Half of Batangas show up for Iglesia medical mission


By Donna Cueto-Ybañez
Philippines Daily Inquirer
6:46 am | Friday, September 6th, 2013

BAUAN, Batangas, Philippines—The moving hazy image on the ultrasound screen brought a smile to 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 Ilaga’s abdomen, repeatedly gliding it over certain spots while looking at the monitor to her left.  After a few minutes, she declared: “Opo, lalaki po (Yes ma’am, it’s a boy).”

Ilaga’s smile widened. Her fifth child whom she is expecting to deliver on Oct. 15 will be a boy.  She already has three girls and another boy. A second boy in the brood would be a wish fulfilled for the family.

Ilaga 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 held on Aug. 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) mission of the INC which was launched in April and has been conducted almost weekly by the organizers, who included the Felix Y. Manalo Foundation.

The municipal government of Bauan declared Aug. 30 a holiday in anticipation of the traffic jam the event would create.

Classes and offices 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 event site.

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, the population of Batangas stood at around 2.4 million. The turnout at the Bauan event was 1.4 million—more than one-half of the population of the province—which was a record for the province, said Chief Insp. Pablo Aguda Jr., police chief of San Juan, Batangas.

Aguda described the event as “generally peaceful.”  Some 400 policemen from the Batangas Police Provincial Office were deployed to the site and on the roads leading to it.

“We provided security for three days,” he said, adding that the heavy traffic of people and vehicles affected all of Bauan, Lipa, Cuenca, Batangas City, and at least four other municipalities.

At the site, a 350-strong medical and dental team gave free services.  Two big tents that could shelter thousands were set up.  Aside from ultrasound, X-rays, blood sugar and complete blood count tests or CBC were also done. There were makeshift hospital beds set up, 50 medical tables for consultation, and mini-cubicles for dental services.  Free medicines and vitamins were given out to both young and old.

Thousands lined up. Fathers and mothers with their children and babies. They came with relatives and friends. Those carrying children, and old men and women, had a separate line.

The giant hospital tents saw a flurry of activity from 6:30 a.m. until noon.

But there were also 35 other bigger tents—the biggest ones the INC could find in the country—set up.  Twenty-six of them could shelter up to 20,000 people at a time, said Dr. Sergie P. Santos, one of the organizers from the FYM foundation.

Under each of the tents, giant LCD walls were put up, on which the program on the main stage was played out.  At the sides of all the tents were huge wooden boxes filled with bags of rice containing six kilos each that were given to the people who stayed to watch the Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko program until the end.

It was not a simple medical-dental outreach. The main feature was a pre-produced televised bible exposition, led by INC general auditor, Minister Glicerio B. Santos Jr., who urged those in attendance 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 Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko believe that it is the “message of salvation” that 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 were trying to reach out, through these unique almost weekly church propagation activities, to as many people as possible.

“This is what the Iglesia is continuously doing in the rest of the world following the instruction of God and for love of our fellowman, and in keeping with the Biblical order to love others as we love ourselves,” Cabrera said in Filipino.

Cabrera, quoting the INC executive minister, said the Church had been conducting medical and dental missions since its inception through “Lingap sa Mamamayan.”

But the Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko events combined such missions with Bible expositions and were started only in April this year.

Minister Benjamin de los Reyes, the INC district minister in Batangas, said all the INC brethren in the province held devotional prayers, days before the event.

“Because of their devotion to God, many were convinced to come to this event,” he said.

Celebrities, who are non-INC members, like singer Faith Cuneta and GMA Network talent Gerald Santos sang during 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 reached more than a million in later events which surprised me,” he said.  “Now, a million attend every time, and we’re getting used to that many people,” he said.

The first Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko was conducted at P. Guevarra Elementary School in Binondo, Manila, on April 13 with 18,500 in attendance.  The second was held at Commonwealth Elementary School on April 30 with 25,000 attendees; the third in Caloocan City on May 11 (35,000 attendees); the fourth in Pampanga on May 14 with a 600,000 crowd estimate; the fifth was for Rizal province on May 24 with 500,000 in 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).

At the Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko in Marikina on July 6 which serviced the eastern part 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.

Attendance at 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 General 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 Bicol attracted 1.65 million participants, the biggest to date.

The INC has also conducted relief missions abroad such in the aftermath of the earthquake 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 hit in Oklahoma in June.

Last year, the INC broke three Guinness world records with the medical-dental mission in Parola, Tondo, as it celebrated its 98th anniversary.  This year, organizers are intent on reaching out to more people as the church prepares for its worldwide centennial celebration in July 2014.