Watching thousands of people entering and exiting the Cebu City Philippines Temple during the last two days of its open house could be described as something akin to a vision or, at least, like a dream.
The new temple — the Church's 133rd worldwide — faces inward from the street toward a complex that includes a stake center, patron housing and offices for the Philippines Cebu Mission. To approach the temple, set on a slight rise from the rest of the complex, people go up a walkway lined on both sides by towering palm trees. Since the walkway has a series of steps, people literally "will go up to the house of the Lord."
On the last day of the open house, June 5, more than 7,215 of the total 45,103 visitors toured the temple. The public open house began May 21.
Energetic and smiling young men and young women handed visitors large white umbrellas as shelter from the relentless sun bearing down on Cebu Island during what some locals are calling the hottest June in many years.
By day, the stream of bobbing umbrellas looked like giant blossoms floating by as one long line of people walked up the steps to the temple and another came down a set of parallel steps.
The scene at night, when there was no need for umbrellas, was equally impressive. With lights illuminating the temple and the statue of Angel Moroni atop its spire, the view was what rightly could be called "heavenly," a beacon on a hill penetrating night's darkness.
During the last two evenings of the open house, visitors kept coming even after 8 p.m., which had been announced as the time the temple's gates would close each day.
From the large number of people who lingered on the grounds gazing up at the temple, it seemed apparent that many did not want to leave.
Although the open house attendance figures were higher than anticipated, Elder Won-Yong Ko of the Seventy and first counselor in the Philippines Area Presidency said the success of the open house cannot be measured in numbers of visitors.
"I don't care about the numbers; the open house was successful because of the impact it made to the hearts of the people in this city, on this island and other islands," he said.
Though many people think of a temple open house as a great missionary tool – which it is – it accomplishes more, he explained. For one thing, a temple open house helps Latter-day Saints who participate as volunteers realize more fully Heavenly Father's plan of happiness and see more fully what Jesus Christ has done for them through His Atonement and Resurrection. It also helps them increase in testimony.
An open house, Elder Ko added, provides a chance to invite less-active members to come back into activity.
"Most important, this open house introduced the Lord's Church and His gospel to thousands of people."
Elder Ko led several tours through the temple. "People came to the open house and then they went and told others, 'You must go see the temple.'
"I met one lady I had taken on an earlier tour. She recognized me and said, 'I brought my husband and my niece.' People wanted to share what they had seen."
Elder Cesar A. Perez Jr., an Area Seventy and coordinator of the Cebu City Philippines Temple Committee, led numerous tours. "There was always a special feeling every time I went into the temple, each time I entered those rooms," he said. "And I wasn't the only one who felt it; many people on the tours expressed the same thing. Many asked, 'What is this I am feeling?' I explained that they were feeling the Spirit of the Lord. A lot of people asked for more information. They said they wanted to be taught more."
Giovanie and Willeonor Badoles made the 12-hour boat ride with their 2-year-old daughter Althea Era Margaret from Ilo Ilo City on Panay Island to attend the open house on June 5.
"We are very happy that our leaders have built a temple in Cebu because it is now our opportunity to be closer to the temple, which brings us closer to the Lord," Brother Badoles said
"When I saw the temple for the first time this morning, I said to myself, 'This is a temple of God; it is His house. The beauty of this temple, inside and outside, is something I cannot describe. I cannot find the words."
Sister Badoles said that the Celestial Room "felt like heaven. I felt peace in my heart when I saw it."
Brother and Sister Badoles were married in the Manila Philippines Temple in 2007.
Brother Badoles said that from the moment they learned of the open house schedule they planned to visit the temple. They returned to Panay Island Saturday night, looking forward to attending the temple's dedication in their stake center as its proceedings are broadcast to chapels throughout the Philippines on June 13. Brother Badoles said they plan to attend the temple at least four times a year, a blessing they could not partake of before since it is so far and expensive to travel to the temple in Manila.