City of Manila

Punta and the Iglesia Ni Cristo

To those who happened to have read my previous roaming adventure in Punta, I mentioned this particular landmark well-preserved in its pre-war glory. I wasn’t able to further check it out the last time. Thankfully I got to correspond with the landmark’s curator, who was able to arrange a schedule for a visit to see what’s inside.

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This is the Iglesia Ni Cristo Museum at Punta, which was the first formal place of worship for the Philippine Christian group the Iglesia Ni Cristo. (INC) While, the structure itself was built in 1937, there was already a deep connection between the INC and Punta, going way back to the establishment of the INC in  July 1914 by its founder Felix Manalo, (after whom the narrow street along the museum was named after)

Manalo actually began preaching what would become the teachings of the INC in Punta, ministering to some workers of the Punta-based construction firm Atlantic Gulf and Pacific Company as well as some others in the neighborhood then baptizing them in the waters of the then-clean Pasig River. 

During its first 23 years, the INC held worship services in different parts of Manila and surrounding areas, setting up informal worship centers in some member’s house or somewhere. Eventually, as the INC became a bit more firmly established as a religious movement in the Philippines, the need arose for it to have a more formal place of worship where they can worship and glorify God.

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With such thoughts in mind, it may have been fitting for Felix Manalo to decide that INC’s first formal place of worship would be built right where it all began.  Thus, a 2-story structure was built in 1937 in Punta, built in the design more reminiscent of the pre-war American-style houses rather than the neo-Gothicness of contemporary INC chapels. It would go through some significant changes until the need arose in the 1980’s for a bigger venue. Thus, the move of INC’s worship activities in Punta a few blocks away to the present temple, which sports the all so-familiar architecture INC chapels are known for.

Fortunately, the old chapel was preserved and declared a historic property by the INC in 1993. As part of the preservation work, the old grounds were expanded and an extensive restoration work was done from 1998-2000 to bring back the look of the structure as it was when it was finished in 1937.

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Today, this place now stands as a museum to remind people of the INC’s past, as one can get an idea how INC’s worship services were like back then. Inside, one can see the original flooring, furniture, even the woodwork like the balusters that were painstakingly restored after long being buried under various works that were made over the years, especially when it still served as a place of worship. Too bad photography is not allowed inside so I wasn’t able to post the pictures of the interior.

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The nearby building, though fairly recent, was modeled to look the same as the old worship center. It serves as the museum’s exhibit area which documented a bit about Punta’s history and the INC’s history in Punta, not to mention some memorabilia that belonged to Felix Manalo.

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But more than just a showcase of history, the INC Museum at Punta has made extra effort to also showcase the rich flora of the country. The complex is surrounded by various species of plants, most of which are native to the Philippines. It is the museum’s aim to educate not only INC history but also the country’s rich natural landscape that is currently endangered by rapid urbanization, among other destructive acts brought about by man.

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In the midst of creeping urbanization and blight that has endangered the city’s historic and cultural landscape, it is encouraging to know there are still some places like the INC Museum at Punta that has managed to keep the old charm and its heritage intact. Regardless of one’s faith, I hope everyone will be inspired and take action to protect the beauty of the city that has been obscured by urban decay and hopefully achieve the dream of a livable city once more.

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Special thanks to Ms. Lita Javier, the curator of the INC Museum at Punta for arranging my visit there. If you wish to visit the museum, you can set up a schedule via email at inc.museum@gmail.com

 

© The Urban Roamer

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