Another Trip to the Philippine Islands

By Jim McDonald

God is being glorified as the gospel of his Son is being heralded forth. Yes, the fields are still white unto harvest in the Philippine Islands.

I spent from October 21 to November 15 on a sixth trip to the Philippines. This was a hastily arranged one for originally I had planned to make my next trip in February or March of 1997. But I had received many letters which produced much concern in me for the work and prompted me to decide to return earlier than plans called for. Despite the brief time I had to get ready, brethren responded immediately and generously to my appeals for funds to make the journey. No one traveled with me this trip, but I was under God’s care and safely protected by loving Filipino brethren.

This trip was designed to be seminars for preachers. I made few plans to do “village preaching” in the different areas. Travels did not carry me beyond Luzon. One-day seminars were scheduled in Maria (Kapit-bahayan, Novatas); Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur, Sinait, Ilocos Sur; Bagan, Isabela; Cordon, Isabela and Resurreccion, Pangasinan. Three topics were discussed in each of these classes: “The Covenants”; “Elders, Evangelists and Mutual-Edification” and “Romans Fourteen.” I had prepared lesson sheets to be handed out to each student as well as other reading material. Interest was high in all the seminars and approximately 225 preachers attended the six seminars.

About 20-25 brethren met my plane when I arrived in Manila late Tuesday evening, October 22. Sleep did not come easily that night although I was weary from travel. But since the seminar was scheduled for Thursday the 24th I had one day to prepare and rest and I was refreshed when the seminar did begin in Kapitbahayan, home of Ben Cruz. About 35-40 Manila area preachers attended the classes.

The development of the Kapitbahayan church since I was last there is gratifying. The church has appointed three elders and has been strengthened from a merger with a nearby church. The latter church was part of a group of brethren who were reconciled earlier this year to other Manila brethren. Originally separated because of the “blood issue” among Manila preachers, the issue was resolved between the two churches and merger resulted. This was good for the congregations were worshiping separately just a block or two from each another.

Even more thrilling is the historic step the congregation has made toward “self-help.” Earlier this year an Arkansas church had provided support for Ben to air a radio program, the only radio program among brethren I know of in this city of 8-12 million people. When those funds stopped a couple or three months ago and Ben faced the decision to cease his program, the brethren there determined they would provide necessary funds for it to continue  and so they have, with the congregation providing half of the $200 monthly cost and Ben’s daughter and son-in-law providing the other half. This is an historic step for a congregation.

Other signs of spiritual growth are evident as well: providing regular re-lief to some of its indigent widows, providing some travel expenses to some of its preachers who go out each week to preach for other congregations, and providing medical help to its indigent ill. We were told that weekly contributions average between 3,500-4,000 (about $130-$150)  extraordinarily high by Philippine standards.

I spoke briefly to the congregation on Sunday, October 27 commending them for these steps and assuring them that taking on the financial obligation of the radio program was one of the greatest things they could do to assure American brethren that Filipino churches were developing; trying to stand on their own two feet.

On Saturday night, October 26, I spoke to a group of folk in Cainta, Rizal (Metro-Manila). The circumstances which resulted in this meeting were very interesting. Jun Apatan and Luis Calipayan from Pagadian City, Mindanao, had been wanting to make this trip to Manila for months. Members from Mindanao had moved to Manila and were “lost in the shuffle” as so often happens. Additionally, Luis had been studying for several years with relatives of his in Cainta who were associated with the Baptist church. They had indicated interest in obedience to the gospel. So Luis and Jun had come to Manila (and Cainta) to spend a week of preaching in the home of Luis’ relatives. Saturday night was the first public gathering of these folk, then they met for worship the next day. During the days that followed 10-14 people were baptized and several who were already members, but not in worship, came and joined themselves to the new converts. A new congregation of 15-20 members now meets in the home of one who was formerly a Baptist.

Sunday, October 27, after worship in Manila, Fred Agulto, Narcissus Romeo and Ben Cruz carried me to Angeles City. We arrived at the building just before services ended and I had opportunity to speak briefly to the congregation there. I had planned for brethren from one region to carry me to my next region and so I could travel briefly with several preachers and not interfere too much with any of their regular schedules. I spent the night and next morning in Angeles City, trying to bring about the restoration of a brother who was estranged from other brethren in the area. We rejoice that this was accomplished.

Baguio City was next on my schedule. Lordy Salunga and Rick Darasin from Angeles accompanied me there. I had not planned a seminar for Baguio; it was my purpose to visit a printer who had printed hymnbooks for brethren and to come to terms about an additional printing. Over the years 8-10,000 hymnbooks (two different dialects; Ilocano and Tagalog) havebeen printed in Baguio City for congregations, but Andrew Gawe had made those former arrangements. Now Andrew is in California and it was necessary that I personally order more hymnals. An order for 2,000 was placed (1,000 each in the two dialects); and half of the printing ($1,900) was paid for. The other half will be paid when the songbooks are finished. I said goodbye to Lordy and Rick and two new preachers (Mark Bayado and Andrew Burgos) now accompanied me to San Fernando, La Union where I spent time with Bert Enastacion.

Bert carried me still northward to Santa Matia, Ilocos Sur where my second seminar was scheduled for Thursday, October 31. About 20 preachers attended that one day session with some attending from Abra, a nearby province into which I have not yet ventured but plan to do so some time this next year. Brethren are struggling in this area but the preacher of Santa Maria (Romeo Torreliza) has a radio program and is having some results from it. The Axton, Virginia church (which provides some support for some of the preachers of this region) had asked that I carry funds from them into this region that had been recently hard hit by a typhoon. According to their wishes, those funds were divided between two congregations that had suffered the most from the force of the typhoon.

Egdon Sabio, an engineer who works in a supervisory capacity for the region’s power company but who also preaches, picked me up in Santa Maria and carried me still further northward to Sinait, Ilocos Sur. Egdon has translated one of my English tracts into Ilocano and provided many useful services to me while I was in the region. I am greatly indebted to him. I conducted my third seminar on Friday, November 1 in Sinait, home of Materno Sibayan. Between 55-60 preachers were in attendance. The church is strong and progressing well in this region. The Sinait church has built a shed to worship under and walls will beadded as time and funds allow. Several congregations have begun out of Sinait but still the congregation has an attendance of 65-70. Mat also preaches for the Laoag City church (another congregation which has recently appointed elders). The Laoag church has paid for property and will soon begin a building  without help from American brethren, they emphasize. I expect to see a building begun by the time I make another visit to that region in 1997.

Visiting the Ilocos area is always a highlight of any trip I make to the Philippines and I spent six days in the region. Brethren planned a lectureship on Saturday (November 2) and between 500-600 folks were in attendance. I spoke twice that day and my lessons were translated by competent preachers of the region. The lectureship also provided opportunity for brethren to solemnize the marriage of three couples who were subsequently baptized that same day. The practice of “living together” is common but brethren in this region will not baptize such folks until first they legalize their marriages, a stand I highly appreciate and applaud.

I had planned that what “village preaching” I would do would be largely done here in the Ilocos region but unfortunately those plans had to be laid aside. I “picked up a bug” somewhere along the way. Although I had struggled with nausea, high fever, and all attendant problems through the seminar and lectureship, I finally had to be hospitalized for a day to get some dextrose and medicine to help me throw off the infection. But, although I could not keep my schedules, brethren could and did. During the lectureship in Sinait and then in Escoda, Marcos, Ilocos Norte, 67 were baptized (there was a total of about 87 during the 3 ‘h weeks I was there). These baptisms were not the result of any work I had done; Ilocos brethren and preachers and other areas had taught these folks who came to obedience during the time of this visit. I rejoiced to see such response to the gospel.

Two young preachers, Gil Caindec and Larry Guillermo, accompanied me from Laoag City to Tuguegarao, Cagayan. Only two days had been scheduled for Tuguegarao and my hospital confinement cut that to one day. The bus journey was memorable, if not comfortable. Going around this northern tip of Luzon from Laoag City to Tuguegarao (6-8 hours) carries one by some of the most scenic views of the Philip-pines  in my judgment. The highway travels along the seashore for many kilometers and because the region is mountainous, provides one breath-taking scene after an-other. From high on the mountain one surveys the sea and sees the different shades and hues of its water: dark and light blue; brown; green  a glorious picture never yet captured by an artist’s brush. But the journey is an arduous one and we happened to be traveling on an “antique bus” which in America would have been consigned to a junkyard 15-20 years ago. Evidences of the recent typhoons were on every hand  banana and coconut trees were laid waste and rice fields deluged with mud slides and rocks from the mountains. Our bus trip finally came to a halt at Amalong, Cagayan. The typhoon had caused a bridge to collapse over a deep river and there was no way for vehicles to cross. We carried my baggage across on a foot bridge and got on a bus from the other side to travel to Tuguegarao  about 30 minutes away.

Tuguegarao, Cagayan was one of the major reasons for my decision to make this trip. A problem between some of the preachers because of charges that one of the region’s most prominent preachers had acted improperly with funds he had received from American churches has brought about a bitter division between preachers of the area. Since all those involved are dear friends, it was my ardent hope that reconciliation might be brought about between them. Such was not to be. While some progress was made, feelings were still strong and too complex to be settled by such a short visit. I pray that a proper accounting will soon be made that will clarify, rectify, and restore unity to these brethren. Promises were made toward that end but more time is needed for the work to resume to normalcy and for brethren to turn full attention once more to preaching the gospel and saving souls.

My fourth seminar was held Friday, November 8 in Ilagan, Isabela where Mariano Bilgerio preaches. About 40-45 preachers attended the classes which were conducted in a sports complex which has facilities for such a seminar. This was a critical region because here “Mutual Edification” brethren had expended great effort and the region also has been used to provide a pulpit to promote the “one covenant doctrine” (“Christ nailed no law to the cross, he nailed sin to the cross”). Although our classes on all three subjects met its greatest resistance here with intense questions from some of the attending preachers, I believe much good was done; that most brethren were guided back to understand that not only sin but the law was nailed to the cross, as wellas to understand that the “weak in faith” brother of Romans 14 was weak in his faith about matters of indifference, not in matters of “the faith.” In addition to the seminar, we spent hours in private study with some of the area preachers and rejoiced to see a Pentecostal preacher confess faith in Christ and be baptized.

Our fifth seminar was in Cordon, Isabela, home of Domie Jacob. Domie is a good man with a highly effective radio program. He carried me to visit the location of a new congregation (Villa Rose, Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya) which was begun as a direct result of his program. These brethren have a crude building but no seats. Funds were provided to help them buy lumber for “plank benches,” a blackboard, and Bibles. Twenty-four preachers attended the Cardon seminar.

My sixth and final seminar was held Wednesday, November 13 in Resurreccion, Pangisanan, home of Hilario Wanasen. Resurreccion has been the center from which the doctrine of mutual-edification and no-located doctrines has been propagated by American preachers. In the November issue of the Gospel Message (publication of these brethren and edited by Tom Woody, Brighton Illinois), Jay Graham of Lakewood, Colorado reports of his October 1996 visit. He writes: “We arrived at Resurreccion . . . and stayed at the home of Haler Wanasen. It was a joy to renew fellow-ship with the church there on Lord’s Day morning. They were one of the first churches to receive us, and I have learned through their example of the knowledge and love for the truth that many Filipinos share this ability to discern the truth and desire to follow it. Their example of an eldership, mutual edification, and their sending out Roger and Hilario as evangelists is a light to other churches and brethren desiring to follow the NT pattern . . .” Paradoxically, although brother Graham commends the Resurrecion church for “their example of an Eldership, mutual edification, and their sending out Roger and Hilario,” the Resurreccion church does not follow the practice of “mutual-edification” brethren here in the States. True, the Resurreccion church has elders (of which brother Hilario is not one), but brother Hilario (“sent out by the Resurreccion elders”) has gone no place; he still is in Resurreccion, preaching regularly each Sunday, a “no-no” for the “no-located preacher” theory. As to Roger and brother Hilario, they both preach every Sunday to the same congregations.

One of the inconsistencies of the Mutual Edification brethren in the States is they laud brother Hilario Wanasen and the Resurreccion church as “a light to other churches and brethren desiring to follow the NT pattern” but would condemn the American preachers and churches who follow the same practice here in the States. One cannot but ask, “Why are brother Hilario and Resurreccion `lights to other churches and brethren desiring to follow the NT pattern’ only lights to Philippine brethren and not to American brethren as well?” As to our seminar in Resurreccion, the teaching was well received and we are fully persuaded that most of the brethren finally discerned what the issue is and rejected the doctrine. What brethren at Resurreccion and churches in that region will do remains to be seen but the church urged that I return again in 1997, which invitation I accepted, if the Lord will. My plans for 1997 are for two visits: one in May to Mindoro, Palawan, Cebu, Oriental Negros (perhaps) and Mindanao. In the fall it is my purpose to return again to Luzon and visit new regions into which I have never gone before, as well as other areas al-ready familiar to me.

The need for support for worthy men is still great. I have been able to personally see the growth of the gospel in regions where several brethren have support and thus are able to give themselves to the work versus areas where brethren have little or no support. Almost invariably in the first areas the work is thriving and the other languishes. There are problems to be sure, and we recommend that all brethren or churches who provide support to Filipino brethren require full accounting of what churches provide support (and how much). Honorable brethren there will not be of-fended by such a request, knowing that the circumstances demand such information. I have the names of several men who deserve support and who either are woefully short ofwhat they need or have no support at all. I will be happy to provide names of such men to those who are interested in supporting godly, faithful men in the Philippine Islands.

Constantly there are requests for reference books, English Bibles, songbooks, and communion trays. Do you have books you would give to worthy Philippine brethren  debate books, concordances, classics (The New Testament Church and Walking by Faith, Roy Cogdill; God’s Prophetic Word, Foy E. Wallace; debate books; commentaries Acts, by McGarvey; Revelation, Homer Hailey; Romans, R.L. Whiteside, etc.)? I will supply you the names of brethren requesting such works, or if you wish to send such books to me they’ll be passed on  in your name.

The work goes on. Souls are baptized daily. Problems exist both with ethics and doctrines. But there are strong, capable brethren who are busy at work and in whom confidence can be placed in their trustworthiness and ability. God is being glorified as the gospel of his Son is being heralded forth. Yes, the fields are still white unto harvest in the Philippine Islands.

Guardian of Truth XLI: 5 p. 16-19
March 6, 1997