PHOTO STORY: SUFFER THE LAST SUPPER

“Suffer The Last Supper” is a photographic experience with Iriga’s noted artist Al Oliva. A chronological look at the making of his most taxing project: life-size sculpture of Christ’s final meal with the apostles, built atop a sacred hill called Inorogan.

In the summer of 2016, Alfonso “Al” Oliva was commissioned to construct his own representation of “The Last Supper.”

A schoolteacher-turned artist-turned-madman, Al Oliva is the man behind numerous artworks and landscape designs in Bicol’s Rinconada district and beyond. Among his prominent works are The Sculpture Garden of Albay Parks and Wildlife, the cabanas of Tinagba Park in Iriga city, the glass paintings at Nayong Pilipino and at the Philippine Museum of Ethnology in the 90’s.

His style — revered by Bicolandia’s luminaries — is a mix up of post-impressionist-surrealist-abstract modelling. An unacknowledged form in a conservative community. Derived from his own bohemian self.

At 75 and with a nagging osteoarthritis, he limps his way to work, contending with all the physical demands of the job, inclusive of controversies, strife, and adversity that goes with the project.

One afternoon, he met a serious accident.

Coming home intoxicated, he rammed his motorbike against another. The impact sent him smashing into a concrete wall. Blood-soaked and unconscious, he was rushed to the hospital.

It was a miracle he survived with only a fractured jaw.

Meanwhile, work in Inorogan was interrupted. Al Oliva needed weeks of rehabilitation. Soon after and with a titanium cheek in place — he was back for the task.

Al Oliva’s need for alcohol and his incessant riding-under-influence proved too costly. Six months after the crash, another wrack-up.

Another near-death stunt. This time his walking was seriously impaired.

For the second time, construction in Inorogan was put to hold. For how long is anybody’s guess.

Now, the sponsors — distraught with the way things are going — decided to bring in another artist to finish the job. To Al Oliva’s ire.

The sponsors’ arrangement with the new handler spawned talks of ethics, betrayal and usurpation among the province’s local artists. Worse, The Last Supper was altered in Disneylandish-colored coats.

Al Oliva was losing The Last Supper.

As well as his stature.

And his temper.

Christmas Day, 2016. One of the most destructive storm in Bicol’s history hit the region.

With minor damages, “The Last Supper” remained unscathed amidst Typhoon Nina’s devastation.

While the city was busy rebuilding from Nina’s ravages, up on Inorogan, everything was all clearing up for Al Oliva — he had just won the project back.

And, in the course of the Christmas holidays of 2017, it was all finishing touches.

The Last Supper is just one of the fourteen Stations of the Cross up for construction in Inorogan Hill. Unfortunately, Al Oliva’s ways didn’t please everybody, the sponsors in particular. They have finally decided to entrust the rest of the plan to other parties, whom Al Oliva coined assembly-line artists.

Whatever that means.

In the end, Al Oliva brings forth the courage and the madness for all the unnecessary sufferings The Last Supper has honored him with. Till there was no quitting. Only getting “laid-off.”

To ultimately decide to part with the big chunk of Inorogan’s grand plan is — in more ways — in harmony with Christ’s main idea at the final meal: the bread is to be shared.

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