I quickly knew he was the same man I heard on radio since I remembered his voice. He still got the sense and style in dissecting the verses of the Bible like an expert surgeon who heals the sinful souls of men unto repentance and be reconciled to God.
If my memory serves me right, I think I first heard the preaching of Bro. Eliseo Soriano on radio when I was still in Grade 5.
I was then a frequent listener of Ernie Baron’s live radio program, Knowledge Power, where he accepted phoned-in questions and people can ask him about trivial facts. It’s a kind of program where a challenging caller can sometimes give hard questions (or even absurd), trying to outsmart him in his own show.
The thing that got me interested was that he would manage to drolly answer them (somehow, I guess). As I didn’t usually stay long on one show, I scanned through all those radio channels from end to end (the same way I always do to our TV remote control). And then I found myself listening to a similar type of program where live phoned-in questions were allowed. This time, it was about religion and spirituality! (Yes, I was excited!).
I didn’t know the title of the show, the time slot, the kHz, nor the man who answered those questions with Biblical prowess. However, I particularly remember him saying that idol worship is an abomination. Some other questions he answered using scriptural verses were about magic, and another one about tattoo. He said that such practices are both prohibited by God according to the Bible. And I said, “Wow! This man surely has the sense and style.”
Catholic’s liturgical mass was often held in our school, though beside it is a chapel of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC).
I got my first Bible given in our school published by Gideons International. It was brown and small; it contained only the New Testament. And I thought then that it was the entirety of the Holy Book. The following year, I was given another one: it was pocket-sized and it’s blue. I think it had just Proverbs and Psalms in it. I compared it with our bigger and dusty Bible at home and understood that the first book of the Scriptures is Genesis. From then on, I started reading it from time to time and have finished the 66 books after a year or so.
I would look up the verses I heard from that radio program (though I still haven’t got his name) and would also bring my mini-Bible to school. Our class was regularly visited by catechists who felt obliged to teach us basic Catholicism now that we were no more whining babies and can now decide to accept or reject things. I raised questions like “Where does God come from if he is the originator of all things?” and “Why do we need to worship these effigies of biblical persons like Jesus, Mary, or the apostles if it’s called in the Bible as idolatry?”
Sadly, the answers didn’t satisfy me. After that letdown, I tried to have a small discussion with my classmate who often amused our class with his magic and lame tricks. He was a member of the INC so I challenged him that if I can prove that doing magic is unchristian then he must teach me some of his cool tricks.
He agreed and I won the deal. The poor guy was left confused with his belief because he didn’t realize that sorcery is different from sleight of hand tricks (heheh!). At that very young age (12), my concept of religion was that there is no particular group or denomination that would exclusively inherit heaven. (With the INCs, no one outside of their church can be saved!)
All of us in the family were Catholics but the questionable dogmas in that church did not bother me at all. I was comfortable to believe that it was the individual acts of a person that will merit his salvation and not just his religious affiliation. That was my belief then.
After grade school, my mother once thought of enrolling me to become a catholic priest. I rejected the idea because I said to myself, that’s “so gay.” And most nuns I knew were either hags or if pretty, they’re lesbians. I’m not sure if I was just being judgmental or what, but I firmly believed that I can’t lead that kind of priesthood under the vow of celebrity, err I mean celibacy. But as they say, mother knows best —so, she still enrolled me in a parochial school (Sigh!).
I didn’t think of myself as religious at all even though I was a church choir member and often hung out with naughty altar boys or acolytes. One time, I even made fun of the so-called sacred images by replacing the head of a life-sized statue of Virgin Mary with a guy’s head. If that belonged to St. Joseph, I didn’t know, since most of the guy saints have beards and all looked the same to me.
Sometimes, I even washed my dirty hands on those holy water basins and laugh at those stupid people who drank from them afterwards, maybe hoping for some instant healing effect.
Despite those things I did, I have memorized every word of what the celebrant or the priest would say when he conducted a mass and I would recite along as he talked. It was just to amuse myself in those boring rituals.
Then fate came. It was in my 3rd year high school that I again heard Bro. Eli Soriano’s unique religious program. This time, it was on TV. I quickly knew he was the same man I heard on radio since I remembered his voice. He still got the sense and style in dissecting the verses of the Bible like an expert surgeon who heals the sinful souls of men unto repentance and be reconciled to God.
I already learned the title of the program and even knew his full name. His TV show, The Old Path (Ang Dating Daan), was then being aired on irregular timeslots on IBC Channel 13. Sometimes, it was in the afternoon. Sometimes, it was in the very late hours of the night. But I and my older brother still enjoyed watching it even when the TV signal became poor.
My brother was baptized in the Members Church of God International (MCGI) few months ahead of me. I was really pissed off that he didn’t ask me to come with him while he was still undergoing indoctrination. Luckily, I somehow managed to have my scholarship revoked in that parochial school and got transferred to a more free environment public school.
From there, I was so happy to find a coordinating center of the MCGI near our residence. I attended the first night of indoctrination with a black eye and a smile on my face. It was because some petty teenaged gangsters (read as “gangstahs”) who were probably hired by satan himself, cornered me while I was alone waiting for a jeepney ride. I was actually ready to fight back, but worried that I might be late because I was not sure if the session would start at 7pm or 8pm. So, I let those lucky bastards run away without any bruises. (Yes, they ran but I didn’t know what scared them away since I was all alone and unarmed.)
Finally, I was baptized at the age of 15. That was 1998 and up to now, my life as a Christian sojourner on earth still continues … and I’m being renewed day by day.
I’m forever grateful to God and to his sent messenger, Bro. Eliseo F. Soriano.
Colossians 3:10 — “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:”
by Ren Newman