By Ador Mayol
Miracles do happen.
After just 15 months of construction work, Cebu’s Pavilion is ready for the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) which is expected to draw 15,000 delegates from different parts of the world from January 24 to 31, 2015.
Owners of Duros Development Corp. (DDC), the company that rose to the challenge of providing a venue for the international event, turned over the three-storey structure to the Archdiocese of Cebu last November 21.
It was an emotional moment for both DDC and the local church which early on didn’t know how to go about a tremendous undertaking with very limited time and resources.
“At certain points, some began to doubt. But all along, we know that the Lord journeyed with us. Our God is a God of surprises. And this (pavilion) is God’s wonderful gift to the Archdiocese of Cebu,” said Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma in his homily during the Eucharistic celebration that preceded the turnover ceremony.
Cebu’s newest landmark stands on a 25,754-square meter lot behind the archdiocesan seminary in Mabolo, Cebu City,
The cost of building the Pavilion was fully shouldered by DDC in the amount of about P550 million.
In exchange, the Archdiocese of Cebu will give the construction company usufruct rights over part of the seminary property.
The Eucharistic Pavilion features a huge plenary hall, a chapel, theater, and six function rooms.
Unlike other convention centers, the Pavilion is left with bare cement on its walls and floors.
Architect Carlos Pio Zafra said he was instructed by Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Dennis Villarojo, the IEC secretary-general, to do away with flamboyant designs to reflect the Church’s desire to be an institution for the poor.
“When we host an international gathering, we’re always tempted to use flamboyant designs. But Bishop Dennis wants a spiritual structure that is simple and humble. He doesn’t want a capricious building,” Zafra said in an interview.
After the IEC, the building will be used as a pastoral center, a venue for religious gatherings, and an evacuation center in times of emergencies.
A part of the Pavilion will also be transformed into a new minor seminary after the religious gathering.
When Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI announced that Cebu City will be the venue for the forthcoming IEC, Archbishop Palma said he was anxious because the city doesn’t have a structure that can house all 15,000 delegates.
The prelate said they thought of just putting the delegates in different hotels in the city, and let them listen to and watch the speakers through wide screens.
But several priests were not amenable to the idea, and instead suggested to construct a building that can accommodate all the delegates of the congress.
“And so we agreed to construct a pavilion. The next problem was who will construct it? And how will we finish it on time?” the prelate said.
ACT OF FAITH
Pieces started to fall into place when DDC, whose owners are head of the Love of God Charismatic Community in Cebu, agreed to build the Pavilion upon Palma’s request.
“It all began with a phone call from Palma sometime in November 2013,” said Fe Barino who, along with her husband Rafaelito , owns DDC.
“My heart leaped. It’s been a long time that the charismatic groups needed a venue. Of course, I said yes without a second thought,” she said.
Fe didn’t know that what DDC would build has to accommodate 12,000 to 15,000 people.
When she was informed about the daunting task, she said there were fears that they may not be able to deliver.
But Fe and her husband didn’t want to let the opportunity of helping the archdiocese pass. With great faith in the Lord, the couple accepted the challenge and built the Pavilion.
“I said to myself ‘nothing is impossible with God.’ I want to help the Church. I want to help the archbishop. I don’t want Cebu and the Philippines to get embarrassed,” said Fe as she wiped tears off her eyes.
Fe and Rafaelito shared their thoughts and experiences in building the Pavilion before they turned it over to the archdiocese.
“Our company is not that big. We are just a local contractor, and what we offered was everything that we have. We totally trusted in His divine will,” she said.
Fe, who likewise heads the Archdiocesan Service Committee of the Charismatic Communities of Cebu, knew that Lord is at work and He will not let them down.
“God is faithful. He was with us all the way,” she said.
By God’s grace, DDC, she said, got a lot of road contracts that sustained their cash flow. She said construction projects that the company has undertaken doubled in 2014 and tripled in 2015.
LABOR OF LOVE
Her husband Rafaelito believes they were destined to build the IEC Pavilion.
“It’s like God telling me, ‘Do it.’ Who are we to say no? God has been gracious to us and this is the time to repay Him,” he said.
Under usual circumstances, Rafaelito said it would take one to two years to prepare and plan the constuction of a building.
But he said DDC pulled off a miracle when it finished everything in a span of just 15 months.
“God has prepared everything. His plans are perfect,” Rafaelito said.
Close to 400 workers were mobilized by the Liloan-based company to complete the project.
Rafaelito said even his friends expressed doubts and uncertainties when DDC took up the cudgels of building the Pavilion for free.
“My friends in the busines could not understand what we did. It is not a normal deal in business and no businessman would undertake such a great risk. I told them, ’You will never understand it because this is not about business. This is about faith,’” he said.
Rafaelito said he, his wife, and the entire DDC is turning over the Pavilion to the Archdiocese of Cebu “for love of God” and for “the Lord’s greater honor and glory.”
The turnover ceremony coincided with DDC’s 25th anniversary as a corporation.
Palma, in his acceptance speech, said he could not help but cry upon listening to the Barino couple whom he requested to build the Pavilion in behalf of the archdiocese.
“I shed tears with them. I was choked with emotions. When people would come to the Pavilion, they should know that the structure stands because of these two people with great faith,” he said.
Palma said even Archbishop Piero Marini, the long time liturgist of St. John Paul II and IEC President, described the construction of the Pavilion as a miracle.“When he came to Cebu to inspect the venue last April, he told me, ’Archbishop, you have done a miracle,’”Palma said.
Aside from Palma, also present during the Mass and turnover ceremony last Saturday were Archbishop Emeritus of Cebu Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Dennis Villarojo, retired Bishops Antonio Rañola and Emilio Bataclan, and about 20 priests.
Also present were Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, Rep. Gabriel Luis Quisumbing of Cebu’s 6th district, and Consolacion Mayor Teresa Alegado, officers of different lay organizations, and employees of DDC.
‘TRULY A MIRACLE’
In his speech, Cardinal Vidal expressed elation over the completion of the Pavilion.
“I have experienced so many miracles in my life, and let me tell you that this is one of them. I could hardly believe this will happen. How can we put up a building as huge and beautiful as this? But God gave this to us,” the 84-year-old prelate said.
For the first in so many IECs, Vidal said it will be in Cebu where the congress will be held in just one venue.
“In the previous IECs I attended, we were brought from one building to another. For the first time, the congress will be held in one building. Let us give thanks to God, and the Blessed Mother for giving us a place like,” he said.
Vidal is expected to preside over the Mass and administer the first communion to several children during the week of the IEC.
In 1937, when the 33rd IEC was held in Manila, Vidal was among the first communicants at the age of six.
The IEC normally takes place every four years to promote an awareness of the central place of the Eucharist in the life and mission of the Church, to deepen one’s understanding of the litrugy, and to draw attention to the social dimension of the Eucharist.
The last time the IEC was held in the country was in 1937 in Manila.
The Archdiocese of Cebu is working on a budget of P250 million for the IEC.
While constructing the Pavilion was shouldered by DDC, Bishop Villarojo, the IEC secretary-general, said they need to gather funds for the operational expenses of the event.
So far, Villarojo said they get funds from registration fees of delegates, donations in the nationwide Piso Para sa Misa ng Mundo campaign, and sponsorships.