A monument-maker

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

HE’S been known to make giant sculptures in major landmarks across Mindanao. The People’s Park, the park in front of the old Panabo town hall, the rotunda in Sultan Kudarat, the provincial capitol of Sarangani, the Christ the King Church in Tagum, the San Lorenzo Ruiz Parish Church in Talomo, the Overview Park in Quezon, Bukidnon, the tourist center and rotunda in Impasug-ong, Bukidnon, even Manny Pacquiao’sgamefowl farm, among several others.

Mindanao artist Rey Mudjahid “Kublai” Ponce Millan, however, is now becoming known as a monument maker.

On the first anniversary of typhoon Pablo last December 2013, the “AndapngLiwanag” memorial monument beside the refurbished San Roque Chapel in barangay Andap, New Bataan, was inaugurated.

Now done, but where landscaping is still being completed is the Pablo memorial in Cateel, Davao Oriental, funded by the PLDT-Smart Foundation and the MVP Group of Companies.

“I’m a monument maker and my art seeks to depict the events as experienced by the people but which focuses on hope and not the tragedy,” he said, as he is again being tapped to design memorials in typhoon Yolanda-ravaged areas.

The AndapngLiwanag monument initiated by friends and funded by other friends is an abstract depiction of hands reaching up to the skies that take the form of flames. The structure has a spiral staircase that allows a visitor to climb up and see the wide and seemingly endless swathe of boulders where a barangay road used to be. At the center are long wood panels made from fallen trees salvaged from the typhoon and cut into decorative patterns; taken from the designs resident-volunteers made from workshops initiated by Kublai and friends initially as a debris-to-art project right after the typhoon.

The debris-to-art project salvaged fallen trees and trained residents how to make these into carved out panels that were used for lamps, centerpieces, trophies, and the likes.

From being trisikad drivers, young men became skilled woodworkers under the wing of parish priest Father Manuel Tuling just a month after the typhoon.

In the granite slab acknowledging all those who helped in construction the Andap memorial, it reads, “(This) invites all to remember those who perished and to respond with firm conviction that no destructive force on earth can ever bury the human goodness, gentle spirit, and noble dignity of the people of Barangay Andap.”

The accompanying text for the Cateel memorial tackles, “Remembering, Learning, and Thanking,” as it reminds all those who see the water tanks turned into a platform for a giant sculpture of a mother hugging her children and a father covering them with their bodies as he reaches up to a rainbow of how nature is truly greater than any fortification man can build and that man can only strive to live with the laws of nature instead of abusing it, as most often nature is.

New Bataan and Cateel were two of the most ravaged by typhoon Pablo in December 2012.

In a short visit to Samar and Leyte to listen to survivors’ stories as well as to determine which area is most suited to have a memorial in, Kublai sifted through stories to create what to him most depicts what the residents have gone through and have to build upon.

At ground zero, Kublai pierced through the stories of grief to piece together stories of hope and remembering.

This, however, is still a work in progress and no timeframe has yet been set for its implementation.

Meanwhile, other projects are being considered like another memorial at ground zero in the man-made destruction wrought in Zamboanga City during the siege that saw three barangays peppered with bullets and disappear in flames in September 2013.

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