- Posted July 22, 2014 by
Ciudad de Victoria, Bulacan, Philippines
- Global Christian church from the Philippines celebrates centennial “to give back glory to God”, gets world’s attention
- Iglesia Ni Cristo continues to proclaim God's message in great assemblies
- Fastest-growing Christian church intensifies evangelical missions as its Centennial nears
- From record-breaking worldwide walk to rebuilding houses and lives for typhoon Yolanda survivors: the Iglesia Ni Cristo shows the way
World’s fastest-growing Christian Church inaugurates “largest theater on the planet”
More than 50,000 Iglesia Ni Cristo members took part in celebrating the inauguration of the “largest indoor arena” in the world, the Philippine Arena, built inside the Ciudad de Victoria (City of Victory) in the province of Bulacan, in the Philippines on Monday, July 21
Representatives from its concept designer, structural engineer, and construction firm also attended the event that served as a prelude to the July 27 Centennial celebration of the INC or Church of Christ that is expected to draw in a crowd of more than a million.
The Iglesia Ni Cristo or Church of Christ is among the fastest growing Christian churches in the world today which is now established in more than a hundred countries, with members belonging to at least a hundred different races. It was first registered in the Philippines on July 27, 1914 by its first executive minister Felix Y. Manalo.
The Philippine Arena, including the whole Ciudad de Victoria, was conceptualized and built to be the site of the main Centennial celebration of the INC or the Church of Christ. The groundbreaking of Ciudad de Victoria happened in August 2011. Construction of the “mighty” Philippine Arena only took a record of two years and nine months to complete – something that even its concept designer, Populous, and its structural engineer, Buro Happold, found “truly amazing.”
It was also built in view of the Church of Christ’s rapidly expanding membership, according to its executive minister Bro. Eduardo V. Manalo.
Manalo and Philippine President Aquino unveiled the marker in front of the arena around 8 a.m. Monday after which the two proceeded inside the arena for a short program.
President Aquino said this was a proud moment for the Philippines and expressed admiration for the INC which he said seriously takes care of its flock.
“Angkop nga po ang pangalan ng lugar na ito — na may kahulugang 'Lungsod ng Tagumpay' — lalo pa’t sinasalamin nito ang mga nakamit na tagumpay ng Iglesia sa nagdaang siglo (The name of this place, City of Victory” is just fitting, especially since it mirrors the victories achieved by the Church in the last century),” President Aquino told a jam-packed Philippine Arena in a speech following the inauguration ceremony.
The 55,000-seater Philippine Arena, recognized as the largest domed indoor arena in the world, is part of the Ciudad de Victoria which is currently a 50-hectare complex soon to be expanded into a 140-hectare tourism enterprise zone.
President Aquino noted that a lot of organizations pay a great deal of respect to the INC as an institution, not only in the Philippines but throughout the world, since its establishment in 1914.
He said the completion of the magnificent Philippine Arena meant that the Church has the capacity to be among the world’s best.
Aquino even tried to read biblical verses in his speech which amused the packed crowd inside the fully-air-conditioned arena.
For the honor of the Philippines, for the glory of God
Speaking for the church, INC General Evangelist Bro. Bienvenido C. Santiago said the “architectural and engineering marvel” that is the Philippine Arena was constructed “for the honor of the Philippines, for the benefit of the Filipino people, and most of all for the glory of God.”
Aside from the Arena, which can seat a maximum of 55,000 people, two other massive structures are being completed inside the 50-hectare Ciudad de Victoria. These are the 20,000-seater Philippine Sports Stadium and the two-hectare Philippine Sports Center.
Santiago said that although the INC would allow the use of the Philippine Arena and its other facilities inside the Ciudad de Victoria complex to the public in general and even to the international community, the church still reserves the right to choose what activities should take place there. These should be based on “wholesome Christian principles and values that the Church upholds.”
The INC brethren who attended the event came as early as dawn Monday (July21), and filled the arena to the brim. Aside from President Aquino, Vice-President Jejomar Binay, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., and other congressmen and senators also came, as well as former President Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and local and provincial officials of Bulacan.
The arena is mostly to be used for huge church gatherings and other activities, but can also be used for various other sports events and even concerts and plays.
The Philippine Arena is also considered as the “largest theater in the planet.”
Populous director Andrew James only had one word to describe how he felt seeing the Philippine Arena that his firm had designed.
“Amazing,” he said. “We designed it originally as a stadium. Now it feels like a five-star hotel.” He also likened it into a theater.
James said he was “skeptical at first” when he was approached by the INC about building a massive structure as the Philippine Arena.
Originally, he was being asked to build an even larger structure -- an arena that can seat a hundred thousand people -- but because of the difficulty in building a structure that can seat such a crowd, he trimmed the seating capacity to 50,000.
Normally, he said, such a structure could be built in four years. He was simply amazed it was done in less than three years. Construction of the Philippine Arena started shortly after the ground-breaking of Ciudad de Victoria in August 2011. By May 2014, the construction of the Philippine Arena -- with an area of at least four hectares -- was completed.
The South Korean firm, Hanwha Engineering & Construction, was the construction firm that completed the project.
Church with a vision
“I’ve never been with a group with such a vision. They were so confident like there’s nothing they could not do,” he said of the Iglesia Ni Cristo.
This confidence and vision of the INC was what struck him the most, James said.
“Most people usually get scared,” he said. “But they had that confidence. They weren’t fazed.”
“Initially, I thought this (the Philippine Arena) was too big. Now, I can see it’s not too big at all, as what we can see outside,” James added noting the number of people who could not be accommodated in the arena.
Chris Sparrow, representative of the British firm Buro Happold Engineering which was responsible for the structural engineering of the Philippine Arena, said seeing the completed arena for himself, filled with so much people, was “truly amazing.”
“I was absolutely shocked to build a building of this size,” he said.
“I have to congratulate the Iglesia Ni Cristo management. I was really knocked down by the whole thing,” Sparrow said.
He said he was “incredibly proud” to have been part of the ambitious project.
“Frankly, I never realized the Iglesia Ni Cristo is that big,” Sparrow said.
He said the Philippine Arena was “special.”
“It’s not only the biggest one in the world, the eyes of the world will be watching the Philippines because of this,” Sparrow added.
The Philippine Arena and Ciudad de Victoria is the centerpiece of the many centennial projects of the Church, the growth of which had been described as phenomenal by observers. From a handful of members when it was registered in the Philippines on July 27, 1914, the Iglesia Ni Cristo has now expanded to more than 100 countries. Its members now come from 110 races around the world, scattered across six continents
The Iglesia Ni Cristo said only voluntary offerings from its members caused the construction of the Philippine Arena, an architectural marvel that had been already featured by the Discovery Channel in December 2013.
The Philippine Arena was designed and built to withstand strong earthquakes and super-typhoon winds, and has in fact withstood the 150 to 185 kilometers per hour winds of typhoon Glenda (international name Rammasun) that slammed Metro Manila and nearby provinces, including Bulacan, on July 16.