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From airport to mall, IEC vibe fills Cebu City

Paterno Esmaquel II
From airport to mall, IEC vibe fills Cebu City
The Catholic Church expects up to 15,000 delegates to join the IEC in the so-called ‘cradle of Christianity in the Philippines’

CEBU CITY, Philippines – The statue of the Santo Niño greets travelers at the Mactan Cebu International Airport as thousands arrive in Cebu City for the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC).

This image of the child Jesus is iconic in Cebu City. It symbolizes the birth of Christianity in the Philippines, Asia’s most predominantly Catholic country, as European explorers gave it as a baptismal gift to the wife of a local leader in 1521.

The Santo Niño de Cebu now welcomes thousands of delegates arriving in Cebu City for the IEC, a huge event held every 4 years, featuring the biggest names in the Catholic Church. (READ: IEC: The event that helped make Tagle a ‘papabile’)

The Catholic Church expects up to 15,000 delegates to join the IEC in the so-called “cradle of Christianity in the Philippines.”

Twenty minutes away from the airport, the IEC vibe fills even an Ayala-owned mall in Cebu.

At around 7 pm on Saturday, January 23, the mall hosted an IEC songfest in an open-air venue, with around 200 people in the audience.

This is Cebu City on the eve of the IEC that begins Sunday, January 24.

16-year-old delegate

It’s an event that has attracted young and old, Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike.

One of the youngest delegates is 16-year-old Margaret Epistola, a student of the Immaculate Conception Cathedral School in Metro Manila.

Epistola told Rappler she wants to attend the IEC to better “bring and share Christ with others.”

She joined at least 8 other schoolmates in the IEC, accompanied by two nuns helping run their school.

They’re attending the whole IEC from January 24 to 31, having paid the full P7,000 ($146.65) full conference fee, as well as the airfare.

One of the nuns with them, Sister Philine Anne Vivas, said it’s important to have these students learn from the IEC because they “have a huge potential.”

While this group from Manila arrived, thousands of others from around the world also converged in Cebu City.

At the Mactan Cebu International Airport, Filipinos at a help desk readily assist international delegates arriving for the IEC.

Language barrier

One of the members of the pilgrim accommodation committee, however, said there is one problem: the language barrier.

The usher recounted the experience of a delegate from Honduras, who arrived on Saturday and didn’t understand English.

She told Rappler, “Wala kang interpreter dito, so pa’no ‘yon (You don’t have an interpreter here, so how’s that)?”

She said the ushers ended up just booking a taxi for him and giving instructions to the taxi driver. They worried about the Honduran delegate’s safety, but what can they do? “‘Yun ang mahirap (That’s what’s difficult),” she said.

In another instance on Saturday, the help desk staff had to call a fellow Filipino, who speaks Spanish, to serve as an interpreter for a Spanish delegate who doesn’t understand English.

In general, however, the IEC usher said the welcome for IEC delegates has been smooth so far.

Police officials, for their part, said they’re tightening security measures for the IEC especially as the event comes more than a week after the Jakarta bombings that killed at least 7 people.

This is the second time the IEC is being held in the Philippines. Manila was the venue of the first IEC hosted by the country in 1937. (READ: First IEC in PH: Cardinal Vidal’s First Communion, too) – Rappler.com

US$1 = P47.73

Follow Rappler’s special coverage of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress. Read other stories by clicking this link.


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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.