Iglesia ni Cristo
Church of Christ - Iglesia de Cristo

Kirche Christi
(German); Igreja de Cristo (Portuguese); Eglise du Christ (French)
The Church humble beginnings in the Philippines in the Far East
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The Church of Christ humble beginnings in the Far East
under the stewardship of Brother Felix Y. Manalo

The humble  beginnings

In an early month of 1914, Felix Manalo with his wife, Honorata, left their home in Pasay and headed for Punta, Sta. Ana, Manila and look for his friends Apolinario Ramos and wife Engracia who were
staying in the workers quarters of the construction firm, Atlantic Gulf & Pacific Company. That night, with the permission of the Ramos couple, he conducted his first religious meeting in their room with only a handful of people listening. His impressive knowledge of the Bible, as well as the solid biblical foundation of the message he preached, amazed the listeners.

As the listeners began to grow in number the nightly religious meetings moved out in the open. 
As he continued to hold nightly meetings more came to listen. Drawn not only by the novelty of his biblical teachings but by their eagerness to see the young evangelist who came to be known as a brilliant, spell-binding speaker. Indeed, Felix Manalo, then only 27 going on 28, had a commanding personality and exceptional eloquence. Every statement he made was from the Bible.
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Brother Felix Y. Manalo in his youth
Not long after that first meeting the first 14 converts to the Iglesia ni Cristo were baptized, by immersion, by Felix Manalo at the Sta. Ana portion of the Pasig River.  Before him, in waist deep water, he urged each of them to raise their hands, state their allegiance to God, Christ and the Bible, and reaffirm their loyalty to their new found faith. Then he immersed them one by one in the clear river water "in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit". They became the nucleus of the first Iglesia ni Cristo local  congregation of Punta Sta Ana in Manila.

A few months later, the church in Punta Santa Ana gained more converts and Manalo decided to propagate the church in other places. He left the small congregation in the care of Federico Inocencio, one of the converts, and Atanacio Morte, the head deacon. He decided to return to Tipas, Taguig, his birthplace, with his wife and infant daughter Pilar, to bring the mission of salvation to his townmates.
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Chapel of the first local congregation of the Iglesia ni Cristo in Punta Sta Ana in the City Manila. Now used as a Church's Museum.
He went back to Tipas, Taguig to evangelize. In Tipas, he was ridiculed and persecuted and his guest or listeners were harassed, intimidated and even harmed as they were stoned in his religious meetings.  Despite all the bad things done to him and his listeners, he did not stop from pursuing his mission. His sacrifices paid off when he was able to baptize a few converts, including his most his rabid persecutor, Serapio Dionisio. Later on, even some of his more determined detractors were also converted.  Among them were Justino Cassanova, pastor of the Christian and Missionary alliance and Norbeto Asuncion who became ministers of the Iglesia ni Cristo.  His persistence and determination to preach the gospel resulted in the establishment of Church's second congregation in Tipas, Taguig. 1-map greater manila
Map of Greater Manila area
showing the Town of Tagiug near Laguna de Bay and the City of Manila near Manila Bay.
    
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Brother Felix Manalo preaching God's words in one of the church's early propagation works.

The official registration of the Church

To avoid accusations of preaching an unrecognized church, Felix Manalo decided to register the Iglesia ni Cristo with the Philippine government. He asked a lawyer friend, Juan Natividad, to assist him. On July 27, 1914, the Iglesia ni Cristo was officially registered, and the date of its registration coincided with the outbreak of First World War. It was registered as a "corporation sole" with Felix Manalo as Executive Minister. Among the more notable converts at this time were three Protestant ministers: Justino Casanova, Norberto Asuncion and Victor Magsalin. The first two were ordained as ministers, with Casanova becoming the Church's first General Treasurer. 

The intensive propagation of the gospel

From Taguig, Felix Manalo reached out to Paternos, then Pasig, where he established new congregations.  Despite the harsh persecutions, people continued to join the Church. He toiled day and night, with hardly any rest and sleep, he suffered from lack of proper nourishment. He personally supervised the lokals, attended to members problems, conducted nightly evangelization in different places and spent long hours preparing Bible lessons for the services. In just one year since he started preaching the Church, he was able to establish five local congregations -the local congregations of Punta, Tipas, Pulo, Buting, and Tayuman.

His intensive pace in propagating the gospel was too much for him. He became very sick and even vomited blood. His once robust body, forced beyond its capacity for endurance, was utterly vitiated. But Manalo, then only 28, did not give up. He prayed fervently to God for help, exercised regularly and increased his food intake. Back on his feet again, he immediately resumed his work by the summer of 1915.


             


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A picture of the old Chapel of the Locale of Tayuman, the fifth congregation of the Iglesia ni Cristo. 

From his home province, Manalo in late 1915, returned to Manila and inaugurated a missionary campaign in populous Tondo. Small meetings evolved into big rallies and public debates between Manalo, an accomplished debater, and leaders of other religious groups.

These debates highlighted the logic and validity of the Church's teachings and served as an effective propagation tool. In those debates, his rivals did not succeed in humiliating him. Instead, it was the other way around: they were the ones put to shame and the truthfulness of the teachings of God taught by Bro. Manalo shone even brighter before the public. He was encouraged by the results and more confident that in carrying out his tasks God was always with him (Isa. 41:9-10).

As Brother Manalo continued propagating the gospel, he also trained the Church officers whom he appointed in each local congregation. At the same time, he also took care of the counseling and edification of the brethren who faced various problems. 

 

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A picture of the old Chapel of the Locale of San Francisco Del Monte in Quezon City. 

The training of ministers

As the Church kept growing and expanding, the need for more evangelical assistants is essential.   Consequently, in the house of a member, Leoncio Javier and his wife, in Tondo, which also doubled as a chapel, he organized the first batch of ministerial students:

At around that time, he started the teaching and training of would-be ministers who would help him in the propagation and edification of the Church. The lessons Manalo imparted to his students and the congregations were uniform and prepared by himself. The ministers were given outlines. To facilitate reproduction of the outlines, Manalo devised a novel copying method a crude gulaman or gelatin press which his wife, Honorata operated. It was a labor-consuming process. In 1916, Marcelo Lemen, a Tondo religious worker employed in a printing house, suggested that the lessons be reproduced in printed form. Manalo agreed and the first printed lessons or texto came out on March 26, 1916.

In May 1919, the very first ordination   of   the  Church    was conducted. Three   ministers   were ordained by Brother Manalo on that historic occasion.  Bro. Manalo presided at the first ordination of Church ministers, laying his hands on Justino, Casanova, Teodoro Santiago and Federico Inocencio. 

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Brother Felix Manalo with Church workers
during the early years of the Church.

 

The propagation of the gospel North of Manila

Having consolidated his modest gains in Rizal and Manila, Manalo next reached out to the region north of Manila. In 1916, when he was about 30 years of age, he fielded three ministers- Justino Casanova, Santiago Lopez and Teodoro Santiago- to Guiguinto, Bulacan. Thirty new members were baptized and a congregation was immediately organized in barrio Tabi. When the membership reached 80, the members, pooling their own efforts, built a small chapel where they conducted services.

In 1917, Manalo visited Nueva Ecija, accompanied by Teodoro Santiago and Januario Ponce. A congregation was later formed in Gapan. The following year, he dispatched missionary forces to Pampanga and footholds were established in the towns of Bacolor, Arayat, Guagua, San Simon and Lubao. That same year a new lokal was organized in Malabon, Rizal, with over 30 new converts, led by Justino Casanova.

From a handful of congregations at the start, the Church after its first decade of existence had a total of 45 congregations.  Fourteen   of   those local   congregations were  in   the province of Pampanga (north of Manila) and   those congregations were brought together by Brother Felix Manalo to form one ecclesiastical Division or District. 

Brother Manalo organized the Church as such to effectively oversee the brethren. As the local  congregations (equivalent to a Catholic parish) grew in number in an area,  a division or district (equivalent to a Catholic diocese) is formed to oversee the group.

 

                                                                               Map of the Philippines >>>

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Massive Growth and Expansion in Luzon, then to Visayas and to Mindanao

As the number of ministers and evangelical  workers  gradually increased,  the   Church   of   Christ continued to spread over the whole of Luzon. As Pampanga became the first Division in 1924 with Teodoro Santiago as the first Division Minister or Administrator. Next came Tarlac (1925) under Reymundo Mansilungan; Laguna (1928) with Andres Tucker as first Division Minister; Nueva Ecija (1930) administered by Prudencio Vasquez; Zambales (1931) under Benito Simbillo; Bulacan (1932) under Jacinto Torres; Cavite followed (1932) administered by Feliciano Gonzales. Eventually, other Division were rapidly established; then Pangasinan (1934) under Placido Pascua.

Other provinces in Southern Luzon followed; Batangas (1936) with Eugenio Cortes as first Division Minister; Tayabas (now Quezon), became a division in 1933 under Glicerio Santos Sr.  Rizal became a Division in 1939, with Telesforo S. Cruz as its first Division Minister.  Mindoro Oriental became a Division in 1940 under Mariano Castro.

Manalo then fielded some evangelical workers in Northern Luzon, specifically La Union, though that province became a district only in 1943, with Felimon Sanidad as first Division Minister. The Ilocos Norte Division was formed in 1938, administered by Placido Pascua. Isabela in the North became a Division in 1947, under Felix Suratos.

By 1937, the Church had  reached the Visayan Islands in Central Philippines.  As the Church's missionary forces entered the Visayas. Cebu became a Division in 1937, with Alipio Apolonio as first Division Minister. Bohol, reached in 1938, became a Division in 1955 under Antonio Jerusalem.

And before the outbreak of World War II, the Church had also reached the distant Mindanao in Southern Philippines.  From Luzon and the Visayas, the Church reached out to distant Mindanao in 1941 with about 30 families belonging to the Church in Paco, Manila as a vanguard. They first settled in Cotabato like pilgrims and immediately began evangelization. The campaign was productive but Cotabato did not become a Division then because World War II intervened. However, in 1946, the work resumed, and Cotabato was made a Division under Mariano Suarez.

FYM Visitations

Brother Felix Manalo on one of his visitation in the provinces
 

The Pasugo (God's Message) Magazine

In 1939, Brother Manalo published the   first   issue   of   Pasugo:   God's Message, the official magazine of the Church of Christ.  This marked  the beginning of the propagation of the gospel by means of mass media.

Since February 1939, the church has been publishing Pasugo (English: God's Message) in both Tagalog and English. As of 2010, the God's Message Magazine also features a Spanish Section. And as of 2012, the magazine also features a Japanese and German Sections.  Bro. Felix Manalo wrote its first editorial where he stated the publication's purpose, including the propagation of the faith. Issues contain articles which detail INC doctrines and refute doctrines which it considers as heresy, such as the Trinity. It also features information on church history, educational programs and missionary achievements, including lists and photographs of newly dedicated chapels. It had a monthly circulation of 235,000 copies in 2001.

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During the War Years And Liberation

When the Japanese invaded and occupied the Philippines  (1941-1945). The   Church  continued with its various spiritual endeavors in spite of the bombings and armed conflicts waged in different parts of the country. The brethren throughout the archipelago were caringly administered, and they remained active in attending the worship services and in sharing their faith.

The Japanese occupation of the Philippines cost the Church many ministers and Church workers who were maimed or killed. Manalo himself was threatened with death by the Japanese. Once, Japanese soldiers disrupted a service in Tayuman, Sta. Cruz, Manila, and tried to stop Manalo from officiating. They failed. Manalo later actively helped the resistance movement serving as an information officer and extending them money, food and clothing. Unable to find direct evidence against his underground activities, the Japanese instead confiscated Manalo's properties.

As Japan's iron rule continued, Manalo proceeded with his mission. For more effective coordination, he consolidated all congregations in the Greater Manila Area into one Division under the supervision of Division Minister Benjamin Santiago. Then he sent Cipriano Sandoval to Baguio to start propagation work in the summer capital.
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Brother Felix Y. Manalo (himself an intelligence officer of the resistance) with brethren who had just survive the rigors of war.

As Japan's iron rule continued, Manalo proceeded with his mission. For more effective coordination, he consolidated all congregations in the Greater Manila Area into one Division under the supervision of Division Minister Benjamin Santiago. Then he sent Cipriano Sandoval to Baguio to start propagation work in the summer capital. Baguio became a Division in 1956 under the administration of Ramon Adalla.

On July 14, 1945, General Douglas MacArthur proclaimed the liberation of the Philippines from Japan and the war came to an end.  With the Japanese gone, the Iglesia ni Cristo continued to encounter problems, this time in the hands of compatriots, the Peoples Army against Japan known as the Hukbalahap or Huks for short. The Huks were after Manalo's head because they believed he was an obstacle in their plan to seize government power since Manalo refused to cooperate with them. This led the Huks kidnapping and liquidating Church ministers, workers and members. As a result, several members fled from central Luzon to seek sanctuary in places where there were Church congregations.
The gathering of brethren in San Fernando, La Union on June 20, 1946
After the War, the massive growth and expansion continued

The Church of Christ remained united, firm and progressive even during those trying years. It remained intact and firm under Felix Manalos administration. Immediately after the war, in 1945, he resumed his offensive in Northern Luzon. He made Cagayan a Division in 1947 with Jose Nisperos as first Division Minster and Ilocos Sur (1948) a Division under Felimon Sanidad. Baguio became a Division in 1956 under the administration of Ramon Adalla.

In 1947, he sent evangelical workers to the Bicol region. Albay became a division in 1948 under Prudencio Vasquez. Camarines Norte came next, in 1948. Evangelization began in Camarines Sur in 1947, though it became a Division only in 1964 under Mario Rejuso. Work in Sorsogon began in 1948; the province was made a Division in 1951, again with Mario Rejuso as the first Division Minister. That same year, the Church entered Abra in the North; it became a Division in 1951, administered by Melencio Torres.

Manalo then reopened his Visayas offensive. He had entered some of the provinces in that region before the war. In 1949, he made Marinduque a Division with Pablo de Leon as Division Minister. Leyete became a division that year with Felix Ortiz as first Division Minister. So did Mindoro Occidental, under Pedro D. Almedina. Davao was made a Division in 1953, administered by Antonio Jerusalem, as well as Lanao, with Rufino Pangan as first Division Minister. Manalo made Catanduanes a Division after the first baptism was held there in April 1950 under Jose San Esteban.
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Brother Manalo and fellow church workers propagating the faith in Dagupan City, province of Pangasinan in Northern Luzon, Philippines.

Manalo converted Masbate into a Division in 1951 with Jerusaleo Vasquez as first Division Minister; Capiz in 1954, administered by Gregorio Earnshaw. Negros Oriental also became a division in 1950, under Filemon P. Bautista; and Samar in 1955 administered by Teofilo Bernardino. . Zamboanga del Sur (Pagadian), where evangelization began in 1950 was made a Division in 1962 with Remias Reformado as first Division Minister. Angel B. Canicosa was the first Division Minister of Romblon (1951). Misamis Oriental became a Division in 1954 under the administration of Samuel Gaña; and Surigao in 1947 under Perfecto S. Padilla. At about the same time Palawan became a Division administered by Pablo de Leon. Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur, was also made a Division on 1960 administrated by Honorio Castro.

 

Chapels as progress indicators

Parallel to the Church's growth was its massive church-building progress. The first chapel built on Gabriela street in Tondo, Manila in 1918, fashioned out of sawali, nipa and wood, typified the style and materials of the early chapels, though they kept springing up like mushrooms across the nation. After the war, Manalo began to build magnificent concrete chapels, the first of these in Washington, Sampaloc, Manila completed in 1948. Next came the chapel-and-official residence of the Executive Minister in San Juan, Rizal. The grand complex was designed by Architect Juan Nakpil.
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Built in 1948 for the Local Congregation of Washington, Sampaloc, Manila. The first of the magnificient concrete chapels of the Iglesia ni Cristo
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Built in 1953 for the Local Congregation of Cubao, Quezon City. One of the first cathedral size concrete chapels of the Iglesia ni Cristo.
In 1953, three modern cathedral-size chapels rode up in Cubao, Quezon City, Caloocan City and Syquia, Sta. Ana, Manila. In 1954, the Baclaran chapel in Pasay was constructed followed in 1955 by the house of worship in Baguio City and another and another similar chapels were built in 1956 in Angeles, Pampanga and Artacho. Others followed in 1957; Paco, Manila and Tipas, Taguig, Rizal then in San Jose, Mindoro; Arayat, Pampanga; Cabanatuan City; Bacoor, Cavite; Orani, Bataan; Salinas, Cavite; and Balintawak, in Quezon City. Soon, giant INC chapels were also dominating the skylines of Tarlac; Malabon, Rizal; Lucena City in Quezon; Naujan, Mindoro; Bel air, Makati; Daet, Camarines Norte. Other landmarks of Church progress were built in San Francisco del Monte, Quezon City (1962); Cavite City; Concepcion, Tarlac; Hagonoy, Bulacan; Naga City; Mapalad, Pampanga; Sto. Domingo, Nueva Ecija; Grace Park, Caloocan City; and Apalit, Pampanga. 1-Chapel Tipas
Built in 1957 the chapel of the Second Congregation of the Iglesia ni Cristo located in Tipas, Taguig. The birthplace of Brother Felix Y. Manalo
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Built in 1962 for the Local Congregation of San Francisco Del Monte in Quezon City

Construction of these indicators of progress and Church permanency is not only a necessity but in compliance with Gods mandate saying, "And let them make me a sanctuary; that I shall dwell among them." (Exodus 25:8); and, "The house which I am to build will be great, for our God is greater than all gods...Prepare timber for me in abundance, for the house I am to build will be great and wonderful" (II Chron. 2:5, 9, RSV).

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Today's chapel of the Local Congregation of Punta in Santa Ana in Manila. The first local congregation of the Iglesia ni Cristo.
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Today's chapel of the local congregation of Tondo in
Manila. Built in the 1960's, this huge house of worship located in a populous area seats 6000 worshipers. Missionary works started in late 1915 upon the return of Brother Manalo from his home province. Tondo may well be the sixth local congregation of the Iglesia ni Cristo.
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Today's Chapels of the Local Congregation of Buting (above) and Pulo (right) in Pasig City. The fourth and fifth Locales of the Iglesia ni Cristo.
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The Need For A Successor

Felix Manalo made his second trip to the United States in August 1938 at the instance of the Christian Alliance Society. He welcomed the opportunity to deliver speeches abroad at their invitation for it would also enable him to undergo treatment of a stomach ailment. He was able to comply with some speaking engagements but unable to undergo treatment for when he fell ill he instructed his secretary, Cirilo Gonzales, to bring him back immediately to the Philippines.

Arriving in Manila after four months in the United States, the 52-year-old leader was welcomed at Pier 7 by thousands of Church members. He was pleased but his health troubled him.

But it was only in 1953, at 67, that he met the idea of succession head-on. On January 23, that year, he summoned all division ministers and senior officials of the Church after their regular ministerial meeting to a special conference. He announced that when his time came, there must be someone to take his place. The unexpected announcement stunned the ministers because Brother Manalo was then quite young and appeared very healthy.

At 2 oclock that afternoon, the meeting proceeded with Felix Manalo presiding. The voting was held. The names of Eraño G. Manalo, Isaias Samson and Isaias Reyes were presented as candidates. Samson obtained two votes, while Eraño G. Manalo obtained all of the remaining votes. He was subsequently proclaimed unanimously as the future Executive Minister. The body then elected his would-be assistants: Teofilo C. Ramos, as his "right hand man" and Cipriano Sandoval as his "left hand".

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Bro. Felix Y. Manalo during an evangelical rally, flanked by Brothers Erano G. Manalo, Cipriano P. Sandoval and Teofilo C. Ramos Sr.

The Final Days

As a result of his sacrifices, Felix Manalo again felt his health deteriorating rapidly. His ulcer relentlessly seized him with severe pain that medicines procured from drug stores could not assuage. Consequently, he decided to seek treatment in the United States.

After bidding goodbye to his brethren, he enplaned on August 17, 1955 for the United States, accompanied by his son Eraño and nursing aide Librada Enriquez. Legions saw him off at the airport, among them President Ramon Magsaysay. In the United States, they stayed in a hotel not far from the John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, where he would seek treatment. There he continued to receive reports from Manila. President Ramon Magsaysay phoned his concern and best wishes. Then Manalo changed his mind and decided to proceed to New York instead, and entered the Presbyterian Medical Center on September 2, 1955. The doctors who examined him advised surgery of the stomach after curing his diabetes. On September 9, he was successfully operated on for ulcers.

A month later he returned to manila and was once again welcomed by a huge throng led by President Magsaysay. Without having fully rested, Manalo, then 69, resumed the killing pace of his work attending and addressing rallies.

It was only after many years later, in February 1963, that Manalo fell gravely ill. He was rushed to St. Lukes hospital in Quezon City where doctors decided to remove immediately "an intestinal obstruction". Manalo rejected the surgery, saying, "Doctors can cure only those who are not yet to die, not those whose time has come." By March 21, 1963, his incapacitation was total and he was transferred to Veterans Memorial Hospital. Doctors operated on him but failed to give him relief from pain.

On April 2, the doctors worked on Manalo again to sew back part of his intestines which had burst and hemorrhaged. On April 11, they performed a third surgery on him. It proved to be the last.

The following day, April 12, 1963, at 2:35 o'clock in the morning, the brilliant, tireless and courageous Filipino religious leader who had brought the Iglesia ni Cristo to great heights of glory and prominence, breathed his last. He was 77 years old. It was his 49th year as chief steward of the Church.

 

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