World Records Broken at Walkathon for Philippine Typhoon Survivors

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February 16, 2014; ABC News (Associated Press)

Last November, super typhoon Haiyan ravaged the central islands of the Philippines, killing 6,200 people, destroying 1.1 million homes, and rendering more than four million people homeless. To date, nearly 2,000 people remain missing. The United Nations warns that millions of survivors are still without adequate shelter.

“The authorities, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations, and the Filipino people should be commended for the pace of progress…but we cannot afford to be complacent,” UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for the Philippines, Luiza Carvalho, said. “The need for durable shelter for millions of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed is critical.”

Among the Filipinos worldwide responding to the continuing crisis in their homeland are followers of the Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ), an independent and indigenous Christian group. Members participated in a walkathon staged in the Philippines and 55 other sites in Asia, Australia, Europe, and the United States, and in the process broke a couple of Guinness World Records.

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Guinness adjudicator Kirsty Bennett certified that 175,509 congregants marched in Manila on Saturday, breaking the record set 14 years ago in Singapore when 77,500 people walked to promote healthy living. Bennett also confirmed that 519,221 Iglesia ni Cristo members worldwide set a new record for the largest charity walk in multiple venues, more than doubling the previous record set in Canada seven years ago.

Edwil Zabala, a church spokesperson, said funds raised would be used in constructing new homes and providing livelihoods for survivors of typhoon Haiyan. “The amount that will be raised through this activity will be allocated by the church through the FYM (Felix Y. Manalo) Foundation as additional assistance to our countrymen especially our brethren, who were devastated by Super Typhoon Yolanda.” The total amount raised has not been released. Walkathon participants contributed a 250 Philippine peso (approximately $5.63) registration fee.

This is not the first time Iglesia ni Cristo members broke Guinness world records. In 2012, the group set new records for the largest dental health check, the biggest number of blood pressure readings, and the most numerous blood glucose level tests, conducted in eight hours.

Iglesia ni Cristo established its first congregation in 1914. Today, it has at least 5,500 local congregations in about 100 countries and territories.—Erwin de Leon