The Lord's Work in the Philippines
Earl E. Robertson
In the early days of Christianity, Barnabas and Saul left Antioch in Syria to preach the gospel in Asia, travelling as far as Derbe (Acts 13 and 14). Then they returned visiting nearly all the places where they had preached on the trip, "confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith." After a while they returned to Antioch, and gathered the church together, to rehearse all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles (Acts 14:27). After such manner Brother Larry R. Hafley and I spent thirty-five days (the latter part of April and the first part of May) in the Philippines, in which, we also preached Christ. Sixty-two adults were baptized in the services where we spoke. Others were baptized in meetings other than the ones in which we spoke. Several were restored to the Lord.
We sought only to accomplish good, though Brother Reuel Lemmons, Editor of the Firm Foundation, said in the May 28, 1974 issue of his paper our efforts were "divisive." He wrote, "Work in the Philippines has suffered somewhat through the divisive efforts of brethren who push their hobby concerning orphans' homes and church cooperation, but the church is growing stronger every year and good native leadership is emerging." The truth of the matter is, the faithful churches are indeed growing! Many liberals are giving up their unscriptural positions and taking a stand for the whole truth. This is the reason for Reuel saying the liberals have "suffered somewhat." It was shortly after the return of brethren Roy F. Cogdill and Cecil Willis in 1970 that they asked me to consider such a trip also. Almost immediately the Filipino brethren started writing to me asking me to come. The same was happening with Larry. With these invitations from the Filipinos and the overtures in their behalf from Cogdill and Willis, we decided that by the support of brethren and the grace of God we would make the trip in the Spring of 1974. Though we had not been before, and such a venture was against the publicly stated opinion of some, we went and believe that our labors were blessed of God.
Response of Churches
Our hearts were made to take courage at the immediate and overwhelming response with money and words of encouragement to our appeals. It exceeded all expectations. Some brethren knowing of our plans, yet before we asked, sent us support. Rather than sending small amounts, they sent $200.00 to $500.00 checks. This tells me that after more than twenty long years of struggle for the truth, many churches are now becoming free of their building indebtednesses (which was made when they had to leave for truth and conscience); and this money will, therefore, be spent to evangelize. The faithful preaching has not been in vain! All these contributing churches made me think they were eager to assist in this work. Many either wrote or called saying they would be glad to send more if we needed it. Thank God for this kind of faith in God's plan to save the world.
Reception of The Filipino Brethren
Though the Philippine nation is under martial law and the airports are crowded with armed guards' with no one but passengers allowed within the terminals, we were met by a great host of brethren at every place. We were not only met in this physical way, but these people were eager to "hear all things commanded of God." There is a deep sense of personal pride and dignity among our, brethren there; but, we also found them to be reliant upon God. They, unlike Diotrephes, received us "that we might be fellowhelpers to the truth." We found them in every place to be warm and congenial. They gave us the best of everything they had. We found them going "beyond measure" to meet our needs. We express our gratitude to them for all such expressions for our comfort and protection. There were a few instances where they took special interest for our safety. Some told us their own lives would be given for our safety and wellbeing. Before this trip was completed, we believed them.
Their Dedication and Devotion to The Truth
Let none say the Filipinos are ignorant, lazy, and indifferent! Many of the preachers are former denominational preachers and have good formal academic educations. Some have several earned academic degrees. Most of them speak a number of dialects or languages. Though many of these men barely make it economically, yet, their dedication and devotion to truth is so obvious. Their sacrifice in poverty reminds one of Macedonia (2 Cor. 8:lff). The commitment to the Lord is, in a measurable degree, the secret to the great success the truth is now enjoying in that nation. Nearly without exception, the preachers who are being supportee from the States are not only trying to have sufficiency for their families, but are also paying the rent for the places of worship. And with their meager support, they also find some way to do much benevolent work.
Several in the States are asking, "since so many are being baptized there, are many of them remaining faithful to the Lord:'" The answer is, Yes. The Filipinos do not have the materialistic detractions encountered constantly here in our country. They conduct many more services in which the gospel is preached than the average church here. Their worship services last much longer than the services here also. Many home studies are conducted by the preachers in these homes to assist the newly converted ones, Yes, they are making determined efforts to keep the saved saved! And we must remember that these brethren do not get into their air-conditioned cars and quickly arrive at the' various places of such study,They have uo such means of transportation. They depend upon what public means are extant and upon walking. A very few preachers there have small motor bikes and one a world war two jeep. This is it! We would consider this a handicap, yet, they are able to stay busy in most all areas of that nation preaching the gospel; in debating for the victory of the truth, and giving themselves in strengthening the weak. The dawning of the day finds most of them already at work, and only in the late hours of the night are they able to get into bed. The two things stamped into my mind are: their poverty and sacrifice. Do not underestimate their concern and actions for saving the lost and keeping the' saved saved.
Places In Particular
Our first work was with the Makati church (Manila). This congregation left the Christian Church through the work of Connie Adams and J. T. Smith. It has elders, and Brother Carlos Azacarraga preaches there. Formerly, these people were denominational, including Azacarraga. He is a graduate of some college in Manila and spent several years preaching for a denomination. He is in close association with Victorio R. Tibayan, Ben Cruz, June R. Salvarierra, Jr., Noli H. Vilamor, Billy Hayuhay, Narciso Romio and others. Twenty-eight were baptized in the Manila work. Our seevices in this series of lectures were conducted in the afternoons and evenings. Several hours were devoted to this each day. Open forums were held after each service. Perhaps the names of Victorio R. Tibayan and Julian C. Felix are more widely known than any of the other preachers in Luzon. Brother Felix works several miles North of Manila in Moncada, Tarlac. He is a close and long-time worker with Romulo B. Agduma in the South. Brother Tibayan is perhaps the ablest, and most often used, debater in Luzon. He preaches in Pasay and Tondo (Manila) and works in many sections of Luzon and the other Islands. These other brethren mentioned are younger in the faith; however, they are rapidly growing in grace and knowledge (cf. 2 Pet. 3:18). Manila is a large metropolis numbering into the millions of souls: These brethren have a lifetime of work before them. The city is growing exceedingly fast, and it seems to me that the brethren are diligent in their efforts to convert people there. They are using what means they have to get the gospel to the lost.
Our second week was spent in Pagadian City. The brethren met us at the airport, being accompanied by Dr. Aurelio M. Mendoza, President of a college in the city. We went immediately to the college and spoke, after which a lengthly open forum was conducted. We feel that good was accomplished. This being the immediate area where the Communists and Muslims had engaged warfare against the people (some saints were murdered), it was felt by the brethren that Larry and I should not stay in any of the local Hotels, but that we should stay in the home of brother Eduardo R; Ramiro. Brother Ramiro is the local preacher and is doing an excellent work. He is a graduate of the school in Zamboanga, a "deceased" liberal college. His wife, Sol, is a local school teacher. Brother Ramiro is able and sacrificial. He has the complete respect and confidence of the brethren and is highly respected by the citizens of Pagadian. Just last year he taught and baptized the whole family of Brother Diosdado L. Aenlle, who for twenty-five years preached in one of the largest denominational churches there. He held the respect and some of the highest offices in that denomination. He lacks three subjects having his third earned academic degree. This man is working closely with Brother Ramiro, and is now directly responsible for theconversion of several. In this area many good, able . men are laboring for the Lord's cause, among whom I remember: Leonardo J. Lagasca, Wilfredo Samodal, Nebuchadnezzar Calope, Antonio Gunot, Federico Cadungog, Francisco Fallorin, Romeo S. Quesada, Ernesto Canon, and Artemio Labiano.
We found this church to be active, sacrificial, and at peace. For some time they have worshipped in a building, the funds for which were raised by various American saints. One preacher, Ramon G. Carino, would not attend our services and tried to keep others from attending. He ran Brother Samodal out of his house at midnight because Samodal would not listen to his rantings. He meets with less than a "handful," separate from the Pagadian church, and it seems that he has no influence in that area. This man and his wife came to the airport when we were leaving, and we asked him as to why he would not attend the services. He would give us no answer. Several obeyed the gospel in this Pagadian effort.
When our work was finished in Pagadian, we flew to Davao City and then went by truck to Kidapawan-the present home of Romulo B. Agduma. We found the largest attendance here of all the places we visited. The church in this place is in dire need of a building. They are now seeking financial support from any individual interested in this work. Our services were conducted in the Pilot school on the Eastern edge of the city. Brother Agdurna moved here from M'Lang when the uprising came. The work has done real well, though a major part of brother Agduma's time is spent in publishing gospel papers. We observed the respect he holds throughout the whole nation from the faithful. He is a humble servant, not a "pope" as some have inferred. Our services in this place were conducted from eight o'clock in the mornings until late in the nights. We feel God blessed these services and that good in the future will result from these labors.
In this part of the Philippine nation we found many great and good servants of the King, among whom are Virgilo B. Villanueva, Ernesto Argueza, Alfredo Bareng, Juanito P. Balbin, and many others. These men not only know the truth, but know how to defend it. They all seem to be busy sowing the seed of the kingdom. The liberals tried some two or three days to hinder our efforts, but were unsuccessful (see brother Hafley's report concerning this).
When our work was finished here with a number becoming obedient to the faith, we, with tearful and prayful parting, went to Davao City where we spoke to a fine audience. In this city the work was only begun the first part of this year with brother Feliciano Caracas. The church was meeting in his house (many churches there meet in private homes), and the attendance is about thirty. Several have been baptized, and many students attending the various colleges and universities in Davao City have been contacted by brother Caracas and Reuben Agduma, which has resulted in their attending services with this church. Reuben is the son of Romulo and is working with Feliciano while finishing his degree. Upon these two able men rests much responsibility! They are able to meet it. Reuben spent two years in Florida College and has been in school since, hopeful of finishing this year. Feliciano was an instructor for about eight years in the Zamboanga Bible School. He has been recognized both provincially and nationally as a Newsman in newspapers and the radio hook-up. He was chosen as the number two Newsman during the presidential election of President Marcos. He is an excellent speaker, and he has something to say when he gets before an audience. This young man was saved through the efforts of Romulo Agduma and Eddy Ramiro. The future of the Lord's cause in this great city seems very bright.
We flew from Davao to Manila and spoke to some few congregations around the city for some two days,and then rode a bus some two hundred and thirty miles North to Baguio City. This is the home of Andrew Gawe and his father. Andrew preaches in this city and has lived here for thirty years. He was instrumental in starting the Philippine Bible College (a work of the liberals) and was an instructor in it for ten years. Perhaps, there is more opposition to the preaching of truth in this area than any place else in the Islands. But what these good brethren are able to accomplish against such opposition is heartwarming! Brother Julian C. Felix lives just south of Baguio at Moncada, Tarlac and is exerting much influence for good. Several of the liberal preacher-students coming from this College have been taught the truth, and none know the preaching power of Gawe, Felix and other such good men, as do the liberals at the school. When we arrived in the city we shortly thereafter received a letter from the President of the school, Brother Robert Buchanan. Brother Buchanan and I were in Freed-Hardeman College nearly a quarter-century ago, but had had no correspondence or conversation with each other through intervening years. Though I have worked closely with many of his kin, including his grandparents, uncles and cousins, he chose to address us only as "Mr." and "Sir." His letter was arrogant, condescending, and hateful. Though he spoke this way, unwittingly there is revealed throughout his letter the fear of truth and confrontation. Knowing our schedule (it being advertised that our night services would be conducted at 7:30), he told us we could visit him at 7:30 Friday night! He even wrote; "I must say that if you come at a time when I cannot be here, you would not be welcome." He further wrote, "I must confess that you men and your doctrine do not rank very high on my list of priorities." Caesar, indeed, hath been eating the dainties of his spoiles! With this attitude there is no question but that the cause of truth will continue to grow in the right direction.
Our services in Baguio were conducted in a large room in denominational facilities. Several came, though I believe our attendance here was the smallest of the places we went. However, I was most surprised to find a great host of men preaching the truth. These came from all directions. Most of these men make their living in various professions. I would hope that in the future more effort, by men from the States, will be given to this section of the Philippines. Some were baptized here, among whom were some two or three preachers. We have hope for the future of the Lord's work in these Mountain Provinces with men like Gawe, Felix, Damsso Curimao, Virgelio Lacangan, Salvador Alapit, Jose Cruz, Marcos Balaleng, David Gamit, and many others. Many of these are new in the Lord and need time to grow and develop; they need words of encouragement, books, dictionaries, etc., for their use toward this goal. Some of these men need financial support.
With this Baguio effort finished we flew to Manila and then to Olongapo City for a service. Six were baptized in this place. This was the last service we were engaged in. There were other places and names, which, perhaps, should be mentioned in this report, but because of space we must forego.
I feel this trip greatly helped the Philippine work, but I feel it did us much good also. As stated earlier in this article, I do not share the opinion of some that men who have not been there should not go; but I do feel that men who have a rather extensive relationship with the churches over our country should go. In many respects the most good for the Philippine work will be done after the men get back home. The needs there are astronomical due to the fact of the reception of the truth on such a large scale, and this in relationship to their deep poverty. They need wages for their preaching, song books, books and tracts, church buildings, etc. Just small amounts of money, placed in the right hands, can accomplish so much. I appeal to brethren everywhere: be generous in this matter. Several already are responding most favorably. We are, by invitation, telling many churches and individuals what we know about that work. While this great nation of more than forty million souls are so responsive to the overtures of God's mercy as expressed through preaching, we must meet its challenge. If we may be of any service to you in assisting your judgment-making in this matter, please call upon us.
Truth Magazine, XVIII:41, p. 6-10