By Jim McDonald
There are some areas in the Philippines in which a large concentration of congregations already exists. These congregations have no P.O. Box or street address with a neat little building and nicely painted sign giving times of worship, and the name of the preacher with telephone numbers to call for further information. Their building (if they have one at all) will likely be a “nipa hut,” perhaps a “shed” (large corner posts and an iron roof) or in a rarer instance, a crude, hollow block building. Still such are just as much Christ’s congregations as are their American counterparts with all our finery and “trappings.”
Central and northern Luzon have several such areas. There are pockets of congregations in varying numbers and sizes to be found in Manila, Angeles City, Baguio City, Laoag City and Tuguegarao. The llocos region (north-west Luzon: Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur), the Cagayhan valley region and the Isabela province are blessed with many groups and disciples. In Mindanao there are also several areas with large concentration of churches.
On the other hand, there are some areas in which there is a dearth of churches. We traveled from Cagayan de Oro City to Iligan City (Northern Mindanao), a distance of 65 kilometers and passed through ten municipalities without a single congregation. To be registered as a municipality an area must have at least 50,000 population, thus the region through which we passed had a minimum of 500,000 folk untouched by the gospel. We traveled in southern Luzon from Manila to Matnog by bus to catch a ferry to Samar, a trip of 18-20 hours. We found very few congregations yet this is a vast area with some very large cities. As we ferried from South Luzon to northern Samar (a voyage of 3-4 hours) we passed several “islets” which no doubt are thickly populated but on which there were no congregations, at least to the knowledge of our Filipino companions. Such areas are “virgin fields.” We landed at Allen in northern Samar, an-other region almost totally devoid of disciples for only one congregation is known in this whole region, a small congregation at Tinabacan. Some months ago Ben Cruz, veteran preacher from Manila came in contact with a Seventh Day Adventist preacher from this place and in the process of time both preacher and almost the whole congregation were converted to Christ. Obviously, in a just a few months, their knowledge of the gospel is stilt very elementary.
Having learned of this work and manifesting to Ben an interest in seeing it first hand, he, four other Filipino brethren (Fred and Romeo Aguelto, Rey Tacbad and Cecilio Galusmo), and I made a tedious journey to Tinabacan. I preached here one night and baptized three or four by lantern light. Then we doubled back to Palanit, a sea-coast village on the west side of the island. There was no congregation in Palanit, either although we found 3 or 4 disciples, converts from Ben’s efforts at Tinabacan.
Patanit is the hometown of Cecilio, a young Samarian of about 30 years of age. We met Cecilio in February 1993 on our first trip to the Philippines. Cecilio left Samar when he graduated from high school and came to Manila to attend college. There he met and married the young woman who is his wife and who also is a Christian. Through her influence (along with the help of others) Cecilio obeyed the gospel. Although Cecilio is college trained he could find no way to support himself other than by peddle-cycle; he was a sort of “taxi driver” save that in this instance his “taxi” was a bicycle with a side car added to convey passengers. Such is hard, physical labor producing a bare minimum in pesos but from this meager income Cecilio’s family lives. He had preached in several Manila congregations and had come in contact with a group of deaf Christians who had received a correspondence course sent out by institutional brethren called the “World Bible.” They identified themselves as the “World Bible Church.” Cecilio “instructed them in the way of the Lord more perfectly” supplying teaching that brought them to fuller knowledge of truth. In the fall or early winter of 1994 the Southside church in Mt. Pleasant, Texas began having fellowship with Cecilio, allowing him to give up his “pedo-cycle” job to give full time to preaching.
We preached one night in the street of Patanit. About 40 adults gathered together to hear us patiently, then to ask questions of our Filipino brethren about “our beliefs.” They were especially surprised (and impressed) to see in our company one of their own who had been a devout Catholic when he left their midst some years before. None was baptized that night but subsequent trips that Cecilio has made there has produced several baptisms. Denominations are just be-ginning to be introduced into the region; we saw a group of Seventh Day Adventists, but no others. Still, the people will listen and obey if they are given exposure to the Word.
Cecilio is willing and desirous to return home with the gospel to his people. He has support, although he needs more and such an one as Cecilio is needed in this island. He is young, and while has some growing in knowledge to do, he is energetic and, so far as I can ascertain, well grounded in the faith. Funds have been provided for him to buy a lot to build a dual purpose nipa hut on: a house for him to house his family and a place which will also serve as a place for brethren to worship in. Funds for this latter are still needed and $600 – $700 will take care of this need. Cecilio also needs transportation. A good second-hand motorcycle can be bought for $1,500. To move about as he will need to move about, he needs his own transportation. And, to aid the work in the entire region, he needs funds to air a radio program, about $100 a month.
I have seen the patience of the people of this area to listen. I have witnessed their interest and perception in the questions they asked. That many souls can be taught and saved in not only this village but in the many other villages of this northern part of Samar I have no doubt but they cannot believe if they do not hear. In Samar the “fields are white unto harvest, but the laborers are few. Pray ye the Lord of harvest to send forth reapers into his vineyard.”
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: No. 23, p. 6-7
December 7, 1995