Church in an Island off the Coast of Panay

EMERLITA was running away from life. She was also running away from the law.

In this little island off the coast of Panay, she was determined to hide for a time. And if she saw a police patrol boat, for sure she would run away again. May be she would jump into the sea; that way, they would never see her again. She would be another statistic. She did not want to be caught alive.

When she said she was running away from life, she meant that she is not going to fall in love again. She hated men, and she also hated women who compete with other women for the attention and love of men.

When she said she was running away from the law, she meant the police.

HER TROUBLE began when she fell in love with a guy ten years her junior. The warm blue of this man’s eyes pleaded to her and charmed her to submission. Those eyes too promised a sense of comfort and security. Their whirlwind romance lasted a month. Then also followed a hurried wedding before a priest, who was a relative of the man.

After the wedding, those blue eyes became colder gray. Emerlita did not realize she had married a sado-masochist. He insisted on beating her to submission even if she was willing.

Six months after their wedding, her husband brought home another woman. They had just been married in another town, he said, in a wedding officiated by another priest. The new bride was much younger, and prettier. And so Emerlita, wife number one, was demoted to the rank of concubine and cook.

The days that followed became unbearable for Emerlita. Her husband criticized her cooking, and beat her with a rattan pole. It was true that Emerlita had not learned to love her husband, but she could have. The problem was that their marriage had started on the wrong foot. He hurt her on the first night. How then would she love him? It was not true that Emerlita could not learn how to cook European dish. The man was a constant complainer, who even criticized his mother’s cooking.

Her husband kicked her on the shin. The other woman also joined in the fray. To top it all, she poured on the kneeling woman the bowl of “unpalatable” dish. They both laughed at her. When Emerlita ran toward the kitchen, they chased her, for they meant to inflict more harm.

She was crying. And with a knife in hand, she turned at them.

Because the judge of the town was also her husband’s relative, the case against Emerlita was tried with dispatch. She had killed her husband’s other woman, and she had almost killed him too. After a month in the town jail, she was brought to Women’s Correctional. Six months later, she was transported to Davao Penal Colony.

A jail guard took pity of Emerlita and allowed her to escape. He also gave her some money. Soon Emerlita found her way to Panay, to an island you could not even find in an old map.

That’s where an American preacher found her also. He taught her the gospel, which spoke of God’s great love for sinful men and women, and of Jesus, whose death on the cross paid for her sins and the sins of all mankind.

Some things troubled Emerlita and she made no secret of it to the American preacher. If she would be truly repentant of her sins, does that mean she should return to her first husband whom she almost killed? Does that mean she should leave the man she is now living with? Does that mean she should give up herself to the police?

We five field workers, sent by our Bible college, arrived in the island a year later. We found a church that had already been worshipping in the house of Emerlita. When their number increased, they decided to put up a hut that could serve as their meeting place. We served as their nurturers during the four months that we stayed in the island.

God used me too as an instrument to teach Emerlita’s husband. The man however insisted that he would not submit himself to baptism unless he himself read from the Bible what God wants him to do. Because he was not educated (he had not gone to school), I had to teach him how to read. Three months later, I baptized him.

Concerning Emerlita and her husband’s status as believers and members of the Lord’s church, I confess I still have some questions till this day. I guess we — that is, I and my co-field workers and the American preacher who first sowed the seed of the Word in the island– had played ourselves into the hands of Providence. We acted and moved according to the response of faith by the men whom we had taught. We did not know their hearts; only God did. I cannot judge them. The Lord who will judge all of us is also the Lord who knows the hearts of all of us. I am really sure that He will judge righteously. Should you find these people in the heavenly mansions, don’t be surprised at all. I love them, and wish all the best for them, including a home in the eternal beyond.

The latest news I have heard is that the number of disciples in the island has multiplied. They all have been influenced by Emerlita and her husband. One other young man, a nephew of Emerlita, whom I had also baptized, now preaches to this congregation. He is an engineer, I heard, and had earned much by working abroad. Not only has he supported the church by teaching them, he also has built them a nice chapel.

This story is true to every detail, except that I have changed the names of the people involved in order to protect their privacy. Of their lives and their state before God, we can’t be the judge.


One Response

  1. A real heartwarming love story!!! Jesus died for Ermilita and her husband too.

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