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Iglesia ni Cristo breaks charity walk world record

MANILA, Philippines—The Iglesia Ni Cristo’s (INC) fund-raising walk on Saturday for victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” broke the Guinness World Record for the largest charity walk, drawing at least 175,000 people to a 1.6-kilometer walkathon along Manila’s bayside Roxas Boulevard.

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“Mabuhay, you are officially amazing,” Kirsty Bennet, Guinness World Record adjudicator, said after announcing that the INC had topped the record previously held by Singapore Holdings Ltd. for an event that drew 77,500 participants in a single event on May 21, 2000.

Bennet announced the feat at 6 p.m. before the cheering members of the INC at the Quirino Grandstand.

Other charity walks were also held simultaneously in 85 areas in the Philippines and some 55 sites overseas where the INC counts member-communities in the organization’s hope of breaking another Guinness record for the biggest number of participants in multiple sites.

“Starting in New Zealand and ending in Hawaii, we are hoping for a 24-hour continuous walk,” said Edwil Zabala, the INC’s spokesperson for the event.

Whether or not they will break this second record may be known sometime Sunday.

The current multiple-site record is held by the green communities in Canada who drew 231,635 participants who walked for a minimum of 1 km in 1,011 different locations in Canada on Oct. 2, 2007.

For Saturday’s single venue event, the INC hired the accounting firm SGV & Co to do the counting. By 2 p.m. the firm had counted 96,000 participants—a number that already exceeded the current world record.

SGV counted the number of participants through the wristbands they dropped off at the finish line.

The walkers, clad in white shirts, gathered on the grounds of the Cultural Center of the Philippines starting at 6 a.m. and began walking to Rizal Park at 7 a.m.

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“We want to call the attention of the world through this world record that Yolanda victims still need help,” Zabala said.

The money raised through the P250 registration fee paid by each participant would go to the church’s sociocivic arm, the Felix Y. Manalo Foundation, which will manage the fund primarily for members of the INC who lost their houses and livelihood when Yolanda ripped through Central Visayas on Nov. 8.

Pointing to his white T-shirt which came with the registration, INC member Laodiseo Santos, 78, said: “I paid for this T-shirt to help our countrymen rebuild their homes… some of our wealthier members purchased them in bulk.”

“For members of the church, we are aiming primarily to assist their recovery in terms of housing and permanent livelihood activities,” Zabala said, adding that the stress debriefing and relief programs started by the INC a week after Yolanda struck would continue.

Back on Jan. 11 and 12, INC congregations all over the world announced the plan to hold the event dubbed as the “Iglesia Ni Cristo Worldwide Walk for those Affected by Typhoon Yolanda.”

The Manila participants came from different cities in Metro Manila and nearby provinces such as Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Pampanga and Batangas.

Zabala said only INC members participated in the charity walk since the primary beneficiaries of the event were also INC followers.

On the heavy traffic that the event caused as a result of the closure of Roxas Boulevard, organizers appealed for the public’s understanding.

“We seek the public’s understanding for any inconvenience that the activity has caused,” Zabala said.

In Negros Occidental, at least 10,000 INC members joined a 5-km walkathon, which kicked off on Lacson Street in Bacolod about 7 a.m. and ended at the capitol lagoon.

In Dagupan City, at least 10,000 members took to the streets while in Ilocos Norte, 5,000 assembled at the Ferdinand E. Marcos Memorial Stadium for their own 1.6-km walk.

Meanwhile, pollution watchdog EcoWaste Coalition on Saturday commended the religious organization for mounting a generally trash-free event. With reports from Carla P. Gomez, Inquirer Visayas; Gabriel Cardinoza and Leilanie Adriano, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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TAGS: Fund Raising Walk, Iglesia ni Cristo, INC fund-raising walk, Inc., Yolanda Aid
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