That name registered fully well in my mind, as if it were deeply encoded in my brain. Correct, that Bro. Eli is the one he used to watch on TV every afternoon.
By Ryan G. Borja
I was born and raised a Catholic just because I was baptized by a Catholic priest. But today, I can say those were just about rituals, papers and some money.
As I grew older, I realized we really never attended the mass in our parochial church together as a family. If you want to attend the masses, you can do so at your own will. If you want to receive communion, you are free to do it. But we really never practiced the faith very religiously and devoutly. And I thanked God that we had that set-up in my poor home. Those things helped me in deciding and pursuing a path that I can be proud of – the Path that gave me fulfillment and peace of mind.
When I was in my elementary grades, my father used to turn on the television set in the afternoon, but not to watch the country’s favorite noontime show. He would surf out TV channels for only one station and that was IBC Channel 13. And my mother would say, “There’s goes your daddy again – he is watching that man!”
I did not bother. In my young mind, I thought then that my father is really like that. He is fond of watching religious shows, attending debate forums in Plaza Miranda and Luneta Park to witness debate showdown. He is really like that.
Sometimes my father would bring the whole family to Luneta Park at night just to watch debates by different religious people. On our way to the park, he would enthuse, “Nandoon si Kristong Gala” (That man like Christ is there) or “Marami doong pastor na nagdedebate pero walang kagaya ni Bro. Eli.” (There are many pastors there debating, but there’s no one like Bro. Eli).
That name registered fully well in my mind, as if it were deeply encoded in my brain. Correct, that Bro. Eli is the one he used to watch on TV every afternoon. I never questioned my father because that is how he really is like in the family. And his TV habit is complemented by his radio habits. At night, he would listen to that man again called Bro. Eli. Sometimes, when the night is cold, and all in the streets are silent, the voice of that man coming from my father’s radio sizzles with Bro. Eli’s TV broadcast.
Years passed. My father continued to watch the show on TV called “Ang Dating Daan” and I would attend with him. Yes, that man, Bro. Eli, has good points and they are correct, I felt. Though the times I watched the program were few and far between, I began to admire him and liked his teachings.
In high school, when I was only about fourteen years old, I told my classmate in class that I am a member of the “Ang Dating Daan.” And my classmate would yell, “Whoa…where’s that?” And some would say, “Ah, the Church of Eli Soriano, is that a cult?” Some remarks were insulting, punctuated by smirks and laughter.
Those were the moments I most profoundly felt I was a member because I was almost the single person defending Bro. Eli. Some even challenged me for a debate, me defending “Ang Dating Daan.” I refused because I was not indoctrinated yet. I was not a member yet – officially, not having baptized even. But I felt certain that I will become a member and be baptized soon. So a question popped up in my mind: “Will I join Ang Dating Daan?”
Bro. Eli answered my question on the TV show when someone, same age of mine before, asked him the same dilemma I was having. During the “Itanong Mo kay Soriano” (Ask Bro. Eli) segment: “Can I join the Church?” Bro. Eli said, as I recalled it, “The Church only baptizes a person when he is at the right age and disposition; perhaps the age of eighteen is a good age that we allow a person to undergo baptism.”
So somehow, my world crumbled. But I still kept my promise to myself. I will join that church group when I reached eighteen, I said to myself. And life went on for me.
I finished high school and attended college and I still listened to Bro. Eli. Somehow, I already adapted in my life some of his teachings on TV like not praying rosary and novena. I quit a Marian movement after I received two medals for loyalty to Virgin Mary and one of the most religious attendees to the procession every Saturday night. I also did not attend masses during “Simbang Gabi” (Catholic night mass) and every Sunday. I became like that already. Though I did not read the Bible like my father, I said anyway, Bro. Eli will read for me and show the verses on TV. And I trust and have faith that he will not lie nor fool me or anyone else.
When I reached eighteen, I became too busy with so many things – my barkada (buddies) who liked partying in disco and wasting money in movie houses, my beer mates, my studies and me. It was as though I was at a crossroad and seemed to forget my promise. I had the same worldly interests until I graduated from college.
After graduation, I became busy with my work. With money all my own, my vices were amplified. With everything I was doing, I suspected that I would completely be corrupted if I did not change. I once again watched “Ang Dating Daan.” I said to myself that this maybe the last chance for me to fulfill my promise.
Luckily, Bro. Josel Mallari, one of the Ministers-in-charge, was announcing schedules for a new series of mass indoctrination. His voice lingered long in my mind even before I slept that night. “I must be saved,” I told myself. I believe Bro. Eli will lead me to salvation.
The next day, it was like any ordinary day for a professional reporter in a news publication. After submitting my work to my editor, I immediately left the office. No one knew where I was headed for. My father and mother did not have any idea what I was supposed to do that night.
I would like to challenge myself and I decided to fulfill my promise, no matter what. At 6pm, I was already on the bus going to Quiapo. Metro-Manila. Usually, I rode a bus from my office in Ortigas to Cubao.
At 7pm, I was at the door of the Quiapo Coordinating Center of the “Ang Dating Daan.” Smiles greeted me and I felt inspired. This will be a special day and that day was when everything started to change my life. When the congregational singing started, it swept me all the more to a high.
I am now a member of the Members Church of God International (MCGI) and I am proud to say I have found a place for eight years already. I thank God I was called from among millions of people in the whole world. Thanks be to God!