See below for a report from John Oakes on his recent trip to visit and teach for churches in Bacolod, Cebu and Manila Philippines.
Missionary Teaching Trip
Philippines January, 2014
Bacolod, Philippines Jan 11-12
I was met at the airport by Darryl Villa and Paul. Bacolod is a city of about seven hundred thousand on the island of Negros in the Visayas. The Visays are the many islands in the central region of the Philippines. The main crop here is sugar. The sugar plantations are very large and appear to dominate the entire area. Bacolod is near to the path of typhoon Hainan from the Fall, but because it is on the Western side of the island, behind some mountains the damage here was only slight, unlike Tacloban, which was almost annihilated by the storm surge from the massive Typhoon. The people here speak a dialect very different from the Tagalog spoken on the Northern island of Luzon. Everyone speaks the local dialect, Ilongo, but also English. There are many Catholics here, of course, but it appears that the most powerful church is Iglesia Ng Cristo (Tagolog for the Church of Christ). This is a Jehovah Witness type church who do not accept the deity of Jesus Christ and who have a modern day “prophet” who supposedly speaks for God to the church.
There are about one hundred members in the Metro Bacolod Christian Church. This Sunday is their 18th anniversary. They are led by Darryl Villa and his wife Silni. There are no “full time” leaders in the church here, despite having one hundred members. This is common here in the Philippines. Darryl works for Jollibees—a hamburger chain which is all over the Philippines. Also at the classes were members from the church in Iliolo. About 20 came from this city which is on a nearby island, 90 minutes by boat from Bacolod. They are led by Jhon Piodenia and his wife. It is very good seeing the disciples from Iloilo as I visited this church five years ago. Also coming were members from the newest church planting in Dumaguete, which started with 12 in 2012 and now has 25 members. Dumaguete is about five hours away on the far end of Negros. It is a tourist city with beautiful beaches. I taught for three plus hours on Saturday for the church and spoke on Sunday as well. With 100 members there were well over 250 in attendance, with many visitors, including the vice mayor of the city. It was very encouraging.
Negros is quite exotic from my American perspective. Interesting sights included seeing dozens of “fighting cocks” being shipped in little rooster-boxes from Bacolod to be used for cock fighting in Manila. I also saw about eight people on a single motorcycle in a driving rain. Quite a sight. Of course, the best part of Bacolod is meeting with the friendly and warm Christians in the church here.
Cebu, Philippines Jan 13-14
The plane flight to Cebu is only thirty minutes. It is in a prop plane in a tropical storm, which is a little nerve-wracking. I am met by Danny Cabadsan, the leader of the church I am visiting in Cebu. Cebu is the name of the island and of the city. The metro area of Cebu has about three million inhabitants, making it the second largest city in the Philippines. The local language is Cebuano. The northern part of the island was devastated in typhoon Hainan. About twenty members of my home church in San Diego came here shortly after the typhoon and were able to spend time supporting displaced people from the storm. Our sister church in Tacloban has forty members. Every single one of them lost their homes in the storm. It was a miracle that none were killed. One member tells the story of hiding under his sink during the storm. When the water came up too high, he got on top of his sink. Then when it got too high, he went to the upper level of his home. Finally, his entire home was inundated by the storm surge. He swam to a pole, took off his pants, and tied himself to the pole using his pants so that he would not be swept away by the winds and be drowned. Many similar stories of survival can be told. The church here in Cebu took most of the members into their homes. They helped hundreds of families get back on their feet and continue to help hundreds even now. All the homes of the members of our church in Tacloban will have their homes rebuilt using funds from HOPE worldwide, our benevolent organization. Add to this, there was a 7.2 magnitude earthquake here in Cebu just two weeks before the typhoon hit. Needless to say, the churches here in the Visayas are in a state of shock. Yet, they continue faithful to God and have had many baptisms lately.
The church I am visiting here in Cebu has about 270 members. They help to support and oversee six churches in the Visayas. They have recently planted two churches, including the one in Dumaguete, and are committed to bringing Christianity throughout the region. On Monday I met with the leaders of the church here for a discussion of shepherding and for fellowship. There were about 30 leaders at the get-together. The church here in Cebu is relatively mature, with strong singles, campus and married ministries. They are now seeing the first teens who were born in the church being won to Christ and entering the campus ministry. The campus group is fairly strong with thirty college students. Danny and his wife Girly have a strong core leadership group which allows them freedom to help with the six churches they support in this region of the Philippines. The church has been growing in membership lately, which is a sign of health after some rough times several years ago. I believe that this would be an ideal place for young Christians to come for the “one year challenge” to teach the gospel because the fields seem ripe for harvest and because English is spoken here by almost everyone, so there would not be a steep learning curve in terms of language. Please consider coming here to help one of the younger churches in the Visayas in the Philippines.
On Tuesday I toured the older part of the city. The current two weeks is the massive Sinulog festival. This is a celebration of the Santo Niňo (the holy child). It is similar to the Mardi Gras, with parades and floats. Most important is the procession carrying the idol of the baby Jesus throughout the streets. I went to see the ancient fort San Pedro, built by the Spanish in the 16th century as well as the cross of Magellan. This is a cross which, according to the locals, was given by Magellan to the native Cebuanos in 1521. Magellan was later killed here. I also witnessed a massive mass, with perhaps 50,000 participants. Apparently, this was only one of eleven masses celebrated today. This is a country with a deep Catholic tradition and people seemed quite sincere in their faith.
Tuesday evening I taught on Freedom in Christ for the Metro Cebu Church of Christ. The building was packed. The church here is very friendly and the members obviously have a great heart for God.
Jan 15-19 Manila, Philippines
On Wednesday I fly to Manila to teach a class for APLA (Asia Pacific Leadership Academy) on Prophets of the Exile. This will be a twenty hour class on Ezekiel, Daniel and Jeremiah. APLA has been in place to train leaders in Southeast Asia for about five years. This is my third time teaching for the school. The class meets at the building for the Pasig region of the Metro Manila Christian Church. There are about 85 students in the class. The program is run by Rolan Monje, the reading teacher for the Phillipine churches of the ICOC. It was begun by Gordon Ferguson, and he still teaches for the program, but he has handed leadership off to the very capable Rolan. Rolan and Weng also lead the Pasig region of the church here. The church in Manila has about 2500 members. There are a number of regions, and some of them are led by non-full-time leaders. The leadership in Manila also helps to support more than twenty churches across Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao, with a total membership of more than 3500. They have begun a great work, but much remains to be done.
Wednesday is a rest day, followed by eight hours of teaching on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. By now I have a pretty bad cold and am losing my voice. However, from Daniel I am teaching that God is in control, so I probably ought to bear that in mind. I am very encouraged that most of the class consists of leaders across the Philippines who are not paid by the church, yet they travel great distances, some of them, and almost all of them taking time off from work to attend the class in order to take their knowledge of God’s word to greater depth. There are more than eighty students in the class. They are very enthusiastic. What a joy to help support the teaching ministry of our fellowship of churches in the Philippines.
On Sunday I was blessed to preach for two of the regions of the Metro Manila Christian Church. There were about 300 present from the Pasig region and about 250 in the worship service for the Mandaluyon region. The singing service of both groups is very impressive, especially in the aspect of worshipping God. What a great way to finish my very blessed trip to visit and teach for the churches in the Philippines.