MANILA, Philippines?Eraño ?Ka Erdy? G. Manalo, executive minister of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), a homegrown Christian sect, died on Monday of cardiopulmonary arrest at his home in Quezon City. He was 84.
Manalo is survived by his wife Cristina, sons Eduardo, Felix Nathaniel and Marco Eraño, and daughters Lolita, Erlinda and Liberty.
The official announcement of his death came a day after the INC leader passed away to give time for the family to mourn. He died at 3:53 p.m. on Aug. 31.
His death drew messages of condolence and praise from presidential aspirants and other politicians, one of whom hailed him as a great Filipino and one of the country?s foremost spiritual leaders.
In a country with Catholics comprising the majority population but not voting as a bloc, the INC plays a bigger role in elections than its size [at least 2 million members] suggests.
Politicians from the president down to the barangay (village) chairs seek its support because its members are known to vote for whom its leadership tells them to.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Tuesday called Manalo a great leader.
?This country and our world have lost yet another great leader in this generation who has touched the lives of multitudes by his life and his teachings,? Ms Arroyo said in a statement released by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.
Special working holiday
Ms Arroyo noted that Manalo passed away a month after the INC marked its 95th anniversary on July 27, which Malacañang declared a special national working holiday.
?Indeed, Ka Erdy?s mortality was planned so perfectly if only to underscore his lasting legacy?an institution of religion and faith that is stronger than ever today and an advocate of spiritual formation and nation-building?for which he will always be fondly remembered,? said Ms Arroyo, who is in Libya to attend a special summit of the African Union.
From April 23, 1963, until his death, Manalo served as the INC executive minister.
He took the leadership of the ministry after the death of his father, Felix Manalo, who founded the INC on July 27, 1914, and built its first church in Punta, Sta. Ana, Manila.
Now the Church has reached 90 countries and territories, with members representing 102 nationalities.
Ka Erdy was ordained minister of the gospel in 1947 and served that function for almost 60 years, 46 of which as executive minister.
At the Central Temple of the INC on Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City, employees were shocked when the official announcement of Ka Erdy?s death was aired first on NET-25 and GEM-TV by INC spokesperson Bienvenido C. Santiago.
Cause of death
In the statement, Santiago announced that the cause of death was cardiopulmonary arrest.
?It is with deep regret and sorrow that I inform the entire membership of the Iglesia ni Cristo and the nation that our beloved leader, our Executive Minister, Brother Eraño G. Manalo passed away,? Santiago said in Filipino.
?We request the ministers and evangelical workers, church officers and members of the Iglesia ni Cristo to pray to God for His continued guidance for the whole church and to give us strength to enable us to bear this terrible loss and grief,? the INC spokesperson said.
Grief seems an understatement as the news of Ka Erdy?s death reached members of INC worldwide, via the Internet, through blogs and even through the social networking Facebook.
?We cannot believe he is no longer with us. We are one with all the brethren all over the world in mourning the death of our beloved Ka Erdy,? said one entry from a church member.
?He maybe dead but his teachings based on the Bible will always guide every brethren worldwide. His love will always reside in our hearts,? another entry said.
When the official announcement came, the Office of Media Affairs of the INC was barraged with phone calls from various media organizations, the Inquirer included, to learn more about details of the death of one of the most charismatic and revered religious leaders of a church that was established in the Philippines.
?We are not prepared for this event. This is Ka Erdy. Please bear with us if we have not prepared a media statement,? one of the female staff members of the Media Liaison Office told the Inquirer between sobs.
Anita Ramos, a volunteer worker at the TV Production of GEM-TV almost collapsed upon hearing the news. ?Father is gone. Father is gone,? Ramos said in Filipino, crying.
Ka Erdy was not just a church leader but also a ?father figure? to millions of INC members who lovingly call him ?Tatay,? who like a father only wanted the best for his children.
He had stressed the constant unity and preservation of the family living and guided by the teachings of God.
Even members of Ka Erdy?s family are like brothers and sisters to many members of the church. The family members consoled some members who were given the opportunity to view Ka Erdy?s remains ahead of the public viewing at Templo Central.
Marco Manalo, the youngest of Ka Erdy?s six children and a minister of the church, hugged members who were overwhelmed with sadness and grief upon seeing the remains of Ka Erdy in a coffin.
?Be firm and say prayers,? he said.
In one of his last messages to members, aired during the INC?s 95th year anniversary on July 27, Ka Erdy told the faithful to ?persevere in their faith and to continue living the teachings and doctrines of the church until the very end.?
?All this is proof that Iglesia is moving based on the movement and power of God,? Ka Erdy said in a rare TV broadcast, referring to the global growth of the Church from its humble beginnings in Punta, Santa Ana, Manila, in 1914.
By 1939, the church had already expanded in various parts of the country, reaching at least 14 districts. It was during the administration of Ka Erdy beginning in 1963 that the INC began to expand overseas.