MOVIE REVIEW

Manalo: What salvation is all about (1)

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[The author, a prize-winning and critically acclaimed filmmaker, is an Iglesia ni Cristo member who steadily worshipped for four years. This makes him eminently qualified to write a well-rounded review of the blockbuster film, "Manalo.”]

“Alam mo naman sa Iglesia, ultimong pag-utot kailangang ihingi mo ng pahintulot (You very well know in Iglesia, you need to get permission even for such things as farting),” remarked an INC District Cultural Officer one afternoon when we were finalizing plans for a short film intended for entry in a district-wide film festival.

This concern is fundamental in making an honest-to-goodness evaluation of the movie “Manalo,” hyped over the past two weeks or so as breaking all movie exhibition records, both local and foreign; its premiere showing at the Philippine Arena drew a reportedly record attendance of 43,000,\ immediately meriting a Guinness Book of World Records Award as the largest ever all over the world and in all history.

It goes without saying, if “Heneral Luna” deserved my review, then all the more should “Manalo.” But then there’s this singular hindrance which immediately seems to be a dead weight heaped on my shoulder. Inside Iglesia ni Cristo, freedom of speech is a luxury not even reserved for ministers on the lower ranks of the INC bureaucracy; for the multitudes of the membership, their only prerogative is to say “Opo, opo, opo.”


And I am an Iglesia ni Cristo!

How do I go about reviewing the film when my rights are limited to achieving supreme acquiescence: “Opo, opo, opo?” To say otherwise is to commit a most heinous offense: “Di pagpapasakop (defiance, simply put).” And the punishment for the sin is horrendous. The last “teksto (term for ‘sermon’)” I listened to told of a Biblical passage in which in the olden Iglesia ni Cristo a directive was agreed upon for members to sell all their belongings and offer the proceeds to God. The story went that the couple Ananias and his wife set aside for themselves a certain portion of those proceeds. In punishment for the offense, God killed the couple. The minister cited the case of Ananias and his wife as depicting the sin of “di pagpapasakop” and proceeded to stress repeatedly: “Ano ang ginagawa ng Diyos sa mga hindi nagpapasakop (What does God do to those who refuse to obey)? Pinapatay (They are killed!) Pinapatay!” That emphasis sent chills running down my spine and since then I refused to listen anymore.

I’ve gone through so much travail in life that I’ve been divested of all my worldly possessions. What’s left with me is bare self-respect and the right to speak, and if these were still denied me, then what’s there still left to live for?

In INC, the words of its Prime Minister are the words of God. The movie “Manalo” says it all.

Manalo is depicted as hailing from a poor family steeped in Catholicism. A priest, whom the family calls Amo (a term certainly couched in derisive connotation), takes interest on the boy Felix and brings him to Manila, there to pursue studies. At the same time, he is reared as a sacristan of Amo, thereby honing him up on the values of a devout and priestly Catholic. Into his maturity, he is attracted to a series of study sessions in Protestant churches (Baptist, Methodist, Seventh Day Adventist, Presbyterian, Misyon Kristiyana, among others). He is thus depicted as a zealous believer in God but unable to find God’s one true church. His particular condemnation of the Catholic Church finds a most profound expression in his staunch objection to the Catholic priest Amo giving his dying father extreme unction, resulting in the man dying without receiving the last sacrament. Felix is castigated both by his mother and Amo but insists that the last sacrament, like worship of graven images, is not Biblical, therefore, unnecessary and evil.

It is in this episode of his father’s death that “Manalo” raises the question: How is man to be saved?

Thus Felix goes on a circuitous journey from one church to another. Into his marriage with Ata (his first wife Tomasa dies earlier), his search for the true church becomes most intense (or that’s how it is supposed to be). He spends three days closeted in his room scanning the Bible for answers to his questions. At the end of this episode, he barges out of his room, announcing to Ata that he has found the church he has been looking for: Iglesia ni Cristo. And he expresses a resolve to preach this finding to the world. Ata points out that they have no church to preach in, a contention echoed by colleagues in the churches he formerly belonged to. Felix argues that he does not have to belong to any church, or any of the existing churches anyway; what he will be preaching is the Church of Christ as stated in the Bible.

Thus Felix sets out to preach: “At sinasabi ko sayo, ikaw ay Pedro, at sa batong ito ay itatayo ko ang aking Iglesia (I tell you, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I shall build my church). Kaninong Iglesia (Whose Church)? Iglesia ni Kristo (the Church of Christ).” And he proceeds to prop up his first quotation with Romans 16:16: “Mangagbatian kayo ng banal na halik. Binabati kayo ng lahat ng Iglesia ni Cristo (Greet one another with a holy kiss. You are greeted by all churches of Christ.”

It is enough for Felix to cite these Biblical verses to convince followers that Iglesia ni Cristo is the one true church in the Bible. From a small simple congregation in Felix’s native barrio of Tipas, Taguig, his preaching reaches far and wide so that by July 27, 1914 he is able to register it as a religion with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Five years later, he is prayed over by leading ministers of other churches including the Catholic Church, like so many kings solemnizing his formal elevation to knighthood.

Unwittingly, with its admission of the latter event, “Manalo” reinforces a contention by INC’s most vociferous antagonist, Ang Dating Daan, that INC has been lying about its birth being on the 27th of July 1914 – the date of the outbreak of World War 1. It is INC’s doctrine that World War I is the realization of a Biblical prophecy, Mark 13:8: “Countries will fight each other, kingdoms will attack one another.” In indoctrinating people to membership in the sect, INC cites World War 1 as proof that Iglesia ni Cristo is the one true church as prophesied in the Bible. Though “Manalo” does not verbalize this claim, it at least underscores a news report about WW1 breaking out just as Felix is registering INC at the SEC. But Ang Dating Daan has been making its own underscoring through a UNTV program, X-Men, that a news account of the knighthood of Felix by several head ministers of protestant churches and the Catholic Church in 1918 proves Manalo had been baptizing members already in 1913, and the July 27, 1914 registration of INC was deliberately made at the same time as the outbreak of the WW1 so as to make it appear as the realization of the Biblical prophecy about the beginning of a new messenger or Sugo – Felix Y. Manalo.

Part 2 will come out tomorrow Friday October 16.

The author, Mauro Gia Samonte, is an accomplished movie journalist who for a time ran a column in the Lifestyle-Entertainment section of The Manila Times. A known filmmaker, he has more than 50 movie titles to his credit. He has won two best screenplay awards, one from the Metro Manila Film Festival and another from the Film Academy of the Philippines.

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24 Comments

  1. ^_^ what you said is not true (maybe not an intentional lie) when you said that “freedom of speech is a luxury not even reserved for ministers on the lower ranks of the INC bureaucracy; for the multitudes of the membership, their only prerogative is to say “Opo, opo, opo.” “. We are free to discuss any matter but there is a process which was even promulgated in the times of Moses thru his father-in-laws advise. You can discuss it with your group caretaker, then to your area caretaker or the evangelical worker assigned in your area or the Minister/Pastor assigned in your locale congregation. the you can go to the Supervising Minster assigned in your Ecclesiastical District and you can even write to the Executive Minister himself but we as members realize the heavy burden of Brother EVM as he leads this global Church so as a good leader and as faithful members we delegate discussion of trivial matters to the concerned level. You said that “And I am an Iglesia ni Cristo!” You lied there again because apparently in your sentences, you are not a member anymore and so you should have written “And I WAS an Iglesia ni Cristo!” There’s a big difference of course. Even Judas Iscariot was as member of the Church Of Christ but he expelled himself! (Y)

  2. MOVED TO SPAM FOR MULTIPLE POSTING mahirap talaga kapag hindi ka kinuha na director sa isang INC movie kahit INC ka pa…

    sinubok ka pero hindi ka nakapasa…. kaawa-awa ka kaibigan – tawag dyan “sour-grapping”

  3. SPECIAL REPORT: When “undue influence” is a threat to democracy http://productioncenter-objectiveview.blogspot.com/2014/07/special-report-manalos-inc.html

    “…It was in 1913 when the INC’s “Last Messenger in the Last Days?” in the person of Felix Ysagun Manalo (a “religious butterfly” who until his death was unable to arrive at the truth) began preaching the INC doctrine denying the Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Members of the first batch of his converts were baptized at the Pasig River in late 1913 (Reference: INC official magazine Pasugo, July 27, 1989 page 109 and Pasugo, May 1996 page 10).

    However, this initial “evangelical” effort of the “Last Messenger” was rendered totally inutile when that particular period of Manalo’s propagation was ignored altogether and not recognized now as part of the developmental period of INC. Otherwise, the INC should have reckoned 1913 as its beginning and could have celebrated Centennial anniversary last 2013 instead of 2014…”

  4. The apostles taught,
    1Timothy 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the MAN Christ Jesus,

    Jesus himself said,
    John 8:40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a MAN who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things.

    Pope Francis said,
    “Jesus is not a spirit, Jesus is a person, a MAN!” – RomeReports.com

  5. (Manalo) “but insists that the last sacrament, (anointing of the sick/dying with Holy Oil) like worship of graven images, is not Biblical, therefore, unnecessary and evil.”

    Maybe Manalo was not able to read his bible well.

    James 5:14-15
    “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.”

    Mark 6:13
    They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

    From the very first stage of his spiritual protest he was in error, and further plunged into error by declaring himself sugo as if Christ failed in his mission…

  6. As to the issue of the “far east”, the original text did not mean far east, but transliteration means “closest to where the sun rises”, these is true for the basic fact that there was still no geographical division of the planet as we have it now.

    Granting by way of argument that indeed, Isaiah did say far east. the second question is did Isaiah have the same concept of far east as Manalo did?

    Far east in relation to what? When Isaiah spoke the words, he may be probably in Israel or somewhere near the area, thus Philippines can never be far east in relation to the location of Isaiah (Israel)

    The term far east was first used by Europeans in 12th Century thus for them, beyond what they call near east and middle east is the far east. The term was later abandoned for being politically incorrect and racist.

    Thus, starting to where the location of Isaiah that time, Philippines cannot be its far east. A basic fact that Manalo did not notice… Ha may have been good it twisting facts or manipulating people, but factual geography cannot…

    Thus, the Far East theory, is nowhere can it be supported, and when foundation doctrine cant stand, what is left if not willful blindness!!!

  7. 1Timothy 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the MAN Christ Jesus,

    John 8:40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a MAN who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things.

  8. Bakit sa INC members wala namang nagrereklamo? pero ang mga hindi members na mga tagalabas sa INC iyon pa ang mga nagrereklamo? ask ko lang kung bakit baliktad? hahaha….. Kasi kung ayaw mo sa isang grupo ay umalis ka, ganun lang kasimple iyon….

  9. Sa taong matino ang kaisipan, bakit ka umanib sa isang relihiyon na ayaw mo naman sumunod? puwede ka naman lumayas kung ayaw mo na at di ka naman pinipilit na manatili sa sa isang relihiyon kung ayaw mo na, kaya meron silang pagtitiwalag…. nakakatawa naman to…

  10. Huwag ninyong gamitin na kayo ay church of Christ…hindi nga kayo naniniwala na si kristo ay tao….therefore, your name should be church of manalo…and not church of Christ?.

  11. Huwag ninyo sanang gamitin ang salita ng Diyo’s na taliwas naman sa inyong mga aral at turo?. ni demokrasya sa pagsasalita sa laman at isipan hindi kayang ibahagi kung walang pahintulotsa pamunuan dahil ang gusto ay isipin na ang iglesia ni manalo ay banal at walang nagawang kamalian.samakatuwid, ito’y reliheyong pinatatakbo ng tunay na tao at hindi turo ng DIYO’S na ang gusto lang ay sariling interest at sariling pamamaraan…Patawad po…

  12. Totoo naman po na itinayo ni Cristo Iglesia noon, pinaghandugan nya ng buhay, tinubos ng dugo, tinawag na kanyang katawan at siya ang ulo at tagapagligtas. Ngunit alam nila na pag alis o pagpanaw ng mga apostol papasok na ang mga lobo o bulaang propeta at magtuturo na ng ibang aral.

    Mga Gawa 20:29
    Ito ay sapagkat nalalaman ko ito, na sa pag-alis ko ay papasukin kayo ng mga mabagsik na lobo na walang patawad na sisila sa kawan.

    Matthew 7:15
    Mangagingat kayo sa mga bulaang propeta, na nagsisilapit sa inyo na may damit tupa, datapuwa’t sa loob ay mga lobong maninila. 

    Ang mga aral na ito ay di nasumpungang utinuro ni Cristo o ng mga Apostol- hindi nakatala sa bibliya, kinatuparan alam na pero bangitin ko pa rin; trinidad, di nila sinabi Dyos ang Cristo, pagkakaroon ng mga imahe o pagsamba sa mga rebulto, paulit ulit na panalangin, pag antanda, pagbabawal magasawa sa mga pari, marami pa. Natalikod ang iglesia noon. Pero nakasulat sa maraming tala ang prophesiya na may “iba pang tatawagin sa malayong panahon, ibang mga tupa ba wala sa kulungan noon ( unang siglo ), na magmumula sa malayong dako sa mga wakas ng lupa, sa mga huling araw, sa mga pulo ng dagat”

    Sensiya na marami pong mga tala ng bibliya yan di ko na mailagay lahat. Visit nalang incmedia(dot)org.

    • Kasama si Manalo sa mga tinutukoy na mga lobo at bulaang propeta na magtuturo ng ibang aral. Kung tutuusin, lahat ng mga relihiyon ay may mga bulaang propeta… mapa-Katoliko man o Islam.

  13. I believe the registration of the church which coincides with ww1 is not deliberate.Simply because communication during that time is not well developed yet.That you would know important events that happen overseas the following day.Unlike today that communication is just with the tip of the finger and spreads rapidly in just seconds.

  14. Ang pangalan na Iglesia ni Cristo ay palpak!!

    The Name Game

    Iglesia points to its name as proof it is the true Church. They argue, “What is the name of Christ’s Church, as given in the Bible? It is the ‘Church of Christ.’ Our church is called the ‘Church of Christ.’ Therefore, ours is the Church Christ founded.”

    Whether or not the exact words “Church of Christ” appear in the Bible is irrelevant, but since Iglesia makes it an issue, it is important to note that the phrase “Church of Christ” never once appears in the Bible.

    The verse Iglesia most often quotes on this issue is Romans 16:16: “Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you ” (Pasugo, November 1973, 6). But the phrase in this verse is “churches of Christ.” And it’s not a technical name. Paul is referring to a collection of local churches, not giving an organizational name.

    To get further “proof” of its name, Iglesia cites Acts 20:28: “Take heed therefore . . . to feed the church of Christ which he has purchased with his blood” (Lamsa translation; cited in Pasugo, April 1978). But the Lamsa translation is not based on the original Greek, the language in which the book of Acts was written. In Greek, the phrase is “the church of God” (tan ekklasian tou Theou) not “the church of Christ” (tan ekklasian tou Christou). Iglesia knows this, yet it continues to mislead its members.

    Even if the phrase “church of Christ” did appear in the Bible, it would not help Iglesia’s case. Before Manalo started his church, there were already groups calling themselves “the Church of Christ.” There are several Protestant denominations that call themselves Church of Christ and use exactly the same argument. Of course, they aren’t the true Church for the same reason Iglesia isn’t—because they were not founded by Christ. (From the Catholic Answers.com)

    • it is most proper to say “Church of Christ” due to the statement “purchased with his blood” God is spirit therefore has no blood.

    • I don’t need to tell you Ms. Get Real because you definitely know not someone’s religion, so you knew it yourself. Why ask if you definitely know it??

  15. Iglesia Prophesied?

    A pillar of Iglesia belief is that its emergence in the Philippines was prophesied in the Bible. This idea is supposedly found in Isaiah 43:5–6, which states, “Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you; I will say to the north, ‘Give up,’ and the south, ‘Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth.’”

    Iglesia argues that in this verse, Isaiah is referring to the “far east” and that this is the place where the “Church of Christ” will emerge in the last days. This point is constantly repeated in Iglesia literature: “The prophecy stated that God’s children shall come from the far east” (Pasugo, March 1975, 6).

    But the phrase “far east” is not in the text. In fact, in the Tagalog (Filipino) translation, as well as in the original Hebrew, the words “far” and “east” are not even found in the same verse, yet the Iglesia recklessly combine the two verses to translate “far east.” Using this fallacious technique, Iglesia claims that the far east refers to the Philippines.

    Iglesia is so determined to convince its followers of this “fact” that it quotes Isaiah 43:5 from an inexact paraphrase by Protestant Bible scholar James Moffatt that reads, “From the far east will I bring your offspring.” Citing this mistranslation, one Iglesia work states, “Is it not clear that you can read the words ‘far east’? Clear! Why does not the Tagalog Bible show them? That is not our fault, but that of those who translated the Tagalog Bible from English—the Catholics and Protestants” (Isang Pagbubunyag Sa Iglesia ni Cristo, 1964:131). The Iglesia accuses everyone else of mistranslating the Bible, when it is Iglesia that is taking liberties with the original language. (From Catholic Answers.com)

    • As to the issue of the “far east”, the original text did not mean far east, but transliteration means “closest to where the sun rises”, these is true for the basic facts that there was still no geographical division of the planet as we have it now.

      Granting by way of argument that indeed, Isaiah did say far east. the second question is did Isaiah have the same concept of far east as Manalo did?

      Far east in relation to what? When Isaiah spoke the words, he may be probably in Israel on somewhere near the area, thus Philippines can never be far east in relation to the location of Isaiah.

      The term far east was first used by Europeans in 12th Century thus for them, beyond what they call near east and middle east is the far east.

      Thus, starting when the location of Isaiah that time Philippines cannot be the far east. A basic fact that Manalo did not notice… Ha may have been good it twisting facts or manipulating people, but factual geography cannot…

  16. 2 things:
    1. “Felix is castigated both by his mother and Amo but insists that the last sacrament, like worship of graven images, is not Biblical, therefore, unnecessary and evil.”
    My comment:
    I disagree that the Sacrament of Anointing of the sick and the dying “is not Biblical”. Yes, it’s Biblical. Mark refers to the sacrament when he recounts how Jesus sent out the twelve disciples to preach, and “they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them” (Mark 6:13). In his epistle, James says, “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (Jas. 5:14–15). See more on: http://www.catholic.com/tracts/anointing-of-the-sick

    2. The author’s last sentence: ” … the July 27, 1914 registration of INC was deliberately made at the same time as the outbreak of the WW1 so as to make it appear as the realization of the Biblical prophecy about the beginning of a new messenger or Sugo – Felix Y. Manalo.”
    My comment:
    The church of Christ or INC is not “the realization of the Biblical prophecy”… It was instituted by Christ Himself with Peter, the rock, as the first leader, His first Vicar or representative: “I tell you, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I shall build my church”. Peter then was succeeded by the Popes. So, the church of Christ (“my church”) was founded during His time with His chosen Apostle Peter as the first leader/pope… not, in any way, predicted or prophesied to be registered to the SEC in the Philippines in 1914. The Bible which Manalo gets his idea of establishing a sect (INC) is the product of the Church already established by Christ in the first century AD. Meaning, the Fathers of the Church (the Fathers who belonged to that true Church of Christ, built on Peter) were the ones who made the Canon of Scriptures (the Bible). In other words, there was the true Church, a universal (catholic) Church, with its early Fathers who produced the Bible…. that Bible is used by Manalo to created his sect, the INC, misquoting & mis-interpreting that particular passage.