The A.C.B.M. Involvement
The “A.C.B.M.” is the acronym for the AUSTRALASIAN CHRISTADELPHIAN BIBLE MISSION. This includes the Australian and New Zealand ecclesias. By the time the Australasian ecclesias began to reach out into new areas, the earlier brethren had (for over 80 years by the 1950’s) moved into various parts of the East and West Indies and also into Hong Kong to find means of livelihood. They took with them the knowledge and zeal of the Truth and evidence remains up to this present time of their missionary work.
The Brotherhood was much smaller in those days. Not that it is large now, but in the United Kingdom, the Americas and Australasia, there are sufficient resources to mount a creditable attempt at “missionary work”. It is not that we can rest on our laurels, by any means, for resources are still relatively limited for this work. But we do believe that it is an important part of answering the call of the Master to “Go ye into all nations preaching the good news”.
This brief attempt of the history of the development of the Truth in the Philippines work is from the aspect of the A.C.B.M. and its involvement.
The name of the organisation was chosen in the early 1960’s when it was formed to take the Truth into the Pacific, Indian and Chinese areas.
If we measure success by numbers of converts, then success has been varied, but this is not the true measure. The main thing is for us as brethren and sisters of our Lord to obey His call to spread the Gospel.
The Republic of the Philippines, about 7, 000 kms north-west of Sydney, contains about 60 million people (circa 1994); a mixed ethnic background, mainly farmers, not endowed with this world’s goods and rely on hard toil to eke out a living from a land that is obviously over utilised.
There are over 7, 000 islands in the group (many small and uninhabited). They are friendly, warm and hospitable and always interested to hear the Word of God. About 85%+ are nominally “Christian”, having Catholicism imposed upon their culture by the Spaniards when in 1542 Ferdinand Magellan colonised the nation for Spain. The Spanish influence is still seen there today in architecture and family and street names. Then in 1901 the Americans took over the colony and this brought about the large use of English, paving the way for the A.C.B.M. to be able to communicate with their preaching campaigns.
The United Kingdom brethren had begun some few years earlier with tentative moves into the Philippines by correspondence before the A.C.B.M. involvement.
The Work Begins
“The work” had unlikely beginnings. The seed actually being planted without having any idea of how God was to “give the increase”. From 1955 to 1957 an American sister was posted to the United States Embassy in Roxas Boulevard, Manila. She brought with her a quantity of literature. She writes:
During that period I was, of course, in isolation and I received material from the Isolation League and also from a Sis. Banta in California and in turn passed it on to anyone who showed interest or left it on jeepney transportation ……. Shortly before I was due for reassignment in 1957, I came across an advertisement in a local English newspaper by a group who called themselves the Philadelphians, and setting forth some of their basic beliefs ….. As I recollect, a number of these coincided with those of the Christadelphians and I was curious to meet and talk with “the Philadelphians”. A trip to Dagupan City was arranged and my young son and I went to visit on a Sunday when they were meeting. I discovered that while there were a few basic beliefs similar to ours, there was also much which was not acceptable …. I do not recall meeting Bro. Pedro Jimeno ….. but I did learn later on, from Sis. Banta, that he had written to her and she was in correspondence with him. I believe Sis. Banta suggested it “(i.e. some material from them)” be sent to Australia so they could communicate …. and hopefully persuaded them to correct their unacceptable beliefs. This was done, but whether they wrote or not as I later heard some brethren visited, I am not sure. No matter how, it happened.
(Letter from Sis. Mildred Brockdorf, January, 1991)
God has a lot to say about firstfruits, how important they are to the husbandman. It betokens a harvest to follow. So it was. From 1957 to 1994 (the time of writing) the harvest has increased to over 600 brethren and sisters in approximately 16 ecclesias and some in isolation, all in 37 years.
In bringing forth fruit, we must speak of the lowly pamphlet. Whilst many consider them to be inefficient, an anecdote here may serve the point.
Bro. Pedro Jimeno told me that he had been involved with both the Philadelphians and the Seventh Day Adventists, and that his mind was greatly agitated on the subject of the Kingdom. Then one day while walking down a street in Dagupan City, he saw in the roadside drain a crumpled piece of paper with one word in large print clearly visible. The word was KINGDOM. Though the leaflet was only a single sheet of paper, it said enough to show promise of answers to the problems troubling him. It had the address of Sis. Evelyn Banta stamped on it, so he wrote to Sis. Banta telling of his find and expressing his urgent desire for information on the subject of the Kingdom and related subjects.In process of time Sis. Banta called in the assistance of Bro. Alvin Brittle, and together they educated and then examined Pedro by correspondence. At their direction Pedro sought the assistance of his uncle who was a local judge (legal). Using the words provided from America and supplied by Pedro, the judge performed the baptism of Pedro. Pedro’s baptism was a few weeks before his 59th birthday. So his great evangelical work was done in his latter years: a work that was the greatest single feature in the development of the Truth in the Philippines”.(From a letter, Bro. R. Hermann (4th August, 1994)
with the words:
“To the saint of God who send me help for God’s work. Greeting in the precious blood of our Lord Jesus. Though I know that we all know that we are in the last days, I am glad to say that we are All is Ready: “Go ye therefore into the highways and as many as ye shall find bid to the marriage ….Thanks and please pray for me.
Your Brother in Jesus,
RUDOLFO G. JIMENO”From Bible Missionary, 1959. (The text reads ‘Rudolfo’, but should be Pedro, as the note was written by the son, Rudolfo).
“Early this year, Bro. Jimeno reported the immersion of a Mr. and Mrs. P. Junio, both in their sixties. At the same time came news of the death of Bro. Isaac Villanueva, at the reputed age of 115 years. Our brother was immersed, under somewhat unusual circumstances by Bro. Ron Hermann during the latter’s visit …. in 1961, and his declining years were made happy in the Truth, which makes ‘free'”
“Bro. Isaac Villanueva was baptised at the age of 104 years and he lived for approximately 18 months after his baptism, so I would say that 105 has been misread as 115.1 remember very clearly, the memorial meeting was just over and I was talking to Pedro. He was very concerned that Isaac was ready for baptism but had been confined to bed by illness for over a month and seemed to be showing no improvement. Then Pedro stared speechless at the door. I looked up and saw an old man standing framed in the doorway, and I asked, ‘Who is that?’ Pedro answered, ‘Isaac’ Isaac spoke from the doorway. ‘I decided that I would die if I stayed on the bed, so it would be better for me to die being baptised’. He was duly examined and baptised in the flood waters that surrounded the barrio in which the ecclesia was situated. Sheer joy lifted him above his illness”(Letter 4th August, 1994)
The Cost of Serving Christ
Like others down through the corridors of time, Bro. Pedro found that there was a cost in serving Christ, as his source of income was cut off. In a third world country like the Philippines where there is no Government welfare provision, the problem was severe, especially as there were five and later six children.The solution was found by Bro. Pedro becoming an itinerant seller of herbal medicines and the like. As he packed his bag to go on his radial trips from Bayambang, he would also pack his Bible and a quantity of translated Christadelphian literature. One of the first pieces translated into the Pangasinan dialect was “God’s plan with man” (available here). Others followed.
Bro. Pedro’s regular trips would usually result in an overnight stay and soon Bible classes were being regularly attended and converts made. Some of the place names are: Tangkaran, Pisuac, Orbiztondo, Sta. Barbara and later under the care of his sons Rudolfo and Isaias, a place in a neighbouring Province called Talavera.
Bro. Rudolfo, being the eldest, took a large share of the responsibility, especially in the Bayambang area as well as others.
The Truth Spreads to Manila
Independently of the stirrings in Bayambang, some of the early fieldworkers were courageous enough to venture into other more remote areas of the Philippines:
Manila, the Visayas (the central islands of the Philippines), then into Central Mindanao (the south most island). Knowing the conditions from the mid 1970’s, the writer’s only comment is that some of these remote areas would be spartan and even hostile.
Some of the following comments are based upon the brief diary of Bro. A. Clarke who went through Singapore, Malaya, Hong Kong and the Philippines in December 1965 and January, 1966.
In the Philippines a number of people were attracted to the teaching of the Truth. The group of people in Manila that attended the Bible classes of the fieldworkers in 1966 were a mixed lot. One interested friend, Mr. Bernardo (later a brother) wrote in for literature for a Mr. Arsenio Manzano. He later confessed to Arsenio that it was he who submitted his name and they discussed the literature together. It was Arsenio who later baptised Bro. Bernardo. See photo following.
An interesting aside was that one of the keen followers was a Mr. Ricardo Torres, the Secretary of the Catholic Action and was there to report back to his group on the activities of the Christadelphians. It was Arsenio who discovered this and warned Bro. Clark:
Early in the year (now 1968), Bro. Philip Kenny of Melbourne spent four months in the country, visiting the brethren and sisters in each area and ministering to their spiritual needs …… It was during his visit that the “firstfruits” were reaped in Manila, when an interested friend of some years became Bro. Arsenio Manzano. It was also during his visit, and partly as a result of his personal “follow-up” work with a contact made during the advertising campaign of 1966, that the baptism of Bro. Ceferino Aquino took place; Brn. Fotheringham and Kenny travelling to Masbate, an island some 275 miles south-east of Manila, to interview and later immerse Bro. Aquino, who unfortunately is in complete isolation. To visit him entails a journey by aeroplane, then a long boat trip, followed by a L-O-N-G walk! A, further baptism took place in Manila when Bro. E.O. Mantillas brought the number ….. in Manila to eight. Bro. Mantillas has been in touch since 1962…”
The Late Arsenio Manzano
Recently, we reported the falling asleep of Bro. MANZANO, the news came as we were going to press and just the death was reported. Several have requested that we say more on the passing of our late brother.
The editor found a great friendship with Bro. Arsenio, having met him on several trips to the Philippines and shared his home and companionship on many travels in the Philippines. His knowledge of the Truth was the result of being a constant Bible reader for many years. The many brethren and sisters in the provinces always loved to see him come to their meetings for he was able to give them lively and enthusiastic spiritual help and encouragement, and the opponents of the Truth were often put to shame before his quick, accurate and fearless defence of Bible Truth.
Thirty-two years ago he met an Australian brother, who at that time was working in Manila, and much time was used in discussing and studying the Bible. Bro. Manzano had responded to an advertisement in a Philippine newspaper which had commenced his life on a path that was to be of great value of the work of spreading the Truth in the Philippines.
Bro. Manzano’s typical daily routine was as follows:
About 4.30 am – rise and breakfast;
5.00 am – travel to Central market;
7.00 am-7.00 pm – attend his little stall (364 days a year);
7.00 pm-9.00 pm – attend the plaza to spread the word;
9.00 pm – travel home.
Brother Manzano had read the majority of the Truth’s literature and was well grounded in all aspects of both Old and New Testament. In his later years he was not able to travel, and bad health including T.B. slowly wore his human body away. He was not able to attend the meeting in his last years but every time we visited his home the Bible was always near at hand.
We pray that the Time of Resurrection and meeting again will not be far away.
In the meantime, the Manila ecclesia had found a home at 64 Dona Leoncia St. Maypajo, the home of Bro. and Mrs. Manzano. Mrs. Manzano never was baptised, but the hospitality and care of this gracious lady was known and enjoyed by many. A larger “home” was found for the Manila ecclesia in Del Monte Avenue, Quezon City. The rooms also served as the office of the “Philippine Christadelphian Bible Mission”. The name which was displayed, served as the local title required when we received incorporation by the Securities and Exchange Commission in the mid 1980’s.
As the ecclesia grew, more ample rooms were found in an “apartment” in 1735 Ibarra Street, Sampaloc where the office and meeting room was located until the A.C.B.M. had an office built for the Mission on vacant land at Bani, Bayambang (this was alongside the ecclesial hall also built by A.C.B.M. funds).
Some Australian brethren – C. Mazitelli, B. Witton and P. Howell supervised with their skills to enable us to build quality buildings at an affordable price. (Some Australian brethren also supervised the ecclesial hall at Kili Kili).
The Truth Moves South
The Truth reached the island of Negros also in the 1960’s when Bro. Abdon Vaflor, aged 69 years, was baptised on 6th August, 1961 by Brn. D. McColl and R. Hermann, For many years this brother was in isolation until others accepted the Truth. He died at the age of 88 years on the 19th June, 1988.
The ecclesia in Bacolod, the capital of Negros Oriental, has had mixed fortunes. Probably upwards of 20 have accepted the Truth, but for various reasons the ecclesia has waxed and waned. Some have left to join ecclesias in other parts, some have died and some have not desired to maintain association.The Truth moved westwards from Bacolod to Cebu when on 25th February, 1969, a Mr. Pablo Diez became a Brother. The Truth was mainly centred around the town of Argao where the ecclesia now numbers about 18. A.C.B.M. funds built a small hall on the side of Bro. Sony Matura’s house and the brethren and sisters have been given a great incentive by having their own “home”.
The island of Mashate has also a Brother and his wife as the only members in a small town, Belino. Bro. and Sis. Ceferino and Gloria Aquino were baptised in 1968 (see earlier their baptism). This island has yielded no increase, although the now ageing brother and sister still hold their memorial meeting and daily reading of God’s Word. Bro. Aquino tells us that he had knocked on every door of his town of Belino, without any response.
The large island of Mindanao is about 800 kms.+ from its northern cities to Manila. It was the necessity of a brother and sister with their family that brought the Truth to this island. The Government was giving land grants in Mindanao for various reasons (mostly political). Among those who went to Central Mindanao, was Bro. Nemesio and Sis. Maria Junio.
“With a great deal of sadness we learnt of the passing of Sis. Maria Junio, wife of our Bro. Junio. Despite his great loss, Bro. Junio continues to work faithfully and earnestly for the Truth in Mindanao, many miles away from other groups of brethren and sisters. Bro. Junio has a small ecclesia consisting of six, having introduced the Truth to the other members of the ecclesia himself”.
Sis. Junio was an asthma sufferer. As they were too poor to buy the medicines, the drugs were unprocurable in their vicinity.The Mission arranged for their purchase and regular dispatch to Mindanao. Eventually a severe attack of asthma set in, her medicines had arrived at the local Post Office, but had not been delivered. To complicate matters further, it was after hours. A search was made for the appropriate official, but by the time the drugs were released, our sister had succumbed.
The report of A.C.B.M., December, 1968:
“About 230 miles further south” (i.e. from Bacolod),” at Sultan Alonto, in the large southern isle of Mindanao, Bro. Nemesio Junio continues to witness to the Truth to anyone who will listen. About mid 1968 he wrote stating that the ecclesia then numbered 13, including his mother, who had moved down from Pangasinan to take care of his motherless children. Although Sultan Alonto is an outlying area, difficult of access and entailing a long, tedious and dusty bus ride (among other things), every effort is made by both resident and visiting missioners to make periodic visits for spiritual ministrations and to engage in “follow-up” work with interested friends in the area”.
It is noted that the ecclesia increased in numbers from six to thirteen in the space of a year. Actually the area has maintained a rather spontaneous and vigorous interest in the Truth since that time.The group eventually moved to a little barrio (word for village) called Kili Kili in a very fertile plateau, natural and spiritual as it turned out. This move was circa 1970’s. A man and his wife accepted the Truth, Candido and Gregoria Damaso, became Bro and Sis. Damaso and assisted Bro. Nemesio and his orphans with Christ-like hospitality. (This hospitality has been shared by many including many fieldworkers).
The ecclesia was centred in the home of the Damaso’s and Nemesio was the “leader” of the group until in the early 1980’s the scourge of many Philippine households – tuberculosis – took our brother from his labours.
The “mantle” now fell on the reluctant shoulders of Bro. Candido. He was so fearful of the role that it required two visits from Bro. Arsenio Manzano from Manila to fortify him and give him some helpful tips in defending the Truth.
The ecclesia grew to approximately sixty members and a small hall was built on the side of the Damaso house. Problems with the local Moslems, who for years had been agitating against the Government, centred around the land grants made by the Government to Christian settlers from Luzon. The Moslems claimed the Government had given away land that belonged to them. From time to time these problems flared up and died down, but eventually they developed into open warfare. On the frontier among other barrios was our little Kili Kili. Though only little with 500+ houses, its inhabitants numbered in excess of 3, 000, probably all of them having heard of the name “Christadelphian”. Lacking the military resources to defend the village, the Government supplied arms to the villagers to enable them to defend themselves. Our brethren and sisters, refusing to take up arms, were considered traitors and feared for their lives in the highly volatile atmosphere. Woman and children were evacuated for safety to a neighbouring provincial town.
As a result of the conflict (June 1984), the A.C.B.M. made an appeal to the Brotherhood (which extended father afield than Australia) and purchased 19 hectares of choice irrigated farm land about 80 kms. north of the trouble spots to resettle those families at greatest risk in a farm near the towns of Valencia and Malaybalay. The place name is Mailag. The aim was to make them safe and to establish another lightstand.
The experiment was not a success as the new found “materialism” did bring about the desired results in spiritual growth and harmony.
In the interim the ecclesia in Kili Kili continued to grow, in spite of the troubles and hardships. By 1991 the ecclesia numbered 21 members, with 42 “interested friends”; many of the 42 were baptised. By the time of writing the ecclesia numbers about 100, with the lightstands spreading out to nearby places such as Sinuda and Maramag.”
Back to Luzon
Bro. Arsenio Manzano was a “natural” orator and debater and several converts were convinced by his activities at the Plaza. His persuasiveness also brought others in different provinces to accept the Truth.For example, the Truth went to Camarines Notre fairly early. The original contact was made in Mindanao by Bro. Nemesio with a Bro. Pedro Lustre. This was followed up in Camarines by contact with a Mr. Vicente Valenzuela, and eventually his family. Vicente was a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo, a local sect, but his own studies had brought him close to knowledge of Bible teaching. Contact with Bro. Manzano continued and eventually Vicente became Bro. Valenzuela. There are two ecclesias in Camarines Norte totalling approximately 80 members, one at Tulay na Lupa and the other at Awitan.
The Truth received an impetus in several parts in the mid to the late 1980’s. Significantly among these was movement in Central Luzon.
About 1984 a man, Mr. Sergio Bumadilla, son of one from the original ecclesia back in Pedro Jimeno’s time, Bro. Cipriano Bumadilla, was reminded of his father’s instruction and found the pull to accept and serve his Lord too strong to ignore. Bro. Sergio and his family work tirelessly in the Truth’s service, and have nurtured Bible classes and Sunday Schools in all directions from their home. The following two charts show the way in which the Truth has spread out from both Bayambang and this new area Bugallon (both areas in Pangasinan).
(The figures quoted are from December, 1992).
Sister Amelia wrote to her family in Baguio seeking some consolation with her kith and kin. At first she was reluctant to introduce her new found faith, fearing she would be rejected once again because of her acceptance of Christ, the family being firm Catholics. The answer to her letter gave her the opening she desired. The relatives complained of the lack of substance in their religion, being fed on “politics and continual appeals for money”.
Sister Amelia grasped the opportunity, she redeemed the time. Amelia saved sufficient from her income to visit her family in December/January, 1988, 1989 with several Australian fieldworkers. A year later, on 27th December, 1989 Amelia’s sister and husband were baptised in the South China Sea at San Fabian (not far from Bugallon). From that time the Truth has spread further in this mountain province until today an ecclesia numbering 7 brethren and sisters with an active Sunday School number over 70 children exists.
Laoag is the most northern major city of Luzon, in the Province Ilocos Norte. A brother who had learned the Truth from Bro. Manzano had gone back to his province from Manila and took the Truth with him, as a result a small ecclesia has been formed along with a small Sunday School.
This is by no means the end of the story as the Lord wills. Nor is it that there are no other tales to tell, there are many. But the main outline of events we believe have been outlined.
One of our purposes was to acknowledge the valuable work that several sisters have done, without stepping outside of the apostolic and divine limitations that are placed upon their service. It surely is an example for all, but especially a motivation for sisters to become involved in mission activities.
Some names have been mentioned in this paper, because it was felt that it was necessary in writing a historical treatise. There are many other names that could be mentioned, as their contribution has been important, but it is assumed that they will understand that it was in the best interest of the A.C.B.M. and the service of the Lord to remain anonymous.”
– JJ ROSSER, 1994.
Since the booklet was written by brother Jim Rosser, the work by both the Filipino brethren and the ACBM, (Australian Christadelphian Bible Mission), the Philippine Working Committee and many brethren and sisters in Australia and throughout the world, the ecclesias assisting this work has continued, and as such to promote continued fellowship one with the other in the Philippines.
I am not certain, but perhaps one of the grandsons of Bro. Pedro Jimeno is a member of CTA, though know he is a member of CMR.
The ACBM and Filipino brethren have regular Bible Schools, studies and youth groups, Conferences, and the Truth in this region continues to grow.
In the south islands as indicated in brother Rosser’s report, there are established ecclesias, when I have moment I will find an email, of events a few years ago, in Kili Kili which, events were just amazing, however, the main city in the South, Mindanao, is a reasonably safe area, as there is a US presence, and also industry, a huge pineapple plantation, so, as mentioned, the Kili Kili story a bit later.