THE WRONG SACRIFICE
The Artist's Statement
By Joel Eugenio Epistola Ferraris
"A picture paints a thousand words", so the saying goes, and this painting is rich with symbols describing the fraternity culture and its intricate but bloody history tainted with the culture of violence and death. And through the years since the Philippines saw the first of this kind of Western-inspired brotherhoods, with their mostly Greek and a few Roman influences, a trail of deaths and serious physical and psychological injuries that has left deeper physical, emotional and psychological scars to victims and their families along its warpath has silently but gravely affected the already suffering Filipino nation.
While the Philippine national hero Jose Rizal dreamed of the youth becoming role models like him to help the fatherland, while Bonifacio used violence to fight the more violent colonizers and while the painter Juan Luna powerfully depicted the insanity of violence and the atrocities of man against his neighbor through his painting the Spoliarium, there is a more compelling reason to be had in the Christian faith which clearly teaches the real way of sacrificing one's life as a sign of love for the One True God the Father Almighty and for fellowmen.
Sadly, fraternity men, locked in and blinded by the vicious cycle of hatred and vengeance all these years, turned a blind eye on the real meaning of Lord Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross although ours is a predominantly Christian nation.
An illustration of the comparison between these two contrasting principles could be seen in the movie 300 and the Passion of Christ. In 300 the tribe trains hard beginning at a very young age in the ways of survival by perfecting the art of combat and to kill mercilessly is to ensure that fear, as a powerful weapon, will be felt by the enemy. On the other hand, Lord Jesus Christ sacrificed everything that He had, including His pride and dignity, up to the point of accepting death. The Spartans used violence to preserve the freedom of the tribe while the Lord Jesus Christ absorbed all violent acts and all the pain for the freedom of the soul. Those hardened warriors reacted by human nature while the Son of Man fought human nature. The former fought and died for an earthly, short-lived kingdom while the latter was preparing and showing the way for an eternal Kingdom. And Lord Jesus Christ knows and is the Son of the Supreme Creator who is Holy, Living and Eternal.
I am a survivor of the culture of violence of fraternities in my ten long years of stay in and out of the University of the Philippines Visayas and Diliman combined from 1976 until 1986 and I know the nature of this problem. I for one have failed my father in his dream for me to graduate and become an architect. This in turn gravely affected my family especially my siblings. We are all artists and we see the beauty of life juxtaposed over the insanity and the rottenness in this world and in people's lives. We hardly live through our art but we use art to let people understand their weaknesses and the means to reach the Source of their real inner strength.
Now as an artist I have presented a visual analysis in this painting, supported by literature, to serve as a clear representation of an abstract social and spiritual disease in contrast to the sick "patient" who refuses to be healed and how a lot of factors at play here affect one another. I have survived not because of my ability to resist viciousness with viciousness but because, unknown to others, I have my faith in the Almighty God the Father that eventually helped me out of that quagmire. It was my prayers to Him that saved me.
Thank God the Father Almighty that it did not reached the point that I have to take another man's life... or me being maimed or incarcerated...for me to be able to attain enlightenment. I just prayed every time we had rumbles then when I was still in UP Diliman that He will see to it that I will not hurt others or will not be hurt myself. And I prayed to Him one day in 1988 and said "enough of this evil life!... Please help me". Unknown to my frat brothers I was entering the point of enlightenment even before I left the university for good. And I'm sure other fratmen did too.
I have known violence long before I first joined our fraternity in 1976. In my elementary school years I was bullied several times by the sons of the rich and the sons of the poor alike. But I never fought back. Instead, I cried. But I soon realized that I have in me a gift from God the Father Almighty that worked as an effective tool to make the bullies forget their unfavorable behavior and befriended me - ART. They asked me many times to help them in their assignments which required my talent.
The same is true today. In the hope of giving answers to this lingering and stubborn problem of frat violence in our country where neither the academic community, the religious groups nor those in the legal professions were able to solve I pray that through art, coupled with the right explanation about the Will of the Almighty God the Father, there will be a solution.
Art could be a tool for understanding or, sadly, an addiction to idolatry clouding the minds from the real essence of Christianity. It could serve as a medicine to heal one's innermost being by serving as visual aids to further explain and elaborately describe God the Father Almighty's message instead of these objects of religion merely becoming vehicles of idolatry.
I for one do not approve of religious objects to be venerated or used in worship because although in our country there is an abundant supply of these relics still there is rampant immorality, corruption and apostasy where the culture of fraternity violence is one of them. Instead I agree to use visual aids such as films, like the Passion of Christ, to deliver effectively the message of the Gospels more clearly to an audience to make them understand rather than push them backwards into spiritual ignorance. That instead of hating, maiming and killing their neighbors, while hand-made idols are being paraded around with utmost care, they should instead love their neighbors the way Lord Jesus Christ loved His disciples. And moreover, there is a clear difference between the purpose of a place of worship without objects of idolatry and libraries fully equipped with tools for education.
Let the people be educated in the school libraries and see all the visual aids to fill-up their thirst for understanding and let them go to the places of worship devoid of idolatrous objects to enable them to concentrate their worship, adoration and love for an unseen Holy and Living Eternal God the Father Almighty. And let them understand that there is no need for insane and vicious competition at the expense of the lives and the future of others when in fact they can have the things that they need in life once they have successfully established their strong link with our Almighty God and Father who will open the floodgates of Heaven for them.
Allow me to describe this painting through a story by using the many symbols incorporated on it. I will focus on men because they compose the fraternities and most of all because men are supposed to be not only the heads of their family as a unit of society but as servants of an Almighty God and Father.
In the ongoing issue about the effects of fraternity violence and the much-awaited favorable response of fraternity members there is no assurance that all will go well and smoothly especially when it comes to justice for those who died in all the fraternity-related incidents. But as I have experienced in my life, plus the testimonies of other trouble-weary fratmen from other groups that I met all these years, there exists a silent undercurrent of sentiments amongst us longing for change. It is this kind of awakening that fratmen and those who support the fraternity culture of violence need to help others save themselves too. But this will not succeed without the grace from and guidance of our Almighty God and Father.
It is written, "He will make a way when there seems to be no way." So our initial action must be forgiveness. The movie CRASH has a lot of examples to derive very good lessons from which are clear expressions of the Gospels about love in the book of Corinthians. If only we were slow to anger we didn't have any regrets now. If only the voice of the spiritually wise amongst us triumphed above the wicked who perpetuate the culture of violence there will be no cowardly acts now and in the future.
The University of the Philippines Administration have tried several formulas all these years to solve the problem of fraternity menace in the UP System. That includes the Inter-Frat Council, the Ambassadors for Peace and the immersion to Gawad Kalinga. But sadly all these efforts failed to offer any firm and effective solution. Fraternities will make all sorts of creative means to continue and make the brotherhood alive and exist not only because men are born with free will or UP is a venue for free exchange of ideas but also because men will always want a sense of belonging and love that they might not have found in their respective homes. But let us not forget that the real solution will only come if and only if people will accept our Almighty God the Father's invitation for genuine change that will start from within each person.
1"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
4How can you say to your brother, `Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?
5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
Next: THE SYMBOLS