Nan: We’re in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada located in the center of the North American continent and as you can see behind me, it experiences snowy conditions and, in extreme cases, 9 out of the 12 months of the year. Now as you can imagine, living here includes adjusting to extreme conditions. But what does it take to live out here and to build out here? We’ll find out on this episode of Blueprint.
Blueprint Intro: I’m Nan Zapanta. As an industrial designer, I spent years admiring the great designs of products, vehicles and architecture from all over the world. But I’ve found architecture to be the most captivating. I love learning about each building, discovering the characteristics that make it unique, and understanding the purpose behind it’s design. Most of all, I love hearing the stories behind each structure and seeing God’s plan and putting it all together. Join us as we discover the blueprint of the buildings and structures inside the Iglesia Ni Cristo.
Nan: As a young teen growing up in Southern California, extreme weather was rarely ever an issue. It was practically summer all year long. So the only thing we really worried about was staying cool from the heat. But what I learned later on was a role that climate played in the construction and design of buildings. Here in Southern California, you’ll notice that a lot of the buildings, a lot of the schools, and a lot of the malls, even, have an open-air layout. This is to keep the building cool, as well as the people cool, but most of all, to take advantage of the Mediterranean style climate that we have here in Southern California. I also learned that climate plays a big role in the construction of buildings, especially in places with freezing temperatures like Regina, Canada.
So we’re on our way to meet Michael Bigayan. He’s one of my colleagues from our Eastern Canada office and he’s also the voice of the Centennial Series. He grew up here in Regina along with his family and we’re gonna meet up with him ’cause he’s gonna show us around…So in a few seconds, we’ll meet up with him and we’ll get to know more about the city of Regina and the congregation.
Alright, we’re here.
Nan: Hey Michael! It’s good to see you, how are you?
Michael Bigayan (MB): Pretty good, how are you?
Nan: How was the drive?
MB: It was ok, did you find the place ok?
Nan: I did, I did. I got through the snow.
MB: Ok good.
Nan: But before we do anything, inquiring minds wanna know: Is it (pronounced) Re-gee-na or Re-jii-na?
MB: Umm..it’s (pronounced) Re-jii-na.
Nan: Why is it Re-jii-na?
MB: Well, at the time when the area was being settled, it had the nickname ‘pile of bones’…The nickname came from the pile of buffalo and bison bones discovered on the banks of Wascana Creek by early settlers in the 1800’s. As the region grew, the name became less and less appropriate. They wanted to give it a more regal name so in honor of the queen at the time, Queen Victoria, the name ‘Regina’ came up and I guess from what we understand, Regina is Latin for ‘queen’.
Nan: Ahh. Hence the name, Regina.
MB: Hence the name, Regina.
Nan: Ok, so it’s clear. It’s not (pronounces) Re-gee-na. It’s Re-jii-na. And now we’re here in…this is your old neighborhood.
MB: Yeah, yeah yeah.
Nan: And this house that we’re looking at, this was his house in Regina and was where you guys first had the worship services.
MB: Yeah, that’s correct.
Nan: Wow…in the basement. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
MB: The basement itself was pretty small and we had set up our lawn chairs in there. It’s all that we had for extra seating. And the worship service, the lessons…like the hymn singing and lessons, it was all on audiocassette tape. So all that we could do was just listen.
Nan: After worshipping in the Bigayan basement, the group worship service moved to 5 other places over the span of 20 years, each time growing bigger and requiring a new place of worship. So would you be willing to take us around the city and show us around, and some of those places?
MB: Yeah, absolutely. Sure!
Nan: Awesome, let’s go hit the road.
Nan (VO): For the past 20 years, Regina has experienced continued growth. One of the contributors to growth: immigration.
MB: Many of them were a lot of Filipinos. They were trying to find a means of living to help support their families at home.
Nan: So there wasn’t really a clear drive….there were a number of things but…not one real clear industry that was drawing more people…
MB: No, no. It’s just trying to find a better life and it didn’t really matter. Much of the work that was found was, for example, like…cleaning work.
Nan (VO): Among those that would move to Regina, in the early 2000’s, was OR Nurse Edwin Malang (EM).
EM: I have a friend who first moved here in Canada and he told me their need of nurses in Saskatchewan. I don’t know where is Saskatchewan, specifically Regina so I Googled it and then I found it. So, he gave me an email of the supervisor who’s in charge in the operating room. So after the conversation, I asked my wife Marie to look for the God’s Message magazine. “Look for a place of worship in Regina” and indeed, there is a Regina group worship service and that’s where God’s plan started.
Nan (VO): So Bro. Edwin reached out to the name listed in the God’s message magazine:
Bro. Dominic Bigayan, Michael’s dad.
MB: We have a group worship service here and we need officers and I said, “Well, I’m an officer. I’m a head deacon and I can help.” So when I arrived here, he welcomed us and his family. We will never forget that. And it was a cold evening when we arrived. I think -20¬∞ Where we are, we’re used to +40¬∞, and then we arrive at -20¬∞ but we’re so happy. And then I can’t wait for the worship service.
Nan (VO): At the time, the local congregation was worshipping at the YMCA.
EM: We made sure that the place of worship where we’re conducting our worship gathering is decent enough. But here I said, “Why in YMCA?” For me, if we can keep our home decently enough, how much more a place where you’re conducting the worship gathering?
Nan (VO): So they looked for a new place of worship, and as they outgrew each new place, God allowed them to find one bigger and better an answered prayer for Bro. Dominic, who passed away in 2015 and witnessed the congregation grow from 12 members in his basement to over 300.
EM: Moving from place to place, we can see the work of God. And I will never forget Bro. Dominic’s inspiration of finding a decent place of worship where we can have our gathering.
Nan: So here we are at the house of worship in Regina.
Nan (VO): Formerly a Lutheran church, this property on McNaughton Ave in Regina was purchased in 2011and underwent months of renovation to transform it into the Church of Christ house of worship.
Nan: You look at some of older pictures before the renovation, you’ll notice that the entire façade was brick and then right down the center where you see the seal and the center façade, there was a window, an entire window running the height of this portion of the building. So as you can see, just from this portion, a lot was already done. The bricks were covered up and the stucco was laid, also the molding and the seal. So if you’ll notice here, the stuccowork continues around…
Nan (VO): Extreme winter in Regina requires an extra layer of stucco and waterproofing. This is all added after the first layer is completed to ensure that the building can withstand the moisture and cold from the blizzard conditions and the freezing temperature.
Nan: As you can see today, it’s really cold and that’s one of the reasons why that extra layer of stucco was laid down. Traditionally, there’s only 1 layer but for here, there’s 2 layers. So that does it for us for the exterior stuff and we’ll continue on with some of the interior work.
Nan (VO): I caught up with Michael for his first look inside.
Nan: So….here it is. Here it is, the main sanctuary. What do you feel, just seeing this?
This is my 3rd or 4th time walking in here and I still feel chills when I see it.
MB: This is…gorgeous.
Nan: Do you remember what it looked like before the renovation?
MB: Yeah, it was much darker. It didn’t have the chandeliers.
Nan: The transformation included extending the pulpit closer towards the congregation, updating the old wooden benches, adding lighting in the front and chandeliers to brighten up the sanctuary and removing some of the existing wood paneling and windows in the front and back of the building.
Nan: So how does it make you feel? You’re a pioneer; you and your family were pioneers here. Would you ever imagine having a place like this to worship in for the local congregation of Regina?
MB: No, no….heh heh…It’s always a surprise to hear what else has progressed in terms of the locale, right? Because back then when I was a teenager, when the group worship service had started, I really had no idea or even concept of the potential of what Regina would become.
Nan (VO): Believe it or not, this year was an abnormally warm winter for Regina. And what would normally be covered by snow required additional landscaping leading up to the dedication of the house of worship.
Nan: What was involved in the landscaping? Was it grass? Rocks?
Jerry Castillo (JC): It was rocks. Bro. Edwin, he’s a head deacon actually, he’s the one who designed all that stuff over there. So we’re just helping out on putting rocks in place and I was the one in charge on putting the orders and talking to the vendors and making sure they bring them here on time so we can get in place just in time for the dedication.
Nan (VO): The members of the Church of Christ in Regina were excited to do what they could to help in the preparation.
JC: I believe…because everyone’s got their own full time, and after their work was done, they come here whenever they have time to come and help out.
Brother: Jose would come here after work time, 5pm every weekend…
Nan: After work?? So you’d get a full day of work and then you’d come straight here to do more work at the chapel.
Brother: Till night time.
Nan: What makes you have the energy to even do that after a long day of work? Why would you come back here to do such work?
JC: I think, like what our minister said, Bro. Paquito Ebanez, that if you don’t have that strength, all you got to do is pray to God and He’ll give you that superhuman strength that he was always describing. And especially in this last week, I think I could say for myself, that I think I got that superhuman strength coming from God because we long for that dedication on our chapel. So we’re very happy on all these blessings so why not take part in helping making it beautiful? I think that’s one of the main things we’re aiming for.
Nan (VO): March 19, 2016. The members of the Church of Christ arrived at 70 McNaughton Ave to witness the day that they had prayed for for many years. Many travelled hundreds of miles to be part of this historic occasion, including Michael, his mom and sister, who had since relocated to Ontario after Bro. Dominic passed away.
The dedication worship service was led by the Executive Minister, Bro. Eduardo V Manalo. This was the 5th house of worship dedicated in 6 weeks in North America. The day was made even more special with the ordination of 10 new ministers, the first ordination to be held in Canada.
EM: This is the promise that God has given us. Our Executive Minister is standing in front of us giving us inspiration with the beautiful message he has given us that we need to be ever-stronger in our faith, that nothing is impossible. If you pray for things, nothing is impossible. God will give it to us.
Nan (VO): Though the journey to this house of worship had taken years to complete, God’s timing was never late or early. In fact, it is always just as He planned. One day after the dedication, Regis, a resident of Regina, found his way to McNaughton Ave.
Nan: Though still a new edition to this community, this newly dedicated house of worship is already fulfilling it’s purpose of introducing the Church of Christ to a community that yearns so much for a better future.
It’s been a great trip here in Regina, a bit cold but the people have definitely been very warm. Thanks for joining us on this episode of Blueprint, where, in the end, everything is part of God’s plan.
Voiceover: On the next Blueprint, hear the stories that transformed this former Arts building into a house of worship of the Iglesia Ni Cristo.