I was very hungry and Bro. Eli was feeding my soul. Why was he speaking that way? Why was he attacking the other religions so bravely? Was he putting the other religions down? I thought religions were true as long as one believed in God. It was unfair, but he seemed right about everything he said!
By Priscilla Mendoza
I used to be Catholic. Don`t blame me. My Catholic brood had me baptized just a few weeks after I was born. I was baptized without knowing why I should be baptized in Catholic rites. I was a babe, I didn`t know anything.
Mom and Dad never knew any other religion, but that which they were born with. My great grandparents were Spanish and were strictly Catholic. My grandparents followed suit, handed down to us all the Spanish-inspired Catholic rites and doctrines they have embraced through the years-even taught us how to speak and pray in Spanish: Spanish prayers for our dead, Spanish church hymns, rosary in Spanish, practically everything about religion was Spanish inspired.
Thereafter, I was sent to one of the most exclusive girls schools in the metropolis, a catholic convent school. Because English was the medium of instruction, we were taught how to pray in English, say the rosary in English, novenas in English and so forth. Of course we had a religion course which had patterned my virtues. I grew up to be a pious Catholic; a true kolehiyala. I went to Mass as many times as I could in a week. There was a daily Mass at six in the morning and 2 masses every 6 and 7 pm. I gave alms for the church each time I attended mass. I was compelled to do it because the alms bag would go to us and wait for us to drop whatever maximum amount we could give. I have followed all the doctrines of the Catholic Faith without reservations; I even attended town fiestas in memory of the patron saints of towns. Sometimes they made me queen or princess even if I wasn`t comfortable with it. I was Catholic. I had to abide.
But being Catholic had another side. We went to mass wearing the shortest skirts and tightest pants, could even wear shorts and sexy tops. The parish priests were lucky. They were supplied with the freshest baskets of fruits and assorted delicacies given by women who idolized them. If the parish priest wasn`t gay, well, he was a flirt. Some were flirting with us and vice-versa. Some parish priests had children.
When I started to drive my own car during my teens, I attended mass inside my car and left immediately before holy communion. At least I was able to “attend” mass even if I had to go to an “important party” or some group dates or shopping after. Yes, my weakness was shopping. I felt sick if I couldn`t buy what was “in”. I was very fashionable and call it, a very social girl. My family was pretty well off then. We never knew how it was to feel needy and poor. It was shameful to wear the same clothes at a gathering where some of your friends have seen you wear at another occasion.
During my adolescence, I met boys from exclusively schools. We went partying every weekend, non stop. I was admired a lot at an early age, but I was choosy. I wanted only the best ones who spoke English with an accent. I even spied on interesting ones if they were really filthy rich like how I was informed before I gave my answers. But these things never got into my head. I grew up in that environment. I thought everything was just normal. We have been advised by our teachers in school that we must collect and collect good guys and then select the best so we will not make mistakes. Before I knew it I was already counting boyfriends!
As days melted into years, I continued moving on with the ways of the society I grew up in. I was still going to mass and fiestas, but my enthusiasm mellowed down a bit because I was too preoccupied with parties, meeting friends, long telephone conversations, movies, etc. They said God will understand because He is a good and loving God. So I just promised my Catholic god that I shall visit him the following week, which never materialized. My promises went to overflowing. They always said God will understand. I hanged a rosary at the rear view mirror of my car and just touched it to say sorry to our Catholic god as compensation for my shortcomings.
I started to search for the true God when I began to experience heartaches, desperation, and bad health. It happened one day when I collapsed for no reason. Then it was happening all over. I had operations. A series of hospitalizations. I began to be emotional and heartbroken easily. I became insecure. Once again I resumed activity in church because I also had a problem too deep for me to fathom. I knew it was only God who can help me. I stayed in churches for hour recollecting, and talking to God with tears in my eyes. With or without mass I went to church. I cried to God for help and mercy. God heard my “prayers” and answered them. Or was it really God who answered my prayers?
I continued to thank God, lighted many costly candles so God can notice me, and I didn’t mind because it was for God. For a while I lived very peacefully. I moved on to continue serving my Catholic god. But things have really changed. I began to fear the unknown, like dying because I don’t know what lies ahead. I was too scared when the doctors told my family that I had 24 hours chance to live.
I can never accept death especially of my loved ones. I became nervous and anxious everyday. I went to my sanctuary every instance that I wasn`t feeling good. But as days passed by I began to feel uncomfortable with my faith. I felt dissatisfied with every church visit I made. It was all the same day in and day out. I wanted answers; not just acceptance of what the catholic advisers said. For me they never answered my deep questions because whatever they said led to other deeper questions which they just laughed it off. I needed to know because the way it was, life had no meaning. What was the reason I was born? Was it to be born and then god kills later, why that way? Why be born anyway? Something just wasn’t right!
Although I continued to perform the catholic rituals, I wasn`t getting any better. Life was nothing because the next thing after birth was death. There was no essence in living because you`d die or get killed by God anyway. We believed in life after death, but deep inside I was never convinced that it was true. I wanted the truth. I sought the advice of different fortune-tellers. But I got tired of them. They just got away with my money, and they were too expensive! They made me all the more tense and nervous with their predictions. I was rich and had almost everything I wanted, but I was not happy. There was something missing in my life. I was loved but why was I lonely inside? I tried to enjoy my life because death could get me anytime. I went out simply to forget my uncertainties. But once I was alone, these eerie feelings came back and they were eating me up.
My life was too colorful for me to disclose. I had a secured life based on material and earthly success: could be described as wonderful and fiesta everyday. My circle of friends belonged to much wealthier kin; even the men who courted me were so filthy rich. But my spirit was poor; I knew it was so because my spirit gave me very low feelings. I was sad for no reason. I was aware that something I needed to know was deprived of me. Or maybe I was just feeling that way. I never knew then as I thought Catholic was the true religion.
I was blessed, many would say. But I never appreciated all this because those were just normal blessings in the kind of life I was born with. They meant nothing to me and to my friends as well.
And then. . . . it happened. One night while I was alone in our house, I turned on the television in my room. I saw Bro. Eli Soriano with his panel, speaking. I never liked him because he was different from our very suave priests. I switched channels and it was Bro. Eli appearing over and over on every channel I tuned in. Could it be that my TV was destroyed? Why so soon? It was okay the other night? Oh yes, maybe my sisters destroyed it because we were not in good terms those past few days. I held myself up inside my room so I would not encounter them. I didn`t have a choice but to contend myself with Brother Eli`s show, even if I didn’t like him.
It didn’t occur to me that I would be interested .in what this anti-catholic was saying. In minutes I found myself engrossed in every word that he uttered. He was answering the questions in my heart I have kept secret for a long, long time. It was as though he was listening to my heart. I realized that I was getting hooked on him. I was very hungry and Bro. Eli was feeding my soul. Why was he speaking that way? Why was he attacking the other religions so bravely? Was he putting the other religions down? I thought religions were true as long as you believe in God? It was unfair, but he seemed right about everything he said! And to my amazement, everything he said was based on the bible! I thought he memorized the Bible! I called him at his show on channel 21. He answered my question. It took me just one week to listen. After which I looked for a coordinating center. I wanted to be in this congregation.
I have completed my indoctrination. And on June 15, 2001 at 6:00 am, I sneaked out of our house and headed for my coordinating center. At 11:44 am, I was baptized in the true church of God, by Bro. Ato Tobias in Apalit, Pampanga. .I never felt that kind of inner peace in my whole life before. It was as if so many diseases were released from my system. As though I woke up from a much needed sleep. Was that real happiness? It was the first time I felt that kind of contentment.
I never regretted my leaving the catholic faith. My whole family hated me, made fun of my religion and the way I clod myself with. But I went on fighting for my God and my Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel. I am an educated person: I joined because I saw the rational in his teaching of the words of God. For once, I wasn`t afraid to live and to die because God has designed a purpose for my being. I never recognized all this in my past religion.
The truth is, many religions tried to persuade me, but I chose to remain catholic until I could no longer contain my hunger. I was on the verge of death both physical and spiritual. I thank God for having taken me out of the darkness through Bro. Eli. I thank God that through Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel as well, I have come to know the deepest truths inside the Bible. I began to know what life is all about, and what death is all about, too. I have never learned this from other faiths because God gave this special gift to only one man at a time. He chose Bro. Eli for he is a good man, a true man of God. I wish that one day soon many authorities would come to a unified realization that Bro. and Bro. Daniel are the only true preachers from God in time. And that they are good men of the one true God.
This June 15, I am recalling my baptism day, my birthday in spirit, my 8th year in the true church of God. Despite the numerous odds and trials, which I never thought I could cope with, God helped me and carried me along the way. I thank God for all the instruments He used to keep me safe in the church. I thank God for Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel and a special person who strengthened me when I was almost going. God used them all to keep me in His pasture. I know what Life is and Death, too. I can die anytime God wants to make me rest in His loving hands.
Again, I thank God for all His wonders and loving kindness. I thank God for taking care of Bro. Eli and Bro. Daniel amid all the threats and destructions. And thank You, too, Lord for that special person You authorized to help me through . . .who was always there when the going got rough.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ALL THE 3,000 SOULS WHO WERE BAPTIZED WITH ME. on June 15, 2001 in Apalit, Pampanga.