On Sunday morning, September 6, Philippine Entertainment Portal (PEP) received a text message from actress and Iglesia Ni Cristo member Gladys Reyes.
The actress expressed how the late INC Executive Minister, Bro. Eraño "Ka Erdy" G. Manalo, had made an impact on her life. "Sa aming minamahal na Ka Eraño Manalo, malungkot man po na di na namin kayo makakasama, makakaasa po kayo na hindi kami bibitiw at mananatiling matatag. Sa aming mga puso ay hindi ka namin malilimutan. Mahal na mahal ka po namin, Ka Erdy!"
In three words, Gladys also described the hordes of faithful gathered at the Central Complex along Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City: sad, strong, and loving.
Until late last night, INC members continued to arrive (many of them in buses and rented vehicles) and fell in line, hoping to see the Ka Erdy for the last time.
Some of them traveled all the way from Cebu, Camarines Sur, Ilocos, and even abroad—Washington D.C. and Redwood, California, U.S.A., among others.
Some brethren from Europe are still expected to arrive tomorrow, without knowing that Ka Erdy's interment was held earlier, at 12:00 noon. The interment schedule was announced Friday afternoon.
The line to Ka Erdy's coffin already reached as far as New Era High School on Tandang Sora Ave., with the queue going around New Era University campus in a maze.
The public viewing ended at 12:00 midnight, and many of the mourners weren't able to make the cut after standing in line for long hours. But they stayed, not minding the rain, the coldness of the night, the lack of sleep, and fatigue.
If they weren't able to see his face for a final glimpse, they would still want to come near the tomb of their beloved leader—to say thanks or utter a short prayer, or to say goodbye with tears in their eyes.
THE INTERMENT. In a short, simple, and solemn ceremony, Ka Erdy was entombed at the Tabernacle beside the Central Temple today, September 7, a week after he died of cardiopulmonary arrest. The interment was attended by government officials, cabinet members, and a number of dignitaries.
At 9:30 this morning, the two-toned wooden casket was brought to the Sanctuario, also located inside the Central Temple, where ministers, church workers, and Central employees were gathered and given the chance to look at the INC leader one last time.
The members of the Manalo family, wearing either black or Barong Tagalog, were seated on the front rows. Meanwhile, the Tabernacle and the Central main, left, and right wings were already filled with people, watching Net 25's live feed on the giant TV screens.
Outside, tens of thousands of brethren (reports said 2 million were expected to attend the interment) stood in the rain, umbrellas in hand, and waited patiently as their eyes were glued to the giant screens located along the UP-Ayala Techno Hub, in front of the Central Office, and on New Era University grounds.
At 10:20 a.m., President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo arrived at the Sanctuario with her sons, Representatives Juan Miguel "Mikey" and Diosdado "Dato" Arroyo. Dressed in a cream-colored top and a matching skirt, the President looked at the coffin then sat beside Ka Erdy's widow, Sis. Cristina "Ka Tenny" Manalo. The President stayed not more than half an hour.
At 11:00 a.m., Ka Erdy's casket was closed, with the INC flag in green, white, and red draping it. Following four honor guards from the Philippine Military Academy, eight Iglesia Ni Cristo ministers clad in Barong Tagalog with black armbands served as pallbearers.
As the casket was escorted out—followed by INC Deputy Executive Minister Bro. Eduardo V. Manalo, his mother, and the rest of the family—the Sanctuario was filled with loud cries from the Central employees, many of whom were women. The ministers and church workers wiped away their tears in silence.
A short procession from the Central Temple to the Tabernacle followed after Ka Erdy's casket was placed inside the funeral car.
NO EULOGIES. A simple, white, opened tomb with white blooms on top stood above a black platform at the center of the spacious Tabernacle. With a regular seating capacity of 5,000-7,000, the Tabernacle seats were reduced to 2,000 for the interment.
Brethren inside couldn't hold back their sobs when Ka Erdy's casket was brought in. The pallbearers placed the casket in front of the tomb, and then the PMA cadets draped the Philippine flag on the now-opened coffin.
The INC officials, ministers, and their family members were joined by government officials and dignitaries—Vice-President Noli de Castro; Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Senators Manny Villar, Loren Legarda, Mar Roxas, Jinggoy Estrada; former President Joseph Estrada and wife Luisa "Loi" Estrada; former First Lady Imelda Marcos, and her children Ilocos Representative Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. and Irene Araneta. High-ranking officials from the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces of the Philippines also came.
There were no eulogies for the 84-year-old leader who was revered and loved by the INC flock. The Tabernacle was enveloped in mourning, with only the occasional cries of an infant and the clicking of camera flashes breaking the silence. Vice President de Castro's name was called to view Ka Erdy's casket for the last time.
Moments later, the Manalo family—led by Ka Tenny, who was a picture of grace and composure all throughout the wake and until the final moments of interment—walked towards the casket.
The honor guards folded the Philippine flag, which was handed over by Vice-President de Castro to Ka Tenny.
Outside, a 21-gun-salute was given to the late Executive Minister, who rendered a dedicated and disciplined service to God for 46 fruitful years.
Just before 12:30 p.m., Ka Erdy's casket was placed inside the tomb, where his relatives threw long-stemmed white roses. The tomb was closed, and a slab of gray marble was placed on its side. With his name carved in cursive, Ka Erdy's epitaph read:
"Eraño G. Manalo
Enero 2, 1925-Agosto 31, 2009
ng Iglesia ni Cristo
mula 1963 hanggang 2009"
With its final screw in place, the VIPs fell in line and expressed their condolences to the Manalo family, before filing out of the Tabernacle.
At press time, the line viewing the tomb goes on. The brethren continue to pay their respects, along with the promise that they will remain steadfast in their faith, just like what they learned from their dear Ka Erdy.