It was the night of Holy Wednesday in 2008. The community Church Simplified, four months into their infancy, rented out the top floor of Fully Booked in Bonifacio High Street (BHS) for their very first Stations of the Cross installation, an exhibit that celebrates Jesus’s last days with the use of contemporary art.
“We only featured eight of the 14 stations of the cross, largely because it’s all the space could take,” remembers Bebo Bharwani, the community’s founder of that first exhibit, which was only up for a few hours. Being a small church, it was all the rent they could afford. “Still, a few hundred people came out to experience the exhibit and seemed really moved by the experience. We were delighted by the turn out and feedback, but also saddened that we couldn’t keep it up longer,” he says.
More Holy Week reflections:
The group, which was then composed of only 40 members, took that experience positively and decided to seek a larger space at one of the activity centers within BHS. They sent a letter to the Fort Bonifacio Development Corporation (FBDC), who managed the commercial area under the Ayala Group.
Many months after sending their proposal, they had already given up on the idea. But luck—or faith—had other plans. Five weeks before Holy Week of 2009, they got called in to a meeting with the marketing executives of FBDC, who absolutely loved their idea. “They just had one condition. They weren’t going to rent us a space in an activity area, they were going to lend us—for free—the entire open air stretch of the Bonifacio High Street mall, and we would have to use the whole area for an eight-day exhibit,” Bharwani shares.
With barely a month to go and scarcely any fund to work with, the group poured their heart out into the project that grew from their initial 20-square-feet expectations to a two kilometer stretch. The community’s members as well as people from their mother church in Alabang pitched in so that they can open properly on that first Palm Sunday.
“People started checking the exhibit out. At first a little distant, a little tentative, which was expected, it was still Palm Sunday. We felt like there was enough people who passed by to make us happy with the attendance,” Bharwani says. “But by Tuesday morning, something incredible happened: every television news network showed up. Starving for content, they were all rushing to film a feature on anything relevant to passion week as this was the last working day before all of Manila would come to a halt.”
After that, people came in droves non-stop from 7am to 1am to check out their interactive installations. “We were the only thing happening at BGC, probably the only event happening in a commercial area in all of Metro Manila as well,” Bharwani recalls of the tens of thousands who attended Walkway that year.
Fast forward to today, and Church Simplified has held Walkway every year on Holy Week. Moving away from the traditional depictions of the Passion of Christ, it uses art to give meaning to each immersive station that features structures and symbols telling the story of Jesus’s life. This year’s theme is focused on how Jesus lived during the Roman rule.
Each year, the exhibit is capped off by an Easter Sunday concert where artist-believers have performed, for free, for the visitors. Past musicians include Christian bands who have found mainstream success such as Jars of Clay and Switchfoot. This year, the likes of Unique, Urbandub, South Border, Barbie Almalbis, and Aia de Leon will be performing at the free music festival, who will all work with the theme of “what is your resurrection story?”
Other Easter Sunday festivities start at 3PM, at the BHS Activity Center, with a Hawaiian-themed Tiki Adventure for kids to enjoy. “BGC has always been a destination for those staying in the metro,” says Joanne Magno, FBDC associate city marketing manager. “For over a decade, Walkway is a respite that lets everyone reflect within the confines of the city, and has transformed many relationships and lives.”
“For us though, the success of Walkway is way beyond the number of people that come. It is seeing the faces, most of them streaked with tears as they felt God with them,” Bharwani says. “It is how families are drawn to each other, how friends, communities support each other.
Walkway: Reflections on the Stations of the Cross will be at the Bonifacio High Street (BHS) strip in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig from April 14 to 21, 2019.