FAMILIES put up tents under the trees along the sidewalk outside a mall at the South Road Properties (SRP), while waiting for the closing mass of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) yesterday afternoon.
It was all like a picnic scene, and they were eating outdoors.
Some participants beat the heat by going inside a mall, while others sat on the steps leading to the entrance.
But at past 12 p.m., rain poured, and Junjun Quijano, 47, and his wife Norma, 43, found themselves drenched.
They did not mind it. The sacrifice, they believed, could nurture their belief.
“Blessed kaayo ang Cebu nga naa diri ang IEC (Cebu is blessed because the IEC was held here),” said Junjun.
Cebu is the second place in the Philippines that hosted the IEC, nearly 80 years after the 33rd IEC was held in Manila in 1937.
The first IEC occurred in France in 1881.
A women’s group that practiced dawn rosary in Toledo City and who were led by their leader Geory Ongos, 60, braved the rain as well. Some of them were forced to buy an IEC-inspired shirt, which costs more than P100.
The rain only lasted for a few minutes. Afterwards, the gray clouds disappeared.
The sun shone and the sky was blue again.
Ongos said she persuaded her members of the Perpetual Dawn Rosarians, whose ages ranged from 50 to 60, to attend the IEC because Cebu may not host the same event in their lifetime again.
Since 1981, the IEC was held every four years. Budapest, Hungary will host the next Eucharistic Congress in 2020.
They also attended the mass because of their faith and their belief that the Eucharist is Jesus Christ.
“Kanang Eucharist mao nay symbol sa lawas ug dugo ni Kristo. Kon mokaon ka sa lawas ug dugo niya makabaton og kinabuhing tunhay (Eucharist is the symbol of the body and blood of Christ. If you eat His body and blood, you will attain eternal life),” said Ongos.
For the Quijanos, their faith urged them to attend the last activity of the week-long IEC. They walked more than a kilometer from their house in Barangay Labangon, Cebu City to SRP.
The traffic in Mambaling area pushed them to walk, but they did not mind.
“Way kaso kay daghan man tawo (It’s okay because there are many people),” he said.
Last Friday afternoon, the couple also attended the mass at the Capitol grounds and joined the procession toward Plaza Independencia.
Afterwards, they walked more than two kilometers just to reach home.
“Isip Katoliko, importante kaayo nga duol ka sa Ginoo (As a Catholic, it is important that one is near God),” said Quijano.
With the huge number of attendees, some stores inside the mall beside the venue benefit from the event.
Ral Lim, store manager of Ace Hardware inside SM Seaside City Cebu, said they asked for an additional delivery of some of their supplies such folding chairs, plastic chairs and even pails to meet the projected huge demand for these items yesterday.
The management of SM Seaside issued a memorandum to its affiliate stores to prepare for the event that gathered at least one million participants.
The store had to open two hours earlier to accommodate those who came early for the religious activity. It usually opens at 10 a.m.
“Of course, we want to help and as much as possible, supply all of them what they need, as long as we’re selling it,” Lim told Sun.Star Cebu.
As early as 10 a.m., Lim said, their folding and plastic chairs were already sold out. That was close to a thousand items.
Because the store ran out of chairs, some of the participants bought pails to sit on.
“We innovate and offered them makeshifts because we also want them to feel comfortable while hearing the mass,” Lim said.
A pail cost around P200, while plastic chairs were at least P300.
Church-goers who were not registered delegates of the IEC were not provided with chairs, prompting them to buy for their own use, considering that some of them were already there as early as 4 a.m.
Since it rained in the early part of the day, raincoats were also in demand yesterday.
Food stalls and other restaurants accommodated thousands of customers who were participants of the mass.
For water vendor Bobby Cabrera, the mass also provided an opportunity for him to earn while attending the mass.
“May na lang sad ni nga naay ginansya gamay (Good that, at least, we earn),” he said.
Cabrera said he immediately registered when he learned that organizers were in need of vendors who would sell at the SRP during the mass.