MANILA, April 16, 2014—Like sardines in a tin can, hundreds, if not thousands, of Catholic faithful packed the recently reopened Manila Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica for the Palm Sunday evening mass.
Manila Cathedral rector Msgr. Nestor C. Cerbo, who presided over the evening mass that day, was just as overwhelmed by the number of churchgoers present.
“What a surprise! It never occurred to me that you would be flooding the cathedral like this,” the rector joked.
The Palm Sunday mass was the first held in the cathedral since 2009 when it was closed for renovation.
Not having enough pews, many of the faithful had to stand patiently throughout the mass, while some made do with sitting on the floor.
“It is a joy to behold that there are still so many Filipinos taking time to go to church,” Mark Lloyd Ranque, a former “Born-again” Christian who had recently re-embraced the faith, shared in Filipino.
“Seeing families, couples, teenagers, rich and poor hearing mass together and having their palaspas (palm branches) blessed strike a chord within me both as a Catholic and as a Filipino. Few scenes could match this one in its sacred beauty,” Ranque added.
Although state-of-the-art electric fans as big as grownup children have been set up in strategic spots all over the cathedral, there may as well have been none, engulfed as they were by the sea of humanity.
“It is extremely humid. If this is just any other occasion, I would have immediately left the moment I stepped in,” Ranque, who had come all the way to Intramuros from his home in Novaliches, Quezon City said.
“But this is the cathedral and this holy day marks Palm Sunday. My desire to glorify our Lord Jesus Christ outweighs my desire for personal comfort,” he added.
The Manila Cathedral, also called the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, declared reopened on April 9, Wednesday, by Manila Archbishop Luís Antonio Cardinal Tagle in time for this year’s Holy Week observance after over two years of retrofitting work which had given the 400-year old church a much needed makeover.
The well-attended historic event was graced by no less than some of the biggest names in politics, business, and high society. Among them were President Benigno S. Aquino III and other members of the Cojuangco-Aquino clan; Manila Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada and wife Dr. Luisa Ejercito; Senate President and Mrs. Franklin Drilon; Apostolic Nuncio Giuseppe Pinto and other representatives of the diplomatic corps; local church dignitaries and priests; and various religious and lay groups. (Raymond A. Sebastián)