The altar table for the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) Pavilion is made of wood from damaged boats and houses destroyed two years ago in the fierce winds and waves of supertyphoon Yolanda
Mandaue City furniture maker and exporter Clayton Tugonan said he got his inspiration from Pope Francis and storm survivors.
He chose simplicity.
Tugonon got his wood from fishermen in San Remigio town, one of 15 localities in north Cebu devastated by the storm.
When he asked them for the scrap wood of their damaged boats and houses in order to make an altar, he was met with disbelief.
“Dili sila motuo (They wouldn’t believe me),” he said until he explained the historic international congress to be held in Cebu.
After that, “nanaghan ang nanghatag,” he said. (Many of them gave.)
The table stands on five legs to symbolize each of Jesus Christ’s wounds in crucifixion.
On the three front legs are imprinted images of a chalice, grapes for wine, and wheat for bread – sacred objects found at a Mass.Interior LED lights make the images stand out.
Tugonon was requested to make the altar table, lectern and a crucifix for the IEC by two priest friends, Fr. Mhar Vincent Balili, in charge of the IEC committee on Liturgy and Fr. Brian Brigoli, who is in charge of committee on venues.
He accepted the challenge but didn’t ask for any compensation for the pieces.
“I wanted to make something that can relate to the IEC and my Catholic faith and show something truly Cebuano,” said Tugonan.
Altars occupy a prominent place in sanctuaries of all churches.
They plays a central role in the celebration of the Eucharist , which takes place at the altar on which bread and wine for consecration are placed.
Three furniture makers in Cebu were asked to make altar tables for the IEC. Tugonan’s will be used in the Pavilion. Two other custom-made pieces are being used in the Opening Mass today at Plaza Independencia and another for the Mass at the Provincial Capitol on Friday.
Tugonon said making the altar and other pieces was his way of telling Yolanda survivors that even ruined materials have value and a new purpose.
“Naa g’yud ingong purpose ang Ginoo nganong nabiktima sila. Parehas ani wala sila magtoo nga ilahang sakayan, balay nga guba mahimong altar unya sa IEC pa (God really has his purpose for why they suffered in the storm. It’s similar to the situation now, when they couldn’t believe that their boats and houses destroyed in Yolanda are being transformed into an altar. And for the IEC, no less.)
A large cross was carved from “tugas” hardwood taken from a destroyed house. It’s natural shape was retained.
“I didn’t want it straight. Wala man siguro straight nga kahoy sauna diba? (I don’t think there were wood pieces that were perfectly straight in His time.)
The life size crucified Jesus Christ is made of fiber glass.
“All these things we do are too small compared to the blessings we have received. Taga mata nimo buntag, you forgot its a blessing. Uban ana, wala nakamata (Everyday you wake up is a blessing.
Sometimes you forget that. There are others who don’t wake up at all.),” said Tugonan.
With their broken pieces, the coastal families struck by Yolanda are now part of an international event and church history.