By Arlyn dela Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:14:00 07/25/2009
MANILA, Philippines — Stage and theater artist Lea Salonga is lending her international star power to the worldwide celebration of the 95th anniversary of the Iglesia ni Cristo on July 27.
Salonga, the award-winning star of the Miss Saigon musical, will be interpreting two songs about the story of the INC, in a 1 1/2 hour-long musical that will be telecast worldwide on the eve of the INC anniversary on Sunday.
The songs, “Sumilang na ang Kanyang Liwanag” and “Alipin sa Malayong Silangan,” essay how the millions of INC brethren worldwide feel as they look back on 95 years of their church which “reemerged” on July 27, 1914 from its humble beginnings in Punta, Sta. Ana, Manila.
During the taping of the musical last Wednesday to a live audience of 2,000 INC members, Salonga’s eloquence and sincerity almost reduced her listeners to tears.
“Sumilang” is a composition of Ryan Cayabyab with lyrics by INC spokesperson Bienvenido C. Santiago while “Alipin” is an original composition of the late National Artist for Music Lucio San Pedro.
She was accompanied by the Filharmonika Orchestra conducted by her brother, Gerard.
Actress and television host Gladys Reyes, who was among the presenters that evening and is also a church member, could not contain her emotions as she thanked Salonga for her wonderful rendition of the two songs about the INC.
In jest, Salonga remarked that she can now boast that she made a known screen “kontrabida” cry.
The INC 95th Anniversary Special features Salonga and other singers and performers from different parts of the world who are also members of the INC. It will be aired on the eve of Monday’s grand celebration worldwide from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. over GEMTV-49 and Net-25.
The musical debuts for the first time in the Philippines an all-HD production shot with a 20-camera setup using the latest high-definition technology. It has for background a customized wide screen (40 ft x 18 ft) using 3 digital HD projectors.
The INC last held a grand celebration 20 years ago during the church’s 75th Anniversary in 1989. Tens of thousands of INC members assembled at the Central Temple, with delegates occupying almost the entire stretch of Commonwealth Avenue and major streets in Quezon City.
Salonga expressed her admiration for the tremendous growth of the INC. It was not the first time for her to sing in an INC occasion.
Song from the heart
“Being here today brings back memories of when I was young and I performed right here in Central … I think I was about 10 years old, not exactly here at the studio, but right here in Central. I can’t believe how much the Church has progressed and grown since the last time I was here. From a small country like the Philippines, it is now virtually in every corner of the globe. It’s undeniable that this Church has truly been guided by a higher power,” she said.
She offered her song “Journey” to every brethren of the INC worldwide saying it’s a song “from my heart to yours” and wished that the Church “be filled with God’s blessings and love” as the INC looks forward to more anniversaries.
At 95, the INC has over 5,400 congregations in 90 countries and territories and a membership composed of 102 nationalities.
On the actual day of the celebration on Monday, dubbed Iglesia ni Cristo Day, simultaneous worship services will be held in 14 venues in the country and five other sites in four other countries.
In Metro Manila, the centers of the INC celebration are the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City and the Rizal Memorial Complex in Manila.
INC spokesperson Santiago clarified that what will take place on Monday is a purely spiritual gathering.
“There will be preaching and singing of hymns of praises. We are truly thankful to the Lord God for His guidance in His Church. It is God’s will that the church has reached its present splendor and we offer all the glory to God,” he said.