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.

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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.


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.

 

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.


They’re Here: The Saturn Road Mission Team

IMG_0977IMG_0988IMG_1005IMG_1006Three brothers and two sisters in Christ, the mission team from the Saturn Road church, came on September 24, got their first taste of what it means to lose one American day and gain a Philippine day, messing up their body clocks in the process, and got themselves involved in the teaching at the facilities of Philippine Institute of Biblical Studies in Pit-os, at the church facilities in Talamban, at Jollibee-Banilad, at Helen Uytengsu’s place in Banilad and at Krua Thai restaurant, Banilad Town Centre. Let me introduce them to you.

Firstly, the ladies. We have Michelle Stewart, whose husband Chris and son Chris, Jr. came here a year or so ago to visit the work that Saturn Road church has been supporting in the island of Cebu. Michelle is an elementary school teacher with a Math minor from Texas Tech University, and a Bible class teacher whose skills as a molder of hearts have been put to good use these last 23 years at Saturn Road church’s classrooms. Michelle too has been managing her husband’s anesthesia practice. Chris Stewart Sr. has the looks of a movie star, so we have been told. “Like Alec Baldwin?” I ask; Michelle has a good laugh at that.

Michelle is formerly a Baptist and her husband Chris guided her to the truth, and baptized her. Michelle’s interests include the outdoor and the physical like skiing and soccer. She loves home decorating, and her family definitely has a soft spot in her heart, in much the same way as the family of God does. This is her first time to be away from them visiting Asia.

And Sheila Baker. She is now on her 12th year as senior administrative assistant of the elders of Saturn Road church, with duties that include maintaining the computers, websites and publications of Saturn as well as serving as secretary to the elders. Sheila and her husband Marty are the proud parents of two sons: Marty Jr, who has been youth minister of Van church of Christ for two years and is now finishing his masters of divinity at Lubbock Christian University; and Chad, who is in an internship youth ministry program at McDermott church of Christ. Shiela loves kids and has taught children’s Bible classes for 12 years at Seagoville church, VBS and the older three’s for 3 years at Saturn Road before serving as official secretary of the missions committee.  Sheila’s love interests also include scrapbooking and photography; at PIBS and other functions during the week, you would often see her angling for a good cam shot, and her digital cam flashing.

Michelle Stewart and Sheila Baker teach the ladies at Tea Fellowship, at Helen Uytengsu’s place, Sto. Nino Village, Banilad. Their topics: Ladies as Helpmeets in Evangelism, and Silence in the Church Does Not Mean Taking the Back Seats. They also teach the kids at the Good News Clinic facilities in Mandaue.

Mitchell Bueter, the other member of the mission team, is now in his 19th year as provider of insurance and financial services, having graduated with a business degree from Abilene Christian U. A father of two kids (both girls) he now serves as a deacon at Saturn Road church. Mitchell grew up surrounded by men and women of God who love missions and efforts of seeking the lost in many parts of the world and showing forth the lights from Jesus. His father had served for many years in the missions committee of the old Austin Street church in Garland, Texas (the forerunner of the Saturn Road church). Being in the missions committee of Saturn Road, Mitchell has also traveled to many mission areas that Saturn Road supports, such as Argentina, Romania, Mexico, Chile, Ghana and others.

Then Jimmy Chalk. An air man for 8 years, two and a half of which had been spent first at Clark Air Force Base in Angeles City, Pampanga and months in a small remote station in Polomolok, South Cotabato. Jimmy says he loves pine-apples, and that’s probably one reason why being assigned to the lonely outpost of Polomolok was no big deal to him–he was as close as could be to the Dole Plantation. John Allen Chalk, whose one collection of sermons I have in my library, is the older brother of Jimmy. The Chalk siblings grew up in a farm in west Tennessee. Early on, Jimmy was taught how to drive a tractor by his grandfather but realized farming blood does not run in his veins; he wanted to fly somewhere and see the world.  He indeed has seen places, now as part of the Saturn Road mission team in Asia. He also had seen the church in Angeles sprouting from the efforts of the US soldiers– Christians and members of the church of Jesus–and of American missionaries, in the Clark facilities. Our first taste of American congeniality and hospitality was at Clark.

Jimmy has a BS in Accounting from Louisiana State University; his wife and friend Robbie, whom he had met in his Air Force days, is a teacher. For 25 years now, Jimmy and Robbie have been involved in the business affairs of Saturn Road church, being the treasurer and accountant, installing better control and report of Saturn Road’s financial activities. He led in the financing efforts to acquire Saturn Road church’s new auditorium and classrooms, the purchase of additional property and the construction of new educational and teen facilities.

Last but of course not the least is John Scott, who is now in his 16th year as senior pulpit minister of Saturn Road church. A graduate of both David Lipscomb and Abilene Christian U, this man of God first served, according to him, as “the lowest man on the totem pole” but gradually went up the ranks. John loves missions and the benevolent efforts of the church (he mentioned a date he had with a girl friend that ended up, not in the malls nor in a movie theater but in a church, and he putting the dollars he had wanted to spend on his date on the collection plate when it was passed around).

John spews out gems in his sermons and lectures, sometimes waxing poetic. His reason for alliterating his sermon outline headings is to better remember it. You should hear John speak. Wondered if the late Walter Scott, reformer and restorer, who once scoured the heartlands of the Western Reserve seeking for lost souls, is any relation of his.

John’s wife Teresa is vice president of Christian Care Retirement Center in Mesquite, Texas. Their son Shane teaches at Dallas Christian School; their daughter Lindsay is married to Mark Simmons, youth minister of Burleson church, Burleson, Texas.  John has traveled and preached to Chile, Ghana, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, the Mediterranean, and in China, where his daughter and son-in-law preach and seek to penetrate the walls an authoritarian government has built around its people. One should learn from the experiences of John’s missionary daughter and son-in-law as they encourage Chinese youth to give their all to Jesus, and what it means to be worshipping in a country where your neighbors may at any time squeal you to the authorities, where one sings the songs of freedom in the gospel and joy in Jesus in tones subdued.

The Saturn Road mission team will be leaving on Tuesday, September 30.

Not Everyone Can Be Us

IMG_0965The preacher eagerly doing the job of preaching has certain challenges, opportunities and responsibilities. These I describe as peculiar; others call these extraordinary.  They are a part and parcel of a preacher’s private life that makes him tick— his study life.

The preacher must be a well that doesn’t run dry. It is an axiom that dry wells cannot give forth water. Brethren will long to come to free-flowing springs to have a drink. The fruit of much study comes out of a preacher’s mouth, but the seed of scholarly efforts must first be planted in his brain. We cannot teach what we have not imbibed. In other words, a preacher must needs to have mental industry, or he would amount to any of the following: (1) Producing boring, haphazardly-done lessons in the category of the mediocre. (2) Calling on another preacher to save him— that is, to do the preaching for him.  (3) Coming up with a false doctrine. (4) Falling short of the congregation’s expectations, he may resign his job.

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A Visit by a Brother from the Military

During this week, we had a surprise visit from brother Labroso, who is connected with the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Brother Labroso has married a daughter of brother Santiago Binaluga, one of the pillars of the church in the mountainous  village of Pagang, Himamaylan, Negros Occidental. Brother Binaluga’s family too has been instrumental in his conversion.

A church first met in the house of the Labrosos in Overflow, Kabankalan, Negros Occidental. Now a new chapel has been built from the donations of many Christians in the Philippines.

Brother Labroso in turn was instrumental in the conversion of his parents in Toledo City, Cebu. A church, ministered by Boning Bayarcal and supported by the help of brother Mark Vandyke of Lexmark Corporation, now meets in Toledo.

Pictures taken at the library of Philippine Institute of Biblical Studies in Pit-os, Cebu City.

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