By Leslie Ann Aquino and Hans Amancio
Driven by faith and goodwill, hundreds of thousands of Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) members once again displayed solidarity as they gathered for the second “Worldwide Walk to Fight Poverty” in Manila yesterday.
Wearing white T-shirts, thousands of faithful participants assembled on Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) grounds as early as 3 a.m. and grew to a whopping 1.2 million people by 9 a.m.
The participants walked 1.6 kilometers along Roxas Boulevard from CCP Complex to Quirino Grandstand in an attempt also to break their February, 2014 Guinness World Record.
“Participants will deposit their wrist bands in drop boxes located at the end of the finish line as this will be counted later,” Erwin Briones, of the INC PIO, said in an interview.
Cheers and cries of devotion were heard along the stretch of Roxas Boulevard as each batch of faithful INC members took their first step at the starting line.
Flags bearing the religious group’s famous green-white-red logo were raised by the participants, who smiled for nearby cameras.
It can be recalled that in their first Worldwide Walk, the activity was recognized as the largest charity walk across multiple venues held in 24 hours. It had 519,221 participants in 129 sites around the globe, situated in 16 countries.
In the second Worldwide Walk yesterday, there were more than 300 sites across 18 time zones simultaneously hosting the participants.
Robert and Shiela Mendoza from Imus, Cavite shared their overwhelming experience in comparison with the first Worldwide Walk event back in 2014.
“Nakasali kami dati unang Worldwide Walk. Ang masasabi ko lang mas maraming nag-participate ngayon at mas maayos. Although nakakapagod, masaya pa rin. Di mo mararamdaman yung pagod (We were able to participate in the first Worldwide Walk. There are more participants in this event and it is more organized. It may be tiring but we enjoyed it),” the couple said.
If the first worldwide walk was for the benefit of the victims of typhoon “Yolanda,” the INC’s second worldwide walk is for the benefit of the less fortunate in selected communities, especially in Africa where poverty is the principal cause of hunger.
The result of their official attempt for largest charity walk (single venue), most nationalities in charity walk and largest charity walk (multiple venues) will be known later in the day.
Meanwhile, Angela Sablan from Calumpit, Bulacan, who arrived a day before the event said that she enjoyed the activity even if it was her first time.
“Di ako nakasama nung una kaya pinilit ko makasama ngayon dahil matagal uli bago ito mauulit. Andito kami 10 ng gabi kahapon at sa bangketa kami natulog. Ibang experience pag nakikiisa sa gawain ng Iglesia (I was not able to join the first time so I made it a point to join this year. I was already here last night by 10 p.m. and we slept on the sidewalk. It was a great experience being united for this church event),” she said.
Members of the INC also formed the sentence “Proud to be a member of the Iglesia Ni Cristo,” with 23,235 of its members participating.
Briones later revealed that INC already broke the record of India that had set the Guinness record in 2016 when it formed the human sentence, “You can, you will,” with 16,550 participants.
Later in the day, INC members were also raring to attempt to get another Guinness world record for the largest picture mosaic formed by people.
Manila Police District Spokesperson Supt. Erwin Margarejo said that the crowd was estimated to be around 1.5 million by 10 a.m.
At least 20 participants were reportedly given medical assistance due to dizziness and hypertension.
Thousands of cops from several police districts have been deployed to ensure the safety and security in the event.
In Mindanao, the venue of the INC’s Worldwide Walk in Kidapawan City, Cotabato gathered 7,000 participants.
North Cotabato chapters of the INC reported the charity walk as a successful activity, gathering members from as young as 12 to as old as 60. (With a report from Ali Macabalang)