By Jim McDonald
“And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: and Jesus also was bidden, and his disciples, to the marriage”( John 2:1f). Inasmuch as God himself saw the need that man has for a mate and filled that need with the creation of Eve, it was altogether fitting that Jesus should attend such a ceremony. We have both attended and performed wedding ceremonies here in the States and have witnessed a great number of Philippine weddings. The first Filipino wedding I saw was in Ilocos Norte. A couple had been living together for several years; they had conceived and borne several children, but they had never been married legally. They came in contact with the gospel. Brethren knew of their marital status and would not baptize them until first they legalized their union. So, surrounded by well-wishers, future brethren, and their children, they were joined together as husband and wife and then carried to the south China Sea and were baptized. I often am asked about the faithfulness of the many who are baptized there. I cannot attest of all, but this couple has remained faithful during the past four and one-half years since their wedding day. A year or so ago there was a “mass wedding” at the same place. Five couples (I think) living in the same condition, legalized their union before brethren would immerse them. I suspect that not all brethren in the Philippines have that sort of conviction these Ilocos brethren have, but they ought to.
Planning for weddings may bring problems for both families of the engaged couple. This is true not only here in the States but there in the Islands as well. Some problems have a common denominator: finances. Wherever there is a wedding someone has to “foot the bill.” Here in the States it is normally the parents of the bride who bear the cost of such, but in the Philippines, it is the parents of the groom.
Superstitions abound about weddings, here and there. Recently a brother wrote to tell of a problem he had. His daughter planned a September wedding this year. Later his son determined he would also marry this year. So what is
the problem with that? Only that the future daughter-in- law’s parents are Catholic and they believe the prevalent superstition that if a brother and sister both marry within the same year, something bad will happen to one or the other of their families. The problem was solved when an “authority on the superstition” said that if the brother and sister should marry in the same ceremony, there would be no problem. A hurried September wedding was planned for the son and his fiancee.
Do we smile at such? It isn’t only in the Philippines that superstitions exist about marriages. When I was about to perform my first wedding ceremony (45 years ago), we were arranging a place for where the wedding party would stand since it was to be a “home wedding.” The bride’s mother was horrified at our selection because it meant that the wooden slats in the floor ran “the wrong way.” According to the superstition, if the couple should stand on different slats so that “cracks” were between them, they would have friction all their married life. To insure harmony and peace, they must both stand on the same slat! We changed the position for the wedding party. Today the couple is still together. He is an elder in the Lord’s church and they have fine grown children, all Christians. One could never find a more loving, happy couple, but I don’t think standing on the same slat in the floor had anything to do with that!
At one time every married couple here in the States had a couple of witnesses of their wedding who also signed their licenses. In the Philippines all attending the ceremony are invited to sign the licenses as witnesses. Philippine tradition is that the first witnesses are designated as “compadres” or “kumpadres” which means “co-parents.” The bridal couple views them with great respect and regards them as a part of their family. In the eventuality of discord between the couple, it is the duty of the compadres to help them mend their ways.
On our last trip to the Philippines, brother Marrs and I arrived at the place we were scheduled to speak and found a wedding in progress. At such social occasions as wed- dings (and funerals) brethren use these as opportunities to preach the word, and so we did! Both brother Marrs and I preached that day to a house full of both brethren and guests; and sitting in front of the whole audience for the whole preaching service was the newly wed bride and groom, still dressed in all their wedding finery! Addenda: Eight (I think) souls responded to the invitation and were baptized into Christ.
The following letter came from Virgil B. Villanueva, Eastside church of Christ, 9802 Lambayang, Sultan Kudarat, Republic of the Philippines upon his having heard of the death of Cecil Willis.
“The news about Cecil’s death is very much shocking. Truly we have lost a valiant and fearless soldier of the cross. To the Filipino brethren, we have lost a real friend and brother with big, big heart. Oh his love and deep concern for the Philippine work is far beyond measure; he always stood ready to give a helping hand many times going out of himself, stretching out his head to find a way how he could extend help. My family and I are one among those numerous brethren who were benefited by such a generosity of a brother who looked not only for his own but that of others also (Phil. 2:4; 1 Cor. 10:24, 33). He will be long remembered among us, though dead he will continue to speak. The many congregations that were started, church buildings that were erected, will stand high and tall to remind us of Cecil. He is there waving his hands to every preacher who goes out to preach.
“Brother Jim, I now surely lost Cecil’s support. The last letter I got from him was dated May 3, with the enclosed support for that month. To date, I have not yet received any word from his son-in-law about his death. Wally Little wrote me about it. . . . if you know of any church or individual who is interested in having a part in sharing financially in the most noble work the world ever had of reaching and saving the lost for Christ please, endorse me for support. I’ve lost $100 a month, supposed to be $50 starting this month as per the last letter of Cecil to me.”
Brother Vilanueva had been supported by Cecil’s generosity and love for many years. Virgil has had his own share of woes. His son was mortally wounded and efforts to save his life brought great and burdensome bills to Virgil. Several helped Virgil to bear this burden, including, I believe, Cecil. Cecil cannot continue his monthly support of this one whom he felt worthy. Is there some brother or church that will pick up what Cecil can no longer do that the work Virgil is doing might go on in the civil strife-torn region in which he lives?