Our Preaching Trip to the Philippines (II)

Cecil Willis
Marion, Indiana

Our arrival in Manila via Pan American Clipper was slightly delayed, due to work being done at night to extend the runway to make possible the landing of the new gigantic 747's. As soon as we deplaned, the temperature and the humidity assured us that we had indeed arrived in the Philippines.

About thirty brethren from Luzon met Brother Cogdill and me at the Manila International Airport. We arrived at 8:30 A.M., May 18th. Some of the brethren had come 200 miles by bus to meet us, and some at the airport since very early in the. The Manila International Airport is constantly a seething mass of people. But we soon contacted the brethren who had come to meet us. Some of the preachers with had corresponded and who met us were Victorio Tibayan (of Manila), Castorio Gamit (of Angeles City) and Julian Felix of Moncado. There were many others there also.

We spent most of Monday (the 18th) with brethren in the Manila area. Reservations had been made at the Intercontinental Hotel through Pan American Airlines.We stayed there two nights.

Shortly before we left the States, Brother Jimmy Tuten of the Spring and Blaine church in St. Louis called me to tell me that one of their members was a doctor from the Philippines, Dr. Levy Maravilla. Dr. Maravilla wanted me to call him before I left. When I did so, he told me that he had two nephews in Manila, and he would wire them to meet us at the Airport. These nephews, Rodi and Felipe Tan, proved to be a tremendous help to us. They owned an automobile. We did not meet a single brother in all the churches we visited who owned an automobile. This telephone conversation proved to be the most valuable and helpful preparation we made.

The Tan brothers were Catholic. Their father, who owned a wholesale grocery business, was Buddhist. Yet it would have been impossible for any person on earth to have shown us greater hospitality over the entire period of our stay in the Philippines, or to have been more helpful to us than were all the members of the Tan family, but particularly Rodi and Felipe. They left their work for six days to accompany us and to provide us protection and transportation. We shall forever be indebted to them for their assistance in our travel there. Some good Bible discussions were conducted with them while there, and arrangements were made for Brother Victorio Tibayan to conduct some Bible studies in Rodi Tan's home.

Services At Pasay

Services were conducted on Monday night the 18th at Pasay City, a southern suburb of Manila. Brother Tibayan works regularly with this church. They rent a hall for $20 per month on a very busy and noisy street in Manila. There are no windows on either side of the hall, and the only ventilation comes from opening the entire rear of the hall: But the hall opens very close to the street (perhaps 8 ft. from it). We found that the most essential piece of equipment on a vehicle in the Philippines is a horn. Hence, there is much noise from the street that invades the services at Pasay City. It would do many Americans much good to worship in such a noisy place. It would teach us how to concentrate on our worship.

Brother Cogdill and I had been up nearly 48 hours by the time of the services in Pasay City. We already were very tired. I had preached in Honolulu (Waipahu church Saturday night before, and we had enroute during the interim. I preached at Pasay City on Monday night. It was oppressively hot, at/east to me. Even our country, I am hot when no one else

I was plenty hot there.

When the invitation was extended, men and a woman responded. The older had been a Catholic. Brother Tibayan been studying with him for about a went immediately to Manila Bay baptizing of these three. About 200 from where these were baptized wreckage o~ a Japanese submarine, had washed inland during the past a century.

The brethren invited me to do the baptizing, which I would have been honored to get to do, except for one problem. The largest washable pants any Filipino in the crowd were 32 inches at the waist, and I could not, squeeze my 38 inches into them. There was great joy among all the brethren as these three were buried with Christ, and raised walk the new life. It was a spiritually moving experience to join in the singing both before and after the baptizing. I did have a little difficulty making the song "Shall We Gather at the River" fit the occasion as we stood in the night by the Pacific Ocean. But we all understood why we had come, and we all rejoiced in the occasion. After all, no one has written a song entitled "Shall We Gather at the Ocean."

A Legal Problem

For about three years urgent requests had been received that some American preachers visit with the conservative brethren in the Philippines. A legal problem had been encountered upon which some assistance was needed. Since Brother Cogdill is a formally trained lawyer, I had recommended to the Philippine brethren that they ask him to come. Brother Cogdill then insisted that I accompany him.

The Philippine government is largely under Catholic dominion, since the population is nearly 85 per cent Catholic. For reasons of their own, but which are unknown to me, the Philippine government requires that a federated head of each religious organization be registered with the Security Rand Exchange Commission. In substance, they require that each religious body operating in the Philippines have a Headquarters through which all legal matters are conducted. They intend for this Headquarter organization to secure permits to hold title to property, secure permission to conduct public meetings (such as debates, worship services, etc.), to have a bank account, and to solemnize marriages.

This legal provision apparently has caused our liberal brethren little or no difficulty, since they are not averse to centralized control. But the conservative brethren believe and practice congregational independence and autonomy. This conviction on their part therefore had made impossible their compliance with this portion of the Philippine constitution.

All properties owned by the churches therefore had to be in the name of individuals. Brother Cogdill proposed that a trust agreement be drawn up between the congregation and their trustees, much like the ones used in this country. He provided them with a copy of a ten page trust agreement which clearly defined the role of the trustees, and thereby protected the interest of the church.

I would like to be able to report that this portion of our trip was one hundred per cent successful, but such was not the case. Brother Cogdill had a lengthy discussion regarding the matter with a Manila lawyer. But this lawyer had difficulty grasping our concept of congregational independence, and was not familiar immediately witl0 specific law that might pertain to the case.

Consequently, Brother Cogdill is going to pursue the inquiry about the legal difficulty further through correspondence with this Manila lawyer. The Manila lawyer thought ff specific questions were written, he then could do careful research in Philippine law regarding each point. We hope that some scriptural solution can be found, and meanwhile a careful and persistent effort toward that objective will be made.

If worst came to worst, the brethren would have to do as Peter and the other apostles in Acts 5:29 did when they said, "We must obey God rather than man." The property-owning aspect of the problem can be and is being handled by a trustee arrangement. Fortunately, there is not too much disposition on the part of the government to prevent public assemblies for worship. At least, we encountered no such opposition while we were there. However, a street debate (and this is where many of their frequent debates are held) might be a different matter. But as this aspect of the problem of our Philippine brethren progresses, a report will be made to you.

Into Tarlac

After the services at Pasay City, we got up at 5 A.M. the next morning to visit with some of the brethren North of Manila, on the island of Luzon. Actually Luzon embraces more than just one island. Brother Tibayan informed us that it was quite dangerous for Americans to go into the area North of Manila where we wanted to visit with brethren. He said that the danger was such that he had not announced where we were going, lest some plot be made against us. Instead, he said that we would rush into the areas where we needed to go, conduct services and visit with the brethren, and hurriedly leave before any plots might be laid and carried out.

Much of the area North of Manila is under control of the Huks (Communists in the Philippines, much like the Viet Vietnam). In some provinces where wanted to go, a virtual state of civil existed. In Tarlac, government armed were being helicoptered into positions in an effort to trap an armed of Huks consisting of several hundred The day we were in Tarlac a large Huk weapons were found along traveled.

It was a little disconcerting Americans to have to pass through check-points every eight or ten miles. Some of these check-points were sand bagged since they had been ambushed so many times. On the top of the sand bags set a machine gun. The men manning these check-points were armed with sub-machine guns, as well as with other types of weapons. Indeed, a state of war existed.

We visited with Brother Castorio Gamit and the other brethren in Angeles City. Angeles City has a population of about 300,000, and is adjacent to the large U.S.

military installation, Clark Air Force Base, upon which about 60,000 people work. The church in Angeles City where most of the Clark service men worship is under the control of very liberal-brethren. It was in Angeles City that I had my first bowl of "Bird Nest Soup," which is made out of a bird nest!

Brother Gamit, who is an able preacher, and a few others meet in his home. Brethren in the States who support a Filipino preacher need to consider that in nearly every instance, out of the preacher's salary he also has to provide a place for the church to meet. Due to the legal difficulty just mentioned, and also due to the poverty of most churches, the preacher's home also has to become the place where the church meets. Such is the case m Angeles City. Brother Gamit has rented a nice residence which is spacious enough that the church also can meet there. During all our travel in the Philippines, we only saw two properties owned by churches of Christ--at least by conservative churches. I think we did also see two meeting houses owned by liberal churches.

If American brethren would keep in mind that that Brother Gamit and the faithful brethren in Angeles City are adjacent to the mammom Clark Air Force Base, I feel sure that there would be some American brethren assigned to Clark who would prefer to work with a faithful church, rather than with the very liberal congregation in Angeles City. For the help of those who might be interested, Castorio Gamit's address is 2386 Entierro St., Angeles City C-201, Republic of the Philippines. Keep in mind this also is the address of the church for which Brother Gamit preaches.

Brother Gamit is somewhat handicapped in working with the brethren at Clark Base. Since Gamit is a Filipino, he is not allowed on the base unless someone on the base requests that he come to see them. It therefore becomes very important for anyone being assigned to Clark, who wishes to worship where Brother Gamit preaches, to contact him since he is not allowed to come on the base to contact you. A letter to him before you {or your loved one} arrives at Clark would be helpful to all concerned.

We had a nice visit with the Angeles City brethren, but soon proceeded northward to meet Brother Julian Felix and the brethren at Moncado. We greatly regretted unavoidably disappointing some brethren further north who were awaiting us. Brother Felix personally apologized to them for us, and we have also done so by letter. We were unable to go as far North as we had planned to go, due to a break down of a rented car. Too, Tibayan had informed us that it would be unwise for us to spend the night in Tarlac due to the presence of Huks. There might have been some additional danger because we were Americans. Not being ourselves familiar with the situation and circumstances we felt we should follow the advice of Brother Tibayan, and returned late Tuesday night, May 19th.

We did, however, have a nice visit with the brethren at Moncado. Both Brother Cogdill and I spoke very briefly in Moncado. The brethren there had prepared for us a sumptuous meal which we much enjoyed. We regretted our delayed arrival due to mechanical failure of the rented automobile.

From Moncado we proceeded perhaps twenty miles further North to Urdaneta and met a few brethren there. Brother Cogdill personally secured and paid a month's rent on a suitable place in which the church could meet. Though there were 24 members there, the church in Urdaneta had been neglected, untaught, and therefore had ceased to meet regularly. Brother Julian Felix said he and another brother would meet with them and work with them in an effort to revive regular meetings and to regain some of the ground that had been lost in that place.

Return to Manila

We were scheduled to leave Manila airport at 6: 00 A.M. the next day (Wednesday, May 20th) for Mindanao. We therefore had left early Tuesday morning for our trip North-ward. We had hoped to get back in Manila by 4:00 P.M. However, it turned out to be 9:00 P.M. when we arrived at the hotel Tuesday night. We had to get up about 4: 00 A.M. to catch a 6:00 A.M. flight. Consequently we had very little rest Tuesday night.

Our next scheduled work was on the island of Mindanao, which is about 700 miles south of Manila. I will relate incidents regarding our travel and work there in an article to follow.


August 6, 1970