MANALO: What salvation is all about


[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.”]

Second of three parts

In INC indoctrination sessions it is stressed that Felix is the angel referred to in Revelation as rising from the east to confront the four winds that had power over of the earth; the four winds are taken to be the Big Four world powers (Britain, France, United States and Italy) that evolved as a consequence of World War 1. It is quite odd that “Manalo” makes no assertion in this regard. It is too basic an INC concern to be neglected. One can only conjecture that the filmmakers do not subscribe to the claim and so thought it better to do away with that aspect in favor of focusing on the strides made by INC. In the postwar period onward to its supposed one hundredth year, INC has gone much beyond Philippine horizons, beginning with Hawaii, then Australia, further onward to Continental USA, Europe, the Middle East, and finally, Jerusalem, where, as sang in INC’s official anthem “Ako’y Iglesia Ni Cristo,” it all began.

Three years of dedicated membership in the INC had given me enough spiritual inspiration to translate the Tagalog song into English, reflecting what I believe must be a hankering among non-Filipino members for release of their native spiritual sentiments. The lyrics go thus:

I am Iglesia Ni Cristo
The church of prophets in the East come true
Now it has gone back to Jerusalem
Once it’s holy home
‘Tis Christ that I will always follow
No matter what’s up for tomorrow
I shall be Iglesia ni Cristo
Till the end of my bones and marrow
I swear to dedicate myself to God
As Jesus did the same
In persecutions and in suffering
Shall I bear all the pain

Now, I can only sing, those were the days, of lovely what-might-have-beens.

Deep into continued spirituality, of religious attendance in twice-a-week worship, participation in INC activities which included hands-on training of INC members in filmmaking, finding my place converted into a dako or site for INC meetings, and what else, I just found myself thirsting for full understanding of the scriptures.

That’s why in viewing “Manalo” I completely empathize with Felix as he moves from one faith to another, ceaseless in his search for the one true church as mandated by the Bible. At one point, Felix laments that he cannot continue preaching things that are contrary to what is preached in the Bible. It is simply unfortunate that empathizing with Felix in this regard leads me to contradicting him eventually.

Surely, I cannot claim to be versed in the Bible. I am much too far from that. Rather what I can claim is that I have come across certain passages in the Bible being contradicted by teachings of Iglesia ni Cristo. One such teaching, dealing with the question of whether Christ is God or man, is dwelt upon in the movie. Felix reads just one passage from the scriptures and on the strength of that one single quotation proclaims Christ is man not God. My own readings of the Bible give me a preponderance of verses attesting to Christ being not man but God. The entirety of John, Chapter 1 is testimony to Christ’s divinity, particularly 1-3: “Before the world was created, the Word already existed; he was with God, and he was the same as God. From the very beginning the word was with God. Through him God made all things; not one thing in all creations was made without him.” And in 17:5, on the eve of his crucifixion, Jesus prays in the garden, looking up to heaven, “Father! Give me glory in your presence now, the same glory I had with you before the world was made.” These occasions, far, far from each other in time speak of the same thing with amazing consistency about Christ being with God before the world was created: Christ is God.

And yet for all the wealth of verses that can be cited in the Bible to prove Christ is God, I would never go as far as proclaiming my findings as the truth. What I would need only whenever I would raise issues on this matter was for my questions to be answered. But either my questions were answered in the already hackneyed manner as had been characteristic of earlier indoctrination and therefore not providing any satisfactory clarification, or were dismissed outright as devil-inspired, which invariably got my ire. Imagine, a minister calling you a devil all for wanting deeper Biblical learning.

But then, as stressed at the outset, that’s Iglesia Ni Cristo. On the matter of pasakop, absolute obedience is required of every member. When it proclaims Christ is man, not God, bow your head and say “Opo.” Otherwise one is denied salvation. It is in the heart of every INC member to gain salvation after death and it is inculcated in his brain time and again that only in INC will man be saved. “That’s what the Bible says,” I would be told.

The answer would not satisfy me. I would argue that here I am, the Devil, and I come forward claiming I am the Iglesia Ni Cristo, does that make my claim valid all because the church name I use is written in the Bible? For that matter, which of the number of churches all registered in the SEC and all using Iglesia Ni Cristo as their names is the true church of God?

God’s divine essence cannot be that so simple as to derive merely from a citation of Biblical inscription. I believe it is the practice of acts prescribed in Biblical inscription that is the source of the flowering of Godliness in man. I don’t pretend I know how to define those acts other than sticking to these words by Paul: “And to faith add knowledge, to knowledge virtue, to virtue temperance, to temperance Godliness, to Godliness brotherly kindness.” Somehow I find this advice a good formula for living in harmony with myself, my family and my fellowmen.

In contrast, the incessant evangelizing I found myself subjected to in the course of my membership in INC has had the effect of throwing me in endless torment. Could I really last this pretentiousness, this hypocrisy. We preach God and the glory of spiritual salvation and yet continuously boast of achievements in domains that are best left to sanlibutan. For instance, I would ask: What does it profit a church to gain Guinness but lose members? Why are we so concerned about building the biggest arena in the world when judgment day is nearing? Are we to bring this to heaven? And the magnificent chapels, too? And the medals and certificates of recognition? And now the film that had the biggest attendance in a premiere showing in all history, that scored the biggest gross on a non-holiday opening day. In Ecclesiastes, King Solomon laments all these as vanity, just like chasing the wind.

Old habits are difficult to kill, but that evening I last attended an INC worship and the minister, equating the words of God to the words of the Prime Minister, declared an abominable terrorism: “Ano ang ginagawa ng Diyos sa mga ayaw pasakop? Pinapatay! (What does God do to those who disobey? Kill!),” I was thrown back to that state of mind I had in 1994 when finally seized with disgust at smoking which was ruining my lungs I crushed my last stick of cigarette on the floor with my shoe, declaring, “Ayoko na! (Enough!)” I had peace of lungs since then, not craving for Marlboro not a bit anymore, and completely, too.

One post on Facebook has this brag: “Manalo is not meant to make money.” Though it has been bruited about repeatedly that the film has broken box-office records both local and foreign, meaning money is a concern of the film after all, the obvious undertone of that Facebook boast is that “Manalo” is meant for attaining spiritual ends.

End of part 2

The conclusion or part 3 will appear tomorrow, Saturday Oct. 17.

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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  1. ^_^ nakakatamad siya basahin kasi inconsistent pero tatyagaan mo. hindi na ang movie ang nire review nya kundi doktrina ng pagiging diyos o tao ni cristo. ang sinasabi naman nya di siya well verse sa bible pero hindi siya nagtanong sa ministro (ULIT) para matugunan ang “uhaw” niya. Dati daw siya INC pero umalis siya after 3 yaers. un ang sabi niya. nagpadoktrina at lumagda na nauunwaan niya ang doktrina pero ngayon ay kino kontra niya. ibig sabihin ano kaya ang layunin niya? baka bitter siya kasi hindi siya ang naging director ng felix manalo movie! (Y)

    • Samonte’s purpose is to do a demolition job and which of course is a failure. He has the talent of those who are without virtues whom the Vatican awarded with “Zero Grade Point Average” embossed on top of their skulls upon graduation from seminaries.

  2. Nancy Bulok Cake on

    You said “In the postwar period onward to its supposed one hundredth year, INC has gone much beyond Philippine horizons, beginning with Hawaii, then Australia, further onward to Continental USA, Europe, the Middle East, and finally, Jerusalem,…”. I beg to disagree on this. This is NOT universality. The Filipino INK members from the Philippines are in these countries as OFWs. The INK have no churches in muslim and communist countries. You INK cannot assume to be universal having OFWs in some countries. Your churches in the U.S. are just a few that you can count on your fingers the members going to their tiny church like Bayonne, NJ. For INK shut your bg mouths. INK is a CULT.

  3. Jesus is worshipped, Jesus said to worship God only, yet He receives worship.

    Matt. 4:10, “Then Jesus said to him, “Begone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.'”

    Matt. 2:2, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east, and have come to worship Him.”

    Matt. 2:11, “And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.”

    Matt. 14:33, “And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”

    Matt. 28:9, “And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.”

    John 9:35-38, “Jesus heard that they had put him out; and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered and said, “And who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.” 38 And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him.”

    Heb. 1:6, “And when He again brings the first-born into the world, He says, ‘And let all the angels of God worship Him.'”

    Worship belongs only for God but Jesus receives worship, therefore Jesus is GOD.

    • God is to be worshipped and the matter is true with Jesus Christ. We worship Jesus Christ not because He is God but it is one of God’s priority command. The worship of Christ glorifies God.

  4. Let me add to RizalinoArrabis comment below: the Word of God does not exclude Felix Manalo, neither does it exclude you and me. Now let me bring this discourse down to its most basic, and that is the Ten Commandments. Since these words were written by no less than God Himself and handed down to Moses, It should be regarded the same way as the constitution: Nothing Can Be More Supreme! The first commandment says, “Do not worship other gods before me.” The second. “DO NOT WORSHIP GRAVEN IMAGES.” There must be a reason why God placed these divine edicts on top. They tell us how to treat the Creator properly, and more importantly, they tell us how not to fall prey to the deceptions of the devil. What are the Abrahamic religions that adhere most faithfully to these two commandments? Islam and the Iglesia Ni Kristo. What Church is the most faithless? I believe you know the answer to that question. By the way, I’m looking forward to reading a movie review by you soon. God Bless.

    • Justaskingseriously on

      Abrahamic religions? Mohammed: 600 A.D. Felix Manalo: 1914. Abraham: 2000 B.C. Quite a long long gap for your so-called “abrahamic religions”. Another contrived idea?

      Thou shalt not have strange gods before me: for example, graven images of bulls and such. What makes you think these are number 1 and number 2? Wnen God paid a visit to Abraham, there were 3 persons who visited Abraham. When God gave the commandments to Moses, the first 3 commandments referred to God Himself: 1. Thou shalt not have strange gods before me. 2. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. 3. Remember to keep holy the Lord’s day. When God summed up His first 3 commands in the “second law” or Deuteronomy 6:4 ff, 3 key words are used: heat, soul, and strength: “Therefore love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

    • What church is the most faithless? My answer is Iglesia ni Cristo. They rely on guns, they rely on man, they rely on their money, they rely on their own power and authority not on God. I was a member of INC for many years.

  5. The Church of Christ (Iglesia ni Cristo) should never be described in the pronoun “it”! But in the pronoun “Her”. It is because the true Church of Christ is likened to a “chaste virgin” while the false religion of Catholicism has the name of a “Mother Harlot” with a “Daughter Harlot:”, Protestantism.

    • Fr. Allen Martinez on

      You are an anti-Catholic Christian bigot, hater, and internet troll that has an ongoing anger problem with the Catholic Christian Church.

  6. If the biopic “Felix Manalo” mentions only of a single verse about Christ being man, it does not mean that other verses authenticating the true nature of Christ being man cannot be found in the Holy Writ. The Bible is replete with verses mentioning Christ as man. He is man but with unique qualities not found in other human beings. But no verse of the Bible says that He is God. For Christ is not the Creator but a man who existed in the beginning as the “Word” or “plan” in the mind of God before there was creation. The plan or “Word” of God to have a Christ came to fruition only when He was conceived and born of a woman through the Holy Spirit.

    • Justaskingseriously on

      Rizalino Arrabis, I was looking for your teaching on what salvation is all about. Nothing? Perhaps it will be revealed before this series will end?

      What is your idea of a chaste virgin? Iglesia ni cristo? What makes your mother a chaste virgin? Iglesia ni cristo is your chaste virgin mother? That is why you object to the “it”? The author is right about the “it”. There is nothing chaste about your mother, unless you are referring to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the ever virgin mother of Jesus. Through her Immaculate Conception, the Virgin Mother of Jesus was redeemed by Jesus even before she was conceived in the womb of her mother, Saint Anne.

      Jesus is only human? Is it because there is no passage in the bible where He says He is God? You will have to read Exodus 3:14. There you will read that the biblical equivalent of our word “God” is “I AM THAT I AM” or more commonly “I AM WHO AM” or simply “I AM”. In the gospel according to Saint John, you will find Jesus repeatedly using “I AM”. Jesus did not speak English, as you well know. How would Felix Manalo have known that? He was jumping from one religion to another. No wonder he came out confused. In his confusion, it was easier to deny everything, and start with himself as the new sugo. That is what Mohammed did in the year 600 A.D. He made himself the new sugo. Messenger or sugo is the equivalent of the Greek word “angel”. Lucifer was the number one angel. And what will keep the number one angel-turned-devil from replicating himself?

    • What did St. Thomas said to Jesus after crucifixtion My Lord and my God. Clearly Jesus is God. If you want to interpret this statement in some other way, then i will say that you are lost.