A LIFE full of miracles is how Emelia Bacus, 49, describes her journey so far from house helper to engineer and contractor.
While grateful to have overcome trials she met in her transformation from a “nagkabulingit” helper, to the owner of a multi-million company, Bacus said, “Di man nato na dapat ikapanghambog, kay dili man gyud na atoa, piniyalan ra man ta sa Ginoo (I shouldn’t boast because this company isn’t really mine. It is only something God has entrusted to me).”
Bacus said she built the Meditative Garden of the Sacred Heart in the mountain barangay of Can-asujan, Carcar City to say thanks for all the blessings she received from God.
The one-hectare garden portrays the life of Jesus Christ through life-sized sculptures, from the baby Sto. Niño to the 14 Stations of the Cross. These surround a 29.2-meter (96-foot) statue of the Son of God.
The towering figure, with a protruding heart surrounded by bronze rays, stands on a hill. It’s visible against its green mountain background even around 10 kilometers from the main highway, on the Perrelos-Valladolid Bridge.
At night, it stands out even more from its dark surroundings, all lit up, its heart glowing white.
“Gi-offer ko sa Ginoo nga Iyang sanctuary (I offer this sanctuary to God),” said Engineer Bacus, a native of Talisay City who owns Zion Construction. Anyone can enter the garden for free.
The garden is open to those who wish to pray, meditate or just rest, for as long as they wear decent clothes. Priests, nuns and teachers have held retreats in that garden, Bacus said.
“Maybe it’s a miracle. I built it (the statue) in four months, with only eight persons,” she said.
She started building the chapel in 2010, but changed plans in 2012 when she demolished the chapel and built the statue.
She said it was also a miracle how she found a sculptor, Raffy Quimba, for the figures, both life-sized and larger-than-life.
Coming home to Cebu from a friend’s burial in Negros, she passed by a huge statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Amlan town. Inspired by it, she dreamed of building something similar in Cebu. But she needed a sculptor.
When she visited Tagum, Davao del Norte, her husband’s hometown, an angel’s statue in church caught her attention. It turned out to be by Quimba, a former sacristan who worked with her husband, when the latter was still a priest.
Emelia met Aldin Elca when he had already left the priesthood and was about to go to the United States. They now have two children and adopted ones, but getting a dispensation from Rome has not been easy.
When she learned that Quimba was in Valladolid, Carcar City, this time doing an altar project, she contacted him.
She bought a P1.2-million lot, which she paid for in installments over 18 months. Quimba made a layout of the place, with her supervision, and built the towering statue of Christ, followed by the surrounding figures.
What made her decide to offer that much to God? “It’s a symbol aron di ko makalimot Niya (so I will not forget Him),” she said.
She recalled how her mother, a teacher, and her father, a Philippine Constabulary officer, initially spent for her studies. Her mother died while she was still in school; her father died after she had finished her second year college.
So she had to work as a helper in her aunt’s house to continue her engineering studies.
“Matug ra ko sa folding bed sa kusina ug akong sinina naa ra sa karton (I slept on a folding bed in the kitchen and kept my clothes in a box),” she said.
She also helped her aunt, who has a store, sell firewood, charcoal and kitchen implements in Lagtang, Talisay.
When she finished college, with honors, she asked for her aunt’s permission to live on her own and looked for another job. She joined the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for five years until she got her license.
She left government service and started a small contracting business with an office in Kimba, also in Talisay City.
She recalled meeting an old tricycle driver who recognized her and told her, “Di gyud matag-an ang kapalaran sa tawo, no? Nagkabulingit og uling pa gud ang imong nawong sa una, Day, pero karon naa na kay opisina (You can’t guess one’s fate, no? I remember seeing you with charcoal streaks on your face, and now you have an office of your own).”
When she could already afford it, she requested her cousins to allow her to subsidize expenses for her aunt’s care.
She built a small room beside her cousin’s house, had it air-conditioned and paid a niece monthly just to take care of the aunt who had taken her in. She remained supportive until her aunt’s death.
But even as her lot in life improved, Bacus faced major trials, too. In 2000, she recalled, at one point she was financially, emotionally and spiritually bankrupt.
She had just subcontracted a school building project. When DPWH told her to pay for delays in the project, she realized that the subcontractor had bloated his accomplishment reports and collected money after doing so.
Bacus asked for a reconsideration, took over the project and continued the work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
With God’s help and the support of some persons, she said, her company recovered. She settled accounts with her suppliers.
“I feel in my life the presence of God,” she said.