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Brighter, tougher Manila Cathedral

Aquino to grace reopening today
By: - Reporter / @mj_uyINQ
/ 05:24 AM April 09, 2014

The intricately carved doors of the Manila Cathedral reopens Wednesday to welcome the faithful in time for their Holy Week devotions. President Aquino and his sisters are scheduled to attend the first post-renovation Mass at 6 p.m. The historic cathedral closed its doors for two years of major repairs and restoration. JILSON SECKLER TIU

The enhanced interior lighting gives justice to the majestic arches and intricate trimmings of the Neo-Romanesque structure. PHOTO BY JILSON SECKLER TIU

MANILA, Philippines—Worshippers can expect the pews to be shinier, the lights brighter and the sound system clearer as Manila Cathedral, the country’s premier Catholic church, reopens Wednesday after more than two years of repairs and restoration.

But perhaps its most important makeover is also the least noticeable: The nearly half-century-old Neo-Romanesque structure underwent retrofitting works to better withstand earthquakes.

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President Aquino, along with his sisters, is expected to grace the reopening which will be marked with a Holy Mass officiated by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle and a host of other bishops and priests, the Manila Archdiocese said on Tuesday.

Prior to the 6:30 p.m. Mass, there will be a video presentation on the restoration project. A cultural show will also be held at Plaza Roma fronting the basilica in Intramuros.

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“[The Mass] will be followed by a special ceremony, which will include the lighting of dedication candles and the installation of dedication crosses symbolizing the founding of our Catholic Church…with Jesus as the head,” said Msgr. Nestor Cerbo, the cathedral’s rector.

The reopening of the cathedral was originally set last year on Dec. 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. But the Manila Cathedral Basilica Foundation opted for a “soft launch” when work remained unfinished at that time.

The P120-million makeover is expected to draw not only churchgoers but also more tourists to the Intramuros landmark. NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

The cathedral was closed to the public starting Feb. 7, 2012, to make way for repairs, the first to be made since 1958. The cathedral’s origins date back to the 16th century and the current structure is the eighth to rise on the site.

In an assessment made two years ago, cracks were noted on key sections of the basilica, which experts said compromised its structural integrity. It also revealed that some of the columns and beams did not meet the standards set by the 2010 National Structural Code of the Philippines.

Most of the work involved retrofitting or the process of making a structure more resistant to seismic activity, apart from sprucing up the overall look of the church. The pews were given a new sheen, the sound system was improved and additional closed-circuit televisions were installed for security, Cerbo said.

Additional lights were also installed in the interior, he added.

Cerbo earlier said the whole undertaking cost roughly P120 million.

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“If you would look at the extent of work done in the cathedral, you wouldn’t think it can be finished this soon,” Henrietta de Villa, vice chair of the Manila Cathedral Basilica Foundation Board of Trustees, said in an earlier interview on Church-run Radio Veritas. “But it is really moving to see how important the church is to the people in this kind of situation.”

“The cathedral did not have a hard time to look for funds. The Manila Archdiocese did not spend anything because a lot of people gave their contributions,” De Villa noted.

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