Tony Agustin describes the Makiling Conference Centre in his home country of the Philippines.
Can you describe some interesting details about the history of the Centre?
Makiling was the first conference centre in the Philippines. The site was donated to Opus Dei and the building was designed by an architect priest of Opus Dei, Fr. Ramon Dodero. Construction was overseen by the first two members of Opus Dei in the Philippines, Bernie Vellagas and Jess Estanislao.
When construction began, a water source on the site could not be located. Bernie visited St. Josemaria in Rome to give him an update on the construction and the lack of success in finding water.
St. Josemaria gave him a reassuring hug and whispered in his ear, “Be patient. It will come!” When Bernie returned to the Philippines, the digging was continued and water sprung forth!
What were some of the projects you heard about during the events you attended at the conference centre?
We heard stories about new centres that were being established in various places in Asia such as Hong Kong and Taiwan. One especially inspiring project was the construction of the St. Josemaria Parish church in Tarlac, a provincial capital in the Philippines, which was inaugurated in 2003.
Can you tell us more about St. Josemaria’s church?
For seniors and the handicapped who cannot get out of their cars, there is a drive-thru adoration chapel. As in many hot countries, the doors and windows of the church are kept open to allow cooler air to circulate. However, at St. Josemaría’s, the doors have screens to prevent the birds from flying in! As St. Josemaria was a lawyer, lawyers in the Philippines consider him their patron saint. Many law students pray at this Church for his intercession before taking the bar exam!
Who were some of the inspiring people that you met while you were there?
I met Bernie Villegas, the first member of Opus Dei in the Philippines, and Fr. Cruz, the first Philippino priest. I was also inspired by the family tone that the administration staff created and the excellent food that they served!
The caretaker of St. Josemaría’s church was also a very impressive person. He gave us an amazing tour, describing every aspect of the church. He also shared details of the life of St. Josemaria from birth till his death on June 26, 1975; details I did not know myself. I was surprised and humbled.
What did you get out of attending events at the conference centres?
There is a unique feeling of closeness and brotherhood that one experiences at one of our conference centres. I was also given the spiritual formation to bring my faith to the next level.
Do you feel that others have been positively affected by your spiritual growth at the conference centres?
Yes. Although it is difficult to describe, I feel that when I grow spiritually through conference centre activities, I experience myself to be working more as a team member towards a common goal with my family, friends and others I am associated with.