Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Iglesia Ni Kristo---the True Church for Filipinos and those who believe in the Truth about God

IN CELEBRATION OF THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE IGLESIA NI KRISTO, let me share with you an excerpt from my book, " Bagong Istorya". I devoted a whole chapter on the millenarian movements which sprouted in the early 1900s when the Philippine Revolution of 1896 began to lose steam.

New religious aggrupations arose in the early 1900s for several reasons: First, the introduction of Protestantism in the Philippines. The Americans brought this newer thinking in the country. Big groups of protestants came in droves and started spreading their own interpretation of the bible. Most of them served as teachers in the public school system.

Their arrival energized a dedicated group of religious folk in Manila and outlying provinces. Unbeknownst, even before the arrival of these Protestants, there were already groups who oppose the Spanish interpretation of the bible, as espoused by the Catholic church. These groups, however, were practising their faith away from the prying eyes of the Spanish authorities.

The second reason is the introduction of democracy in the Philippines. When the Americans came, they encouraged Filipinos to talk their heads off, albeit, with limitations. Religious talk was allowed. As Filipinos began to talk about religion, they slowly forgot about the revolution. Droves of people shifted their attention, from helping oust the Americans from power thru revolution, to emancipating their souls from sin. 

Democracy also led to several religio-ideological and technological exchanges between the two peoples. Many Filipino religious leaders were given free rein by American authorities and even invited by several Protestant groups to study in religious schools based in the United States. These scholarly exchanges led to the strengthening of Protestant thinking in the country. 

The Iglesia Ni Kristo is the first group which sprouted out of the brief religious awakening of that era. The INK, in brief, is the synthesis of foreign Protestant thinking with that of the dominant, yet, unacceptable indigenous interpretation of the Anglo-Saxon inspired bible. The early 1900s saw the emergence of a new, more specific, interpretation which re-established the early teaching of Christianity of the First believers of Christ. Unlike other Protestant groups, the INK is the only one who claims to teach the continuation of the teachings of the First Christians---the first witnesses about Christ and his teachings. All others have their own simplistic and purely personal interpretation of the Bible. The INK is different---it espouses the belief that the construction of the Bible should be logical and should follow the original monotheistic message of the One True God. 

Read the following except:

In 1886, Agripino Lontoc was roused from his sleep. A mystic from the town of Taal, Batangas, Lontoc hid in Mount Banahaw after Spanish authorities accused him of rebellion. He chose to live a sedentary life away from the towns after Holy Voices began calling him and asking him to prophesy before the people.

Loctoc was not a revolutionary, nor did he ever thought of becoming one. Back then, being a revolutionario meant certain death at the hands of the Guardia Civil.

Yet, Loctoc was so high with religious spirit that he decided to go to the mountains instead of incurring the ire of the Spanish authorities, who killed a man who, like Lontoc, prophesized the coming salvation of the Filipino People, twenty four years ago. The birth of the man who would prophesize the coming salvation of the Filipino People began with a very loud explosion.

The Explosion and the Birth of the Voice

It was one of the coldest weathers in Philippine history. Three months ago, on the tenth of April, 1815, a huge earthquake rocked the Philippines. A huge volcano, Mount Tambora in Indonesia has just erupted. The eruption was the biggest in human history and it happened a thousand kilometers away from the Philippines.

Mount Tambora, a volcano 13,000 feet tall, has been reduced by 4,000 feet and spewed 93 cubic miles of ash into the atmosphere. The dust cloud enveloped the stratosphere and caused cold temperatures around the world.

In New England, early snow was reported in early June. Cold waves, frost and drought hit Eastern Canada. Sub-zero temperatures killed crops and at least one foot of snow fell in Quebec City. Low temperatures and prolonged rain damaged crops in Britain, while it was the third coldest summer to hit France, Switzerland and Germany.

The whole of Europe was, at that time, already suffering from food shortages caused by war. Many rivers flooded due to higher than normal rainfall. More than 200,000 people died in Eastern and Southern Europe due to hunger and typhus epidemic. Some countries reported seeing ash mixed with snow. [i]

China suffered from extreme famine caused by damaged rice crops. Southern India suffered a cholera epidemic. Unusually large monsoon rains battered the rest of Asia.

The eruption of Mount Tambora actually happened just a year shortly after the biggest explosion of Mount Mayon in the Bicol region.

It was early morning of February 1, 1814 when Mount Mayon exploded. A series of strong seismic shocks preceded the eruption. Mount mayon spewed a thick column of stones, sand and ash shot high into the air. A fiery stream of lava quickly flowed down the side of Mayon, while the sky suddenly turned dark as the thick black smoke and ash blanketed the sun and the skies.

Huge hot boulders shot up in the air and began falling down houses and people. Those boulders hit those houses built on wood and nipe. Houses suddenly exploded upon impact, as these boulders turned fire bombs flew high and fell extremely fast. People tried to escape from the falling hot rocks and steaming lava by taking refuge inside the church of Cagsawa. No luck. Fast-moving lava from the crater overwhelmed the church and all those who sought refuge were completely roasted and killed. More than 200 people died.

Mount Mayon’s rage took all six hours. Lava flowed in all directions, affecting at least six kilometers of land near the volcano. A thousand and two hundred souls perished in the six-hour pyrotechnic show. Strong aftershocks rumbled throughout Batangas and were felt even as far as the towns of Tayabas and Lukban in the province of Quezon.

Back then, Pablo dela Cruz had just married Juana Andres. They are one of the most religious folks in Barrio Pandak in Tayabas. At that time, religious friars administer Tayabas, which was then a Franciscan-dominated territory.

Tayabas was a picturesque town situated on the slopes of an extinct volcano, Banajao. In 1571, Captain Juan de Salcedo, upon orders of Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, took possession of the town and established Spanish sovereignty. Two Franciscan friars namely Fr. Juan de Placencia and Fr. Diego de Oropesa accompanied Salcedo and established a Franciscan community in the already occupied and bustling town.

Prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, natives of Tayabas lived in scattered villages. These Tayabenses had their own system of government, strict code of ethics, communal type of economy, and a very indigenous form of religion. Just like any rural village in the Philippines, social order in Tayabas effected by the barangay was headed by a chief or a council of elders. Retribution was facilitated as one of a set of norms recognized as law by every one. Turnohan or the “bayanihan” was practicsed. Communal landholdings were prevalent and were the system of ownership. Peasants helped one another in planting and harvesting crops.

Residents of Tayabas had a very strong sense of nationalism. They were independent when the foreigners came. There were pieces of evidence that they practiced their ancient religion even during the Spanish times.

The Hike To Mount Banahaw

Pule was born Apolinario dela Cruz in the sleepy barrio of Pandac in Lukban, a town in the province of Tayabas. His parents, Pablo dela Cruz and Juana Andres belonged to wealthy families in Lucban. They were very religious and belonged to several confradias themselves.

At the age of fifteen years old, Apolinario decided to enter the priestly life. He went to the curate of Lucban to offer himself to be a priest. Instead of accepting him, the Franciscans denied his application. Back then, the Catholic Church has a strict policy against Indios who want to become priests.

Instead of being disillusioned, Apolinario decided to come to Manila and work as a donado at the San Juan de Dios hospital. There, he joined the Confradia de San Juan de Dios, a brotherhood of religious Indios, who, like Apolinario, wanted to become priests.

Those who knew him said that Pule showed extreme faith in the Catholic religion. He was a silent worker of the Faith. When he speaks though, Pule was different. He was a spirited orator, someone who commands authority. He was such an excellent speaker that he earned the respect and admiration of his peers.

Such was his religiosity that, at the age of nineteen years old, he decided to go back and form his own confradia in his town of Lucban. With nineteen of his fellow Indio religious lay preachers, Pule founded the Hermandad de la Archi-Confradia del Glorioso Senor San Jose y de la Virgen del Rosario (Brotherhood of the Great Sodality of the Glorious Lord Saint Joseph and the Virgin Mary) or Confradia de San Jose for short, a religious brotherhood devoted to the worship of Saint Joseph and his wife, the virgin Mother Mary.

Pule was the spiritual founder of the Confradia de San Jose, an organization of religious devotees of Saint Joseph. The Confradia, like other religious associations, started as a harmless aggrupation of religious devotees. When its membership ballooned to thousands, the once harmless Confradia became a security nightmare.

Pule’s religious brotherhood centered on its devotion to piety and charity, a characteristic common to all religious brotherhoods at that time. What struck the Confradia as different from the others was its religious ritual of celebrating mass at the nineteenth day of every month.

The Confradia quickly gained thousands of adherents and by the 1840’s, became a direct threat to the authority of the Church, most especially, the power of the local curate, Manuel Sancho. Between 1839 and 1840, more than a thousand religious Filipinos from Tayabas, Laguna and Lucban joined the Confradia.

Sometime in 1840, at the house of Francisco delos Santos, one of his believers, Pule announced his real intention of legalizing the brotherhood. By this time, the Confradia has extended its wings, from Tayabas to Batangas, Laguna and Tondo. After a year, there were more than 600 members in Lukban alone, more than 240 in Tayabas, 120 in Pagbilao, 20 in Tiaong, more than 40 in Lipa and San Pablo towns in Batangas and 130 in Majayjay. Members were also found in Nagcarlan, Liliw and Magdalena in Laguna. By Hermano Pule’s estimate himself, Confradia reached more than 5,000 members by 1841.

Its fast growth did not escape the attention of the authorities who quickly assumed that Pule was organizing a revolutionary movement.  In October 1840, the curate of Lucban ordered a crackdown against Pule and the Confradia for heresy.

Wanting to avoid a direct clash with the Spanish authorities, Pule asked several Confradia members to intervene. Pule wrote a letter to the Bishop of the Province of Nueva Caceres, asking that the confradia be considered a legal religious brotherhood. His request was politely turned down. He wrote another letter, this time, addressed to the Audiencia Real in Manila. Prominent members of Manila’s alta sociedad tried to mediate but Fray Sancho was never to be denied. Sensing that he would lose face, Sancho opposed the application. The friar was able to convince the religious authorities of the supposed sacrilegious rites being practiced by the Confradia. This led to a massive hunt for Confradia members.

Pule, along with several thousands of devout Filipinos, went up Mount Banahaw. Pule went to the slopes of Mount Cristobal to escape the wrath of Spanish religious authorities.

There in a small place called Aritao, Hermano Pule and the Confradia established their religious community.  The Confradia declared their independence from the Spanish civil and religious authority. For a year, the Confradia lived in relative peace, with the Hermano as their “king” and the community, a “kingdom of the Tagalogs”.

Convinced that the Confradia had committed rebellion and fearful that the organization would eventually reach other towns, Spanish Governor General Ora-a ordered an attack against the Confradia. The witch hunt which the Spanish civil authorities launched forced the Confradia to defend themselves. [ii]

Pule led his Confradias against the swarming Spanish army. With the help of Negrito natives living in the mountains, the Confradia forced the Spaniards back and even killed the alcalde mayor Ortega. Superior firepower and the treachery of several Indios led to the defeat of the Confradias. After a month of relentless fighting, the Spanish forces were able to forcibly enter the Aritao encampment and on November 4, 1841, arrested Pule, his wife and supporters.

There in a road leading to Tayabas town, the Spaniards beheaded Hermano Pule and his wife. The Spaniards placed his severed head in a pole, a brutal reminder of what punishment the colonizers were capable of inflicting to those who question their authority.

This travesty of religious justice did not escape men such as Lontoc. It was evident that Indios like him cannot be declared “saints” due to the color of their skins. Back then, it was heresy and a form of rebellion if someone declares a belief contrary to the Catholic faith.

What rebellion when he was just shouting God’s words at the top of his voice? Those voices started on April 25, which fell on the Easter or to some Tagalogs, the feast of the resurrection (Muling Pagkabuhay). The Holy Voices did not cease. They were telling Lontoc about the coming of a child prophesized to propagate the Message of God everywhere.

It was May 10, which fell on a Monday, and a full week after the Easter celebration that it was clear to Lontoc what God was telling him about. Lontoc tried to leave the mountain several times. And every time he tried so, he goes blind.

The Holy Messenger

A few kilometers away from Banahaw, in a sleepy town at the western shores of Laguna de Bay, the Holy Voices pointed, was where a child of God would be born. There, in a town bordering the tributary river of the Pasig River, in a barrio called Calzada, a child would be born, he who will propagate the true message of God.

Taguig lies at the center of two large bodies of water: Manila bay and Laguna de Bai. The population was estimated to be more than a thousand souls. Residents live off through fishing while women were known as cotton weavers and sawali makers.  Several of the residents were also farmers.

Before the Spaniards came, the place was under the Kingdom of Tundun. During the early years of Spanish rule, a local chieftain by the name of Don Juan Basi launched a year-long rebellion. The revolt failed and Basi was exiled for two years. After that, it took centuries before the townsfolk of Taguig rose to rebellion once again.

By this time though, Taguig was just a remote town which borders Muntinlupa, at the edge of the Pasig River. Taguig became a sanctuary of prosecuted Confradia members. They secretly integrated into the mainstream and lived as farmers or fishermen.

Taguig was part of an encomienda under the political subdivision named Province of Tondo. Franciscans ruled the area like religious kings. Friars were recognized as both political and religious leaders. They dominated the farming and fishing community.

Felix Y Manalo during the times of his early ministry
Mariano Ysagun was one of the first residents of sitio Calzada. A man of means, Mariano was a farm hand who supplemented the family income through subsistence farming. He was just a simple man who married a beautiful lass by the name of Bonifacia Manalo.

Neighbours of the Ysaguns described the family as poor , honorable and devout Catholics. On July 27, 1886, a son was born to the Ysaguns. Felix was named after a saint in the liturgical calendar. He was the first child of the Ysaguns. It was said that his birth brought tremendous joy to his parents that they named him Felix which means “happy.”

Several thousand miles away, another theologian who would preach the same message as Felix, was also born. Karl Barth, a Swiss theologian, was born the same day as Felix was.

Barth, like Felix, was a poor lad. Born in Basel Switzerland, Barth started as a reformed pastor. He later became a teacher of theology. In one of his best writings, Barth argued that God who is revealed in the cross of Jesus challenges and overthrows any attempt to ally God with human cultures, achievements or possessions. This piece titled The Epistle to the Romans, was considered to be the most important theological treatise since Friedrich Schleiermacher’s On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers.

Barth was the one who developed a theoretical model called dialectical theology which found complete expression in his 13-volume work entitled the Church Dogmatics. The work, considered one of the most important theological work of the century, addresses four major doctrines: Revelation, God, creation and atonement or reconciliation.

The Life of the Messenger in Taguig

Life was hard in Taguig when Felix was born. 1886 was a time of extreme flux, both in the social and political life of the Filipinos. At that time, there was an active resistance movement. A doctor from Laguna has just finished his opus and has just published his first work, Noli Me Tangere. While several other learned men from the Mestizo and professional classes began asking for political reforms.

The Roman Catholic faith was still the most dominant religion during those times. Those who cannot, either moved out of the cities to become animists, while others migrated to the South, where Islam was the ruling religious ideology.

Those who want to transact with government and trade their goods had to be Catholics. Non-Catholics were forbidden to trade with the indigenous population. Sangleys, for example, were required to convert into Catholicism before they were allowed entry into the mostly Catholic towns and cities.

Tradition back then required every first born to be dedicated to the faith. Felix was baptized in the Catholic faith. The first years of Felix were spent in their humble shack at Taguig. At the ripe age of six years old, Felix was entrusted to a certain Macario Ocampo.  Maestrong Cario maintains a caton, a school for children. It was Ocampo who taught Felix the basics of rithmetic, as well as Catholic teachings.

The Revolution of 1886

There were scant information as to what caused the death of Felix’ father. The year was a glorious time, when Filipinos unified to fight a common foreign enemy. Many surmised that Mariano died when he took part in the revolution. 

After the death of his father, Felix’s mother married a widower, Clemente Monzo. Two years later, Felix asked permission from his mother to go to Manila to study photography. His mother agreed. Felix left his younger sister Praxedes and went with his cousin, Modesto. They went to the house of his cousin, Serapio Ysagun and was employed as an apprentice at a studio owned by his uncle, Manuel Manalo.[iii] After his mother died, Felix changed his surname to that of his mother. [iv] Several reasons were given as to the change in surname. There was, however, one simple explanation. Felix wanted to honor his mother.

There, in that small house, Felix learned the basics of photography. He also learned goldsmithing, barbering and hat making. While working there, he and his cousin lived at the parish house in Sampaloc Manila, where his uncle Fr. Mariano Borja ministered.

The First Calling

In 1900, as Felix was inside a church, he found a bible and read it. Felix was surprised to learn that how different Catholic priests were interpreting passages of the bible.[v] From that time on, Felix asked his uncle so many questions about the Catholic faith, and most if not all of the answers were unsatisfactory for Felix.

That began Felix spiritual journey. He was just fourteen years old. [vi]

The Entry of Protestantism

In 1901, Emilio Aguinaldo was arrested by the Americans in Palanan, Isabela. That started the slow normalization of the socio-economic situation, with many of the Ilustrados, particularly, the landed gentry, associating themselves with the new colonial powers.

There were still groups who oppose the collaboration of the elites with that of the Americans.

On February 6, 1898, Filipino forces including Taguig revolutionaries demolished an American position in the hills of Taguig, in that portion between Pateros and Fort Bonifacio. After a few days, the Katipuneros were defeated by the more superior firepower of the Americans. Taguig finally fell to the contingent of the First Washington Volunteer Infantry led by Colonel Wholly.  On August 14, 1898, the United States armed forces occupied most of the islands of the archipelago. A military government under General Wesley Meritt was established.

Like the Spaniards that came before them, the Americans brought not just war, but religion. Protestant missionaries came from the mainland to preach a different form of Christianity. American missionaries and preachers initiated a spirited debate centered on questioning the teachings of the Catholic church.  Many Filipinos took part in those debates, meant on really knowing what the bible really wanted men to know.

It was at this time that Felix also took part in the geist of his time. He went and sought enlightenment by going to the Iglesia Filipina Independiente.

The rise of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente headed by Isabelo delos Reyes and Bishop Gregorio Aglipay did nothing to quench the thirst of the young Felix for more spiritual enlightenment. For him, the Aglipayan church was just as wrong as the Roman Catholic faith.

It was at this time that Felix drifted from one religion to another. He set shop at Paranaque, selling hats. While selling hats, Felix read the bible and saw some of the heated religious debates going round about that time.

In one town plaza at Paranaque, Felix witnessed a debate between a Methodist minister and a Parish priest. Felix found the arguments of the Protestant minister seemed nearer to the biblical truth than the pointless rambling of the priest.[vii] He then joined the Methodist Episcopal Church, attended their seminary and became a pastor of this church in Manila.[viii]

Felix preached as a Methodista for two years. He was still studying and honing his skills as a pastor when he learned of his mother’s death. He stopped for a while, and when he went back to Manila, he began studying at the Presbyterian Bible school. In 1907, he joined the Presbyterian Church wherein he became a pastor after attending the Union Theological Seminary.

In 1908, he joined the Disciples of Christ and served as an evangelist for a year before leaving, having been accused of domestic violence.[ix] There, he stumbled upon a Christian Mission Group or popularly known as Church of Christ. He changed school after that, and spent four years as a theology student at the Manila College of the Bible. From this group, Felix learned the importance of immersion in baptism and accepted the idea of restoring the New Testament church. He soon became a local evangelist in a religious group called the “Society for the Propagation of the Gospel” [x] He soon became one of the church spirited preachers and even married one of its members, a beautiful lass name Teresa Sereneo of Paco Manila. Sereneo bore Felix a child whom they named Gerardo, but the child died in infancy.

He went on and found the Disciples of Christ Christian church and devoted his time learning their teachings. However, in 1911, Felix attended a 7th day Adventist meeting. He was to debate against L.V. Finster, a minister of the church.

Felix was just 25 years old when he debated against the Adventist stance that Christians are still under the law. He lost that debate and admitted publicly that Finster was right. Later, Felix left the church and joined the Seventh Day Adventist church. However, when he was attending church rites, Felix still found their teachings as contrary to established biblical principles. What Felix found contemptible was the Adventist practice of observing the Sabbath during Saturdays.

Felix was assigned as a preacher of the Seventh Day Adventist in Bulacan. There, he met Honorata de Guzman, a deaconess of the church.

When his wife died due to tuberculosis, Felix entertained the idea of establishing his own church. Shortly after the burial of his first wife, Felix reportedly eloped with Honorata de Gusman, a devout member of the Adventists in Santa Cruz, Manila. There were insinuations that Felix was meted a disciplinary action for his elopement and hints of moral indiscretion spread. Felix was a minister while Honorata was then a deaconess.

However, historical records show that Felix was then a widower when he married Honorata. Felix married Honorata on his twenty sixth birthday. Later, he, together with his new wife, left the church due to theological differences. [xi]  The couple went back to Paranaque. They re-opened Felix’ hat shop.

At the age of 26 years old, Felix joined the Colorums, a religious cult that believed that the end of the world was at hand. He became an acolyte of Florencia Entrencherado who several years later, would declare an apostasy when he declared himself emperor of the Philippines. Entrencherado would later be arrested by the American authorities.

Fearful that he be accused and arrested just like Entrencherado, Felix left Paranaque and established a barbershop in Pasay. There, several of his former Adventist colleagues tried to persuade him to return to the church fold. He resisted.

Three days and three nights of reflection

Felix was on the verge of losing his faith with any religion. He thought of drifting into atheism, but found himself doubting the very argument against God. Deep inside of him was a yearning to discover who God really is. Felix does not believe the atheists, that there is no God. There is a God, says Felix, but who is He?

Sometime in November 1913, Felix gathered all the religious literatures he had accumulated over the years, and stacked them. He also prepared a notebook and some pencils.

With his trusty bible in his hand, Felix asked his friend Eusebio Sunga, for him to use a small dimly lighted room inside Sunga’s house in Pasay. He asked his friends not to disturb him.

For three days and three nights, Felix re-read the bible. He studied all the religious literature, compared their teachings with those written in the bible. He did not eat. He neither touch any food nor water. [xii]

After three days, Felix went out of the room. There, infront of his friends, he proclaimed the good news. Felix announced that he was ready to proclaim the Good Mission which the Lord God gave him, the mission to re-establish the original church founded by Jesus Christ. His long quest for the true religion has ended. Felix was convinced that based on his studies, he finally found the true religion that God preached to the ancients. He told his friends that the true religion of God is the Iglesia ni Kristo.[xiii] Eight months later, Felix, together with other believers in Tondo, finally established the Church of Christ.

The establishment of the Iglesia ni Kristo

On July 27, 1914, Austrian ambassador to Britain Count Mensdorff handed a letter to Sir Edward Grey, then, the British Foreign Minister. As expected, the letter was in response to an earlier one sent to Austria's rival country, Serbia, expressing dismay over Serbia's refusal to stand down and cease offensive actions against the Austro-Hungarian monarchy.

Austria has decided to take extreme action against Serbia. That letter was an ultimatum for Serbia and since Britain was a very important power player in European politics back then, Austria wanted them to convey their displeasure against Serbia.Britain gave Serbia the letter, and wanted to mediate between the two countries. Serbia, however, refused.

While the Serbs and the Austrians prepare for war, another kind of war was raging in an archipelago, a few hundred thousand kilometers away from the European continent. On that very same day, fourteen Filipinos were baptized under Christ's name in the Pasig River.

A few days before July 27, a young preacher decided that it was time for him to preach the true message of God. Felix could not sleep. He’s bothered by the things he discovered eight months ago when he went inside the room of his friend and studied the bible. Someone, or some voice has convinced him that the time was at hand. He, the anointed Messenger of the True God, must establish the church.

With nothing in his pocket and only the bible with him, 27-year old Felix Y. Manalo convinced his young wife to pack their things and head off to Punta, a small barangay in Santa Ana Manila. Honorata, the young wife, remembered that her husband deliberately told her not to bring any money, even a centavo, because he wanted God to perform a miracle in their life. They left their house in Pasay.

When they reached the old Franciscan church of Santa Ana, they have to cross the Pasig river to reach Punta, which is on the other side. A boatman ferried them across. When they reached the terminal, the young preacher promised the boatman that he will pay the two centavo fare later.

The couple went to the Atlantic Gulf and Pacific Company where their friends, Apolinario Ramos and his wife, Engracia stayed. Ramos worked as an employee in the construction firm and the company provided them with a small room inside the AG&P compound. When they met, the young preacher sent someone to pay for the boat fare.

Manalo with fellow INC members
That night, Felix started to preach before a small throng of people who gathered in the house of his friends. He preached what he discovered during those three days he spent in the house of his friend studying the bible. Felix was so high with the Holy Spirit that those who heard him, believed in him.

As Felix continued to hold nightly bible meetings, more and more people began to flock in his friend's house. Word had spread how this young man, all of 27 years of age, could preach about God's message with so much passion, conviction and authority.

No one was like him. The young preacher always spice his preachings with quotes directly lifted from the Bible. He was preaching about the Oneness of God and the promise of salvation thru God's true church, the Iglesia ni Kristo. Before he started these nightly bible studies, Felix was quite known already as a very eloquent preacher of God's message. Everyone calls him as "Ka Vernakulo" because he was the only one who always refer to the bible to answer questions about Christ and the real message of God.

After a few days of teaching the bible before his enthused audience, some of them decided to give their lives to the faith. They decided to accept the True Message of God through baptism.
On July 27, a portion of the Pasig river fronting a construction firm was closed off for that occasion. A makeshift enclosure composed only of some bamboo poles and a white cloth was constructed. Inside what they called the baptistery stood a young preacher.

The young preacher called the believers by name, one by one. Before him in that bright morning, in waist deep waters, the preacher urged each of them to raise their hands, state their allegiance to God, Christ and the Bible and reaffirm their loyalty to their new faith. He then immersed them one by one in the clear river water, “ in the name of the Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit.”

Those first believers became the nucleus of what is now popularly known as the Iglesia Ni Kristo, the first Filipino religious organization with a global presence.

Felix propagated his message not just to the workers in Santa Ana but expanded his influence even in the poor communities of Tondo in Manila. There, he preached with a different spirit, convincing Filipinos of the strength of his biblical teachings. The second congregation of church members was thereafter, established.

When the congregation in Punta grew and became strong, Felix decided that it was time for him to preach the INC doctrine to his hometown in Tipas, Taguig. After the building of their church which was then made of bamboo, [xiv]Felix then entrusted the congregation to Federico Inocencio, one of the converts and Atanacio Morte, the head deacon. Felix then left the congregation with his wife, Honorata and their young daughter, Pilar.
Felix was not as welcome in his own hometown than what he experienced at Santa Ana. Several of those who know him, derided him for his teachings. Yet, because of his strong faith and he being a very good orator, Felix was able to convince his detractors, namely Justino Cassanova, a pastor of the Christian Missionary Alliance and Norbeto Asuncion to convert to the Iglesia. These two later became ministers of the church.

Five years later, Felix went to the United States to study theology. He enrolled at the Pacific School of Religion. While he was away, the church enjoyed tremendous growth. Felix appointed several converts to propagate the faith in several towns in Manila. The church expanded and reached a membership of close to 3,000. However, a schism aroused after one of the pioneer ministers Teogilo Ora, questioned the authority of Felix Manalo. This affected the recruitment of new members and led to a dissolution of several congregations. In Bulacan, the INC membership went down from 80 to a mere 15 members.

When Felix went back, he saw a religious organization in disarray, brought by the actions of Ora. It seemed that Ora’s actions was more personal than theological. In May 1922, Ora, together with Januario Ponce and Basilio Santiago, formally broke away from the Iglesia ni Kristo. After several months, Ora and the rest of the former Iglesia members established the Iglesia ng Diyos kay Kristo Hesus or Church of God in Christ Jesus.

This new group tried but failed to recruit the original members of the INC. The arrival of Felix Manalo stopped the recruitment efforts of the rival faction. Manalo prophesized that Ora’s group would eventually dissolve and it nearly did.

That same year of 1922, Nicolas Perez, a former INC, became one of Ora’s preachers in Maragondon, Cavite. After being a minister for six years, Perez maneuvered and wrestled the church leadership from Ora. However, Perez won the power struggle. Several of those who resisted Perez’ leadership left the group and founded their own sect. Ponciano Bungay established the Iglesia ni Cristo sa Ibabaw ng Bato in 1932, while Basilio Santiago built the Church of God in Christ Jesus in 1949 while Salvador Payawal began his as Kabanal-banalang Iglesia ng Diyos or the Most Holy Church of God. A year later, Ora was able to re-establish her leadership. Perez and another believer, Avelino Santiago left Ora and established the group Iglesia ng Diyos Kay Kristo Hesus, Haligi at Sungay ng Katotohanan.

While other INC believers built their own groups and sects, the original Iglesia Ni Kristo grew in popularity and numbers. In 1939, the first Pasugo, the church official mouthpiece, was published. The Pasugo became one of the tools used by the church in spreading the good news of salvation.

God’s Holy messenger felt his health declining rapidly. At the age of 76, Manalo continued preaching before his fellow believers. Despite having stomach ulcers which brought him constant pain, Manalo prioritized his ministerial work than his health.

On the morning of April 12, 1963, Manalo’s health deteriorated. Calling on his son, Erano and his wife and children, Felix instructed them God’s ways for the last time. He asked his son Erano to continue his apostolic work and bring the Church to the glory of Christ. [xv]At exactly 2:35 in the morning, the dutiful servant of Christ gave up the ghost.

Millions of Filipinos cried after learning of his death. At his funeral, attended by all sectors of Philippine society, thousands wept with grief and anguish. More than two million Filipinos took part in a 5 kilometer long funeral procession.[xvi] It took two hours before the hearse carrying the remains of God’s messenger reached his final resting place.

Felix started his apostolic work with just a handful of listeners in a small room at a worker’s living quarters at a construction company. Many years later, Felix left a well-established church with more than 10 million members both here and abroad.  Felix mastery of the local tongue, his indepth knowledge of the bible and his organizational skills propelled the Iglesia towards global recognition. [xvii]

Several years after his death, the Philippine government recognized Felix Manalo as one of the country’s most illustrious sons. On July 27, 2007, the National Historical Institute unveiled a marker on the birth place of the INC founder, the very spot where he was born at Barangay Calzada, Tipas, Taguig City. [xviii] That same year, President Arroyo declared July 27 of every year, as the “Iglesia ni Cristo day” purposedly to enable millions of INC members in the Philippines and in 75 countries around the world to observe the occasion with fitting solemnity. [xix]

[ii] Reynaldo Ileto, Pasyon at Rebolusyon, p. 32-35.
[iii] Quennie Ann J., "First Executive Minister of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church of Christ)" "National Historical Institute
[iv] Elesterio, Fernando. "Iglesia ni Cristo: It's Christology and Ecclesiology
[vi] '25 Years in the West, "God's Message" (Manila: 1993)
[vii] GOD'S MESSAGE 1 July - September 1994
[viii] Crisostomo, Isabelo T. 'Felix Y. Manalo and the Iglesia ni Cristo', "Pasugo" (Manila: May-June 1986)
[ix] The Philippines: a global studies handbook By Damon L. Woods, p. 126
[x] Crisostomo, Isabelo T. 'Felix Y. Manalo and the Iglesia ni Cristo', "Pasugo" (Manila: May-June 1986
[xi] GOD'S MESSAGE July - September 1994
[xii] GOD'S MESSAGE 1 July - September 1994 p.10
[xiii] Villanueva, Robert C. The Untold Story of the Iglesia ni Cristo (Philippine Panorama, 1992). Also, '25 Years in the West, God's Message (Manila: 1993), Palafox, Quennie Ann J. 'First Executive Minister of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church of Christ)' "National Historical Institute" and Crisostomo, Isabelo T. 'Felix Y. Manalo and the Iglesia ni Cristo', Pasugo (May-June 1986).
[xiv] A. Rodell, Paul (2002). Culture and customs of the Philippines. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 39–41. ISBN 0-313-30415-7.
[xv] Palafox, Quennie Ann J. "First Executive Minister of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church of Christ)". National Historical Institute. Retrieved 2008-12-07
[xvi] Harper, Ann C (2001). "The Iglesia ni Cristo and Evangelical Christianity" (PDF). Journal of Asian Mission 3 (1): 101–119.
[xvii] Sanders, Albert J. (1969). "An Appraisal of the Iglesia ni Cristo". In Gerald H. Anderson. Studies in Philippine church history. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0801404851.
[xviii] Cantor, Marlex C. (August 2007). "FYM Birth Site Inaugurated as National Historical Landmark". Pasugo - God's Message (Philippines: Iglesia ni Cristo): 12.
[xix] Suarez, E.T. (July 27, 2008). "Officials celebrate with Iglesia ni Cristo on its 94th anniversary". The Manila Bulletin Online (The Manila Bulletin). Retrieved 2008-11-10.