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.

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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! 

History of the Church of Christ in Silang

By Dolores de Venecia Thelmo

MY SEARCH FOR TRUTH. The story begins when after 18 years of spending our time and effort to serve God in the Baptist church denomination, dark clouds came to our spiritual life. We were now leaving this denomination because of some errors in it, and because of some sins that the group had refused to take account of.  My friends whom I had influenced to be Baptists too were confused, and fear was in our hearts. Everyone had a question: Where shall we go?

For a long time that we were members of this denomination, we were taught that the Baptist church is the only religion God recognized, that John the Baptist was given the authority to baptize Jesus, that Jesus was a Baptist, and Baptist members are the only church members who will be included in the marriage supper of the Lamb in heaven. They also teach that once one is saved, he is saved forever.  Honestly, I have doubts of these teachings. I know who am I, and God knows my heart. I long for the truth. If I will leave the Baptist church, where shall I be on Sundays? What shall happen to us?

I went to God in prayer. “Lord, if you have a group called by your name, where your spiritual presence is there, please bring me to that group.” I wanted out, but I also wanted the truth.

God spoke to me through His Word, in Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone that sayeth unto me, Lord, Lord shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” For 18 years of reading my Bible, this verse made me endure many sleepless nights. I woke up at midnight just to read it and ask myself, “Why does this verse keep bothering me?  What message does God have for me?”

VISITING MY BROTHER. One summer, I decided to visit my family in Catbalogan, Samar and sought the help of my brother, Tony de Venecia. My mother informed me that he was now a preacher of the church of Christ. I was not sure if my brother could help me. But I had in my mind that if Kuya would answer me through the word of God, I would accept and study the verse. But if he would answer me through a preacher, I would just listen and forget what he said.  I needed Bible truths.

But alas, when I told him what I was suffering through at that time, he asked me to get his Bible because the answer is there. He told me to open and read Acts 2: 38. I did, and as I was reading this verse my heart beat faster. The teaching is contrary to what I learned as a Baptist! I found out that I was not even baptized for the remission of my sins, and that I had not received the gift of the Holy Spirit. In other words, for 18 years of claiming that I was a Christian, I discovered I was not even saved! The next day, I asked him to baptize me.

GOING HOME TO CAVITE. After 10 days with my family in Catbalogan, I went back to Silang. I visited my Baptist friends and told them concerning the only church that I read about in the Bible, the church founded by Jesus, the church of Christ. Using my Bible, I told them of my experience in looking for the truth, and convinced them that there is indeed a church of which Christ is the owner, builder, ruler and head.

Baptist pastors who heard of my conversion tried to refute the truth that I had embraced, telling me that the teachings I heard from the church of Christ people are not applicable to our time. Other pastors told their members to shun me and avoid me like a plague, to never ever have any conversation with me about the teachings I heard. But I did not stop. I persisted until my friends were convinced to attend the worship service at Dasmariñas church of Christ, San Jose, Dasmariñas, Cavite.

HOME BIBLE STUDY IN SILANG. On September 7, 2004, we started a home Bible study in my home in Lalaan I, Silang, Cavite, with Bro. Neph Sico doing the teaching. He came with his wife Sis Bing and his Nanay Gloria. In attendance were me and my two daughters. It was scheduled every Sunday afternoon, after the worship in Dasmariñas.

BEGINNING OF THE WORK IN SILANG. After two months, we decided to start the work in the town of Silang, rented an apartment so we could invite our friends to attend the Bible study.  With continuous study of the Bible, praying, sharing the Word of God with other people, inviting them, God worked with us. To our number God added the Montegrande family. And so one afternoon of November 6, 2004, the church of Christ in Silang, Cavite started its first Sunday worship, together with our brethren from Dasmariñas. In attendance too were some old friends in Silang.

MORE ADDITIONS TO OUR NUMBER. After years of continuous services, prayers, visitation and sharing the Word of God, the Lord added again to his church people who are longing to find and serve Him in truth. Our recent addition for the year 2012 is a couple from Laguna, who visited, found a job and stayed for good. Praise the Lord for His greatness and love, for His unwavering plan to keep on looking for a people who will truly serve Him, outside of the denominations!

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.

Cabangan Church: A Congregation of Negritoes in Zambales

The church in Cabangan is the only church of Christ in the Philippines whose membership wholly consists of Aetas, or Negritoes (Spanish for “little black men”). At the time we met them (November 1989), they were led by a matriarchal figure named Rosita. I say “led” because I noticed that all the men listened to her, like her word was law. She was the wife of the most mature man among the group and exercised great influence among them. It was she who scheduled the classes for us.

These Aetas came down from Mount Pinatubo because food was scarce in the mountains. And so in the low lands they made do with what they could gather and hunt— wild animals like lizards and snakes and bananas and wild fruits from the riverside near the settlements of the Ilocanos. They helped in the harvesting of palay, and got paid either with money or with palay.

This was in the last days of 1989. I volunteered to do much of the  teaching, in Tagalog, which they also understood. My brother-in-law Tom would read the passages I cited in class in the Zambal dialect (the dialect of the Negritoes) using the Zambal translation of the Bible. That was how they came to know of the grace of Jesus and of their great need for a Savior. We spent a whole month teaching them. When they were ready, Tom baptized them in a river nearby.

We in a manner of speaking converted a whole village of them in San Juan, Cabangan, Zambales, consisting of 25 men and women not including children. After they became a church, we conducted worship services in the afternoons of Sunday. Tom and his family and I were then based in San Narciso. I was helping him grow the church there too.

This young Aeta named Leonardo is our song leader. Not being educated in a Bible college, he learns the songs by listening to other song leaders.

I left Zambales for Butuan City in February 1990. Tom went on and taught some more Negritoes in the area. His big break came when he baptized Ilocano families who owned farms in Cabangan. It signaled the beginning when the brown brethren (the Ilocanos) were gradually assimilated with the black brethren (the Negritoes) in the spirit of oneness with the God who saved both of them.

In the middle of 1990’s the late brother Lee Smeltzer donated some money to acquire the 1.5 hectare property above the Negrito settlement, now located in the village of Dolores, Cabangan. A year or so later, a chapel was built for this church with the funds donated by other US brethren.

There were fifty or more Negrito brethren in attendance when I preached there last Sunday, November 7, not including children. Tom told me that this Negrito church consists of 300 or more members. Many did not come; one reason was that the majority had moved to other places in Zambales, to Manila, and to Mindanao in search of jobs and opportunities to make a living.

Last Sunday I spoke on the subject so dear to my heart, using Hebrews 12:1-3 as text. I think I spoke for an hour, but nobody even noticed it! The Aeta brethren were reacting to my sermon, smiling as I spoke, making some favorable comments on my illustrations, nodding their heads in agreement!

That Sunday morning they had a meeting, and made a decision to support the coming Lectureship event this November 20. Each family will contribute a hundred pesos for the food. They already had collected over a thousand pesos for this purpose. Marcial the preacher says he will donate a sack of rice. They expect an attendance of over a hundred on that day.  Five speakers, including Tomas Lizardo and me and others from Kalaklan church will be speaking on this lectureship.

A Negrito hut near the church building. Brethren have agreed to my suggestion that this hut be moved down the hill so the church building can be expanded.

There is a plan to establish here a Bible school that will serve the Negrito and Ilocano brethren in the area. Two teachers have volunteered to teach. You will hear more about this work in the days ahead.

Lectureship in Upper Kalaklan

 

November 1, 2010 was All Saints Day for those who observe this Catholic feast, a time they say should better be spent wishing the dead had been well. We however spent this day communing with the saints at Upper Kalaklan, at the meeting place of Olongapo church. It was a one-day lectureship attended by brethren from Central Luzon, specifically Zambales, Bataan and Pampanga. It was one lectureship I did not expect I would find myself in, since I never had any invitation.

 

Ed Maquiling and Tommy Lizardo Sr.

I came with my brother-in-law Tomas Lizardo and nephew Tom Lizardo Jr. But the brethren who recognized me made me feel welcome! Recognized is a better word. Brother Fred Angangan, for example, knew my face even if my name is still a stranger to him!

 

 

Rudy Gonzales, Fred Angangan and Ed Maquiling.

And oh, was I glad to see my old friend Higato Tulan Sr! He is now directing the PIBI-Angeles. He was the first speaker. He spoke on the subject that he considered he was well-prepared to tackle on: The use of instrumental music in worship. It was a good lecture.

 

The panelists answering the questions from the audience.

Fred Angangan spoke on death and life beyond the dead. It should benefit those who have doubts on whether or not the dead cease to exist after this life, on whether or not Hades is a fact.

 

 

Brethren have begun to arrive for the lectures.

Another timely lecture was the one discussed by brother Daniel Elamparo on the subject of the family. A very much needed teaching that the young and the not so young could benefit from.

 

Audience consists of both the younger and the older Christians from three provinces of Central Luzon.

Tom Lizardo Sr. spoke on the subject of local autonomy. And I was called on to be one of his two panelists. Our job was to answer questions. Difficult questions, like those one tackles in a Bible college situation.

 

 

Brothers Fred Angangan Jr. and Ruel Vitug.

I met Ruel Vitug, a brother who also aspires to be one of the elders of the church of Kalaklan someday, and I encouraged him to keep on with this goal. This man is one to whom they have entrusted the life and the future of PIBI-Kalaklan, and they have found no better man!

 

Brother Abelardo Mayor Sr.

And I met Rudy Gonzales! And this after twenty years! Fresh in my memory is that day when he offered us a shelter for the night when I knocked at his door with my daughter Abigail in tow. He never knew me then, but he knew my sister Diane and my brother-in-law Tommy, and that was enough for us.

 

Our afternoon audience.

What I wanted to see was sister Flor Poblete, but she was not around at the time. Maybe she was busy. But I had been told that sister Poblete had been the brain behind this lectureship and that she spent her own money for the food and other expenses for this event.


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