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hhhave you gone to Ciudad de Victoria lately or the City of Victory?  I think the City of Dreams would have been more appropriate but that’s been taken. See how it looks these days. Quite majestic if I may so sprawled across a 140 hectares of former farmland. Wikipedia describes it as –

Ciudad de Victoria (lit. City of Victory or Victory City) is a 140-hectare tourism enterprise zone in the towns of Bocaue and Santa Maria in Bulacan, Philippines. It is located 24 kilometers north of Manila situated along the North Luzon Expressway. The site where it is located used to be a farmland and was converted and being developed into a mixed-use area that will integrate residential and office buildings as well as shopping, entertainment, leisure, education, business and sports complex. It is owned by the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC), a Christian religion, through its educational institution, the New Era University, and operated by Maligaya Development Corporation. It was inaugurated on July 21, 2014 in commemoration of INC’s centennial celebration on July 27, 2014.

philippine-arena

It’s been three years since it was inaugurated. This was the original plan – philippine_arena

So far we have yet to see the EGM Medical Center which was forecast to equal or surpass Makati Med  and St. Luke’s. There were ambitious plans of moving the New Era University there too.  The now famous EVM Convention Center originally planned to be built at the Ciudad is now back in Central Avenue. Times change and so do plans. What now remains is the Philippine Arena and the  Philippine Sports Stadium.  Still to be completed is the Philippine Sports Center.

How much Church funds did we spend to put up all these fixtures not to mention the 140 hectare farmland? The Church is very quiet when it comes to expenses but  Wikipedia states it cost 9.4 billion pesos to build the 55,000 indoor arena. The Philippine Sports Stadium is the largest football stadium in the country with a seating capacity of 25,000. How much must we have spent for the Stadium? Maybe not as much as the Arena but a few billion none the less. We have not touched on maintenance costs yet. Here is what Federico Salgado PhD an economist and a professor at Asian Institute of Management has to say in OKD2.com

“The Philippine Arena may be a Philippine pride, but its cost to maintain is bigger than anyone can imagine.  In the United States, stadiums and arenas used by the National Basketball Association (NBA) teams can suffer big losses if a certain team leaves the arena,” Salgado said.

Take for instance the Highmark Stadium and Rose Garden in Portland Oregon – the home of Portland Trailblazer. The later filed for bankruptcy after debt of the arena went over the limit despite the stadium is regularly hosting basketball games. Having an event in the Philippine area is extremely expensive and only high-profile concerts can be done in there” Salgado added.

Unless the operator Maligaya Development Corporation asks its parent, the Iglesia ni Cristo to put more money to maintain the building, it can survive. But the amount needed to maintain the arena is massive and INC members should pay the price”, Salgado said.

AND WHAT WILL I DO WITH THAT?’ Response of a Philippine Tycoon when Jun Santos offered to sell INC’s pride Philippine Arena to his Multinational Empire. Reports had it that Ayala Corporation and MVP Group of Companies now have stakes in the 9-BILLION complex?”

(Salgado as the article states is a former member of the INC and now founding member of the Humanist Association of the Philippines. [The Humanist Movement is an international organization formed by people of different ages, nationalities, cultures and religions, united by the project to build a truly human world. A world in which human beings, with their needs and aspirations, are the central value.])

Now are all these observations hogwash?  For an Arena to exist, it needs permanent tenants. These contracts basically maintain the existence of an arena. For example, let’s take the case of the MOA Arena. It has the following tenants:

UAAP (2012–present)
NCAA (2012–present)
PBA (2012–present)
Shakey’s V-League (2013–present)
Manila Mavericks (2014–present)

It has also hosted solo major concerts, corporate events and concert guestings.  Several other international artists have performed at the arena, including 2NE1, Mariah Carey, The 1975, 5 Seconds of Summer, Aerosmith, Avicii, James Bay, Chris Brown, BTS, The Chainsmokers, Selena Gomez, Ariana Grande, Imagine Dragons, Jonas Brothers, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Lopez, Linkin Park, Demi Lovato, Maroon 5, Bruno Mars, Nicki Minaj, Panic! at the Disco, Paramore, Pitbull, Rihanna, The Script, Ed Sheeran, Super Junior, Taylor Swift, The Vamps, and Zedd. Madonna’s Rebel Heart Tour and so on. These are in addition to the permanent tenants who utilize the MOA Arena.

How about The Smart Araneta Coliseum known as The Big Dome? Its tenants are:

NCAA (1960–2012)
UAAP (1960–present)
PBA (1975–1984, 1995–present)
Binibining Pilipinas (1964–present)
Spikers’ Turf (2016–present)

The Big Dome is also used for boxing, cockfighting, local and international concerts, circuses, religious gatherings, beauty pageants and more.

The Philippine Arena. It has no tenants and thus is completely dependent on events and Church funds to shoulder its existence. The most recent being the PBA opening on December 25, 2016 with a dismall attendance of only 10,000 in the opening games and dependent on the brethren to fill at least the General Admission section –

“As per initial estimate, around 10,000 people are already on hand for the first game pitting Blackwater and Mahindra …

Asked for a statement on the number of live attendance, media bureau chief Willie Marcial admitted the day’s box-office numbers may not be able to replicate the record crowd of 52,612 during the 2014 season opener that also featured a Ginebra game against TnT Katropa…Marcial said the Iglesia Ni Cristo ..has committed to fill the general admission section of the venue, which numbers to 25,000. ‘Sa kanila committed yun,’ he said.”

[Ginebra-Star Christmas Day turnout falls short]

How has the Philippine Sports Stadium fared? It has held only 3 football events in 2015 and the latest in November 2016 when it kicked off the AFF Suzuki Cup. Unfortunately it did not bring in fans as expected –

 

Ciudad de Victoria as a whole, has it boomed as forecasted by our bright boys? See for yourself as disclosed in chronological time by Google maps from March 2014 to 2017, no changes right?  The Philippines Sports Center remain unfinished to date –

 

What happens to projects similar like these? After the Rio Olympics last year –

“RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – Rio de Janeiro pulled off last year’s Olympics, keeping crime at bay and fending off dire forecasts of corruption, environmental degradation, and cost overruns.

Six months after South America’s first games, the floodgates have burst.

Rio organizers still owe creditors about $40 million. Four of the new arenas in the main Olympic Park have failed to find private-sector management, and ownership has passed to the federal government. Another new arena will be run by the cash-strapped city with Brazil stuck in its deepest recession in decades.

The historic Maracana stadium, site of the opening and closing ceremony, has been vandalized as stadium operators, the Rio state government, and Olympic organizers have fought over $1 million in unpaid electricity bills. The electric utility reacted by cutting off all power to the city landmark.”

[Olympic ghost town as bills due, venues empty after Rio Games]

What are some of the biggest white elephant projects in history?

White elephants are projects that cost a lot to build but don’t provide the expected value because they end up being empty or not used to capacity. Here are some of a few –

For a more comprehensive read check out this  – some of the biggest white elephant projects in history

One thing that is really irritating when you compare all these magnificent but useless business ventures is the fact that the Ciudad de Victoria and everything on it was built from Church funds or voluntary money offerings of the brethren. The offerings which were carefully kept and cared for for 100 years by the Sugo and his successor our beloved Ka Erdy ransacked in a period of 7 years. Now the Church is surviving on loans and hand-to-mouth existence. It would disintegrate if funds would no longer come in, more the reason for all these fund-raising sermons and mind conditioning.

Haven’t you ever wondered why EVM gave blanket authority to Jun Santos to run the Church financially and administratively? This is not a false accusation. A legitimate document exists to this effect. Do some research. EVM basically just travels around as symbolic head,  officiate worship services mostly overseas with his whole family. Jun Santos runs the Church. He must have offered EVM an easy way out in case things would go out of hand.

Ako na lang ang aako sa lahat para ligtas ka kung magbago ang panahon at magkaproblema tayo, pirmahan mo na lang ito bilang patunay na ako ang mamamagitan sa lahat ng ari-arian ng Iglesia.”

In short if something goes wrong in the long run,  only the lawyer goes to jail, while the protagonist goes scot-free. Brilliant strategy don’t you think not knowing he is being shortchanged. Ganon katanga ang naghaharian ngayon sa Iglesia.

But… there is always a but. SA DIOS ITO, HINDI SA TAO. HUWAG KANG MAKASIGURO.