THE eight-storey Pope John Paul II tower at the Reclamation Area will be blessed and inaugurated on February 18 by His Excellency Archbishop Joseph Edward Adams, Papal Nuncio to the Philippines, and other prelates.

Fr. Felix Pasquin, San Sebastian Cathedral Rector and prime mover of the PP II Tower, said the blessing and inauguration will also be attended by Bishop Vicente M. Navarra of the Diocese of Bacolod, Archbishop Angel Lagdameo of the Archdiocese of Capiz, Archbishop Onesimo Gordoncillo of the Archdiocese of Capiz, Bishop Jose Advincula of the Diocese of San Carlos, Bishop Patricio Buzon of the Diocese of Kabankalan, Bishop Camilo Gregorio, Bishop of Batanes, Bishop Antonio Tobias of the Diocese of Novaliches, Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, Auxiliary Bishop of Jaro, Bishop Nicolas Mondejar, Bishop Emeritus of San Carlos and Rev. Fr. Ulysses Dalida, Administrator of the Diocese of Aklan and lawyer Simplicio “Sammy” Palanca.

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Also to attend are Negros Occidental Governor Isidro Zayco, Vice Governor Emilio Yulo III, Bacolod City Representative Monico Puentevella, Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia, Vice Mayor Jude Thaddeus Sayson, Msgr. Victorino Rivas, Vicar General of Bacolod, Rev. Monsignori, Rev. Fathers, Rev. Sisters, seminarians, Papal Honorees, students and many others.

Being the prime mover of the tower, Pasquin recalled that it all started in February 7, 2008. That time, the Diocese of Bacolod was busy preparing for her Diamond Jubilee celebration.

Gratefully contemplating on the journey in the faith of the Diocese, Pasquin said he remembered that one highlight in the life of the Diocese “was the historic visit to Bacolod on February 20, 1981 by Pope John Paul II, who was received by hundreds and thousands of people right at the Reclamation Area, a place developed by lawyer Simplicio Palanca, President of the Real Estate Development Corp. (Bredco).”

Fr. Pasquin recalled that to commemorate the Pope’s visit, a marble marker was built in a place nearby, now occupied by business establishments but the marker could no longer be found.

On February 7, 2008, he decided to see lawyer Palanca to discuss the possibility of constructing a new marker in honor of Pope John Paul II, in time for the Diamond Jubilee celebration of the Diocese.

“I asked him several times if he remembers that visit of Pope John Paul II and if he remembers that he and Bishop Antonio Y. Fortich built a marker to commemorate the Pope’s visit to Bacolod? And lawyer Palanca responded that, ‘Abaw na patay lang to si Msgr. Fortich, wala gid to ma atender ba (Oh, Msgr. Fortich died having less attention).’ But he said,’Let’s revive it,” Fr. Pasquin said.

Palanca and Pasquin planned for its construction and said once the building will be finished, lawyer Palanca will donate it to the Church.

He brought the good news to Bishop Navarra and he said: “Thy will be done.”

Moreover, Bishop Navarra hopes to make this tower a Pilgrimage site. He wrote Archbishop Cardinal of Krakow, Poland to send some memorabilia of Pope John Paul II. The memorabilia that includes the alb of the Pope during his visit here is now at the Diocese.

“We are also appealing to all to share your mementous or souvenirs during the Holy Father’s visit here in 1981. We shall put them in the different floors of the tower in order to establish John Paul II’s character,” Pasquin said.

Lawyer Palanca has equipped the tower with an elevator, a water system and a generating set. He had a statue of John Paul II that stands eight feet sculpted by Bro. Tagoy Jakosalem, (OAR) and a Cross on top of the tower by Architect Chick Garcia. The Cross will be lighted at night which will turn as the new landmark of Bacolod City.

But beyond all that, lawyer Palanca has equipped the tower with his sense of gratitude, spirit of generosity and nobility of faith. Being a man of his words, he promised to donate this tower to the Diocese of Bacolod, and under the loving gaze of our Heavenly Father.

Moreover, the features of this tower will possibly include viewing decks, coffee shop, souvenir shops, one floor will be named after lawyer Simplicio Palanca, a Prayer Room and a place where the memorabilia of Pope John Paul II, the Artifacts of the Church, among others.

Lawyer Palanca spent more or less P15 million for the tower construction, Fr. Pasquin said. (Teresa Ellera-Dulla)