Aliw G. Pablo
“Unlimited Seating” by Aliw G. Pablo
There is something about old black and white pictures that have always intrigued me. Perhaps it’s the quality of the photo paper. It’s thicker, the colors deeper… meant to withstand the test of time. Or maybe it’s the authenticity of it all, people’s faces and their expressions, no photoshop tweaks or selfie retakes. It was just about capturing that fleeting moment in time. Vintage pictures just seem richer in story, which no amount of pixels today could ever capture.
My dad, now 73, was able to store and keep all his black and white pictures in one place, some dating as far back as the late 1940s. No matter how many times he moved around all over the world because of his Ministry, he managed to keep all these valuable memories in one place. These pictures are complete with dates on the back and a description of where it was taken. In many crowd pictures, there’s an X on him. Perhaps, in case he forgot later which one he was in the picture. There is one photo in particular, from July 27, 1964 that comes to mind as we started to gather stories for the 50 years in the west online campaign.
[My dad and my grandmother at the INC’s 50th Anniversary, Philippines – July 27, 1964]
This is a picture of my dad and my grandmother at the 50th anniversary of the Church in the Philippines held at the Araneta Coliseum on July 27, 1964. Tatay was 20 years old, in his Choir robe and my grandmother in her signature filipiniana dress. My grandmother, a widow, joined the Church in the 1950s in San Jose Mindoro Occidental when my dad was a young boy. She loved the hymns in the Church and was so moved by them. I remember my dad telling me stories about the 50th anniversary at the Araneta Coliseum, which could hold over 16,000 people, practically fitting the whole Church at the time. He remembers in detail how hundreds of Choir Members from all over the Philippines were there to perform. He remembers how the venue security was amazed at how with just one instruction from Sister Pilar Manalo Danao, then the overall Choir Director, the Choir lined up quickly and orderly. The discipline in the Choir is one that continues to be implemented to this day.
The Church was just 50 years old then and Brother Felix Manalo, the Sugo, had just passed away the year before. Four years after this picture was taken, Brother Erano G. Manalo would take that flight to Hawaii, which would be the beginning of a whole new chapter for the Church. There were still so many of God’s promises that were waiting to be fulfilled.
And now as we look towards the 50 years in the west, I have my own historical pictures to share with my own children, where I can say, “I was there.” There was the 25 years in the west celebration in July 1993. As a CWS teacher, I helped lead INC kids from all over Northern California in a performance. It was the first big event outside the Philippines where performances came from different Ecclesiastical Districts in the west, even as far as Europe. It was a big deal! INC members from different states and countries coming together and sharing a stage like never before.
[25 years in the West, San Jose Convention Center, N. California – July 1993]
Then there was the 30 years in the West stage musical five years later in July 1998 held at the San Jose Arena, with a 17,000 seating capacity. Helping with the first ever musical done outside the Philippines was certainly a labor of love by the INC members who practiced for months and took time off from work to act, sing, and dance for an event that was run by a cast and crew who had never produced anything like this before nor was it a show that members in the west had ever seen before. The actors, kids included, were deeply moved the minute they stepped on that stage as they portrayed and reflected on the lives of the pioneering members who came before them. Tears flowed from their faces as they sang songs that reminisced on the goodness of God’s love and His hand guiding their lives and their faith in a foreign land. Nearly twenty years later, members who watched that 30th musical still remember the songs that moved them. How poetic that 30th musical was about the miracles of God for His children that He gathered in the west. But as the show was an unfolding, so was another miracle. This stage musical will always be remembered as how God guided an amateur cast and crew to put together a show that would be remembered for decades to come. Since the 30th, Ecclesiastical Districts and Local Congregations around the world have produced many stage musical performances and concerts at well known venues where big name artists and bands have performed. How far we’ve come and how much further we’ll go.
[30 years in the West, San Jose Arena, N. California – July 1998]
And of course, there was the Centennial celebration. All Ecclesiastical Districts conducted their own Countdown to Centennial celebration. Here’s a picture of my dad 50 years after the first picture above was taken, but now with his kids and grandchildren, as he witnessed his grandkids perform in the musical program.
[Our family at the Countdown to Centennial N. California – June 2014]
It’s beautiful to reflect how milestones in the Church are enjoyed by generations of families. From the plantations in the islands of Hawaii in the 1960s to the busiest cities of North America and Europe today, the rich history of the Church, specifically here in the west, continues to be written. God’s blessings continue to cross over oceans, country and cultural borders. That’s the amazing thing with His blessings: its reach can never be measured, its depth can never be estimated. It’s like a bottomless pit of blessings just waiting to be revealed at each milestone of our history.
Now as plans are unfolding for the 50th, the unlimited seating capacity of cyberspace is what we will depend on to accommodate all the members of the Church in the west and all over the world to celebrate. We won’t be limited to just one venue anymore. Generations of families will witness this event, take lots of pictures and be able to say “we were there.” I can’t wait to put my family’s 50 years in the west picture that we will take in July 2018 next to my dad and grandmother’s picture from July 1964. God’s blessings and love to His Church truly knows no limits, no boundaries…all of which is within our reach. Every bit of it.
Aliw Garcia Pablo is the Supervising Producer at INC Media Services and has inherited her father’s love of preserving memories with pictures and stories.