Lo wondered who the real children in the story were--even before Joey Velasco himself sent him a book describing the painting. The Star writer, Lo, thus learned, "The children are real after all, all 12 of them. One is dead and the rest are alive but not too well, living in cramped spaces under the bridge which they call "home,' scavenged from the trash in Payata, snatching a bag from a rich-looking passerby, selling sampaguita [flowers] while dripping wet in the rain, knocking on car windows for some coins, molested at the tender age of 13 by a drug-addicted neighbor, maltreated by jobless parents. Jesus, I'm sure, is in every one of those children whom Joey calls by fictitious names in the book. You see, even the down-trodden have a privacy to protect."
"The famished little boy under the table was inspired by "The Unknown Sudan boy,' whose photo, taken in the 1994 Sudan famine won the photographer, Kevin Carter, a Pulitzer Prize". Joey Velasco explained in a popular book, THEY HAVE JESUS (THE STORY OF THE CHILDREN OF HAPAG): "The picture [of Carters] shows a heart-breaking scene of a starving child who collapsed on the ground, struggling to get to a food center . . . . In the background, a vulture stalks the emaciated child."
As with the stories of most of the real children immortalized in Joey Velasco's own painting of THE TABLE OF HOPEr, the destiny of the child in Kevin Carter's photo is uncertain. Joey noted, "Three months later [after he took his photo]. . . Carter was found dead of carbon monoxide poisoning in Johannesburg, a suicide at 33, so depressed and "haunted by the vivid memories'" of death and violence in Sudan.
It is important to recall that, in contrast to the "haunted" late photographer, Kevin Carter, Joey Velasco had never intended his painting of street children to become symbols of dismay, but instead had entitled his painting of the Last Supper: "TABLE OF HOPE (Hapag ng Pa-asa)".
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