Miyerkules, Pebrero 29, 2012
Millions attended the grand Bible exposition in the Philippines
MANILA, Philippines — The massive Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) gathering at the Rizal Park Tuesday was not a political rally but purely a religious activity to spread the word of God.
This was the assurance of INC leadership headed by its Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo, allaying speculations that the mammoth religious activity, known as the Grand Evangelical Mission, had political color and was held as a show of force to influence the ongoing impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.
Over two million INC members and guests attended Tuesday's gathering, paralyzing major thoroughfares in Metro Manila.
As early as midnight Monday, hundreds of buses carrying INC members from nearby provinces were already seen in the vicinity of Luneta.
Most of those who joined in the Bible exposition at the Quirino Grandstand came from the local churches in Metro Manila, Southern Tagalog, and Central Luzon.
This was the biggest Bible exposition this year of the influential religious group, held simultaneously in 18 selected cities and towns nationwide.
The grand evangelical mission was held as the INC leadership declared 2012 as year of massive propagation of God's words in preparation for its centennial celebration on July 2014.
Since last week, a circular signed by Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo was read during the INC's worship services, urging all members to invite non-INC members to attend the grand Bible exposition that started at 5 p.m.
INC lay leader Moises Tolentino said the invitation was sent to all Filipinos, including government officials, justices, and legislators. "This is open to everybody as we want them to hear God's word about the salvation of mankind come Judgment Day," Tolentino said.
Aquino, Corona Skip Rally
Despite getting a general invitation to the event, President Benigno S. Aquino III and Chief Justice Corona skipped the annual gathering of the INC to avoid giving a political color to the religious affair.
The INC leadership explained that the huge religious gathering was held Tuesday instead of weekend as Tuesday is the only free day for the INC. The INC has worship services every Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday while classes for those taking ministerial courses are being held on Monday. On the other hand every Friday is reserved for visitation of INC members and locales and meetings of officers.
The last time the religious group held a big congregation was in 1989, the 75th INC anniversary where more than four million members trooped to its central headquarters in Quezon City that paralyzed traffic in the whole of Quezon City.
Because of the mammoth gathering, traffic buildup was experienced on all roads leading to Quirino Grandstand in Manila owing to the number of people who joined the religious gathering, an official of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority said.
MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino said several buses and other vehicles that ferried INC members started arriving from all parts of Metro Manila and the provinces Monday night until Tuesday morning that resulted in tangled traffic in the metropolis, particularly the cities of Manila and Pasay.
"INC members have started flocking to the Quirino Grandstand area as early as Monday night to join their grand evangelical mission even if it was still scheduled to start on Tuesday afternoon. There were buses that arrived from Quezon, Bicol and Central Luzon," said Tolentino.
"Because of the influx of motorists, difficulties were experienced and some people were forced to walk," said Tolentino.
According to Tolentino, private vehicles and buses that ferried the INC members were stationed in the area and occupied the lanes of Roxas Boulevard and secondary streets near the Quirino Granstand.
Emerson Carlos, assistant general manager for operations, noted that the agency did not close portions of Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) and Roxas Boulevard but was impassable for a certain period Tuesday due to the heavy volume of traffic heading to the religious gathering.
"All parked vehicles have reached parts of Roxas Bolevard up to the Cuneta Astrodome," the MMDA official.
The stretch of Katigbak Drive, South Drive, and Independence Road were closed starting Tuesday noon onwards to manage traffic in the area.
Carlos said the agency also deployed "Libreng Sakay" buses on Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City and other parts of Metro Manila because of lack of buses during the morning.
"The INC rented a number of public utility buses that stranded some commuters but deployed buses were enough to transport them to their schools and offices," he added.
To cope with the expected swell in the number of vehicles, the agency beefed up its traffic enforcers in the area, adding 700 more enforcers plus rescue workers. (With reports from Genalyn D. Kabiling and Sarah H. Velasco)