I just felt Jesus Christ was there during that event and my hairs stood on end. From the stage, the sight was somewhat overwhelming, stupefying, amazing! I remember the prophecy of many nations gathering for Christ. The brethren gathered in one place – they of different colors, and their flags all the more showed their diversity. Flags and flags of diverse nations were waving and waving. It also happened that it was the 50th Anniversary of Bro. Eli’s work in the Church.
By Bro. Glenn Labung
I am a former Catholic. During our time in 1998, the Born Again Movement was going strong since the early 90’s, so most of my relatives became Born Again members. But even as early as my elementary grades I knew the Catholic faith was wrong, beginning with their images. Since I did not fully know what was right, I would go with my relatives during my birthdays. I would attend their mass when invited.
I grew up with my grandparents, and as a child I followed them wherever they went; they would buy me food and toys – up until my elementary grades and then high school. I grew up in Tondo and we were many in our youth group who went to church. But they wondered why I would grit my teeth at those idols even before them. So they thought I am different. As Catholics, we just went to mass.
With me, I already knew those images are not gods. I challenged the belief of the old folks that when you point to these idols, you denigrate them and as a result would get your finger crooked. But I was not just pointing; I was pointing the middle finger at the Santo Niño just before my playmates. In Tondo, there was a stair going up, and then there was a Santo Niño locked in a glass case. That was the one I was pointing to. By that time, I was in High School.
I didn’t have many vices; I just loved drinking. That was during my college days. When Fridays came, it was automatic. We got drunk until Sunday. Monday, it was up to us to attend class or not. But we really had to go, because anyway, when Friday came, we could go drinking again.
I had many barkada (gangmates). In college, my drinking buddies would take to the streets. Police before were not that strict and we were not afraid to offer them drinks. I also had barkada in Tondo. With my basketball peers, we also did a lot of drinking. Even with those who went on pot sessions, I had friends there. We called these sessions Tiongkian.
On Sunday morning, we played basketball, but we had to clean the street first. After the street is cleaned, came the Tiongkian. After we got stoned, that’s the time to play basketball. Like the slogan that says, “To get rid of drugs, get into sports.” But that is not true! It’s like saying, take drugs first before you engage in sports so that sports will taste sweet. When people get stoned, they are all smiles. But is that true? That’s happiness? It’s just like with wine. Some who drink may look happy, but they’re drinking loneliness… I think I have tasted all kinds of wine.
I also joined the Protestant groups, the Born Again. I was in college when I heard Bro. Eli the first time. I cannot exactly recall the topic but it was about the belief of the Catholics about Christ dying on a Friday and then on Sunday was risen. That fast! That was what opened my mind as I came from the Catholic faith. When I started hearing Bro. Eli again, suddenly he was gone! I was looking for him at Channel 13; unfortunately I could not find him.
After a time, I found him in RJ TV29. This is the real one, I thought to myself. What he is saying are true. I heard from him a number of times, and what I heard bolstered my belief that indeed, the Catholic faith is wrong. It was not difficult to accept what he was preaching.
What I heard from Channel RJ TV29 opened my eyes. Discovering Bro. Eli again enabled me to hear the doctrines. As explained by him later on, he was gone from Channel 13 because other religions ganged up on him; they bought airtime by blocks at a much higher price.
My first attempt to go to the Locale of Pacheco was to just attend the Worship Service. I knew then where it was, but the problem was that I could not find it no matter what I did. So what will I do now? I grew up in Tondo; I knew the place, but I could not find the Locale. I decided to go home but I saw the Gym near Panday Pira. There, I stayed in the Gym. I was in College that time.
I tried on a Thursday, yet I could not see the Church Locale. I tried on a Saturday. It so happened that King Cortez was my fellow youth but it was his brother, Bro. Cris, who was my playmate in basketball. I saw King sitting on the street so I approached him. Then and there I was able to attend the Worship Service. That was my very first service though I was not yet indoctrinated.
Over at the Locale of Pacheco, I noticed there is no artificiality at all. Everything is simple. When prayers come, you also feel like crying because the prayers are soulful. You can also feel the church worker is filled with spirit. Then the members are really sincere in their worship.
Outside the Locale, they are the same. You don’t see them acting differently. The brethren show concern for each other, solicitous about your situation, asking about each other’s welfare.
Actually, I never felt like I was a visitor at Pacheco hence I went for indoctrination. I had a neighbor named Bro. Sonny Mendoza, my childhood friend. One time, there as a pasyon on our street. We were telling stories and I learned that he was also listening to Bro. Eli. We decided then to attend the mass indoctrination at the Locale of Pacheco.
That time, the indoctrinations were done live for as long as 12 days, 13 days. But with me, I already wanted to get baptized. I considered most important those about the preacher, about the proper way of praying, what is not considered vexing the Holy Spirit, and about baptism as last topic. But I already wanted to get baptized as the doctrines sounded basic.
I remember those from the Close-in-Security Group. That was where they were attending church services. When you enter the Locale, you can feel that you are entering a brotherhood. They’re authentic; they’re true; they’re sincere – not plastic.
When I heard Bro. Eli and observed the church workers and the brethren, I decided the organization was true. When I arrived, I knew I would belong to the youth group. Bro. Ace, Caloy, and the rest – I just knew I was one of them. I never felt like I was a visitor.
I took courage to get baptized because I was playing basketball in the place of people I came to know, including Bro. King. I found out they were already members. At first, I was afraid because, you see Tondo is very wide. I was thinking that I might not be able to cope. So it was that hard? How could that be? Those were my basic questions. The one about dressing – of course, I was thinking, so what now that I have a girl friend? She was like that – with immodest dressing. I was thinking it was difficult, but then, truth is truth. Eventually I got baptized on June 26, 1998.
My family thought I was going the wrong path. They were Catholics. Then in my mother’s side, some of them are Born Again members. So they thought where I was going was a mistake. You see, after my graduation, I was taking the review for board exam. But I became a Church worker instead and stayed in Apalit.
From there, they doubted, and so they objected. However, they could not do anything because it was my decision. So that it would not be difficult for me, I left our home to preclude much struggle. I was already of the right age; besides, I am through with college. It was just one of my siblings who I learned was hurt. Understandably, as if the burden was shifted to him. You see, I am the eldest, and he is next to me. He’s a graduate of Physical Therapy who went to the US and worked there for a while. Yet, I am supposed to be the breadwinner.
In the church, I did not feel much pressure because I knew I could stand on my own – unlike my supposed batch mate from Tondo whose parents were objecting so that he was not able to go through indoctrination. I was only 20 going on 21 then – just the right age.
My first Thanksgiving was very interesting. It was the graduation of Batch ’98. This is different from Batch ’98-’99. The Batch ’98 was composed of Sis Wens Lazaro, Bro. Hamillan, Bro. Raymond Nonato – most of those in Brazil now. That was that batch Bro. Eli was talking to, as this was their graduation. I could feel how he loved the brethren as he said, “ How I wanted to bring these workers to the Planetarium.” He wanted to show the majesty, the greatness of the work of God. I saw how Bro. Eli loved the brethren as he spoke to those graduating and who would be helping in the propagation work.
I was happy because I knew this organization to be true. I saw it in the concern of Bro. Eli for the brethren and for the church workers. Then I also had an experience.
In that ’98 graduation of workers, I got the camera of my companion, Bro. King. I was covering his graduation. Suddenly, someone blocked me. I asked him, “Brother, please step aside.” He followed me. Then he blocked my vision again. “Please step aside.” He followed me. But that was Bro. Daniel Razon!
I felt so ashamed when there was a discussion in Quiapo. The brethren were showing me that the man I was ordering to step aside was Bro. Daniel, the nephew of Bro. Eli. I felt so ashamed but it gave me the opportunity to see how humble Bro. Daniel is. Imagine, I asked him twice to step aside and he followed me! He was then also taking pictures of the church workers. I felt so ashamed upon finding out who he was. And at that time he was the OIC of Metro-Manila Division! Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel both are humble, they who are instruments of God. So, the more, I felt this is the organization being led by God.
There’s something I cannot forget, and that’s why I opted to stay in Apalit. During that time, there was no Administration in Central for Waste Management. Bro. Islaw Soriano was in Construction and he was a Church worker – with many responsibilities on his hands. He was the one being assigned by Bro. Eli. Now, Bro. Daniel wanted things to be done professionally and there would be offices for Waste Management, for the Clinic, for Engineering, and all those offices existing now.
I became Church worker and was going with the KSP core, being one of the aspirants. One time, we went with the Core to Muñoz. They were looking for someone to introduce to Bro. Eli for the Administration of the newly created Waste Management Office. Bro. Daniel was asking and I was recommended.
When asked, this was my answer: “How is that, Kuya? I just finished schooling, and you already know. I am not certain of my situation. I have offers from Texas Instruments; I may also have a chance at Amkor/Anam, and other semi-conductor companies because I am a graduate of ECE. So I was thinking, what about my family? How do I survive?”
His answer: “You know what it is about a double minded man? A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.”
My answer was, “Okay, when do I start?” I then went with the group.
Board exam… I had to forget about it now. I went with the project of Bro. Daniel. What he said made a strong impact on me. That explains why I am now at Central. So, this work really has to be top priority. With the mercy of God my family are not being neglected. Bro. Eli even remembers my parents.
About trials, like some brethren, I have passed some. You know, Bro. Eli? He is unique: when he teaches a lesson there really is wisdom. One time, Bro. Eli suspended us. We were the Blue Boys then. He said, “Listen! Wash all the bottles you can find at the Convention Center. All the bottles that you can recycle, clean them. After that, report to me.”
After a week, the security guard told him we have washed all bottles found. He forgave us, saying, “Okay now.” Just like that.
I felt that he was teaching us a lesson. When you are suspended, the spirit is withdrawn from you. What now? It was my schedule to go home to Tondo to visit my parents. Now, suppose something happens to me on the way?
All of us felt the same way that when you get suspended and then you happen to die, you wouldn’t be justified. So that was the feeling of one suspended – you fear! You don’t know what will become of you. It becomes a trial then. I knew that was to be a problem we had to consider.
As for miracles, I can tell you about my health. I think it was in 2013 or 2014 when I had a blocked artery on the left. Having to cope with it was a hurdle in itself. There was someone who had heart attack, perhaps a security guard. I was terrified for myself so I went for check-up. My ECG was okay but one doctor said I had a big heart. The other one said my heart’s size was normal because I am an athlete.
I went for 2D Echo, as I was curious because they were asking. Before, I had fatty liver because of drinking. That is the risk among those drinking: the fatty liver. Even if you’re not drinking now if you’re a former drinker, you have fatty liver. I had no control in eating fat. Because it’s only now that I am hearing Bro. Eli, it maybe too late.
My blood pressure rose up. I went for 2D Echo. The finding was that my left artery was blocked. But I didn’t know what block that was. The advice of the doctor was this: “Don’t play sports. Don’t play basketball, don’t go biking. You can only go jogging. Unless you go for angiogram, you have to be careful.”
As defined, an angiogram will show that the arteries to your heart are narrowed or blocked, where the blockages are located, and the size of whatever blockage.
So, of course, I was worried. I have two children, and I have a wife. I was thinking of my family. What now? I sent an email to Bro. Eli telling him of my situation. He replied: “Don’t worry. This is what you will do. Follow everything I tell you, then may God have mercy.”
He told me to have sunshine every morning, to go grounding, and then drink Omega 3, have vitamin injection every other day with Vitamin B Complex. I did that faithfully for more than a month. Aside from that, I also took B Complex orally.
I also monitored my heart rate. As I was prescribed some medicine supposedly to melt cholesterol, I did not take them. I understand the liver would be affected.
I went biking. Secretly, I went biking for one hour, never telling my doctor. However, I tried not to raise my heart rate to 122 beats per minute – just at 120 bpm. I did it slowly. I only went as far as Bgy. Sucad. I went round and round, very slowly. After one month, I scheduled for Stress Test. I simply followed all that Bro. Eli advised.
The Stress Test is where the heart and blood vessels will be tested to evaluate the cardiac treatment plan. A technician will rub small areas on your chest and place electrodes of sticky patches. The electrodes attached to an EKG monitor charts your heart’s activity during the test.
By this time I was running – exercising on a treadmill. I continued running – but until I can be exhausted, they told me. Suddenly the alarm rang! Even the doctors were alarmed. Just one of the flaps was loosened. Normally, they would stop the patient if they can see abnormalities on the screen. They would stop you because you are being monitored.
I did not understand so I kept running. I was not feeling anything – not at all exhausted. The doctors were asking me how I was. I said, “Nothing; I feel nothing. I am fine.”
The Stress Test was over. After a week, the results came out. The doctor said, “Okay, you can do what you like: Play basketball, go biking.” They were all surprised. There was blockage; now, there’s none? That’s one miracle.
Then I went to Brazil. Bro. Eli was talking one time to the ministers. I had written him about my health problem in about 24 pages. I was worrying then what would happen to my family. He turned to me and said, “Remember, the fear of God prolongs life. God has mercy.”
In Brazil, I’ve seen all the Locales like Sao Paolo, Curitiba, except one. I was not able to see Porte Alegre, the very first Locale. Because I had to keep seeing Bro. Eli on important matters, I went there during an International Thanksgiving in 2014.
The April 5-7 Thanksgiving in South America had allowed brethren from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Peru, and Venezuela, among other Central and South American nations to join the offering of the sacrifices of Thanksgiving with the contingents from North America and Canada. And of course, there were the Filipinos beginning with Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel.
My feeling was that it was like a gathering of all races worshipping the God of Israel. I went up the stage only twice: for opening prayer and when the household of Bro. Eli gave their presentation. I was with Bro. Rolly, Bro. Raymond, and Bro. Ryan. We were the cooks and we were cooking down the mountain because stoves were prohibited up the event area. So we were cooking down. We could hear the thunderclap – the thunderclap that the brethren heard during the service when Bro. Eli was giving texto. Thunderclap is God’s approval in the interpretation of the Church members. With this kind of thunderclap, there is no rain.
In our place down, there was one instance of showering but there was none up, where the event would take place. We were thankful for that because it kept us on the balance from the heat. Remember, the mountain area in Florianopolis was flattened to accommodate the makeshift tent built up for the event. Showers passed us, cooling us, but there was none up. If it did up, then the place would have gone muddy. The elevation of the mountain path was quite stiff and if it rained or showered, people would not be able to walk up because of the mud generated. But there was none up. It was like impossible then that showers selected our area down to cool us.
I walked up the mountain path for the opening prayer. Just walking up was already something different. I was noticing things that were not quite ordinary. I was walking – not riding a vehicle. I could not decipher my feelings. When I entered from the back of the stage, I could see a sea of faces. On the left side facing the stage were the Brazilians and on the right were the Latin Americans, and then the Filipinos. I could see the same faces that got affiliated in 1998 and now went abroad. There, I could feel the care of God.
With God’s mercy, these nations were all there. I could not explain my feelings. I just felt Jesus Christ was there during that event and my hairs stood on end. From the stage, the sight was somewhat overwhelming, stupefying, amazing! I remember the prophecy of many nations gathering for Christ. The brethren gathered in one place – they of different colors, and their flags all the more showed their diversity. Flags and flags of diverse nations were waving and waving. It also happened that it was the 50th Anniversary of Bro. Eli’s work in the Church.
I witness for Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel as Walking Bibles. They have the summary of the Bible with them, how they behave, how they do things, how they talk always with wisdom.
I’ve been with Bro. Eli as we worked. Out of nowhere, he would suddenly say, “Remember, everything starts from small things.” But I am just lighting a fire! [Laughter]. “The universe started from…” Now and then, he would be shouting his thoughts like this. I just get astonished at this thinker.
Until now, he teaches me new things. When I just came from Brazil, I was full of the many new things I learned including about food. What I have read in Food Network, he had been telling me those much earlier. Here’s now just a piece, I thought. It’s good we have access to Cable and the more I appreciate that the wisdom Bro. Eli is already here. Then he keeps having new things to teach.
When he was still in the country, one time, he had a hearing in Bicol, “Glenn, cook for 500 people. Make Menudo. Chop 50 kilos meat, then place 5 kilos carrots, 10 kilos potatoes, and then one-kilo bell pepper. Place 3 bottles tomato sauce, one longneck bottle patis, one bottle soy sauce. Prepare them, and then cook. It will taste delicious.” Of course, it really tasted good. But he was the one who cooked! We were the ones assisting him but he was the one who cooked.
He also knows something we, engineers, were supposed to know. Bro. Raymond is an Electrical Engineer. I am an Electronics Communication Engineer. It was just that very simple. We needed to place the stones, prop the kawa (large vat), and then light the fire. Bro. Raymond prepared the set-up but it was not balanced. I did it, but it was not balanced.
“Give that to me! What are you engineers good for? You have no symmetry!” We were amused, noting that he’s really one of a kind.
He also has quick reflex. I could not forget this instance in the kitchen. The oil cooking the Chitcharon was being transferred to a thick plastic since there was nothing else to use. It happened that it was super-hot. Bro. Eli was holding on to something, but he was able to pull Sis Emy. The oil dispersed. Bro. Eli’s reflex was so quick he was able to keep Sis Emy safe, himself, and control the spreading oil. He is really a quick thinker. Of course, because he is a man of God; he is an instrument of God. That was in cooking.
What I have learned about parenting, I have learned from both Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel. Bernie, one of Bro. Eli’s grandson when he was in Grade 3 and Grade 4 was assigned to me – just like Mai-mai and Bembe when they went biking. He loved his children and grandchildren so much. Whatever I have learned from them, like what vitamins they give, the doctors to consult – that’s what I do to my children.
If with Bro. Daniel, there’s really no one who has empathy for Bro. Eli greater then he has. Both of them have the same love for the brethren. I have experiences wherein they appear to think the same way. They are one. The thinking of Bro. Daniel is always along the thinking of Bro. Eli. With everything that Bro. Eli says, he applies what Paul said, “Think of what I said that you will be given understanding.” You see, whether we admit it or not, even if one has a Master’s Degree of whatever knowledge, be he a lawyer, doctor or whatever, no matter how brilliant you are of all languages, no matter how you think of what Bro. Eli is saying that we all hear during Pasalamat, if you were not given understanding like that one of Bro. Daniel, it will amount to nothing.
Because he was appointed for that. Whenever he thinks of what Bro. Eli says, he is given understanding of everything. That is where he defers. With the wisdom being given to him, when he thinks of those that Bro. Eli said, he does not go outside of what was said. Therefore, he does not violate them. It was Bro. Eli who said it, right?
There’s nothing Bro. Daniel could violate; there’s nothing he would supersede. Bro. Daniel also keeps saying at the KSP (Kapatid sa Pangalan or Brother in Name) before yet, “Mark this: when Bro. Eli says, red, we will all be red. If I say, white, it will still be red. What Bro. Eli says is what we should follow. Whatever I say, as long as it contravenes what Bro. Eli says, we will follow what Bro. Eli says.” He’s like that. But for a long time, I have not seen any instance wherein he said something that goes against the grain of what Bro. Eli wanted to happen.
There were times, Bro. Daniel would say, it is like this. Then Bro. Eli would call. I simply smile because it’s like they read each other’s mind.
Let me share you this: There was a brother who had a problem. Bro. Daniel said, “This is what I can advise, but please ask Bro. Eli.” The brother was going to help and so he was told to ask Bro. Eli. The brother was to give a piece of property. He was not yet given the whole amount but the promise of the brother was half the land. He already spent his share of the half. The advise of Bro. Daniel was the same as what Bro. Eli said. I was just smiling when I read the email.
I could see Bro. Daniel’s subservience to Bro. Eli. “Still you have to ask Bro. Eli,” he would say. There were many times that what Bro. Daniel said were in accordance with Bro. Eli’s instructions.
There was another. They wanted to gather some brethren. Bro. Daniel said, “Thanks be to God. That was what I had wanted to happen.” It was always like that.
Most of the time, my communication with Bro. Eli is about financial problems: those that have to be paid abroad, the broadcast, how they will be paid. Sometimes he tells me about needing to pay the satellite expenses in North America – where Bro. Josel Mallari is assigned. Then we talk about familiar problems – the same problem before yet: how to send money to their place.
There are many points Bro. Eli is lamenting about. I do not know what to say and so when he laments, I have nothing to say. I could not advise him as that’s not possible, but he is lamenting and he is distressed. In my mind, what can I do? What could be done? I can only pray. I remember the verse that says when you are troubled, pray. Then try my best to follow instructions but sometimes they fail. You see, sometimes, instead of being helpful, you become the reason for problems.
The patience of Bro. Eli has grown wider for all because, his children are increasing, his grandchildren are increasing. He even became more compassionate for everyone. More often he would tell me to find people who can lend money. I am glad there are brethren who lend without interest, and there are others with interest. Those are the things we talk about: financing and the things to be paid.
When Bro. Eli first left for abroad late 2005, he told me, “Glenn, remember this: do not destroy my trust in you. If you do, it cannot be returned anymore.” He repeated that in year 2015, when Hammilan left for Brazil: “Do not destroy my trust in you. Just tell me when you have problems. If you need something, just tell me. Do not take money without my knowledge.” With God’s mercy, I am able to keep that trust. You see, he has money. You can approach him for help. He would always remember my mother, the mothers of the ministers, the mothers of his helpers, because he loves his own mother.
It really feels good that he remembers my mother. I didn’t grow up with my mother but they are with me. That was really something good. When my children have their birthdays, he remembers them. My wife had her birthday; he remembered her too.
Bro. Eli has his own money. He has businesses. He has the beach in Morong, he has dormitories, and there are the stores, the hydrogen water… One time in Brazil when I was there, we were accounting for the quarterly income of these businesses – only the rough estimates. The amount was enough for his dependents to have a decent life. It is very clear to us and to him that he won’t touch anything for the propagation. He is like that.
I have a paper here that says all these businesses: dormitories, stores, grocery, Morong, SBJ medical supplies, and others in other divisions are his. He was the one who released the capital. If there is income, it is written in the book. It says here, “This book certifies that there are businesses earning for Bro. Eli Soriano to ensure clean conscience and not avail of the contributions and offerings of the brethren for personal use nor for the needs of his loved ones.” Signed and witnessed by Bro. Danny Navales, Sis Luz Cruz. Prepared by: Bro. Glenn Labung.
That is why everything is clean for the conscience that Bro. Eli does not touch the contributions, even just the coins from the KNC. KNC is Kawan ng Cordero (Flock of Lambs).
I remember one time I was about to buy food for the children. I saw some coins so I got them. “Where will you bring those?” he asked me.
“I have to buy food. They’re asking me to buy.”
“Do not get from there!”
“Why, what are those?”
“Those are offerings. Get from my drawer. There’s money there.”
I remembered that. Those were offerings of the KNC – the coins. You cannot get from those for him.
For example, if he asks something to be bought abroad from Bro. Josel’s area, the payment would be taken from his money. If you have no money, he will replace it. You only have to tell how much you took. He’s like that.
Even with Bro. Daniel, he does not get to see the offerings. He does not intervene because he says he is not the Presiding Minister. We even see more of these money than he does. If someone gives him money, automatically they go towards the collection of offerings. “Remember this: When someone gives me money, include them there.” This was his instruction. From time to time, I would call Bro. Daniel on Saturdays, “This one came from a brother.” “Include it there,” is all he says. He does not get them for this personal use although they are meant for such.
How do I handle pressure? I have many assisting me. The basic principle is to follow instructions. If there’s something lacking, at least you followed. Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel would understand that. What I remember the utmost is that all one has to do is to follow instructions.
Whatever he says, follow. But if you fail, as long as you follow – that’s what’s important. That is what he said. Like one time, we had not declared money yet. We did not know yet how much we were carrying. It was illegal. International Law limits what you carry to $10,000. But we carried more than that because we were to pay satellite expenses. Because of the call of your faith, you know that the money must reach soonest so you carry the money with all your courage. I just must follow. With the mercy of God, I was able to do it.
The practice is to declare the money. But then the police of some Customs somewhere would get interested – though the money for the propagation is legal, and declared in the Philippines. This is reality. Not everyone in this world today recognize God and the work of God.
What is important is to follow. Whatever is the instruction, just follow and you will not be compromised. Yes, there is pressure and you cannot erase that. The pressures are around PNK, the work. But whatever it is, just go with it. God will have mercy, those things will push through.
But we are many. We have many helpers in the kitchen. We have those in the Grocery, those in Morong. Bro. Gerry Caroro is there; we help each other. Our companions are brothers. We work as a team and may God help us. #