Roof Damaged, Altar Saved

Brgy. Apolonio Samson, Quezon City, January 26, 2023

The Rev. Victoria Esguerra
The Rev. Severino Dancel Ismael II

The IFI DGMA Cathedral literally rained droplets of fire from inside its burning roof extended from the next doors’ conflagration of an undetermined origin. Shocked and teary-eyed, the Diocesan Bishop Vicente Salvador Ballesteros mustered his wits, courage, and strength to save and remove the icon of the Crucified Christ from the altar. He and together with other assistants were also able to timely save all other religious icons from potential damage of this burning inferno. Despite the extensive damage to the roofing, the Cathedral altar was miraculously saved from the fire and held intact; including the untainted dove-image of the Holy Spirit, unburned wooden pillars, and unsinged fabric-backdrop of the Lord Patron. Sadly, however, some 28 families (89 persons) lost their homes and were evacuated to the Barangay’s Parkway Center’s basketball court.

This horrific incident happened on Monday, January 23, 2023, at 8:30 A.M., in Barangay Apolonio Samson, Quezon City, where the Cathedral is located. After the beautiful celebration of the Santo Nino festival the day before climaxed by an evening procession, the exhilarated community woke up unaware, and then in shock swiftly witnessed the Cathedral ceiling burning. In just five minutes, the ceiling fire above rapidly spread like an inundated river of burning inferno and quickly started spewing downwards droplets of burning hot plastic paint. The Rev. Severino Ismael II, canon of the Cathedral, explained, “It was literally raining droplets of fire from the ceiling!” Bishop Buddy, Father Severino, and Rose Madrelejos (office secretary) suffered skin burns akin to cigarette-stub wounds on their arms.

The Cathedral fire was extended from the instant combustion from the next-door neighbors’ burning homes of light materials. Without preventive firewalls, the homes were directly attached to the right outside walls of the cathedral building. The fire heat consumed the two stained glass windows above the rear right-side wall, without melting their steel frames, and then in a whiff the flames entered and scorched the wooden ceiling containing the painted faces of Jesus’ 12 apostles. (The ceiling project of the YIFI then under the leadership of Joel Ballesteros, Fine Arts graduate of U.S.T, was simultaneously produced with the main altar under the initiative of Father Cesar Emmanuel Ballesteros, parish rector then. As labors of love in the early 2000’s, those involved in these two projects are all grief-stricken now.)

The members of the congregation helped remove all the big icons and small statues from inside the building and safely stored them in adjacent homes. The canonical records and the clergy vestments, likewise, were moved to safer places. The heavy wooden pews were carried outside to the garden away from the burning building.

At 9:15 A.M., the firefighters responded to the one-alarm call with fifteen fire trucks, inclusive of those from the Bureau of Fire Protection and the volunteer fire brigades. But only five trucks could enter the narrow private road of Sampaguita Street; made worse by the even narrower passageway (eskinita) leading to the fire zone. The fire was under control by 10:30 A.M., but declared “fire out” (embers fully extinguished) by 2:00 P.M.

Some fire victims chose to remain in make-shift shelters close to their damaged homes; while others preferred to stay in the more secure and safe evacuation center in the basketball court of Parkway Center under the monitoring care of Barangay Apolonio Samson. Up to the time of this report-gathering, there was still no update from the BFP on the cause of the fire; yet others surmised unofficially that it was probably caused by electrical wiring from multiple connections of gadgets and appliances.

The structural engineer’s survey report revealed the unsound integrity of the damaged wall and burned roofing, and advised safety through rapid reconstruction. Donations are requested for the restoration of the House of God and for the upliftment of the general well-being of the fire victims. Please send your donations monetary or in-kind to the diocesan bishop. (But beware of unauthorized or fake solicitations especially via social media.) Likewise, fervent prayers of the faithful are also sincerely appreciated. May the merciful and loving Lord succor us in these grave losses as we strive to restore order back to our Diocese and our lives as faithful believers.



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