When they agreed to build it, no cost estimates or budget was ready.
Time was against them.
In 15 months, a three-level Pavilion to seat 15,000 delegates of Cebu’s biggest international conference to be hosted in January, was completed on time with zero accidents.
“Our company is not that big. We are just a local contractor. What we offered was everything that we have. We totally trusted in His divine will,” said Fe Barino with husband Rafaelito by her side.
Yesterday, the Pavilion of the 2016 International Eucharistic Congress was turned over to the Archdiocese of Cebu, a project that church officials and owners of Duros Development Corp. easily call “a miracle”.
It would normally take one to two years just to prepare and plan a building of this scale, said Rafaelito, CEO of the construction company in a testimonial after thanskgiving Mass.
But he said he and his wife believe that building the IEC Pavilion was a matter of “destiny” and their Christian faith.
When Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma approached them for help in November 2013, saying the church had no funds, only a deadline, the couple decided that DDC would shoulder the cost and begin right away.
NOT ABOUT BUSINESS
“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,” said Rafaelito.
The couple and members of the board yesterday handed a large symbolic key to Archbishop Palma, saying the company was turning over the Pavilion constructed “for the love of God and his Church” and for “God’s greater honor and glory.”
The P550-million construction cost was fully shouldered by DDC. In turn, the company was given usufruct rights by the Archdiocese over part of the seminary property for 25 years.
The massive building has bare concrete floors and walls with space for a plenary hall, a theater and function rooms.
In the basement, the parking area can accommodate 200 vehicles.
The Pavilion, with a floor area of 25,754 square meters, occupies a church-owned lot behind the seminary in Mabolo.
Architect Carlos Pio Zafra said he was instructed by Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Dennis Villarojo to do away with fancy designs to reflect the Church’s mission 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.
It was an emotional moment yesterday for the stakeholders, including clergy, lay supporters and employees of DDC, which marked its 25th anniversary as a company.
The thanksgiving Mass was held in the largest interior space of the building set aside for the plenary hall.
“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 gift to the Archdiocese of Cebu,” said Archbishop Palma in his homily.
After the IEC, the building will be used as a pastoral center and serve as the “biggest evacuation center” in Cebu.
When Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI announced that Cebu City would be the venue for the 51st IEC on Jan. 24 to 31, 2015, Archbishop Palma said he was overjoyed, and later anxious because the city lacked a conference site for 15,000 delegates.
The first plan was to house IEC delegates in different hotels and let them follow the conference through video hookups on wide screens.
But this was rejected in favor of building a single facility to accommodate all delegates.
“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.
It began in a phone call from Palma in November 2013 to Fe Barino.
The Barino couple head the Love of God Charismatic Community.
“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,” said Fe.
Fe, however, didn’t know yet that the project was for 12,000 to 15,000 people. There were no cost estimates ready.
Faced with the daunting task, the couple took the challenge of building the venue for the IEC.
“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 be put to shame when it hosts the IEC,” said
Fe, who wiped tears from her eyes as the couple recalled the journey in a testimonial on stage yesterday.
Fe also heads the Archdiocesan Service Committee of the Charismatic Communities of Cebu.
“God is faithful. He was with us all the way,” she said.
DDC was able to secure road contracts that sustained the company’s cash flow, she said. Projects doubled in 2014 and tripled in 2015.
Things fell into place.
A condominium project was finished, which allowed close to 400 workers and other resources to be available to work on the Pavilion. Banks were helpful with credit lines.
Rafaelito said he knew what these circumstances meant: “God has prepared everything. His plans are perfect.”
“It’s like God was telling me ‘Do it.’ Who are we to say no? God has been gracious to us and this is payback time,” he recalled last night.
Archbishop Palma, in his acceptance speech, said he was moved by the testimonial.
“I shed a tear with them. I was choked with emotion. When people come to the Pavilion, they should know that the structure stands because of these two people with great faith,” he said.
Also present for the Mass and turnover ceremony were Archbishop Emeritus of Cebu Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, Bishop Villarojo, retired Bishops Antonio Ranola and Emilio Bataclan, and several priests.
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, Mandaue Mayor Jonas Cortes, Rep. Gabriel Luis Quisumdbing of Cebu’s 6th district, and Consolacion Mayor Teresa Alegado, officers of different lay organizations, and employees of DDC also attended.
In his speech, Cardinal Vidal said he had attended IECs in many countries but this would be the first time an IEC would gather all delegates under one roof.
“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 did we put up a building as huge and beautiful as this? But
God gave this to us,” the 84-year-old prelate said.
The IEC is held four years to promote awareness of the central place of the Eucharist, as the body and blood of Jesus Christ, in the life and mission of the Church.
Ireland hosted the last IEC. The last time the congress was held in the Philippines was in Manila in 1937.
It will be Cebu’s first time to play host.