My Visit to Zambales

You could say it’s not my first. For Zambales, that stretch of land between Bataan and Pangasinan which with its vast rice fields and mango orchards and higher per capita income from OFWs  has contributed much to the economy of the Philippines, has fascinated me ever since I first came here in 1989.

Much has changed in Zambales. The sleepy towns of Castillejos, San Marcelino, San Narciso, San Felipe, Cabangan, and Iba, are sleepy no more. You know Castillejos to be the birthplace of Ramon Magsaysay, the only Ilocano president most loved by the Ilonggos. Now the town has its share of metropolitan life. San Marcelino now boasts of an Agora, a market place, which I guess is the biggest in all Zambales. San Narciso and San Felipe have attracted investors, and you now see businesses rising up. And Iba? You should see it these days. A single mall– they call it the Happy Valley Mall– is just the beginning, for one day you will see SM and Robinson giving this town, the provincial capital of all Zambales, the much-needed boost.

And Cabangan. It was here where we– my brother-in-law Tommy Lizardo and I — had baptized a whole village of Aetas in 1990. Cabangan used to be vast fields filled with golden grains, but the presence of gasoline stations and hardware stores and grocery markets is a welcome sight.

Last Sunday, October 31, was not my first time to preach in Iba, Zambales, where the Lizardo family is based. Oftentimes, I don’t mind being asked to do both the preaching and the Bible teaching. It is a great thing to be nurturing God’s people wherever they are. And the Christians of Iba appreciate good sermons.

The church meets in one of the rooms in a hotel fronting the Victory Liner terminal. The hotel has a somewhat amusing name: “Mama Dear.” Some Christians from Palauig, from Botolan and from Iba proper call Iba Church of Christ their home congregation. Last Sunday we had Christians from Cavite and Laguna too who came to visit their ancestral homes in Zambales for a week or so and thought of fellowshipping with the church of Iba. We had a number of these last Sunday. One of them was brother Romy Piocos. He came with another couple.

My brother-in-law Tommy Lizardo is the preacher here. He is being assisted in the work by brother Joseph Collado. Joseph used to teach at PIBI-Olongapo City, but later decided to take up a course in education. He was our song leader.

Yesterday, Wednesday, I taught a class in Cabangan. I met Rosita, the Aeta lady whom we baptized in 1990. She is now 70 years old and is disabled. She is now a widow, and lives in one of the huts built on the property of the church. When she heard me, she got out and shook my hands. After twenty years, she still remembers me!

I saw Annie. She was just an eight-year-old girl when I first saw her. Now she is a mother of a brood.

I saw Leo Franco. He is an Ilonggo from Mindanao, but came to Zambales to be with his Aeta wife. It was Leo who was the more talkative among the group. I mean, he’s the guy who kept asking questions, an attitude which I appreciated much.

There are others who attended whose names I have not yet committed to memory. But we shall see each other in the days ahead.

Cabangan Church of Christ now has a chapel of its own, built on the property donated by the late brother Smeltzer. Brother Marcial, an Aeta who has been educated at PIBI-Olongapo, is their preacher.

Plans are in the offing to build a Bible college here that will serve the Aetas and Ilocanos and other lowlanders in the area.



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