Thirty-eight years ago a new work of art rose at the entrance of the North Luzon Expressway. A sculpture that, nearly four decades later, would become the symbol of modernity and innovation in the country’s memorial industry.
The Transfiguration of Christ has become a popular landmark, not only in Baesa, Caloocan City where it was first erected, but also in key cities in the country that host Eternal Gardens parks for which it has been built.
National Artists for Sculpture Dean Napoleon V. Abueva masterfully designed the imposing figure, which shows Christ looking up to the heavens with His arms outstretched. Its stands 33 feet in height, which is symbolic of the number of years the Son of Man remained on earth, and rests atop a 12-foot pedestal, which stands for the 12 apostles that Jesus had.
But aside from the symbolism in the dimensions of the statue, what the Transfiguration really represents is our faith in God and life eternal. It also expresses man’s highest inspiration in search of enlightenment.
When National Artist Napoleon Abueva came up with an initial model of the Christ figure for Eternal Gardens, there had been some argument on whether the image represented the Resurrection or the Ascension. It was finally settled when founder Antonio L. Cabangon Chua visited then Manila Archbishop Jaime L. Cardinal Sin, who was a dear friend, who said the particular image must be of the Transfiguration of Christ.
The Transfiguration, according to the Bible
(Below is a brief explanation of the meaning of the Transfiguration of Christ, based on the Gospels, from the online edition of Catholic Encyclopedia)
The Transfiguration of Christ is the culminating point of His public life, as His Baptism is its starting point, and His Ascension its end. Moreover, this glorious event has been related in detail by St. Matthew (17:1-6), St. Mark (9:1-8), and St. Luke (9:28-36), while St. Peter (2 Peter 1:16-18) and St. John (1:14), two of the privileged witnesses, make allusion to it.
About a week after His sojourn in Cæsarea Philippi, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John and led them to a high mountain apart, where He was transfigured before their ravished eyes. St. Matthew and St. Mark express this phenomenon by the word metemorphothe, which the Vulgate renders transfiguratus est. The Synoptics explain the true meaning of the word by adding “his face did shine as the sun: and his garments became white as snow,” according to the Vulgate, or “as light,” according to the Greek text.
This dazzling brightness which emanated from His whole Body was produced by an interior shining of His Divinity. False Judaism had rejected the Messias, and now true Judaism, represented by Moses and Elias, the Law and the Prophets, recognized and adored Him, while for the second time God the Father proclaimed Him His only-begotten and well-loved Son.
By this glorious manifestation the Divine Master, who had just foretold His Passion to the Apostles (Matthew 16:21), and who spoke with Moses and Elias of the trials which awaited Him at Jerusalem, strengthened the faith of his three friends and prepared them for the terrible struggle of which they were to be witnesses in Gethsemani, by giving them a foretaste of the glory and heavenly delights to which we attain by suffering.
Today there are 10 statues of the Transfiguration of Christ found in key cities in the country and in each of these cities, this magnificent art piece brings inspiration to the residents and becomes a constant reminder of Eternal Gardens’ commitment to serve.