Traveling along Commonwealth Avenue, in Quezon City, one cannot help but notice the towering spires of the Central Temple of Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC or Church of Christ), which is part of the greater INC Central Office Complex, which extends from the intersecting roads of Central Avenue and Tandang Sora Avenue. Within the complex are the offices and residences of the Manalo clan, and other pertinent officers of the church, as well as INC’s Eagle Broadcast Network, which operates the INC’s television station, NET 25 / DZEC-TV.
The INC was formed in 1914 by Félix Ysagun Manalo (1886-1963) as a reaction against the questionable teachings and practices of the Catholic Church. The first congregation of the INC gathered in the Sta. Ana District of the City of Manila, and it has now grown to more than 2 million followers, all over the Philippines and the world, and making it the 3rd largest Christian group in the country.
With the ever growing population of followers, the INC had to find a new home base away from the crowded street on Manila. The foundations of what would now be the INC Central Office Complex was first established in 1969, and continued to expand. The Central Temple was completed in 1984, and was designed by Arch. Carlos A. Santos-Viola. The temple is considered to be the largest church in Asia, and can accommodate up to 7000 people inside. The Central Temple, as well as other INC churches, can be described as Neo-Gothic in style, with the distinctive spires representing “the reaching out of the faithful to God”.
Arch. Carlos Antonio Santos-Viola (1912-1994) was part of the first batch of graduates of the School of Architecture of the University of Santo Tomas in 1935, where he was taught by noted architects and engineers such as Tomas Arguelles, Tomas Mapua, Juan F. Nakpil, Fernando H. Ocampo, and Andres Luna de San Pedro. After graduating, Santos-Viola training was further enhanced by working in the office of Juan Nakpil. Although a devout Catholic, Santos-Viola is noted to have designed the primary style of the Iglesia ni Cristo’s temples, and he was the principal design for most of the churches throughout the Philippines, until his death in 1994. His designs are said to be a modernist approach to the Gothic Revival and Neo-Baroque architecture. Santos-Viola was one of the founders of the Philippine Institute of Architects in 1938.
At the base of the INC Central Temple is the Iglesia ni Cristo Museum and Gallery, which was opened around 2007. The museum is said to feature displays on the history of the INC, as well as memorabilia from its founder, Felix Manalo. However, the museum is only open to members of the INC.
The next set of buildings in the INC Central Office Complex are those of the New Era University (NEU), which was founded in Manila as the New Era Educational Institute, in 1975.
This first campus of the of the New Era Educational Institute was located in the old Magnolia Ice Cream Plant, along Palanca Street, Manila. In 1970, the Magnolia transferred to the new plant along Aurora Boulevard, leaving it abandoned until the opening of classes in 1975.
The collegiate campus first opened in Quezon City in 1968, and the school changed its name to the New Era College, in 1981. The school finally gained the university status in 1995. The NEU began expansions to other and cities provinces, starting with San Fernando City of the Pampanga Province (est. 1994), General Santos City of the South Cotabato Province (est. 1994), Lipa City in the Province of Batangas (est. 2000), and Antipolo City in Rizal Province (est. 2019).
The one of the courses offered in the New Era University is medicine, which led to the establishment of the New Era General Hospital. The medical center expands all the way to the intersecting Tandang Sora Avenue, with its expansion complex built in 2015.
I wish that I can say more and feature more about the Iglesia ni Cristo Central Office Complex, but the church is very wary of outsiders entering its premises, as one would new permission for the church elders. So all that I am left to do is appreciate the beauty of its architecture from the outside, standing along Commonwealth Avenue.