The Our Lady of Mt. Carmel church in barangay Das, Toledo City where Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma presides a concelebrated Mass on Sunday. (CDN PHOTO/ Sammy Navaja)

What started as a small chapel 59 years back has evolved into a “cathedral-like” church that is now a source of pride for the people of Barangay Das, Toledo City, midwest Cebu.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said the construction of a bigger church for the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel also proves everyone, who doubted the project implementation, wrong.

“Katong mga nag duda nga mahuman, karon makakita na sa simbahan (Those who doubted that the project will be completed can now see the church nearing completion),” said Palma, who officiated the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel’s fiesta mass on Sunday.

“Kini dili lang simbahan pero mahimong Cathedral sa usa ka diocese tungod sa iyang kadaku, tungod sa iyang katahom (This is not just a church but this can already qualify for a diocese because of its size and beauty),” he added.

Palma joined parish priest Fr. Rolando Manayon during the ceremonial turnover of documents and the church key from officials of Carmen Copper Corporation (CCC) led by Ignacio Alburo, CCC General Services assistant vice president, before the Sunday mass started.

The church construction project was estimated to cost around P58 million with Camen Copper as its biggest donor pouring in a total of P11.3 million in donation from the company’s Social Development and Management Program (SDMP).

Company engineers also conceptualized the new church’s design.

Other donors included parishioners, civic groups and other organizations.

“Carmen Copper owes the continuous operation of the mine to the intercession of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and the Almighty God’s continuous providence and to the community whose unwavering support inspires the company to do more and give back to the people,” CCC said in a press statement.

Spiritual Enrichment

In 1958, then Atlas Consolidated Mining and Development Corporation in coordination with Don Andres Soriano Sr. and his wife Doña Carmen built a small chapel on the same area where the church now stands, “after realizing the need of its workers for spiritual enrichment.”

Residents of the neighboring barangays of Cantabaco, Campo 8 and Loay would also come to the chapel to pray.

On August 13, 1959, then Toledo parish priest Rev. Fr. Nanding Arriba and Cebu Archbishop Julio Cardinal Rosales conferred Lutopan (now known as Barangay Das) into a parish.

The Our Lady of Mt. Carmel was chosen as its patroness in honor of Doña Carmen, a Marian devotee who brought the image from Spain.

“Since then, the image has been venerated by the workers of Atlas and the Lutopanons as its protector and intercessor. At present, the original image adorned with gold plated tiara and precious stones is enshrined at the center of the altar for public veneration,” said the CCC in a statement.

The parish celebrates its annual feast every July 16 since its foundation in 1964.

It was the late Msgr. Gerardo Jumao-as who evangelized the community by holding masses and other church services like baptism, confirmation and matrimony, among others.

“The miners, who were constantly faced with the perils of their job in the underground, began to frequent the church. Msgr. Gerry has been instrumental in strengthening the spiritual formation of the people. Different communities and organizations have been formed and seeing the need for a bigger church, Msgr. Gerry lobbied to the management of Atlas Mining for the construction of a bigger church for the parishioners,” said the CCC statement.

However, the project was put on hold after Atlas Mining hit its lowest in terms of ore extraction and after the price of copper slumped in the world market resulting to massive job losses from suspension of company operations in 1994.

“But the faithful Lutopanons remained steadfast in their prayers and devotion to the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. They put their trust in God that one day the mine will operate ones more,” the CCC statement said.

On February 2008, Rev. Fr. Domingo Tapic revived earlier proposals to built a bigger church for the Lutopanons.

By then, the parish would already accommodate eight masses each day which still do not include funeral masses.

CCC started with the donation of a 4, 861-square-meter that was occupied by the old church and convent. They also provided the design and plans for the new church before they finally released the P11.3 million donation.

The church construction project broke ground in August 2010. (Source: Cebu Daily News)