Philippine Daily Inquirer: 1,000 mosaic crucifixes for a cause

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She is a mosaic artist with a cause.


Millie Kilayko has painstakingly put together tiny tile pieces of different shapes and hues to make 1,000 crucifixes, which are six to 14 inches in size.


And she is doing this for the love of children.


The crosses are being sold at the “Art for Change” booth during the 26th Negros Trade Fair at the Rockwell Tent in Makati City, which is running up to Oct. 2.


Proceeds will go to the “Start Right, Live Bright” nutrition program for children in poor communities in Negros Occidental. The feeding program kicked off last week in the cities of Bacolod, Victorias and Bago, as well as in the towns of Binalbagan, Toboso, La Castellana, Moises Padilla and Cauayan.
It is being undertaken by the Negrense Volunteers for Change (NVC) Foundation, which Kilayko heads.


“As I lay piece by piece of tesserae to form a design on the crucifix, I feel that I, and the person who will buy the crucifix, are bringing, gram by gram of complementary food to the babies who can now start right …and ultimately live bright,” Kilayko said.


Inspired by reports

She said she was moved by a report from the World Health Organization that from six months onwards, breast milk alone was not sufficient to meet the needs of a growing child. The report showed that nutritional deficits in babies aged 6-18 months can cause stunted growth, poor school performance, and reduced productivity and social development, she said.


The deficits would be difficult to compensate later in childhood, she added.
A friend later showed her a Time magazine article, quoting a British study that said children with a healthy diet at age 3 had higher IQs compared to those who did not eat healthy.


Disturbingly, it stated that improving children’s diets after age 3 could boost their overall health, but it didn’t change their intelligence quotient, Kilayko said.


The two reports helped the NVC volunteers find their focus. “In a couple of months, we became engaged in the mission to help infants from deprived communities acquire access to the rudiments of better nutrition,” Kilayko said.


Nutrition program

The NVC formed a partnership with concerned government agencies to ensure that its nutrition program would be holistic.

It created “Social Enterprise,” which was designed to undertake the manufacturing process. Some of its members received intensive training on production technology from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute.

On Sept. 20, the group began implementing Start Right, Live Bright. About 1,000 babies and toddlers in Negros Occidental were fed simultaneously to kick off the 180-day feeding program.

The first feeding was done simultaneously in five barangays of Bacolod, as well as in Victorias, Bago, Binalbagan, Toboso, La Castellana, Moises Padilla and Cauayan.

Yet, Kilayko felt she needed to put in something personal into the program.

A new inspiration dawned on her on the day after the launching while she was working on a seven-piece mosaic mural depicting the story of Creation. “I finally found a way to bring together my passion for creative expression and my passion for social change through volunteerism,” she said.


New craft

Kilayko decided to make 1,000 mosaic crucifixes and sell them for the benefit of the nutrition program. She learned the craft from her friend, Gigi Campos, who conducted a three-day workshop for eight other friends in April.

Kilayko, who has done oil painting and pottery, has made many mosaic pieces, including dancers of the MassKara Festival and a goddess emerging from clear blue water.

These days, she is putting her artistic skills in making 1,000 crosses. Some come in pastel earth colors that pay tribute to nature, and others in rich hues of the rainbow that celebrate the joy of Christianity.

For Kilayko, her art has taken on new meaning and fulfillment.

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