Written by Donna Cueto-Ybanez
Monday, 02 September 2013
BAUAN, Batangas—The hazy moving image on the ultrasound screen brought a smile to Mommy Elizabeth Ilaga’s face as she lay on a makeshift hospital bed.
“Lalaki po ba? [Is it a boy?]” she asked the sonologist.
The doctor carefully moved the ultrasound or transducer probe across Elizabeth’s abdomen, repeatedly gliding the instrument in certain areas while looking at the ultrasound monitor screen at her left. After a few minutes, she declared, “Opo, lalaki po. [Yes, it’s a boy].”
Elizabeth’s smile widened. Her bunso and fifth child, whom she is expecting to deliver on October 15, would be a boy. She already has three girls and a boy; a second boy in the brood was a wish fulfilled for the family.
She was just one of the 1.4 million Batangueños who trooped to the “Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko” medical-dental and evangelical outreach mission of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) held on August 30, at the open ground of the Grand Villas subdivision in Bauan, Batangas.
It was the 14th Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko (My Countrymen, My Brethren) event of the INC, which had been launched in April and had since been done almost weekly by organizers, including the Felix Y. Manalo Foundation.
The municipal government of Bauan declared August 30 a holiday in anticipation of the traffic congestion that the event would create.
Classes and office work in other affected areas were also suspended, as well as work in the provincial government, according to Batangas Vice Gov. Marc Leviste.
“It’s not easy to congregate 1.4 million people,” said Leviste who visited the site of the event. “We suspended classes and office [work] in the affected areas so that this will not inconvenience our people.”
He said the huge medical-dental outreach mission was “very well-conducted” and was “definitely a big help” to Batangueños who were also affected by the rains brought about by the southwest monsoon and Tropical Storm Maring.
‘’I would like to congratulate the Iglesia ni Cristo for undertaking these events,’’ he said.
As of 2010 record, the population of the whole of Batangas province stood at some 2.4 million. The turnout at the Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko event in Bauan was 1.4 million, which created a record for the province, said Chief Insp. Pablo Aguda Jr., chief of police of San Juan, Batangas.
Aguda described the event as “generally peaceful.” Some 400 policemen from the Batangas Police Provincial Office were deployed at the site and along the roadways that would be used by commuters.
“Three days na po kaming naglalatag ng security,” he said of the police preparation for the event. He said that the heavy traffic of people affected Lipa, Batangas City, the whole of Bauan, Cuenca and at least four more municipalities.
At the site, a 350-strong combined medical and dental team gave free medical and dental services. Two big medical tents that could house thousands of people were set up. Aside from the free ultrasound and medical checkup, x-ray, blood-sugar tests and complete blood-count tests or CBC, were also done. There were also makeshift hospital beds set up, 50 medical tables for consultation, and mini-cubicles for dental services. Free medicines and vitamins were also given, both for young and old.
Thousands of people lined up. Fathers and mothers brought along their children and babies. They came with their families and friends. Those carrying children, as well as old men and women, had a separate line. It was a giant tent hospital that had been a-flurry with activity from 6:30 a.m. until around noon. But there were also 35 other bigger tents—the biggest ones that the INC could find in the country—set up in the venue. Twenty-six of these could shelter up to 20,000 people at a time, said Dr. Sergie P. Santos, one of the organizers from the FYM foundation.
Inside each of these tents, giant LCD walls were set up, where the program at the main stage was played out. At the sides of all the tents, were huge wooden boxes filled with rice bags, containing 6 kilos of rice each, which were later given to the people who stayed to watch the Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko program until the end.
Indeed, it was not a simple medical-dental outreach mission. The main feature was a pre-produced televised bible exposition, led by INC General Auditor, minister Glicerio B. Santos Jr., who urged those who attended to know and worship the “one true God” that the Bible teaches.
More than the giving of medical and dental services, and rice packs, organizers of the “Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko” believe that it is the “message of salvation” which they want to impart to their countrymen nationwide that was more important, said Rodel Cabrera, an INC minister, who read the message of INC Executive Minister Eduardo V. Manalo before the mammoth crowd Friday, thanking them for attending the evangelical mission.
He said this was why, they are trying to reach out –through these unique almost weekly church propagation activities – to as many people as possible, he said.
“Ito ang patuloy na gagawin ng Iglesia sa buong mundo dahil sa pagsunod sa utos ng Diyos at dahil sa pagmamahal sa kapwa, batay na rin sa utos ng Biblia na ibigin ang kapwa gaya nang sa sarili,” Cabrera said in Filipino.
Cabrera, quoting the INC executive minister, explained that the Church had been doing such medical and dental missions since the beginning through Lingap sa Mamamayan.
But the Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko events combined such missions with bible expositions, which only started in April this year.
Minister Benjamin delos Reyes, the INC district minister in Batangas, said all the INC brethren in the province held devotional prayers, days before the event.
“Dahil po sa pagpapanata sa Diyos, marami ang nagpaunlak na dumalo sa pagtitipong ito,” he said.
Celebrities, who are non-INC members, like Faith Cuneta, who is known for rendering soulful telenovela songs, and Gerald Santos, a talent of GMA network, also sang in the entertainment program that followed the bible exposition.
Santos, who became popular after winning the Pinoy Pop Superstar singing contest, said he had attended some of the previous “Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko” events of the INC.
“In Marikina, the crowd reached 400,000. But the audience was getting larger and reaching more than a million in later events which surprised me,” he said. “Ngayon, milyon na po palagi, na parang nasasanay na po kami sa ganoong karaming tao,” he added.
The first Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko event was conducted at P. Guevarra Elementary School in Binondo, Manila on April 13, with 18,500 attendees. The second one was at Commonwealth Elementary School on April 30 with 25,000 attendees; the third in Caloocan City on May 11 (35,000 attendees); fourth was in Pampanga on May 14 with a whopping 600,000 crowd estimate; fifth was for the whole Rizal province on May 24 with a 500,000 attendance; followed by Pasay City on May 28 (150,000), Tondo, Manila on July 2 (24,000), and Agusan del Sur on July 11 (6,000).
In the Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko in Marikina on July 6 which serviced eastern parts of Metro Manila, the crowd estimate was 500,000. In Cebu City, the crowd reached 600,000 at the SRP open grounds on July 26.
The attendance in the succeeding outreach events grew larger, all reaching at least one million indigents. This was the case in the medical-dental outreach mission in Tarlac (1 million attendees at the Tarlac Recreational Park) on June 28; in Gen. Trias, Cavite on Aug. 3 (1.1 million attendees); and in Sta. Rosa, Laguna held at the 100-hectare Greenfields open grounds on Aug. 10 with an attendance of 1.5 million. The one in Bicolandia yielded 1.65 million participants, the biggest to date.
The INC has had also conducted relief missions abroad such as those held in the aftermath of the quake in Japan in March 2011, Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey in October 2012, the floods in Bundaberg, Australia early this year, and the series of tornadoes that happened in Oklahoma last June.
Last year, the INC broke three Guinness world records in the medical-dental mission in Parola, Tondo as it celebrated its 98th anniversary. This year, organizers are intent to reach out to more people as the church prepares for its worldwide centennial celebration in July 2014.