First of all I would like to thank all of my brothers and sisters who have brought to light their own experiences that molded their strength and faith in Christ and God within the confines of the true Church. Here is another encounter by one reader of his own recollections of the Church and its former stalwarts. (The writer has however requested anonymity.)
And to all my readers, please accept my apologies if I may not be able to reply immediately to all your letters. Rest assured though that I do read and reply to all the (sensible) mail that I receive (konting pasensya po, senior na. Ang Executive Secretary ko ay si Goofy lang at palaging mainit ang ulo).
I remember a time when I was just a small kid when my Dad took me to witness a religious debate at the Plaza Miranda in Quiapo Manila. That historic place that is sandwiched between a huge Mercury Drug building and the famous Catholic Quiapo Church.
The debate was between the INC, represented by Bro. Aniceto Bunag, and the Catholic Church.
Ka Bunag was a fierce debater. Relentless and almost merciless. He was “in the zone” that night and you can’t help but feel pity for the opposing side. He owned the opponent so cruelly that he got him to say in effect that the fulfillment of the prophecy about a church emerging from the far east is the INC that re-emerged in the Philippines.
The crowd roaring, the atmosphere electric, a feeling of overwhelming victory and the assurance of the truthfulness of our family’s faith – not because Ka Bunag was the best debater who ever lived, but what he is standing for is just simply, the undeniable truth.
That vivid memory from my childhood launched my personal conviction and dedication to serve God inside the INC no matter what. I even told my Dad on our way home that someday, I want to be a minister and a debater just like Ka Bunag.
I was baptized and attended my first adult worship services in the locale of Bago Bantay QC. Our resident minister then was the honorable Ka Pablo Facundo or Ka Pabling for short.
I have never met and known a minister so loving to the brethren and so genuine in his faith in what he is preaching. One of my favorite memories of him when he was preaching is when he mentions the word “pag-ibig” in any context. May it be used for the love of God, the brethren, the love in the family, or the love between husband and wife. Every time he mentions the word “pag-ibig” he never fails to convey the true meaning of the word… it’s something in the way he says it – or maybe it’s because the holy spirit is so close and helps the heart understand what the word love is all about.
I am so fortunate growing up witnessing preachings from ministers like him on a regular basis – almost every time I attend the worship service. The feeling of being replenished and made stronger amid the hardships, troubles and loneliness in this life is one of the great benefits of being an INC member and receiving pure teachings from God through his chosen ministers. Ka Bunag, Ka Cipriano, Ka Bining, Ka Pilo and ka Ben Santiago come to mind… they are more than minsters of the Iglesia Ni Cristo, they are the ones who built the foundation of my faith in God and Christ and the Church that I so fortunately belong in.
And even though I have not witnessed in person the preaching of the last messenger, I also hit the jackpot to grow up with Ka Erdy leading the Church. There is really no need to explain, especially to those who belong to the older generation how important Ka Erdy is to everyone of us. He is the reason why the INC rose from being an outcast and look down upon by almost everyone who is not a member of the INC to what it is now.
A lot of us can still remember how hard it is growing up being a member of the INC. Being ridiculed by even your closest friends and having to follow rigid doctrines and rules that no one else abide to… but it was Ka Erdy who kept it all together… not just because he leads us by example, but also you can feel the immeasurable power of the holy spirit whenever he preaches.
That explains why the members flock to the locales he goes to even though it’s kept secret to other congregations so that the locale he visits would be given a chance to benefit first. His visitations are generally scheduled around 6 in the morning but I have never attended one that started on the schedule… the locale leadership always had to inform him around 3am to 4am that the chapel is already full so he would come over and start the service earlier… it goes without saying that his visitations are sought after because the brethren knows that the much needed power of the holy spirit will be there to quench our thirst.
Everybody misses him. Everybody misses Ka Erdy. When he passed away, it felt like there was a heavy cloud that fell on the whole Church. I remember calling my Mom crying to console each other and it’s like we lost the most important person in our life. And we did that day.
We knew that he is not going to be around forever but we were never scared of what is going to happen to the Church after he is laid to rest. We have total confidence with Ka Eddieboy and the rest of the Manalo clan.
I have seen and interacted to some extent with Bro Angel and Bro Mark who are inseparable inside the New Era campus. When you see one of them, you’ll see the other one not far behind. I always felt envy to see these very good looking, tall gentlemen walking around New Era… I thought to myself how can it be fair for them to have their good looks, their importance, all the girls going after them, having the brightest future and security – and to top it all, assured of salvation come judgement day (or at least having a better chance than me) …. It’s just not fair!
But these gentlemen, I have to admit, deserved it. I, together with other souls that roam around New Era during their time there are witnesses to their dedication to the service of the Church. They conducted themselves like true gentlemen and never got involved in any scandal and like their Father, has led by example to the brethren. They did not take advantage of their power for their own gain and the proof of that is that they don’t have anything material of their own to show for – especially after this tragic event that happened. It breaks my heart to see them rely on the goodness of brave brethren to supply them of their daily necessities…
And Ka Tenny? How can anyone dare treat her like this? I am tearing up right now just writing that last line. How can someone demonize her this way? How can someone expel brethren who tries to help her? How can someone threaten with the ultimate punishment those brethren who would do anything for her even as little as talking to Ka Tenny and her children?
Ka Tenny conducted herself as the perfect better half to Ka Erdy. She is a big part why we give our utmost respect to Ka Erdy. She is loved by all brethren and personifies dignified humility every time she is seen.
There is nothing that can explain what happened. There is no justification to the action or non-action of the powers that be. Only one thing is for sure, THIS IS NOT RIGHT. And what were we thought about right and wrong?
Even enemies of the INC who attack us every chance they get dare not say anything bad about Ka Tenny and her children – because that is like signing with the devil… Heck! Even the devil was shaking his head upon hearing that fateful circular…
I have never thought that my faith would be tested like this. The bible was not kidding when it said that we will undergo a trial by fire to purify us.
But what I worry the most about is my kids. At least for myself and my wife we have a reservoir of teachings and experiences that we are hoping is enough for us to ride through these dark times. But what about my young kids? In these formative years of them being young adult members of the Church Of Christ, who is going to be their Ka Bunag, Ka Pabling, Ka Cipriano, Ka Bining, Ka Pilo and ka Ben Santiago? And most importantly, who is going to be their Ka Erdy?
There is no one in mind that steps up to the standard the old guards have set… because sadly, the ones we have in front of us right now has let us down because somewhere along the way, they chose personal gain instead of upholding their divine promise to take care of the flock.
The only one who was close enough in my opinion before was last seen chanting “Hostess siya” in front of the biggest graven image in EDSA… it broke my heart to see him go down that low.
There is no doubt that someone will step up and restore the Church to its glory. But when? I can only hope that it would be soon enough to avoid irreparable damage to the flock. I hope it’s in my lifetime so I can still guide my children to remain in the true faith no matter what.
I hope that soon, this dark heavy cloud over the Church we so dearly love will give way to sunshine…