Jayson Quiniones: Finding Jesus in Midst of the Storm

I FIRST met this young man when he came over to our meeting place in Valenzuela City. That was a Sunday evening in August. The worship was done. The studies were done.  He came to visit Jay Ar, and he carried a cane. “What is he here for?” I asked Jay. “We are going to be practicing arnis de mano.” “Oh,” I said. “Good.”

Jayson was his name, and this I later learned from Jay Ar. As soon as he arrived, it was business. He was going to train another man, a much older one, I guess, whose name was not introduced to me, in the art of defending oneself by the use of the cane.  Jayson seemed to be very good at it, and I could see it from the strokes that he executed while engaging in arnis with the other fellow.

Jay Ar and I now sat before the table and invited our two visitors to eat. They both were too shy. But finally, after we were done eating, Jayson sat in front of us and started eating the food I prepared for him; the other man asked to be excused and hurriedly left.

I asked Jay Ar to buy some bread and make coffee for the three of us. In between sips of coffee, I engaged the young man in a conversation. I came to know that he is Jay Ar’s bosom buddy, that he lives in Meycauayan, Bulacan (next town to Valenzuela), and that he is now in his final year in high school. Nothing about the Bible at all. Just plain talk. But the guy knew I am a preacher.

If the good Lord of heaven sent this young man to us to be taught of His will, I had no idea then.

WEEKS WENT  by and Jayson texted me. How he got hold of my number, I would not know. Habagat, the storm that Pag-asa said  was no storm, brought more rains than winds, and rivers overflowed, much of Metro Manila including Valenzuela City were flooded, even in places where it should not, thanks to those hard-headed countrymen of mine who kept throwing plastics into the esteros and canals.  Jayson asked that he be allowed to stay in our meeting hall. I said yes. He said he would be transporting his younger siblings to another house that was out of harm’s way. I asked how he was doing. He said the waters were so deep that he and his siblings had to swim to get out of their house.

That day I took a bus going to Valenzuela and saw none but waters and a few men and women trying to cross Tullahan Bridge, the bridge that connects Valenzuela to Caloocan City. The trip that took me ordinarily 30 minutes took me an eternity. San Miguel’s Polo Brewery seemed abandoned except by the guards. The bus driver said we have to wait until Tullahan River gave up its rage. I prayed.

The trip was long but I arrived at our meeting place. No waters around us except along McArthur Highway. Jayson had braved the raging waters just to reach us! He brought nothing except clothes that had been wet. We fed him and made him comfortable.

He said he came to study the Bible. He heard Jay Ar say, quoting me, that calamities are God’s way of touching lives. It had touched him and set him into thinking. That day we finished two lessons. We did nothing but eat, and pray and study the Word. We turned on the fans to dry his clothes. For beddings he made do with cartons laid on top of plastic tables. It was the best sleep we had I think, with rains raging around us.

Finally, after two days he had to leave. But he promised to come back. And he was true to his promise. Every time he comes it’s communion of food and of the Word. He would say some in his family was sick and we would utter a prayer for them. And I would not let him leave without him bringing some medicines for the sick in his family. And he is always thankful.

WHEN WE had a relief distribution courtesy of the brethren from MARCH for Christ, his mother came to visit because she said she was wondering about the strange preacher with whom his son had struck friendship. And she saw me. We discovered that we are both Visayans and speak the same dialect.

Jayson kept studying with us. At the tenth lesson, which is about how to get rid of one’s sins, he made the decision, and that same day, Thursday, September 6, I immersed him in Caloocan church’s baptistery.

Love begets interest, and a display of love encourages another to learn to love likewise. And Jayson, seeing that Jay Ar his friend is now into evangelism, touching hearts and lives, said he wanted to learn to preach too.

The good Lord of heaven, who created storms that brought calamities, touched a life in a way that we often may not understand. Just follow His prodding, and preach. The next soul that comes to your doorstep may be one whom He wants you to evangelize in order that not you alone may enjoy heaven.

THE WORK OF THE LORD IN VALENZUELA CITY

THE SEED OF THE WORK that became Valenzuela church of Christ began with the conversion of brother Mauro Castro (deceased) and sister Leonor Castro, his wife.

The church of Valenzuela first met and worshipped in the home of the Castros in Karuhatan, Valenzuela City on Sunday afternoons. In the morning, the family worshipped in Caloocan.

Later conversions in Valenzuela included some names that sounds Chinese plus some prominent men in the neighborhood of Karuhatan.

THE SECOND ATTEMPT at planting a church in Valenzuela was in 2010 when Caloocan church hired brother Henry Lim and his wife. The support for brother Lim came from the brethren in South Korea. The church found a place that was to serve as its meeting hall in Gen. T. de Leon, Barrio Ugong, Valenzuela City, across the North Luzon Expressway. That work however did not last also.

JULY 2011 WAS CALOOCAN’S THIRD attempt to plant a church in this city. It was September last year when I began working here. Prospects to study with were difficult to find and we tried every means found in the book to find souls.

Our first break came when we baptized brother Danny Castro, brother Mauro’s son.  After two weeks of study daily in his mother’s home, he obeyed his Lord in baptism. I immersed him in a pool.

Our next break came with the conversion of a young man named Jay Ar Oloya of Bukid, Malinta. Although he had not left the Catholic Church, Jay had been hopping from one denomination to another. After ten lessons, I immersed him. Jay now trains to be a preacher together with another young man, Erwin Saligumba, grandson of my classmate Sid Saligumba.

We have had a lot of contacts and students now. However we just don’t dunk anyone easily to make good reports. What is important to us is faithfulness and the pledge of a convert to change lives. One student of mine wanted to be immersed but I made known to him in no uncertain terms he has to stop smoking and engaging in other vices. I require of him a commitment of worshipping the Lord every Sunday. Short of this, you are just taking a bath.

I am making a report here of the ministries we are now doing in Valenzuela, which the Lord in His great kindness and love has begun and continued to work on till this day.

TUTORIAL CENTER. In Valenzuela I teach a Friday Bible class consisting of 10 mothers and 2 fathers. These people are there to wait for their kids. The kids are students of our tutorial center, and they go to our tutorial center four days a week, from Tuesday to Friday.

While the kids learn their ABCs and Bible for four days, their parents too attend the once-a-week Bible class that I teach on Friday. This is a very effective way of evangelism as proven by the experiences of Kalookan and Marikina churches of Christ, and the growth that resulted from it; we too want to duplicate it in Valenzuela.

The children’s and parents’ classes have been ongoing now for a month. Already, one direct result is that our church attendance has increased (39 last Sunday, July 15!). We expect to invite more to attend worship in the coming Sundays ahead.

THE LESSONS WE TEACH. The parents, who sit down at my feet during the one-hour Bible class, learn the Bible, read Bible passages on screen (I am using the digital live projector supplied by Kalookan church), and listen to its divine principles being explained.

The lessons include an Introduction to the Bible (Lesson one, which discusses its divine origin and inspiration, its purpose, and its message); The Creation and the Coming of Sin (Lesson 2); Cain and Abel (Lesson 3, which discusses faith and works and worship and the principle of brotherly love); and many others. Our fourth lesson yesterday, July 20, was about Noah and His Obedience.

This Bible class program for parents will last for about a year, as long as the kids are in our tutorial center.

A CLASS TO ENCOURAGE THEM. In our classes, we encourage the mothers to attend worship in Valenzuela on Sunday afternoon. We also encourage them to share the lesson we have taught them to their husbands. The result is that some of the wives also bring their husbands to attend our Bible classes!

Our Bible class program will take the students in a journey through the Bible for ten months. Kalookan has experienced baptizing mothers after the tenth lesson (What Must I Do to be Saved), and we want to duplicate that here, with the help of God.

OUR GOAL. With this program we also hope to contribute to the community by teaching mothers on how to become good examples to the people around them, how to be good mothers to their kids and good wives to their husbands, to teach their husbands and their kids to fear God, and to prepare all for the judgment that is to come.

OUR EMPHASIS. I always emphasize in my classes the need to listen to God and His message for all mankind; we are given only one chance to live and after this the Bar (Hebrews 9:27), that we all shall face Him (Him whom they had pierced and hanged on that shameful cross) in a judgment that is just and fair (2 Corinthians 5:10); and that the Word of the Son of God, whom many among us have insulted and rejected, shall be the basis of that judgment (John 12:48). “Should we not all learn to fear Him?” I ask. Learn to be afraid and be wise, I urge them.

I also emphasize that the way to be blessed in our lifetime, and in the future, is to seek God and His ways through His Word (Matthew 6:33). I often see heads nodding in agreement.

THOUGH YOUR SINS BE DARKER THAN DARK. I also entertain questions and give advice. They invite me to listen to their most secret sins, and I listen with sympathy and pity for their souls. They now call me their brother, and these are people who belong to many sects! God has put under my care these men and women whom the devil has victimized and who now suffer the consequences of their past sins. I teach them a God whom anyone with sins darker than dark can approach through their prayers, a God who can understand them in their mistakes and faults and who bend backwards and care enough to send preachers and teachers to bring them back to His fold again.

OUR TRAINING SCHOOL. I have started training classes for two young men (Erwin Saligumba and Jay Ar Oloya) who work with me. I call them my Timothy and Titus. We have lessons on how to evangelize, lessons to teach in evangelism, proper approach in evangelism, how to answer religious objections. Many of Jay Ar’s friends are from the Pentecostals and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and so we have a class that surveys the teachings of these sects and refute their errors. Erwin’s aunt is from the Iglesia group founded by Felix Manalo; we studied some errors of this sect too and how to refute them; and equipped with this partial knowledge about the Iglesia doctrines, Erwin started teaching his aunt last week.

We also have a training class in singing and song leading. Even the young people of Kalookan (who are being trained by brother Randy Macapagal), and Kris Ducusin (Randy’s assistant preacher) also wanted to attend my class. Problem is I cannot adjust my schedule to accommodate them. We hold our classes at night before we go to bed.

THE LIFE WE LIVE IN THE BIBLE SCHOOL. The young men who train under me live simple lives with me. Our food consists of rice and vegetables (like okra, camote tops, eggplant) and canned sardines. We work on a tight budget, on the support that some Christians in their kindness have sent me, for which I am most thankful. And the two young men understand. They understand that sometimes I have to go home to Pinyahan, Diliman, Quezon City, to eat when money is scarce. When that happens, Jay Ar, who lives nearby, goes home and get food to share with Erwin.

EVANGELISM RESULTS. Aside from the mothers and fathers that I teach in Bible classes at the building, I now have ongoing classes with Jay Ar’s parents, Lino and Lillian Oloya, and with Jay Ar’s sister Donna, and with Donna’s husband Randy.

Jay Ar’s parents attend our worship. Last Sunday, he also brought with him his aunt Agnes and his sister Kristel. I now have scheduled classes with Agnes and Kristel.

Jay Ar also bring his friends, Jayson and Joel, to the building, and I have studies with them. Last Thursday night, Joel came because his parents have been asking about the “sect” he has been studying with; he came and asked me questions, so I taught him a lesson on the true church. Our study lasted for two hours, until twelve midnight. He is a Jehovah’s Witness but has ceased attending that sect.

CHURCH ATTENDANCE. Our number has increased to 39 last Sunday. In past Sundays we had 30 people attending, which includes visitors and parents who study in our tutorial center.

Karen Luy Lazaro, a member of the church in Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur, married a man from Valenzuela. Her husband, Raffy Lazaro, was baptized by Jonathan Pag-arao, a former student of mine who now preaches in Bulihan, Silang, Cavite. Both are now attending. Raffy also brings with him his brother to church. They are regular attendees in our Sunday worship since February of this year.

Aldrin, a young man who formerly worshipped in Kalookan, has chosen to worship with us in Valenzuela, since they just live nearby. He brought with him his sister named Charm, who is also a member of the church. Aldrin assists in the prayers and the Lord’s table.

Another is a sister named Evelyn Bayog, who was a former student of a Bible school operated by the instrumental church of Christ. Evelyn is from Bacolod City, but she has married a man from Valenzuela and works in a factory here. Evelyn has chosen to worship with us who do not use instruments in worship!

Still another is Shekinah Dalit, a young Christian lady from Narra, Palawan, who has migrated to Valenzuela. Her father is the preacher in the church of Narra. The Lord’s business of gathering His people wherever they may be sees no end, and we are happy to be used as His instrument in this ministry.

In our attendance is a man whom I am trying to influence. He is a former soldier and one of those who plotted to force Cory Aquino out of presidency! He has mellowed now, and listens to me preach. I have a class with him on Friday nights.

Our attendance has also been increased by the coming of members of Kalookan church, some of whom have not been able to attend the morning worship there, and have chosen to attend the afternoon worship in Valenzuela.

DEBT OF GRATITUDE. We are thankful to God for the two teachers from Kalookan, sister Agnes Macapagal and sister Nerizz Arias, who volunteer to teach the kids. Both are graduates of education degree, and are endowed with a great love for little children.

We are thankful to brother Randy Macapagal and the leaders of Kalookan church too who envision a program like this in order to reach out to people whom we can’t influence by any other means except by the tutorial center program.

And we are thankful to Prissy Sellers and the church in the US who supplied the educational materials, the school bags, the school uniforms, the tables and chairs, the educational Bible videos and the equipment that goes with it.

We are thankful to Kalookan church too for their all-out support for the work in Valenzuela, for their effort and time and money and technical support (we do not have a sound system in Valenzuela and definitely we are in need of one, and Kalookan brings their sound system Sunday afternoons so we could use them. My voice is so low–blame it on my age! The sound system is indeed a great help!

____________

Note: We have been receiving text messages from brethren from as far as north of Luzon soliciting our help to visit the people they had baptized who now have transferred near Valenzuela. There is such a family of 8 Christians who came from Calapacuan, Subic, Zambales, who claim to be members of the church but have not seen the necessity to attend worship in Valenzuela. We visited them not only once but twice and thrice. That is all we could do. But we are not in the business of bringing a horse to the water if that horse does not see the need to drink; we neither can impose a stricture on a disciple who does not see the need to worship with God’s people here. We urge preachers of the Lord’s church to properly teach those disciples the need to be faithful. If I be given a chance to visit people of this kind, I would not hesitate to teach him again the same foundational lessons, and I would not hesitate about dunking him again either. I have already dunked many who in the past have been immersed by some preachers, simply because these disciples think they have never been taught well. Don’t blame the disciple nor the preacher; I think the real culprit is  that being whom many think is a winged creature with two horns who’s been blamed for the misfortune of us all! 

Unity: How Pleasant It Is!

This morning I had the honor of preaching on the Unity Theme at the joint worship of the Christians from De Castro and the Christians from Pasig-Kapitolyo. This was their third time to worship together, so I was told.

The Pasig-Kapitolyo church began with brother George Esmelia of Bacolod City. This is wonderful! George and I had been at loggerheads before because we could not agree on anything in our religious discussions at the Plaza of Bacolod City in the 1970’s. But while I disagreed with George, I too prayed that he would see the light of the Gospel. And God listened to my prayers. He worked wonders: George Esmelia was taught and baptized, not by me, but by other brethren; not in Bacolod, but in Metro Manila! I rejoiced at the conversion of my former antagonist! Calling him by phone in the 1990’s, we would often laugh out loud at how we had rationalized and justified our positions!

Early this decade, George left the Kapitolyo church in the care of the younger brethren, went to the US, then to Singapore. He was a restless man, but he also was a depressed man– because of the untimely death of his dear wife Marfe. The last news we heard was that he is back in Bacolod City.

The church in Kapitolyo was indeed in good hands, thanks to the Lord and to the few leaders who kept raising the torch of the gospel, fiery and bright and strong, even in the time of raging storms that life had brought them. Twenty years of existence! The Kapitolyo church that began with George  kept on and grew without George, and God be praised for that!

They talked of merger today, the De Castro Christians and the Kapitolyo Christians, and I too was in the meeting. There were seven of us present. They ironed out the kinks that remained. Brethren went another mile, loosened up a bit, and did some sacrifice to make this union a reality.

We owe it to the Lord and to the Father for Their having inspired the leaders of De Castro church (Aldous Echegoyen and Cesar Ola) and those of Kapitolyo church (Jun Cayanan, Bitoy Tagapolot, and one other brother), giving them the light to see the wisdom of the suggestions to pool their resources, their talents and their skills and their influences to promote the growth of the body of Christ in the area. They were now eager to convince the other members of their respective groups to merge as one. The merger is one best thing that has happened to the congregations of Christ in Pasig!

Unity they called it. It is more than that. In the coming Sundays and months and years we will be seeing the effects of this unity-merger-union in the lives and in the work of the two churches that have become one.

The young leaders of the two merging congregations have asked for my help, have solicited my mentoring skills, have desired to drink from the fount of knowledge that grew (they said) from my long experience of preaching the Gospel. In the words of brother Jun Cayanan, “Please reproduce yourself in us, help us to copy the Christianity that grew in you.” Flattered? That was not my feeling. All of a sudden I felt I had become small and needed the guidance from above in order to meet these brethren’s expectations!

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psalms 133:1).

To see the photos, please click here…

Datu Makunay and Datu Bhutto

Brother Felix Bravo, missionary to Tarlac.

DATU MAKUNAY of Buluan must have been a rebel datu,” said brother Felix Bravo. He and I were both having coffee that afternoon of my arrival in his home at Teresa Homes Subdivision, Tarlac City. Scheduled to preach at his congregation the next day, Sunday, December 12, I spent the afternoon and evening of  Saturday bonding with him and getting him familiarized with his blog site which I put up for him years ago.

“But he’s not the most powerful datu in Buluan at that time,” he added. “The most powerful ruler of Buluan was Datu Bhutto.”

I braced myself up for this additional tidbit of history.

Brother Felix’s comment came about when we saw each other this year (the last time we met was in Sunrise, in 1996!), and this after he had read the 4th installment of the History of the Churches of Christ in Mindanao published in my blog, where a certain Datu Makunay is a character, albeit one who had a flawed personality.

But concerning other things about Makunay, brother Felix did not have much information.

Brother Felix said that the Bravo and the Abubo families had befriended this most powerful Muslim datu back in frontier days. And even to this day, his family and the descendants of this datu are still very close. These descendants have now found their own niches in the present-day political tapestry of Mindanao.

THE FIRST AND EARLIEST government of Cotabato, and in fact of the whole Mindanao, was at the hands of the Sultanate of Maguindanao. From the days when this sultanate flowered up to the days of the Philippine Commonwealth, there were only two towns, Cotabato (which was to become a city later) and Buluan. The American war of expansion that started when Admiral Dewey bombarded Intramuros walls, which resulted to a truce with Spain and the US purchase of the Philippine archipelago for $25 million, and another war to domesticate the insurrectos which culminated in the defeat of the army of the first Philippine Republic under Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo in the 1900s, became also a war to take a foothold over the whole Mindanao. One by one the Muslim datus were defeated, their rule becoming a non-issue, and the whole Mindanao archipelago was absorbed into the Commonwealth.

It was Gen. Paulino Santos, whose name later became a city, who took charge of the Philippine Commonwealth’s program of inviting settlers from Luzon and Visayas to populate Mindanao and exploit its rich natural resources. When goes the migrant, so goes the Commonwealth government. Many came, including them whose names later played a great role in expanding the Restoration Movement in the hinterlands of Mindanao.

Photo from wiki.tell.com

From Pagadian, the Bravos and the Abubos landed in Cotabato town. They did not mean to stay here. They were told that vast lands lay unclaimed in the interior of Cotabato province. So they proceeded to Buluan, aboard the lantsa plying the Rio Grande de Mindanao. The Rio Grande then was Cotabato’s only highway.

The Bravos and the Abubos landed by the bank of Buluan river. Tall-standing trees abounded in the area. They saw no road but they could see footpaths. These they followed. They passed by Muslim settlements.

The surprise of their life, however, was seeing a Muslim or two speaking Tagalog, Ilocano, Cebuano and Ilonggo. Which gave them an idea that they were not the first migrants of the place.

They asked for directions, and they were told to keep going. They asked for the datu and they were told they would soon see him.

Indeed. For they soon heard the sound of bells, and saw a white horse and one who was riding on it. By his manners and the way he dressed, he appeared noble; the people who heard his coming stopped what they were doing, took to the side of the footpath, and bowed their heads upon seeing him.

“Magandang araw sa inyo, mga kapatid!” (“Good day to you, brothers!”). The man spoke fluent Tagalog. “Ano ba ang maipaglilingkod ko sa inyo?” (“What can I do for you?”).

They had just met Datu Bhutto, said to be the most loved ruler of Buluan. This was in 1941.

Datu Bhutto then dispensed his role as a good citizen of the Commonwealth and the de facto ruler of this part of the country. He assigned a plot of land to each of the Abubos and the Bravos, about ten hectares for each family, like he did to other families who migrated to Buluan. That area in Alip where the Bravos and Abubos settled later came to be known as “Malingon.” I heard that in Maguindanao dialect, the word means “peaceful place.”

A year after their arrival in Malingon, the Abubos and the Bravos became Christians. They were taught by the team of evangelists from the Lord’s church (Belo, Alegre, and Villanueva) who had also settled in Alip, which was near Malingon. This was about 1942. It was in Alip that the Belo, Alegre, Villanueva and other Christian families were imprisoned by Makunay.

In Malingon, there were Luzonians and Visayans who had also staked their claims to the land over which Datu Bhutto ruled. In Buluan there was no merging of Christian and Muslim communities, in order to preserve the peace and allow both groups to practice their religions. Each community was protected by virtue of the decree issued by Datu Bhutto: No Muslim could enter into Christian villages without the Datu’s permission; and vice versa. But brother Felix said he and other sons of the Abubos were free to visit the house of Datu Bhutto, and play with his sons.

SONS OF DATU BHUTTO. Brother Felix remembered Datu Bhutto’s son named Pua. He was the fastest running athlete of Maguindanao, and had good promise as a national athlete. Pua later became mayor of Buluan.

But one other son of Datu Bhutto was special to the Abubos and the Bravos, and his name was Pakung. When Pakung was an infant, his mother, one of the wives of Datu Bhutto, died. An Abubo mother, brother Felix’s aunt, suckled the infant until he was strong and healthy enough to eat normal food.

 

 

 

Datu Pax Mangudadatu, congressman of Sultan Kudarat. Photo from people.nfo.ph

 

Pakung later became governor and then congressman of Sultan Kudarat. Brother Felix remembered that when he went to Cotabato for his family affairs, Pakung would send his chauffeur to fetch him at the airport. Pakung, the son of Datu Bhutto, is actually congressman Pax Mangudadatu. Mangudadatu became their surname; the word means “younger datu.”

Pua, Felix’s other friend, is the father of Esmail Mangudadatu, whose political ambition to become governor of Maguindanao became the target of the ire of the Ampatuans. His wife, an Ilongga named Genalyn Tiamzon, was one of the fifty-seven victims who perished in the celebrated Maguindanao massacre of November 23, 2009.

 

EFFORT TO REACH OUT TO MUSLIMS. Brother Felix had tried preaching in Cotabato when he had the opportunity. In a past gospel meeting he had conducted in Malingon, one of those who consistently attended was Datu Saipula Guialudin, a relative of Datu Bhutto. But Saipula was never converted, neither were the other Muslims who attended brother Felix’s meetings. When the barrio site of what would be baranggay Malingon expanded on the property of brother Felix, he donated half a hectare of his land for the school site of Malingon Elementary School. His cousin Eligio Abubo also donated another half hectare. Brother Felix sold another hectare of his property in Buluan to both Muslims and Christians who wanted it; both groups of people now live together there. This harmonious relationship was a legacy from the days of Datu Bhutto.

 

Datu Esmail Mangudadatu, newly elected governor of Maguindanao. Photo from 2space.net.

ORIGIN OF THE MANGUDADATUS. Datu Bhutto was said to be a descendant of Shariff Kabungsuan, who first introduced Islamic teaching in mainland Mindanao. Shariff Kabungsuan was a native of Johore, married a native princess and became the first sultan of Maguindanao.

 

 

THE CHURCH OF CHRIST in Malingon is one church close to Muslim settlements that does not seem to be affected by clashes between Christians and Muslims in other parts of Mindanao.  No chapel of other “Christian” sect or denomination, nor a Muslim mosque, has been built in Malingon. There is no need for another church. The Malingon church of Christ is a vibrant testimony to the harmony that prevails in this part of Buluan, Maguindanao.

DEATH OF DATU PUA. Not very recently, brother Felix visited his friend Datu Pua who was dying because of diabetes. He rode a kuliglig passing through Muslim villages beside Buluan Lake. They reminisced together their early years as schoolmates from 1945 till 1951 at Buluan Central School.

FRIENDSHIP THAT LASTS. Brother Felix said he still could count the Mangudadatus, including Pax the incumbent congressman of Sultan Kudarat and Esmail Mangudadatu, the newly elected governor of Maguindanao as friends the Bravos and the Abubos could rely on. Thanks to Datu Bhutto. Thanks to God for this enduring friendship.

Brother Felix now has a growing mission work in Tarlac City.

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.

 

The Lord’s Church in Dasmariñas, Cavite

Sister Gloria Javier-Sico, with her daughter Simona Sico-Navales, during her visit in New York City.

Please click here to read the sermon I delivered Sunday morning, January 3, 2010 at Dasma Church of Christ, titled “What the Cross Means for You and Me”

A  hodgepodge of factors came into play in God’s purpose to establish a congregation of His people  in Dasmariñas, in the province of Cavite. Call it divine providence with God controlling events to achieve His design. Call it serendipity for the excitement it offers to its beholders.

Many factors. Mention for example the literature sent by the president of a Bible college in Baguio, which sparked religious curiosity. Mention a young OFW named Geminiano Mendoza whose contact with a restoration church in Guam and some A. G. Hobbs tracts he had brought home motivated the desire of the Javier-Sico clan, consisting of sister Resurreccion Javier-Hembrador, sister Gloria Javier-Sico and her husband Jacinto Sico, and the Silvas, the Guevaras, the De Mesas, the Mangubats and the Mendozas to find the ancient roots of the true faith, and their decision to break away from the Disciples of Christ, a faith which they for a while had held so dear, then their insistence for a thus-saith-the Lord as a reason for every doctrine and practice when their new found faith was questioned and challenged.   That’s providence of God that offered man the joys of discovering what’s true and what’s approved. But we are getting ahead of the story.

The story of the founding of the Lord’s church in Dasmariñas must begin with Corporal Luis Javier, ancestor of the Javier-Sico clan whose number predominates the membership of this congregation, one of whose descendants, Nepthalie Javier Sico, is now the minister of this church. For it was on his plot of  land in the village of San Jose, close to the city of Dasmariñas, that the present chapel of Dasmariñas church of Christ now stands.

Sister Resurreccion Javier-Hembrador and sister Gloria Javier-Sico, two of Luis Javier's children who became first members of Dasma church.

The Tagalog province of Cavite was the heartland of later Philippine revolution. Concerning that revolution, recall that Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo was its leader, and was also the first president of the short-lived republic that came after it. Recall that not too far away from Dasma is Kawit, the seat of this republic. In this forsaken land of a people who rebelled against mother Spain, God the Father of all mankind carved out a congregation of men and women who obeyed His will, the first church of Christ in all of Southern Tagalog region.

Luis Javier, whose corporal rank he got as a Katipunero while engaged in the 1898 Revolution, found employment as a blacksmith in the American Naval Base in Sangley Point,  a thankless job where he often clashed with his Yankee boss. But he embraced the Presbyterian faith the Americans brought to our shores.

That Presbyterian faith was not to remain forever. In those days, his fluency in Spanish and his flair for oratory made him a stage figure, haranguing the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act, introducing political candidates on stage, campaigning and crusading for a cause, speaking in Presbyterian meetings, but more especially defending the Presbyterian faith in debates. In one of his discussions he lost to a Disciples of  Christ debater. Debates in those days were much like wars of conquests: The defeated became the spoils of war. So Corporal Luis Javier left the Presbyterians and became a Disciples member; more so, he became a Disciples debater and proclaimer of their gospel. He loved his new found faith he supported it, defended it, and walked kilometers of distances from the barrio of Dasmariñas where he lived to surrounding villages of Malagasang and San Francisco de Malabon (now Gen. Trias) to plead its cause.  He was the principal mover and one of those who started the Malagasang Disciples church. In those days, Malagasang, like Dasma, was a barrio of Imus.

All three of Corporal Luis Javier’s children—Juan, Resurreccion and Gloria—became Disciples. Brother Nephtalie Sico, the present minister of Dasma church, remembers attending with his siblings the Sunday school taught by Malagasang Disciples lady teachers.

Juan, the only son of Corporal Luis Javier, migrated to Olongapo, started a family, and raised his sons and daughters as Disciples. In one instance, he attended a religious meeting in Bajac-Bajac and got into contact with a Church of Christ missionary. The missionary promised to send him a tract that perhaps was to change his life and his religion, if he provided them his address; instead he gave them the address of his sister Gloria Javier-Sico, now married to Jacinto Sico, who lived with another sister, Resurreccion, in Dasma. Months later, sister Gloria Javier-Sico received a New Testament Christianity magazine from Ralph Brashears, director of Philippine Bible College-Baguio City. That tract was to arouse their curiosity in religion.

Corporal Luis Javier remained a Disciples of Christ member until he died, and never saw the changes that were to happen in the Philippines religious landscape. The Malagasang Disciples church ceased to be because it was absorbed in the religious umbrella called the United Church of Christ in the Philippines. Juan Javier never left the Disciples.

A young Disciple named Geminiano Mendoza was to bring to fruition the seed that had been planted. Working in Guam, he gravitated to the Church of Christ group, became interested in their teachings and brought home some tracts of brother A. G. Hobbs. Two of those tracts, titled “The Origin of Denominations” and “Safe or Sorry,” helped to turn the Dasma Disciples, consisting of the Sicos, the Silvas, the Mangubats, the Mendozas, the De Mesas and the Guevaras around.  Joined by Isabelo Hayuhay and another Disciple minister, they cast their lot with the Church of Christ.

An interesting twist of history happened in the course of their journey. Isabelo Hayuhay later associated with the anti-Bible College, anti-benevolence segment of the Restoration Movement. The Dasmariñas disciples, now consisting of believers whom Jimmy Mendoza had helped to usher into the kingdom, came to be nurtured by the workers from the Pi y Margal branch of Philippine Bible College, most especially by brother Paulino Garlitos. American missionaries—Bob Buchanan, Ken Wilkey, Charles Smith, Ray Bryan, Douglas LeCroy, Bill Cunningham— came and helped edify the new church.

Neph J. Sico, grandson of Luis Javier, finished his degree at PBC-Baguio in 1974 and became the minister of Dasma church.  Other youths from Dasma followed him—Loida Sico, Willie Mendoza, Joel Sico, Olly Silva, Raquel Sico, Jeffrey Sico, and Ramir De Mesa.

Sister Gloria and the ladies.

Dasma church has now become the home of the Church Planting Institute (CPI). A new building of CPI, donated by brother Rolly Abaga, has risen beside the Dasma meeting hall. CPI has 9 students. Its teachers include Neph Sico, Jun Patricio, Rolly Abaga, Jonathan Pagarao, Jun Michael Pague, Gerry Superiano and Moises Gonzales.

Meeting place of the Dasma church with the Church Planting Institute building beside it.


A Gathering of Kindly Souls

“A gathering of kindly souls” is how I best describe the gathering of Christians from the churches of  Makati (Metro South), Marikina, Caloocan (Caloocan church which hosted the affair, and Bagong Silang), Taguig, Antipolo, Las Pinas, Pasay, Quezon City (from such areas as Payatas, Lagro, Diliman, Alejandro Roces), Tondo, Manila, Cavite areas (such as San Jose-Dasmarinas, Imus, Bacoor, Dasmarinas-Bagumbayan and others), Batangas areas (such as Lipa City and Rosario), Calamba, Laguna, Baguio (from Rimando Road, Center Point, Midtown), Pangasinan and Paniqui, Tarlac; Naga City, Camarines Sur; Bacacay, Albay, Cebu City and others. We can’t recall all, but my readers who had attended that gathering remember and know.

Seeing again the brethren you’ve been missing, bonding with classmates and students  (those who sat at one’s feet in one’s bygone Bible college years), fellowshiping with fellow preachers, with brothers and sisters whose faces one remembers but whose names he doesn’t, kindling a relationship with those kindred spirits who have just been ushered into the kingdom of the Lord Jesus, is really refreshing, to say the least. This too is a fellowship where Christians’ love for fellow Christians is reaffirmed.

The affair is the National Evangelism Workshop and Seminar (NEWS) facilitated by brother Jun Patricio (preacher of Metro South-Makati church) and brother Randy Macapagal (minister of Caloocan church). Caloocan church building became the venue. The gathering lasted two and half days (morning of December 21 till noon of December 23).

The theme of the seminar is “Benevolence as an Effective Means of Evangelism.”

Typhoon Ondoy and the other typhoon, both equally destructive, are still fresh in our minds; but it was one calamity– no, a double calamity— that brought out the best in our brotherhood.  When God touched the lives of men and women in this country through calamities, His people in the churches both here and abroad also found a common chord by which they could be one with the sufferers: shelter, clothing and food for their bodies, and spiritual food for their souls. Visiting the needy and the suffering when they are at the lowest ebbs of their lives, taking a bag or two of food assistance, speaks a lot about what makes all men brothers and sisters. But taking a Bible and counseling them from God’s Word, explaining to them God’s purpose and plans, brings their minds to the right focus and speaks great things about the great family-hood that we could have in the great beyond. The NEWS seminar only serves to affirm what we believe all along: That our lives, our days, our energies and our wealth are always, and should be, at the disposal of the great God who cares for all and wants His people to perfect their love for Him by sharing their worldly goods to those who need help (1 John 4:12; 3:17).

We have posted here some pictures from that event, courtesy of brother Jun Patricio. Click here to see…

Benevolence as a means of evangelizing. You may click here to download and read>>>

Jun Patricio and his wife Chona, and the congregation of Metro South. Photo from Ed's files.

The congregation at Metro South-Makati one Sunday morning. Photo from Ed's files.

Brother Randy Macapagal, preacher of Kalookan church, and the rescue team. Photo borrowed from his Facebook account.


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