Sunday, April 23, 2017

If I'll Have That One Moment with Bro. Eli and Kuya Daniel


I remember the moment distinctly when Bro. Eli Soriano, whom I have accustomed to seeing in person weekly in our Thanksgiving service, said during a call that he couldn't go back to the Philippines, and he didn't know when either.

Our enemies in faith and in the government back then succeeded in filing unbelievable charges against him in court, ultimately forcing him to leave the country.

During the closing prayer, the whole Ang Dating Daan Convention Center sounded as if hordes of bees buzzed together simultaneously. The old stage, where we offered our songs of praise to God, resounded with sobs. I was fond of sitting by the stairs of the stage just so I could listen more intently and closely to the man whom I have heard things about the Lord and the Bible of which I will fail time and time again to try and find human words to describe.

I remember jotting down on my notes the title of the topic we studied, whether on that same Thanksgiving or the following I'm not sure. But certainly, it went something like this: Why the seemingly bad events that are happening now to the Church of God will be for its good according to the Bible.

That was 12 eventful years ago.



Fast forward to 2017, or in the Hebrew Calendar we follow, Year 5777, I saw just how the words of God that guided, contained and were discussed in that topic became realized.

The circumstances drove the preaching of Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel Razon far into the West, particularly, Brazil. Who knew there would be so much people eagerly awaiting there to be reached by the words of God that these two Filipino men have been broadcasting for more than three decades thousands of miles away? 

Someone clearly did, especially as something like that cannot be easily categorized as coincidental or hallucinatory.

There was a moment, when it was our Brazilian brethren's turn to give thanks on stage that I just stood from my seat to sing and dance with them as I saw the other Philippine delegates do the same. It was an electrifying moment. If I could just translate here the chills I felt, I would.

It was just one of the awe-inducing moments that I bear in my heart of that blessed opportunity and experience I was lucky to have had. Another of course, was seeing Bro. Eli again.

Before my trip, my mom and I bought handkerchiefs, because I just knew what was going to happen. Tears just fell from my eyes, well into the topic proper when Bro. Eli was discussing it and doing his best to translate it into four different languages.

It was his birthday in the spirit or his baptismal day. And there were so many things that had happened. I also cried when I saw Kuya Daniel up close, which I don't get to do in Apalit. The seats are a first-come-first-serve basis so traveling hours from the south, I usually don't get that privilege.

There are no words to express just seeing them. Much more, being so close to them.



 "Why?"

Well, so many things really. 

I remember a moment in my life: It was ROTC day (sort of required military training before in the country, though back then, it kind of felt it really wasn't) and it was Sunday.

Across the soccer field, the priest held a mass. Our platoon was in an outlying corner of the area. When it came to the homily part, I went and sat on the grass to draw nearer to the priest, in my belief that it's the most important part of the service, because it was when the words of God would be discussed.

Well, as many of remaining Catholics themselves can attest, the sermon isn't as it promises. And so, with no offense meant and with all honesty, what I mean to say in short is: That's the priest. This is Bro. Eli.

I didn't know that there was a Church of God in the Bible. It was a moment during indoctrination I remembered asking, "E meron naman palang ganun, ba't hindi yun ang ipinapangaral?" (So there is such. Why isn't it the one being preached?)

And as I continued to listen to Bro. Eli read verses of the Bible, the more I realized that if only we had heard His undefiled words early on, things would fare a lot better.

I wasn't able to tell Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel many things. Usually, due to lack of opportunity, courage, emotional control, and even so, scrambling to figure out the right means to convey what I would want to say.

So let me humbly amend the lyrics of a popular song:



Well, so much for moments here on earth. They only last so long.

So hopefully, in eternity, where the year, the month, the day, has no end, I hope to have one moment with Bro. Eli and Kuya Daniel, where I could say in a tight embrace all the things I could not even begin to say here. For one thing, my gratitude, firstly and forever will be (hopefully) to the Lord.

Dreams can happen. :)

Monday, March 13, 2017

Five Seasons On, UNTV Cup Remains What It Always Has Been


From the idea that baranggays (villages) can team up to play basketball and help underprivileged youths secure their futures with full scholarship grants, UNTV Cup has materialized into a much wider undertaking — one that is most certainly, a league of its own.

Season 1 kicked off with just seven departments of the Philippine government. Now, 13 teams of public servants take it out against each other not just in the name of sportmanship, but of care for their respective chosen beneficiaries

Indeed, the winning teams may bag the titles, but its their charitable institutions that bring home the prizes. And millions at that.

What started as over 1M in tax-free donations now sum up to nearly 10M. And these to our fellowmen who were displaced or hurt by war or typhoons, who were born with disabilities of the body or mind, who were bereaved families of their fathers or mothers who sacrificed themselves for the sake of peace.

As Season 5 ends, we will see once more apart from living examples, sweating themselves out for the good of others — on UNTV a most beautiful culmination of an idea: That despite differences in backgrounds and duties, people can come and play together for a common cause.

Certainly, the country, the world needs more innovations like this. And perhaps far more importantly, more intentions like this. 

That way, we can expect that no matter what it will grow into or how much it will develop, we can always count on it to remain the same. An idea. A really, really good realized idea.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Ang Dating Daan: 36 Years of Keeping Millennia-Old Conversations of Faith Alive



Subali’t kapag nalagot 
hiningang lubhang marupok 
ng katawan mong mairog, 
ang araw mo’y matatapos 
ang iiral ay ang sa Diyos 

(But when the very fragile breath 
of your beloved body is no more, 
your days will end, and God’s will begin.) 

At one time or another, we need to talk about God. 

Thankfully, it has been one of the echoing themes, advocacies of the program Ang Dating Daan or The Old Path. 

For 36 years now, it has served in the most basic, and yet, beamingly, most effective and satisfying way, it can: Answering any question about God—raw, live and founded. 

Once asked, expect its hosts Bro. Eli Soriano and Bro. Daniel Razon to respond with verses of the Bible and display them on TV, Youtube and Facebook screens for everyone’s reference and checking. Hence, the show’s tagline: “The Bible Will Answer. Ask Bro. Eli.” 

In that same spirit, they give out free copies of the Bible—a practice they have exercised since the early days of MCGI’s Bible Expositions in the 90s—of which, 8,000 were handed out in the recent anniversary celebration at the Mall of Asia Arena. 

Bro. Eli, the show’s main host, answers as transparently as anyone can. Though by reality and experience, the rest comparably don’t. 

In fact, it is this hallmark trait and character of his that sometimes get him in variance with people who are unaccustomed to hearing plain truth. 

Not that Bro. Eli is blunt or insensitive. Often, when a question begs him to present documented facts about religion, he would preface it by hoping that the inquirer would not get offended. Because he will lay down what needs to be laid down. 

Truth is not something he is known to sacrifice a comma of, even if someone did feel strongly against it.  

Enter the Ang Dating Daan Debates. 

Mirroring the no holds-barred exchange of reasoning from the time of the early Greeks to that of Stephen against the Jews, Bro. Soriano has a long list of debates with pastors of various denominations. 

A more awakening form of exposition, ADD's Debates let people see whether a belief or practice will stand under Gospel truth or break down. And even, how religious teachers lack knowledge of their own group’s dogmas and teachings, and sadly, much less of God's words. 

Reality is, the very reason why anyone alive today knows and believes in Jesus is because information about Him while He was on this earth, about His Apostles, and their works and words was written more than 2,000 years ago. The Old Path is merely keeping the conversation alive; albeit, with the help and mercy of God.
 
For 36 years and more, that is something truly worth thanking Him for.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Nang Isang Hapon Sa Aking Buhay


Photo source: Kellysthoughtsonthings.com

Nang isang hapon sa aking buhay
Sa pagkahimbing, nagising na tunay
Kaluluwang dati’y sa layaw ay patay
Sa katwira’y bumangon, nagkaro’n ng saysay

Ito’y nagsimula nang isang hapon din
Nang ako’y ayain sa isang panuorin
Upang tignan, usisain, kilatisin
Isang mangangaral na bago sa paningin

Nang ang telebisyon ay sadyang binuksan
Iba’t-ibang mangangaral aming tinunghayan
Sa kaisipang makinig, sila ay subukan
Nguni’t ‘di nagtagal, iba’y dagling nilisan

‘Pagka’t ano ngang buti aming mapapala
Kung sarili’t-sariling turo lang ang pangaral nila
‘Di ba’t madaming tao na ang nagsalita
Aanhin namin kung ‘di Dios ang nagwika

Kaya’t talapihitan ng telebisyon muli naming ipinihit
At sa mangangaral na yao’y nagpasimulang makinig
Dangan nga lamang dahil sa aking pagkagalit
Dumoon sa isang sulok, humiga at pumikit

Sapagka’t siya’y tila naging dahilan ng aming pagtatalo
Ng tungkol sa relihiyon ng aking mahal na tito
At minsan isang hapon, sa kadugo’y nagalit na totoo
Dahil sa pangaral niyang turong Bibiliko

Gayon man sa hapong yaon, aking piniling makinig
Sa salita ng aking ina isinantabi ang aking galit
Sapagka't ‘di makatwiran nga na balika’t ay ikibit
Sa isang estrangherong ni minsa’y hindi nakaalit

Kaya’t nang ako’y waring nahihimbing
Pakinig ay bukas sa kaniyang panuorin
At sa isang iglap, sa isang saglit na taimtim
Nakarinig ng salita na ‘di sa kapwa tao galing

Matapos makarinig ng tapat na sagot
Huwad na himbing tumuloy sa pagtulog
At nang ako’y magising puso’y napahinuhod
Sa karunungang hatid ng salita Niyang mairog

Pamilya’y nabuong muli at oh anong saya
‘Pagka’t sa katwiran ay nagkasama-sama
Sa Bahay ng Dios, na Siyang Iglesia Niya
Ito’y katotohanang mababasa sa Biblia

Yaon nga ang maikling kasaysayan ng aking buhay
Nagsimula sa isang hapon ng pakikinig at pagbubulay
At muli, sa isang hapon ay nakilalang tunay
Ang Dios na lumikha ng lahat ng mga bagay

Labingtatlong taon ang nagdaan na panahon
Nang aking makita mabuting araw na yaon
Sa Iglesia’y nabautismuhan alas kwatro bente siete ng hapon
Kasabay ng dalawang libong kaluluwang sa Pampanga’y nagkatipon

Mula nga noon puso’y natutong sumunod
Sa Dios na tunay, sa ‘king buhay ay patnugot
Nawa’y makapanatili sa aking paglilingkod
Hanggang sa hininga’y tuluyan nang malagot

Nawa hanggang doon pasalamat ay maihandog
Isang masamyong hain, na totoong nakalulugod
Sa Dios na tapat at tunay, sa lahat ng tao’y may pag-irog
Siyang nararapat paglingkuran at ibigin nang lubos

Kaya maging sa hapon, umaga, o katanghalian man
Na tao’y tawagin ng Dios sa Kaniyang kaharian
Nawa ay tumugon sa Dakilang Lumalang
Sa Kaniya ang karangalan, at lahat ng kapurihan!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Certain Thing I'm Thankful For



It’s hard writing how much Bro. Eli Soriano means to me.

It will be his 50th birthday in the spirit come April 7 this year. And fathoming feelings of love and gratitude for a person as special as he is is never easy.

Most certainly, such depths of emotion do not stem from fanaticism as some may easily and soullessly accuse me of. For if some take a great deal of joy hearing their religious leader greet them in their own tongue once in a while, how much more others whose preacher untiringly answers their scriptural queries and solves their spiritual problems, for free might I add?

Nevertheless, this humble piece of writing is not one of contention, but of celebration. And as mentioned, of love and gratitude to a Filipino, a preacher, a leader like Bro. Eli Soriano. 

Where It All Began 

Thirteen years ago, my uncle brought me to this “magical” place called “Convention Center” in Apalit, Pampanga. In my head, it was the only term I could find to describe a place where people are fed for free, widows are taken care of, and thanksgiving abounds.

Yes, I was young, but certainly wasn’t gullible. In fact, this all happened after my cloud of anger against my uncle and Bro. Eli had finally dissipated.

(Read: Thanksgiving Roots and Fruits, In Summer and For All Seasons)

Cutting the story short, my hate sprung from the idea of my uncle and Bro. Eli bad-mouthing the religion I grew up in. Perhaps, because rejection was the easier thing to do.

Certainly however, it was an unmindful and unfair act towards my uncle, and especially towards a person I have never met all my life, and have not done anything of the sort towards me.

Thankfully, I dismissed the resentful idea and gave the actual person a chance. So I went to Apalit, Pampanga. 

A Very Memorable First 

Travelling before the sun’s rays reached the earth, I arrived at the ADD Convention Center early in the morning in a navy blue shirt, long white shorts and a baseball cap in my hand.

It was my first time there. And my very first encounter of people so polite you wouldn’t believe it, offering help with the smallest of things and giving smiles that can warm the most frozen of hearts.

When it was time for prayer and I saw people rushing to kneel down and heard them crying, it left me in awe.

It was April 7, 2001 — Bro. Eli’s 37th spiritual birthday. 

Happy Birthday Bro. Eli 

The time for Thanksgiving presentations came and there were various special numbers; it was a special day after all. There were those who recited poems accentuated by sincere gestures. Some sang, some danced. It was all very large but pleasing to take in.

When I approached that blessed stage where the performances were, I remember touching it. In my opinion, it was the modern equivalent of the altar upon which Old Israel presented their offerings to God.

And as I saw Bro. Eli there, it sunk in the more to me that for people to do these things, primarily for God, he was truly a very good man.

Through the years, I have heard deeply wonderful things about the Bible and about the Lord, delivered in all sincerity, purity, and wisdom.

It has become harder than ever to find a word that bears thanks, love you, take care and so much more in it.

Certainly however, with God’s help and mercy, all the praise I feel in me will never ever be for Bro. Eli, nor for Bro. Daniel Razon who has been there faithfully loving the brethren all this time. No.

All the honor and glory belong to God, who gave me and so many other people across the globe preachers who want nothing else in life, but for us and them to be saved. And that is a certain thing I'm very much thankful for.

Thanks be to God for Bro. Eli Soriano! To God be the glory!

#BESat50

Photo Source: What I'm Thankful For

Thanksgiving Roots And Fruits, In Summer And For All Seasons


One thing I'm giving thanks for? Knowing how to do it right.

♫ I know I had a wicked childhood, I know I had a miserable youth ♫

In the busy life of kids at school, summer time gives chance for reflection, introspection, and even reinvention. (Maybe at least during our time when mobile gadgets referred to items that only the armed forces or James Bond could get their hands on.)

And being the "home-buddy" that I was, summer breaks from school became just that.

Even as a child, we were taught at an early age about God. I've wondered about Paradise, and the question of whether there would be a sea there that I could explore or a sky where I could soar already played in my mind since I was a kid.

But I was really disobedient and disrespectful to my parents at times. I cannot recall how many times I've made my mother and grandmother shout my name in piercing pitch and volume.

Growing up, I guess I generally didn't know how to fit in so I often went straight back home after school. And yes, I was bullied from a young age. Thankfully though, I was given a few talents that eventually earned me the respect even of those who picked on me.

But still there will be bullies, and on top of that is a list of awkward, embarrassing moments and other sad and sorry circumstances that highly probably will cause error to this online platform should they push through. 

Life was hard. But in one summer, I found that there was a way to make things easy. I just didn't know if it was even possible.

 But somewhere in my wicked, miserable past, there must have been a moment of truth ♫ 

As mentioned, we were taught to acknowledge God and His book from an early age. One summer I said I would read the Bible, and I began with Genesis.

I learned so many things from different people -- the stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Noah, Moses, David, Samson, and many other people of faith. Somehow, the stories I watched from cartoons like Flying House and Superbook were more interesting on paper. And they are.

But going back to the pages about Moses and the Israelites, I got interested in reading about how God forgave their sins by offering sheep and cows. I actually thought of buying one and slaying and offering it someday. But the big question was always the altar. Was there still some place I could do that, so I would be forgiven of my sins?

Who would've thought that the answers would come one summer many years later?

♫ Nothing comes from nothing, nothing ever could ♫

Then came that summer when my uncle and I would have a terrible fight and all because of one man I hardly knew -- Bro. Eliseo Soriano.

I argued with my uncle as if it were the last most precious thing to do should I have died after doing it. He didn't come back to our house for some time after that.

But as luck would have it, my mom convinced me that my uncle meant no harm and I agreed to watch Bro. Eli for the first time, sort of.

While she sat and watched Bro. Eli, I headed off to the sofa, lay down and closed my eyes, pretending to be sleepy. But as I lay there and began actually listening to him after a minute or two, with my eyes closed I said in me: "That was right." 

After a tear fell, I soon fell asleep. And when I woke up, I felt I really did.

♫ Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good ♫

My uncle then resumed his visits to our house, and it became the start of him telling me about the things he learned from Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel Razon. And about a place called "Apalit" in Pampanga.

The time came when I got to visit for the first time. It was Bro. Eli's spiritual birthday. I got to taste a drink called "soya" (made from soybeans) and people my age were saying "po" (Filipino sign of respect, usually towards elders) to me. When it came time for prayer, I sat but was in chills after hearing and seeing almost everybody cry.

Back then, to me it was surreal, but nice. 

The most important discovery in my newfound land however, was why people stand on the stage to say what they're thankful for and sing.

My uncle said that it was their offering of thanksgiving to God, as the Israelites did during their time. Only, this was how Christians do it, he told me. Since the law was changed, there was already no need to offer sheep and bulls. Rather, prayers and praises to the God of Israel, the same God of Christ's followers.

Before leaving the Ang Dating Daan Convention Center that day, my uncle took me to a small museum, where Jeremiah 30:19-24 were printed on a cloth that decorated one of its walls. I remember reading it, and saying "This is it. This is this people here."

That was the same summer, twelve years ago, when I decided to undergo indoctrination and be a part of the voices that made merry and gave thanks to God weekly. And with His help and mercy, through Bro. Daniel and Bro. Eli, I learned how to do it right.

Happy International Thanksgiving to all members of the Church of God International! July 5-7, 2013.

Thanks be to God!


Photo credit: Commons.wikimedia.org

Originally published on Facebook on July 3, 2013.