial.
In 2018 and 2019, the film crew went to Bantayan several times. I went with them twice in 2019. The island was as beautiful as I remembered but also very hot. And I saw the artists, right under the roof of the church, where heat was trapped between the ceiling and the scaffolding, intently painting their part of the work. Not even several electric fans could make the air in that claustrophobic space cooler.
I heard their stories, saw where they lived in the church compound, broke bread with them, watched them unwind during the weekend. I saw Father Joy with his parishioners, and how close the church was to the people.
The third time I went to Cebu for the project was for the first edit with Jude. That was in February 2020. I went back to Manila after a few days. Two weeks later, the most stringent of quarantines was announced. The country went into several iterations of lockdowns from 2020 to 2021. Mobility was a problem, and it was difficult for the crew to go back to get more shots of the finished work. Jude was finally able to do so in 2021.
Then in December 2021, super typhoon Odette hit Cebu hard and devastated the province. Power, water, telco, and banking services were down. Fuel was strictly rationed. Supermarkets and grocery stores ran out of food supplies and water. It took months before everything was fully restored.
The Dibuho Kisame film project is just one of those that were badly affected by the pandemic and natural disasters. But we realized that whatever inconveniences the film crew experienced became insignificant in comparison to the many harsher and more tragic cases of people who lost loved ones, their livelihood, opportunities, or their homes.
Three years on, we finally finished this film about the struggles and trials of man, and his redemption. It goes beyond the deliverance from sin. It is about finding the right path, living a life of meaning, using God-given talents, being given the honor to tell a story and being blessed because of it.
Dibuho Kisame means so much to the parish priest who commissioned it, to the artists who created it, to the community who call it their own, to those who have visited and stared in awe at the breathtaking sight, and to the storytellers who are now finally able to bring this story out into the world.
A Tale of Faith
December 15 has been chosen deliberately for this short film’s launch. It is to celebrate misa de gallo, which will start tomorrow and end on December 24. It is fitting to launch Dibuho Kisame, a tale of faith, during the Church’s spiritual preparation for the birth of Jesus Christ.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.”
I wish you this in the coming year, that you embrace the uncertainty and love the constant discovery with each step you take.
Have faith. It can move mountains.