By Dudley R. Spears
From all the information we were able to gather, the months of April and May are the best times of the year to go to the Philippines for a short tour of teaching and preaching. Therefore, we left Orlando airport on April 2 at 3:45 p.m. Living in the same metropolitan area has greatly helped brother Needham and me. We have been able to save much money and time communicating with each other and coordinating our trip plans. A large group of brethren from both the Palm Springs congregation where Needham preaches and the Par Ave. congregation where I preach were on hand to bid us “Bon Voyage.”
Our first stop was Dallas, Texas where we landed for only about 15 minutes and then flew to Los Angeles. We arrived there around 7:00 p.m. and by pre-arrangement met the elders of the Sepulveda church. Brother Jady Copeland was there also and we discussed the work they are supporting in Baguio City. Brother Copeland is one of those responsible for helping some of the Philippine preachers learn the truth on the institutional question. He and the other elders discussed with us the feasibility of the four of them going to the Islands to get a first hand look at the work they are supporting. It is possible that such a trip will be made in the future. Personally, I think it is a fine idea.
The flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu is a long one in flying time, though it is short on clock time, as one keeps setting the clock backwards. We arrived in Honolulu at near midnight and were met by brother Ronald Howes, local preacher for the Waipahu church. We met with the church there on Monday night and engaged in Bible study with them. We left Honolulu at 2:00 a.m. Tuesday morning. The plane was scheduled to depart at 11: 55 p.m. Monday, but as we learned about the Filipino people, starting somewhere on time does not mean too much. We flew Philippine Air Lines to Manila on the longest air leg of our journey, taking 13 hours and 40 minutes of non-stop flight. It was about 7:00 a.m. when we taxied up the ramp to the burned out international air terminal in Manila. After clearing customs, we were met by a delegation of some thirty or forty Christians from the Manila area. What a welcome sight that “Welcome Needham and Spears” banner was!
We were taken to our hotel and after some refreshing we went to the meeting house of the Pasay congregation. Brother Victorio Tibayan is one of the preachers for this group. The first day was spent largely in orientation, getting acquainted with the brethren and trying to organize ourselves after a sleepless night. Brother Needham and I passed out information sheets for the purpose of getting better acquainted with the brethren there who are being supported by churches here. On these sheets we asked for certain matters of their family size, needs, etc. Also we asked them to supply us with a list of the books they now have and of those they think they might need in the future. This is the procedure we followed in the entire trip. We received over 130 information sheets on Filipino preachers that will enable us to help them more in the future.
Brother Needham delivered a series of lessons on the problems of preachers and their work of preaching. These were delivered everywhere we went. Following each class there was a question and answer session that often proved very lively. It is quite evident that the brethren who preach in the Philippines are well read for the most part and quite able. My part of the daily lessons dealt with denominational doctrines, such as Catholicism, Pentecostalism, Calvinism and specific matters pertaining to the Holy Spirit. The brethren in the Philippines have to deal with the issue of Manaloism. It is the doctrine that relegates Jesus to nothing more than a man. They take passages like I Tim. 2:5; “one mediator between God and man, the man, Christ Jesus . . .” and emphasize “the man” part of the verse. Like those who affirm that man is justified by “faith only,” they ignore all those verses which affirm the deity of Christ. I found myself the student in many instances while we studied this question for I had never heard of the doctrine before. However, most of the same arguments made by some of the Pentecostals here in this country are identical with the Manaloist view.
We preached each evening in the auditorium of the Philippine Christian College, a denominational school in Manila. As a result of the preaching there, and the work of several preachers, 7 souls were added to the Lord by baptism. It is a rather unique experience to baptize people in Manila. There is no heated baptistery available. We walked well over a mile from the meeting place to the Manila Bay. Out behind the very beautiful Cultural Center, we walked on a jetty about 100 yards long and from there waded out over 306 yards into the bay to find water deep enough to immerse in. The bay is filled with sediment, raw sewerage and oil spills. It was a thrill, however, to see people obey the Lord in baptism late at night, having gone through that much just to get to water. I thought of many who are unwilling to obey Christ when all they must do is take a few steps forward and then go down into a heated baptistery in clean water with clean clothing.
The first Sunday we spent in the Philippines saw brother Needham going to Angeles City while I went first to Pasay and then to a small village called Baliwag. Jim spent Saturday night with an American airman, Brother Granke, who is stationed at Clark Air Force Base. He has been a great help to the native congregation in Angeles City. Brother Castorio Gamit is one of the preachers in Angeles where Jim preached that Sunday. There were four baptized as a result of the work there. Incidentally, one of the interesting points about the baptisms there is that Jim baptized in the only baptistery we saw during our visit to the Philippines. A brother had constructed it in his back yard. A picture of it is found elsewhere in this article. The church in Angeles City has a good future. While they are only about 50 or 60 in number, they have an abundance of talent and a very fertile field in which to work. Any American servicemen who are about to be stationed at Clark AFB should contact either Brother Needham or me for the address of the ones to contact in order to worship and work with the conservative brethren there. If you know of Americans stationed there, we can put them in contact with someone who will direct them where to worship.
While Jim was preaching in Angeles City, I preached at Pasay in the morning and then rode a bus up to a place called Baliwag. We went to die city proper by bus and from there rode a “tricycle” to a farm house about 4 or 5 kilometers outside the main part of the town. I preached and brother Tibayan interpreted what I said because many of those in attendance did not understand English. There were seven baptized that afternoon in an irrigation ditch. After a long bus ride back to Manila, Jim and I were together again, having finished our work in Manila and the surrounding areas.
Our next series of lessons were delivered at Baguio City in northern Luzon. Baguio City is the summer capital of the Philippines. It is a resort city of around 90,000 people and beyond doubt, one of the most beautiful parts of the Philippines. The surrounding area is very mountainous and the mountains seem to be carpeted by the finest greenery. The trip is a rather long one over very crooked roads which, for the most part, are very bumpy. We took with us a group of brethren from Manila so that they could attend the lectures in Baguio City and keep us from getting lost.
On the way to Baguio City we stopped in a small place called Bagbag of the barrio Bauang. Here we both spoke in the back yard of the house of Brother Joseph Cruz. Brother Castorio Gamit also spoke, summarizing what we both had said and spoke in Tagalog, the native language for most on Luzon. We had to leave around 3:30 p.m. in order to get to Baguio before darkness came, but there were five baptized there in the South China Sea that afternoon. While we were there we learned that there are a few churches in the area of Bagbag that are not accessible by car, jeep or whatever.
Brother Cruz and another preacher both walked back across the hills for an hour and a half to get to a place they called Santa Monica. They do this each week and report that the church there is sound and that people are receptive to the word.
The trip to Baguio was a very difficult one. The bus was packed to the limit. The roads were extremely narrow, winding and rough. The bus driver drove as fast as he could get the antiquated machine to travel. I saw a breath taking scene behind us of the sun setting over the China Sea. As hard as I tried, I was not able to get a suitable picture of it with my camera because of the roughness of the road and the swiftness of our bus. We arrived in Baguio just after sunset and were greeted by several of the brethren. We went to our hotel for the night. Our series of lessons began the next morning in the rented basement of the meeting house owned by the United Church of Christ in the
Philippines. In the next installment I will report on the events that took place in Baguio City.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 37, pp. 8-10
July 27, 1972