The Ladies Behind Sacred Heart Center

Jenara Regis Newman
·4 min read

THE Sacred Heart Center, located along D. Jakosalem St., has been around since 1979 when the Sacred Heart Parish Men and Ladies Association decided to build the center as part of the group’s apostolate to fund its social projects to help the poor communities around the parish and to sponsor Chinese festivals and ancestral veneration during the Chinese New Year, Autumn Moon Festival, and 100 Martyr Saints of China celebration.

In 1977, the group started to build the center. When it was finished two years later, responsibility for running the center was given to the Sacred Heart Ladies Auxiliary, which was then incorporated with the Securities and Exchange Commission as the Sacred Heart Parish Ladies Association with the following mission-vision statement:

Vision: We, the members of the Sacred Heart Parish Ladies Association, the “pioneer” and “mother” organization in the Sacred Heart Parish, Cebu City, envision ourselves as a community of the Disciples in the company of Mary that accepts the challenge of the Heart of Jesus: Conversion and Reparation.

Mission: We commit ourselves to the building of the Church—the people of God—through a renewed evangelization of the Chinese Communities of Cebu and elsewhere by loving the word of Christ, “Love one another as I have loved you.”

In an interview, the association’s current president, Elizabeth Tiu, along with past presidents Ruby Lim and Visitacion Yap, recalled the history of the parish which began in 1952 as the Chinese parish of Our Lady Queen of China housed on the ground floor of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral to minister to the Chinese community in the city.

In 1960, on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the cornerstone for the Sacred Heart Church along D. Jakosalem St. was laid. On Christmas Eve that same year, the first mass was offered in the still unfinished church. Through those growth years, the parish ladies auxiliary were active in the ministry of the church so it was not surprising that they were called on to manage the Sacred Heart Center.

The center has a fitness gym, a basketball court, and a members-only swimming pool. At the start, there was a bowling alley; unfortunately, it was not patronized and was made into a function room instead. Renovated in 2018, the center now has seven function rooms, two board rooms and a café-restaurant called Café Cristina with a Chinese-Filipino menu, consisting of complete meals, siomai, siopao and other snack items. At the height of the lockdown, it only catered to take-outs, but it now accepts dine-in customers at a limited capacity. The function rooms and board rooms are also now available for functions at a maximum of 12 for the board rooms and up to 700 people in its newest and largest hall, the Don Benedicto Hall. However, quarantine rules still limit their capacity.

The function rooms are rented out for meetings, conventions, recollections, wedding receptions and other gatherings whose food and drinks are exclusively catered by the center’s cafeteria. This is where the center makes money for all the association’s outreach activities like food packs for indigents, mass weddings, catechism outreach to Chinese nonsectarian schools (the ladies pay for the catechist), first communion of pupils in the Zapatera Elementary School, outreach program for the parish’s chapel communities (the parish became not just a Chinese personal parish but a territorial parish mandated by then Archbishop Ricardo J. Vidal in 1983). The money also goes to the other outreach programs of the parish like its medical clinic.

As incumbent president, Tiu is always the one in charge of the center and the cafeteria; former presidents Yap and Lim help around occasionally. Other board members, when needed, are also around to support Tiu. As volunteers, they do not get a single centavo from the center’s earnings. All of the income goes to its outreach projects.

Covid-19 has, of course, cut severely its income, while most of its yearly projects like mass weddings and holy communion for Zapatera pupils have been cancelled. The facilities had to close, but some have gradually reopened with the relaxed quarantine rules. Sports facilities are still closed, but the function rooms and Café Cristina are already open, however, at a limited capacity.

Despite the challenges brought by the lockdown, the group still managed to do their part during the pandemic, giving food packs to frontliners and pushing through with the feeding program, thanks to generous donors.

President Tiu said they currently donate 200-300 meal packs four times a week (Tuesday to Friday). On the day of our interview, the food packs were bound for Danao City with volunteer members—association vice president Leslie Cokaliong, assistant treasurer Zenaida Uy and Alice Uy—overseeing the packing process.

President Elizabeth Tiu and past presidents Ruby Lim and Visitacion Yap hope that people will know that the center’s function rooms are now available for use and that Café Cristina is ready to serve the general public so they will be able to give more to their chosen charities.