Archdiocese accepts SM tycoon’s offer to develop venue for free; Calungsod templete to rise in south reclamation site

Posted on June 5, 2012

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The sea in Cebu City’s east coast will provide a backdrop for the country’s Nov. 30 national celebration of the canonization of Visayan martyr Pedro Calungsod.

The city government-owned South Road Properties (SRP) was chosen the venue of the national thanksgiving mass after SM tycoon Hans Sy offered to develop the site for free.

A templete or “small temple” will be built on 1,200 square meters of reclaimed land where church officials expect up to 800,000 people to gather for the liturgical celebration.

“We all decided that it will be at the SRP. It’s already final,” said Ricardo Cardinal Vidal with Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma in a press conference at the Archbishop’s Residence.

They announced the decision yesterday after a closed-door meeting where they accepted the offer of SM Prime Holdings represented by vice president Marissa Fernan and two members of a technical engineering team.

“Hans Sy decided to be a good neighbor,” Fernan said, and is willing to spend “as much as it would take to prepare the site appropriately for the occasion.”

SM is building its biggest mall, Seaside City, an P8.5 billion development that includes an international convention center, a church, and residential buildings, beside the designated site in the SRP.

SRP was chosen over two other locations – the Mandaue reclamation area and Fuente Osmeña park.

Eight criteria were used to select the venue – solemnity, visibility, accessibility, traffic management, security, capacity, cost and no disruption of basic services. The committee on venue was headed by Fr. Raul Gallego.

SRP was first offered by Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, but the site was set aside in earlier deliberations by the Archdicoese after the cost of backfilling and preparing the open space was estimated at P100 million.

Both SM and the Calungsod planning committee headed by Vidal yesterday declined to reveal the cost of develoing the site now that the country’s biggest retail giant is stepping in to help.

A 100-day countdown to the Oct. 21 canonization of Pedro Calungsod will be launched at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral on July 14.

Calungsod, a Visayan teenage missionary helper, was killed by natives in Guam in 1672. He will be canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Square along with other beatified persons, mostly founders of religious organizations and clergy members from France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Amercia.

The national eucharistic celebration in Cebu City will happen a month and nine days days after the Oct. 21 ceremony in Rome.

Nearly 1 million people are expected to attend.

The venue is also expected to accommodate 3,000 VIPs composed of 50 church dignitaries, 100 government and civil society leaders, 300 archbishops and bishops, 700 clergy members, 2,000 choir members and 200 orchestra members.

It will also house the vesting area for the bishops and clergy, a press center, a police and security center, souvenir stores, first aid stations, water stations, food stalls and portable toilets.

“SRP has always been one of the venues but three weeks ago, before the opening of SM Consolacion, Mr. Hans Sy happened to visit the site and he felt that we could do something considering that we also have equipment and the resources there,” said Fernan.

“So it was just a matter of asking our contractors to cross the street and help us.”

Fernan said work will include “site clearing, compacting, making provisions for vertical and horizontal roads using pavers, and providing lighting for the venue.”

Site development will start next week and finish in about three months.

From there, the templete will be constructed.

“We were able to rally our contractors for SRP to assist us. It was just a question of moving their equipment across the road. I think it will work out very well,” Fernan said.

Fernan said SM is also willing to accommodate VIPs and the clergy inside the Church of Mary, Mother of God, which SM is constructing at the SRP.

The Cebu Archdiocese earlier set a P60 million budget for preparations in Rome and Cebu related to the Calungsod canonization.

“At this point in time, thanks to the many generous people, money is not a big problem,” Archbishop Palma said.

Msgr. Roberto Alesna, chairman of the finance committee, said they have gathered P19.89 million million as of May 31. Last week they received another P3 million from a donor, he said.

Part of the budget will be used to print booklets to teach people about the life of Calungsod. Cebu’s 147 parishes are also being asked to raise donations for the activity.

A Kenneth Cobunpue artwork was launched last month as a limited edition commemorative sculptural piece for donors who give P25,000. The donation comes with a chance to win a raffle prize of two BMW cars and an SUV.

More than the external preparations, Palma said the faithful should be spiritually ready for the canonization of Calungsod who shall become the second Filipino saint.

“I hope this will become an occasion for us to believe that we are precious in the eyes of the Lord; that we can all become saints. My prayer is that in the course of the preparations, we all become more Christian, more holy, more devoted as Catholics, and more aware of our mission. And I think, that’s at the heart of all this preparation,” Palma said.

He said the archdiocese is not wasting money by staging a grand celebration.

“We take this as a once-in-a-lifetime event. We don’t know when another saint will be canonized. We would like this to be an occasion for us to really savor the blessing of a saint. It’s just like saying, money becomes secondary,” Palma said.

“Even if we spend a few million pesos, if this will truly be a very memorable event such that all the rest of our lives, it will become an inspiration for us, we will do everything to do it,”  /Ador Vincent Mayol and Jessa Chrisna Marie Agua

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