History of the Parish of the Lord of Divine Mercy (PLDM)

(Excerpts from “Before Memories Dim,” by the late Mrs. Pacita A. Liwanag, published in the PLDM 2003 Souvenir Program.)

   There was a spark to begin with. A bereaved mother, Sis. Nieves “Ebeng” Fernandez (now deceased) lost her son Wally to leukemia. The chaplain of the hospital, Fr. Gene Bacareza, became the family’s spiritual guide and close friend, giving them much comfort. Fr. Gene was invited to celebrate Sunday Masses at the Fernandez’s home on Matipid St., Sikatuna Village. Sis. Ebeng would invite friends and neighbors to these masses, which became more or less regular celebrations held just in their living rooms. As more people came, their covered driveway became the venue, then the nearby streets, closed on both sides for the Sunday morning mass (no complaints were heard about the street closures). Also, masses were held several times during village anniversaries, Christmas and New Year on the Glorimart premises.

   As the crowd grew, vacant lots were utilized. Tall grasses and weeds were trimmed down, holes and muddy places covered with some soil on Saturdays by Renato Canares. Renato also brought the table to be used as altar and other necessary things to be used early Sunday morning. Some people brought their own chairs and stools. People got acquainted and eventually there grew a congenial group with neighborly concern for each other. Such bond was to be tested later.

The Early Eighties

   A vacant lot along Madasalin Street, owned by the late Enrique Montano, was offered as a temporary chapel. At last, there was galvanized iron roofing to protect us from the rain, both sides left open for the free flow of air. The back side where the altar table was placed was slightly enclosed to keep rain off but let in light and air. Long wooden benches were used as low seats. Bro. Tony and Sis. Baby Belzunce bought picture images of the Divine Mercy and Our Lady to the church. For a long time, these images adorned our humble place of worship.

   Time came when the owner needed the lot back. For almost two years, notice to vacate the lot was given to the community. The residents of Sikatuna Village had dreamed of having a simple house of worship near their homes. It was time to take steps to realize that dream.

   The Sikatuna Village Association, Inc. (SVAI), then headed by Bro. Dominador L. de Guzman, called for a meeting of the officers and members of the SVAI and the SVLA (Sikatuna Village Ladies Association). Both associations decided that a lot in Sikatuna Village be purchased for the purpose. The lot where the present church now stands was the choice. Negotiations then started.

   The initial down payment for the lot came from financially-able residents who gave non-interest bearing loans to be paid later from donations/contributions. Eventually, some residents just donated the amount of their loans and generously gave more.

   When the fund raising campaign started, the wholehearted efforts and response from the community was overwhelming. Instead of a simple one-story place of worship, the villagers clamored for a church for Sikatuna Village. The funds came, not only from villagers but also from people here and abroad. Birthday and wedding celebrators asked for donations instead of gifts.

   Everyone gave his/her time, talents and treasures generously. Architects, engineers and other professionals gave free service/advice. The financially-able opened their hands and emptied their pockets. Others cleaned the premises. Tatay Jose Salvoza became the unofficial overseer during the construction. He spent even his rest hours in the construction site, picking up the useable nails thrown away by the workers “because they cost us money.” The sixteen pillars/posts were donated by groups of parishioners, friends and families for sixteen thousand pesos each. The marble flooring and ceiling were calculated to cost one hundred fifty pesos per square meter, and anyone could give whatever amount to cover the cost of one or more square meter. The seats were donated. Cement, hollow blocks, etc were also donated.

   Fr. Jun Zurbano (now Monsignor) of St. Joseph, had his magic list of donors – names over which he prayed in the masses he celebrated. During Sunday masses, Bro. Ador would give the financial report and he would appeal for donations whenever there was an overdraft. And right there and then, a pledge or donation, in cash and/or checks, would be received.

Naming the Church

   The roofs were in place, a priority to provide shelter during Sunday masses; the flooring was still earth, construction was still ongoing, when a meeting was held in the premises. The subject then was, what to name the church. Among the many names suggested were: St. Expeditus, St. Peregrine, Our Lady of Fatima, and the Divine Mercy. The latter was suggested by Bro. Berting San Pedro who related the history of Sister (now, Saint) Faustina Kowalska’s devotion to the Divine Mercy. Bro. Ador postponed the meeting to 2:00pm, since it was then lunchtime.

   A parishioner, upon arriving home, asked his wife (a deeply religious lady who wanted to be a nun – before meeting the newly-graduated and dashing PMAer – the husband’s words) for a possible name for the church. She went over her file of novenas to different Saints, when one fell on the floor. It was the Novena to the Divine Mercy! When the meeting resumed that afternoon, he related the incident. Taking this as a confirmation sign, the group unanimously decided that our patron will be the Divine Mercy, and the Parish of the Lord of Divine Mercy got its name.

The Priests

   Jaime Cardinal Sin, on his pastoral visit in 1993, saw the completed church and, within a week, sent Fr. Clemente Ignacio (now Monsignor) and on April 16, 1993 installed him as our first Parish Priest. After a month, newly-ordained Fr. Bong Tupino came to be the Assistant Parish Priest. Cardinal Sin, on his second pastoral visit, also declared that our second patron saint is St. Anthony Mary Claret.

   The priests and seminarians who helped before and even after the birth of the church of Divine Mercy will always be remembered with a deep sense of gratitude – the Claretian Fathers of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Teachers Village. Their Rev. Fr. Albert Delvo became the guide/adviser/consultant of the church of Divine Mercy’s then existing organizations like the Lectors and Commentators, Eucharistic Lay Ministers and Altar Boys.

   With fondness, we remember the following priests who helped us: Fr. Clemente (Clem) Ignacio, installed on April 16, 1993 as our first parish priest; Fr. Jose (Bong) Tupino, the first Assistant Parish Priest; Fr. Rufino (Gigi) Yabut, Jr., installed on February 14, 1994 as the second Parish Priest; Fr. Theodore (Theo) Fernando, SJ, Assistant Parish Priest; Fr. Francis Barcelo, Assistant parish Priest; Fr. Antonio Moraledo, Claretian; Fr. Hermogenes (Gene) Bacareza, SVD; Fr. Jaime (Jun) Zurbano; and those of the order of Franciscan Missionaries, especially Fr. Baltazar (Tazan) Obico.

   I must admit that these pages are not enough to capture the beginnings of our church. Neither are they enough to list down the countless and faceless names of our dear friends, donors and patrons. To them, we give thanks. Let our Lord of Divine Mercy put them under His wing and show them how grateful He is, for their generosity and support.