Wednesday, 25 September 2013
DAVAO City—In what could be a record-breaker for Davao, more than 2 million people converged on September 21 at the Crocodile Park open grounds for the “Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko” (My Countrymen, My Brethren) evangelical and service mission of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC).
Police gave a rough estimate of 2.5 million as of 11 a.m., as more people from the whole of Davao region and Compostela Valley flocked to the 50-hectare open grounds of the popular tourist destination in the city.
The evangelical mission, which was done simultaneously with a medical and dental service effort, officially opened at around 7 a.m., but the arrivals started even the night before.
Chief Insp. Alfredo Baloran, chief of operations division of the Davao City Police, said the “2.5 million rough estimate was based on ground observations and aerial surveys.”
Except for the private grounds of the Crocodile Park, the whole area was almost covered by the multitude of people. Helicopters hovered above every now and then to check on the crowd.
“We arrived at the 2.5 million estimate after repeated aerial surveys. We also consolidated the reports of our policemen stationed at various strategic points,” Baloran said.
The INC event was not only a record for Davao, but also for the Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko event done almost weekly in preparation for the INC centennial celebration in July 2014.
It topped even the 2.1 million attendance record of the evangelical service and relief mission in Bulacan on September 14, also a Saturday, organizers said.
Traffic in Davao City, and even in roads leading to the Davao International Airport, was affected.
Supt. Edilberto Leonardo, assistant regional police chief of CIDG Davao, said there was no movement at the far northern side at the entrance of Mamay road and at the diversion road, which, he said, was “the only time that it was paralyzed.”
Davao del Norte Vice Gov. Victorio Suaybaguio said this was the “first time [that he] had witnessed such kind of crowd.”
Ordinary folks—even old people and women carrying their children —walked for several kilometers due to the traffic congestion, just to get to the venue.
“I myself had to walk as my vehicle was trapped in traffic,” Suaybaguio said. “For the first time, I became a traffic violator. Sabi ni P-Noy, bawal mag-counterflow. Pero napilitan kaming mag-counterflow just to get here.”
As of 8 a.m., the police estimate was pegged at 1.8 million. As of 9:30 a.m., the police estimate of the crowd jumped to 2.2 million.
A minister, Rodel E. Cabrera, read the message of INC Executive Minister Eduardo V. Manalo, thanking the people who were invited by INC members in Davao region and in Compostela Valley who came as early as the night before.
He said the INC members are inviting their friends and family members to attend such evangelical missions in accordance to God’s commandment to love others as one loves himself.
“We know that whatever material help we could give to our countrymen can only be of help for a short time,” he said. “But what was more important was for people to hear God’s message of salvation,” he added.
While there was an ongoing medical and dental mission in one huge tent, the rest of the giant tents were filled with people who were invited to hear and watch a pre-taped televised Bible exposition officiated by INC General Auditor Glicerio B. Santos Jr. Giant LCD walls and speakers were set up so that more people can hear and watch the program.
After the Bible exposition, relief packs containing 4 kilos of rice, four noodle packs and four cans of sardines each were distributed to the guests.
The medical-dental mission was temporarily stopped when the Bible exposition started. Before that, vitamins and medicines were given as medical consultations went under way. But the team of doctors and nurses in Davao was not huge enough to accommodate the huge number of those who flocked to the medical tent.
Still, the people were very thankful that the INC was able to conduct such missions in Davao.
“Nagpapasalamat kami dahil sa daming naibibigay na tulong ng medical mission. Sana po ay ipagpatuloy po natin itong gawaing ito,” Davao del Norte Gov. Rodolfo del Rosario said, when he announced the initial 2.2 million crowd estimate as of 9:30 a.m.
At around 12 noon, another announcement was made regarding the 2.5 million new attendance record.
It was a road show of sorts for the Iglesia Ni Cristo, as various artists and celebrities, mostly INC members, performed before the audience, after the pamamahayag or Bible exposition.
Celebrities like Faith Cuneta, who became popular for her heartfelt renditions of telenovela theme songs, and Gerald Santos, dubbed as the “prince of ballad,” performed after the announcement on the 2.5 million record attendance was made.
After the program, people, carrying their bags of rice, walked for miles as traffic was at a standstill for hours.
This is the 16th Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko event of the Iglesia Ni Cristo, in cooperation with the Felix Y. Manalo Foundation Inc., since it was launched in April this year.