Preaching in the Philippines (I)
Connie W. Adams
J. T. Smith and I have recently returned from the Philippines, having spent the month of May preaching on three of the major islands and conducting a debate on Mindanao. Since Cecil Willis and Roy Cogdill visited the brethren in the Philippines last year and gave extensive reports on the background of the islands and the work of the Lord there, I think it not necessary to recite the material which they covered along this line.
Occasion for the Trip
Since their trip last year, Filipino brethren had been urging that some American brethren come again this year to participate with them in lecture programs in as many places as possible. For awhile it seemed none would go this year. Then J. T. Smith received a debate challenge from Brother Eusebio M. Lacuata on the island of Mindanao. He had read J. T.'s tract entitled Institutionalism Why I Changed and sent two signed propositions for debate, one of the church's responsibility in benevolence and the other affirming, that 'in both benevolence and evangelism one church could send through another church. I am confident brother Lacuata was one surprised Filipino when he received his propositions signed and assurance from J.T. that he would be coming to meet him. Faithful brethren in the islands had already engaged him in debate and there were some standing but unanswered challenges from brethren there. He is still faced with other challenges from such men as Romulo B. Agduma of Mindanao and Victorio Tibayan of Luzon.
After consulting with Brother Smith, who felt that someone else should go with him, I agreed to make arrangements to go. The brethren here were very gracious in assisting me and both individuals and congregations contributed to make the trip possible for both of us. When the Filipino brethren learned of our coming, they immediately began to make plans for us to visit and speak in as many places as possible during the month of May.
Arrival And First Impressions
I am sure our Filipino brethren will pardon a few references to the impressions an American receives upon first arriving in that country. We arrived early in the morning of May I and were met by a contingent of 25 or 30 brethren, some of whom had come some distance to greet us. Lovely wreaths of flowers were draped about our necks by -some Of the sisters and we were warmly received by preaching brethren, many of whom we recognized from pictures. We were then greeted by the ever dependable Tan brothers, Rodi and Philip, who escorted brethren Cogdill and Willis in their travels on Luzon last year. They loaded our baggage in *eir Ford and drove us, in the company of Victorio Tibayan, to our hotel.
The first impressions of an American being driven across the city of Manila is hard to describe. The presence of colorful Jeepneys everywhere, the open buses, and the near misses while negotiating traffic provides a breathtaking experience. At first I did not really believe what I was seeing. There are no distinct traffic lanes. A driver makes a lane wherever he can squeeze in. There are no speed limits in Manila. At intersection where there are no traffic lights, it is a case of who can pull the biggest bluff. While we were there we rode with a number of taxi drivers and never saw one lose his composure over traffic snarls and near misses. Indeed there seems to be a mutual respect for the fellow who can bluff you out!
Other such impressions were to accumulate as the days passed. One thing which is at first
a little frightening is the sight of any number of people wearing guns. On a flight to Mindanao, the captain's voice came over the speaker requesting that all passengers turn in their weapons to the stewardess and that these would be returned at their destination. A well-dressed man right in front of us pulled a pistol from his belt and handed it over. We saw men on the street, on buses, boats and planes with weapons on their persons. On one stretch of road on Mindanao where a number of marauding bands of hoodlums had been terrorizing the countryside, including burning 400 houses in one town, we passed through several military check-points where close inspection of the bus and baggage occurred. Of course, this is rather disconcerting to an American unaccustomed to such matters. But the brethren were very solicitous of our welfare.
Preaching In The Manila Area
Pasay. On Sunday morning we worshipped with the church in Pasay City, a suburb of Manila where Victorio Tibayan is the preacher. The church there meets in the second floor of a building over a busy street. The meeting room overflowed into a hallway and there were about 50 present in all. J. T. spoke at the Bible Study period and I preached at the worship hour. There were three who requested baptism. The church in Pasay'is making progress under the able teaching of brother Tibayan, one of the ablest men we met. We were pleased to meet two Americans, Fred and Linda Garrett who must leave home before six on Sunday morning, and change buses several times to get to Pasay. Fred is stationed at Subic Bay Naval Base. It is wonderful to meet young Christians so far from home who are faithful to the Lord.
We spent that afternoon in the home of Manuel Saez, an elder in a congregation which had been identified with the Christian Church, but which had been moving back nearer and nearer the truth for some years. They had already broken with the Missionary Society over the question of church autonomy and over a year ago changed their sign to read "the Church of Christ meets here." After studying with him some points of difference he stated that he wanted us to speak for them the following evening and that he would prepare the way for our coming in his remarks before the church that evening. He wanted us to come and forthrightly discuss our differences in light of the Bible. More on that later.
Tondo. That evening we preached in Tondo, perhaps the poorest section of Manila. It is hard to imagine how many people are congested into that area. The church meets in the house of a brother Cruz, who is the preacher there. About 30 people can be seated in the house. Others collect before the windows in a sort of courtyard outside. Two more requested baptism. Both of us preached to appreciative listeners. Incidentally, Brother Cruz has recently lost his support which will also put the church in Tondo out of a meeting place unless it is found somewhere soon. He was providing the cost of a meeting place out of his income. It is simple, brethren, no income, no house ... no house, no meeting place for the church in Tondo.
Dian, Makati. The following evening we both spoke to the group mentioned earlier where brother Saez is one of four elders. I preached on Bible authority and J. T. then spoke specifically on the areas of difference between us. We then had a lengthy open forum in which there was much discussion about these points. The major differences were the use of the organ and choirs. There were some other matters in the realm of local customs which some were disposed to make equal with the law of God. We left that night thinking that perhaps we had mishandled the matter. Neither of us rested well. But the next afternoon, the elders sent for us and requested a meeting for that night. We met with the four elders, four deacons together with brethren Tibayan, Azcarraga, Hayuhay, Cruz- Magbanua and two or three others. These brethren had been teaching these people at every opportunity. In fact, a few years before, Carlos Awarraga had been their fulltime preacher until he learned the errors of the Christian Church and left to stand upon the truth. He had done much work in preparation for this moment. Also, Isabela Hayuhay had been their preacher until over a year ago when he, too, left them to stand upon the word of God. These events had done much to shake up the thinking of these people. Hayuhay had been a preacher for 20 years with the Christian Church and for several years was the official director of choir directors for the Philippines. Before we arrived, the elders had made their desires known and stated that they were going to remove their unscriptural practices and that they had arranged for Carlos Azcarraga to move and be their preacher once again, only this time they would all stand together in the truth of Christ. They had already agreed as to how much support they would be able to supply. They kept their word, for I returned and preached there the last Sunday night we were in the islands and the organ had been removed and the choir disbanded. The whole .congregation has remained intact. There are 80 members. They have a nice meeting place in a good section, not too far from where faithful brethren meet in Pasay City. I regard this as perhaps the most significant development of our trip. Azcarraga is a mature and experienced preacher of great ability. He will do a good work. That means he will be leaving the work in Infanta where he had been laboring. He will be replaced there by Noli Villamor, a very able young preacher who has been supporting himself as a radio, announcer while he preached the gospel in that area.
I have never met a more impressive man than Manuel Saez. Not only did he want to be right, but was anxious for the whole flock to accept the whole truth. The other elders concurred, but he, was the guiding force. There are some very fine people in the church at Makati and I am anticipating many good things in the work of Christ from those brethren.
The church at Makati had been approached by several religious groups after it became independent from the Christian Church. In fact, Ray Bryan of the liberal brethren had talked with them. It was their impression that his appeal to them was based on compromise and an ignoring of differences. In fact, some years ago, when Victorio Tibayan was yet with the liberals, he tried to talk with them and win them over, and they rejected him when he explained to them about the sponsoring church. Brother Saez commented, "We had just got out of one missionary society and did not want to go into another one."
The brethren there feel that this is a major breakthrough and will open other doors to bring back conservative minded People among the Christian Churches in the islands. Both Azcarraga and Hayuhay are well known and respected among many congregations of those people. Hayuhay organized the choirs in many of them. We are hoping and praying that this will be the first of a number of congregations that will come all the way to the truth.
Next week - Preaching and Debating in Mindanao.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 34, pp. 6-8