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Chocolate, Songs, and the Tilma

Fr. Carmelo O. Diola, SSL

Spaces of Hope


BEAUTY and joy often comes in small packages. Yet with the onset of the 51st IEC, “big” had become a byword. After all, the IEC is an international event and the pavilion can accommodate up to 15,000 individuals. There are also “big” names who came as speakers and participants.

I had started to invite people through text, a flyer, and word of mouth as early as Saturday, January 23 for an event in the late afternoon of Tuesday, 26 January. Mrs. Angie Florio, a Filipino widow and a long-time resident of Mexico City, prodded me to take advantage of the presence of Monsignor Diego Monroy, one-time Master of Ceremonies of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Diego would be in Cebu City for the said congress. I gladly said “Yes.”

We agreed on the title: “Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Church of the Poor in the Year of Mercy.” It was held at the AVR of San Carlos Seminary College (SCSC) of Cebu whose entrance would be gate 1. Since the event was not part of the official calendar of the IEC, it was dubbed as a “side talk” after the afternoon breakout sessions.

The event had found a very accomodating collaborator in the person of Fr. Benny Tao, rector of SCSC, who not only provided the space but also a group of seminarians who would sing “No Mas Amor Que El Tuyo”, the theme song of the 33rd IEC in Manila in 1937, as opening song and end with the 51st IEC theme song, “Christ in Us, Our Hope of Glory”. Mrs. Chichi F. Robles, anchor for EWTN’s coverage of the IEC, readily agreed to emcee our short program. Chichi has been a friend since college.




Tuesday was pouring rain, leaving the IEC village and Cebu City soaking wet. This was a mixed blessing as it cooled the air but also threatened the holding of the Statio Orbis at the uncemented area of the South Road Properties.

The night before we got confirmation of the attendance of a very special guest who would render a song. The venue was physically all set. By afternoon Mrs. Raquel Choa, whose advocacy is raising the humble sikwate (a local chocolate drink) to a world-class drink, was setting up here small booth. It contained sikwate and crepe. Eric, a Frenchman, had pitched in.

Meanwhile, Mon. Diego was giving an impassioned talk inside the pavilion. Since it was in Spanish, there were many headsets on the ears of mainly Filipino listeners. We have gone a long way from when the 33rd IEC theme song was in Spanish.

I had to escort Mon. Diego and Angie to the college seminary. Raquel was already serving sikwate.




“The Cardinal can only stay until 5 pm,” Chichi told me. That gave me an opening of only 15 minutes while a select group of street children were still on their way. We had to think on our feet. We decided to listen to the duet of Cardinal Tagle and Fr. Raul Caga, SVD as the start of our program. Their song was titled, “Mercy and Compassion.”

After a very touching song revealing a Cardinal who could more than hold out on his own in singing, several street children from adjacent Brgy. Luz gave Cardinal Chito and Mon. Diego some gifts: a coloring book of doodles by Mrs. Vicky Ortega together with colored pencils to relieve stress. This was a gesture that recalls some memorable lines from PCPII that goes something like, “a community where no one is so poor so as not to give anything or so rich so as not to receive anything.” Then Cardinal Tagle left.

Monsignor Diego’s talk utilized an actual tilma, an apron-like clothing used to carry objects, provide warmth, and signify the marriage bond. This is the material on which the self-portrait of the Our Lady of Guadalupe was left. His translator and assistant, Mr. Miguel had an uncanny likeness to San Juan Diego, at least as he is portrayed in a painting. The good Mexican priest then pointed out elements in the portrait if the Virgin that identified her with the poor.

Yes, beauty and joy comes in small packages.

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