The 51st IEC: A stunning success for Cebu!

SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - February 1, 2016 - 9:00am

It was a great and blessed week for us Cebuanos in hosting the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) for the whole week last week. If I didn’t write anything about the IEC last week, it was only due to the fact that there was a mix-up in getting my media ID. I enrolled the entire MyTV crew for this international event, but only my ID was missing. So I missed the first three days, including the talk of Auxiliary of Los Angeles, Bishop Robert Barron. So by Tuesday afternoon, I went to my usual adoration before the Blessed Sacrament and asked the Lord if it was his will to deny me from participating in the historic IEC for his honor and glory and I will accept it... as we always obey the will of God.

But the next morning on Wednesday, I got a text from a friend who told me that he has two IDs, but did not want to be recognized. So by Wednesday afternoon, I was able to join the IEC. I already sent my Thursday column, so I could not make any report on the IEC until today. Yes, I prayed before the Holy Eucharist and I was granted a minor miracle.

The last time that the IEC was held in the Philippines was in Manila in 1937, and they found two first communicants who took their first Holy Communion at the Luneta at that time – Mrs. Rosita Arcenas (Ninang in our wedding) and his eminence Ricardo Cardinal Vidal. Both of them joined the 5,000 communicants who also took their first communion last Friday officiated by Cardinal Vidal.

Cebu’s hosting of the IEC left an indelible mark in Cebu. First was the fabulous IEC Pavilion, which could handle 15,000 delegates. This edifice was constructed by our dear friends, Engr. Lito and Fe Barino of Duros Construction and kudos to them for it was beautifully constructed, complete with basement parking facilities. This will be Cebu’s major venue for future national and international conventions.

The IEC also brought in 100 Ceres Buses, mostly dubbed “Mindanao Star.” It was the first time that Cebu City saw a hundred huge buses going around in selected locations to pick up delegates in their hotels or in places close to these hotels to bring them to the IEC. Because of this, motorists avoided the areas where the roads were closed and in the end traffic was light everywhere. Thanks also to the suspension of classes in Cebu City.

Perhaps the biggest legacy that the IEC brought to Cebu and for the Philippines is the impression of the foreign delegates who came from 75 countries from all over the world that Cebu City, which has become an international city, has somehow retained our Catholic faith. They saw this in the response of the Filipino delegates from all over the Philippines who joined the IEC. But best of all, they saw this last Friday afternoon after the Holy Mass in front of the provincial capitol for the procession that ensued.

My messenger on his motorcycle dropped me close to the capitol building by 4 p.m., but due to the mass of people, I could not even break into the huge crowd. I then found myself backtracking to Cebu Doctors Hospital where it was still jam packed with people. What’s remarkable was people that far from the capitol building (around 400 yards away) would respond to the prayers during the Holy Mass. Communion was done with the mass of people looking for the white umbrella for the Eucharistic ministers…but there was no mad rush or crowding to take communion.

Then the procession proper began with only the Blessed Sacrament in the carroza with Arch. Jose Palma and Papal Legate his eminence Charles Muang Cardinal Bo and Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin seated behind the monstrance. I walked from Cebu Doc to the skywalk in front of Robinsons Mall and I was taken aback by the huge number of people who joined the procession. The estimate of the crowd was nearly two million, not to mention the people who lined the streets but didn’t join the procession. It was truly a solemn occasion and when evening came you could see a sea of candles with the tail of the procession still at the capitol building while the head of the procession already arrived at the Plaza Independencia.

Then the final Holy Mass dubbed “Statio Orbis” was held at the South Road Properties (SRP) just across the SM Seaside City mall and we went before lunch to avoid the traffic. But traffic at that time before the 4 p.m. mass was already snarled. It took us 45 minutes just to enter the SM Seaside, which was jam-packed with people. By 4 p.m. Cardinal Bo started the Holy Mass and thanked the Filipinos for their faith.

Arch. Jose Palma also begged forgiveness for the disturbance during the IEC and he was applauded for his humility. There was probably a million and a half that attended the open air mass, which culminated with a greeting by Pope Francis on a video feed. Next IEC four years from now will be in Budapest, Hungary. Praise God for the stunning success of the IEC.

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