Mention Felino “Jun” Palafox and Cebu Archbishop Jose S. Palma will probably drop everything, except of course when he’s celebrating Holy Mass and administering sacraments, to hear updates about the construction of the Divine Mercy icon in Garing, Consolacion town.
I had the privilege of hearing them exchanging pleasantries in a phone conversation during last Friday’s meeting of officers of the Shrine of the Divine Mercy de Cebu Foundation, Inc. at a posh hotel in the north reclamation area.
Archbishop Palma was then in Tagbilaran City attending to official duties but took time off to speak with Architect Palafox, who was then unwinding in Cebu after a business trip in Bohol. He was to fly back to Manila immediately to prepare for a trip to Taiwan where he’s to meet with benefactors of the homeless victims of Typhoon Yolanda in Palo, Leyte.
That the good Cebu Archbishop is upbeat about the Divine Mercy icon project is an understatement. Firstly, the 130-foot statue will be, in his own words, Cebu’s contribution to the celebration of the 500 years of Philippine Christianity. It’s an elaborate project costing hundreds of millions of pesos with a deadline that can raise anyone’s blood pressure.
Apparently, Archbishop Palma works well under pressure.
To recall, in January 2016 the Archdiocese of Cebu hosted the 51st edition of the International Eucharistic Congress with nary a budget and a decent venue to accommodate hundreds of thousands of international and domestic guests and pilgrims. But private and public partners rallied behind the Church and made the international event successful, memorable and, according to veteran event organizers, hard to beat in terms of attendance, organization, media coverage, connectivity, number of volunteers, etc. The event was clearly a feather in the cap of Archbishop Palma but he will be the first to say it was all a collective effort of the Filipino people.
Second, the statue will be higher by at least 2 feet than the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Mount Corcovado, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, the most recognizable landmark in that part of the globe.
The Divine Mercy icon’s imposing height at 130 feet set on a podium raised 800 feet above sea level will be visible to people passing through the Mactan Cebu International Airport and the Cebu International Seaport. It’s going to be a landmark of the century for the Philippines and Archbishop Palma will certainly do all he can to make it happen.
Third, one of the world’s topnotch exponents in architecture and urban planning, Jun Palafox has agreed to lend his signature in the conceptual master planning, site development planning and engineering, architectural engineering and interior design.
The scope of works earlier offered by the Palafox Architecture Group, Inc. to the Cebu Archdiocese is set to be signed, sealed and delivered early next year but development planners big and small will consider the upcoming collaboration between the Archdiocese and Palafox as masterly, splendid and awe-inspring.
Still, for Church lay workers like Imma Alfon, Jane Villarito, Rey Ralota, Jessica Otadoy, Dionisio Gacasan and lay volunteers in the foundation, the upcoming project has Divine Action written all over it.
The back story of Architect Palafox’s acceptance to do the Divine Mercy icon project can be traced to the day when the family of former Consolacion Mayor Avel Gungob, Sr. signed the deed of donation to the 6-hectare property in Garing to the Cebu Archdiocese. Following the local Church’s acceptance of the donated property in 2015, the lay association initiated a search for a design of the Divine Mercy Shrine through a design contest.
Out of 15 entries, the jury composed of priests and lay workers picked the design of young architect, Stephen Ralota who was then working in the family-owned enterprise. When core group presented the winning entry titled, “The Holy Bible” to Archbishop Palma, he intimated that he wanted Architect Jun Palafox to execute the conceptual design.
Fast forward to 2017. Archbishop Palma officiated Mass in a civic club meeting featuring Architect Palafox as guest speaker. The Archbishop stayed until the end of the architect’s speech to tell him about his current pet project. The rest, as the cliche goes, is history.
I have heard so much about Architect Palafox and his body of work which maybe likened to a galaxy of stars that the world so admires but I didn’t expect to meet someone so down to earth, humorous, good-natured with always a tip or two to help to get the project going. In fact, during the first meeting with the foundation’s technical working group last month, he gave ideas on how to market the project drawn from his experiences in building two iconic churches in Ayala Alabang and Bel-Air Makati.
Come January 9 next year, he will grace a news conference to formally sign the technical and financial proposal for the conceptual master planning, site development planning, site engineering design, architectural and engineering, and interior design services. For his part, Archbishop Palma will affirm the scope of works, professional fees and payment terms spelled out in the proposal.
On top of his willingness and eagerness to do the Divine Mercy project, the good architect has likewise donated close to P4 million in terms of services by the Palafox Architecture Group to get the task going.
No wonder he is on top of his game.
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