His lifeless body sprawled on the ground, his head smashed, his oozing blood – I worried that my parents saw those, or else they would pull me out.
Jarell De Jesus, D’X-Man
One time I watched the program of Maximo Bularan. I think that was in IBC 13. Maximo Bularan and Rene Panoncillo, very emphatically were saying, “Our countrymen, we are inviting you. We want you to be saved. If you do not get affiliated with this Church, your bones will scorch in hell.” That was what got me. I was convinced by what Bularan said. I then began to see how I could join them.
In our Barangay, 50% are Catholics, 40% are Iglesia ni Cristo. In other words, we did not get hard up in locating them. I asked around and found a Chapel there. Actually, I only talked to our neighbor with a family of “handog” (handed over). Their father was a head deacon of the town, and then he had a minister son. All of the children are handog. So we are called “bunga” (fruit). Bunga to them is member.
For six months continuously attending their indoctrination, I had no absence though I was going to school. They call that trial. In that six months, they will see if you will not turn back. You are being tried but you are not considered a member – just a visitor. Yet, I was already giving contributions. I was only 18 then. Though I was studying, I was strictly going to their church services. After six months, I was baptized.
With them, if a Barangay Captain gets affiliated, he is considered 100 members. If a child of the Barangay Captain gets affiliated, she is worth 10 members. We don’t see documents proving that though. Anyway, I did not stay long there, but I mastered their doctrines. I memorized them.
Christ is man; Felix Manalo is an angel from the east; he is worm Jacob, a messenger of the last days; and many more. I believed then that Felix Manalo is a messenger.
I was a student staying in a boarding house. One time our gate was locked, but I climbed up the gate just so I could get out. Of course, it was too early and I did not like to disturb our landlady. I would attend worship services of the Iglesia ni Cristo in the early morning. From the boarding house to the place of worship is four kilometers. I would walk that distance. There were jeeps going there; there were tricycles, but I did not mind them. I wanted to make it on my own. I wanted to feel the dedication because I felt I found the truth. I was very active.
With the Iglesia ni Cristo, when it comes to Santa Cena (Holy Supper), you would see thick jewelries, beautiful dresses, and the owners would be seated at the front. Seating arrangement separated the males from the females, and children were not allowed to enter. It has the impression of discipline and order, but it looks disturbing for some. There were instances members did not attend gatherings for lack of money.
“Why didn’t you attend?”
“I did not have anything for contribution.”
I had seen personally Eraṅo Manalo when he went to Capaz, Tarlac. The Manalo’s are really tall – like the race of angels. When Eraṅo visits a locale, he has an advance party. The SCAN would be there.
It is early morning; the ambiance would be like Christ coming down. There is that impending congregational crying. There is a promise of stampede coming. During that time, the members shook hands with him.
That one time, the door was just opening and the crying began. Huhuhuhu… That is what they have instilled in us – not the teachings but that form of crying. That kind of crying in waves, that you can make the whole group cry – that is their definition of graceful prayer. Full of spirit, that is.
So, the door begins to open because Eraṅo Manalo is coming. Right away the crying begins. “Brothers, what is this? He is not yet here! Why do you start crying?” Silence – as if on reality check.
I saw Manalo arrive. The door is being closed to prevent stampede.
In my observation, Eraṅo is not very good at delivering a topic. He finishes. Then there is no prayer yet but they would begin crying, and the crying is too much. I could not cry; I didn’t know why. As if I had to force myself to cry, but I could not. I was wondering why because I was crying with them before.
The crying came in waves. It seemed like they practiced doing that. There were waves and waves of crying that rose and fell, rose and fell, rose and fell. Meanwhile, the chapel seemed to shake…. was shaking.
“Rise up… father! Huhuhuhuhu!” My hair stood on end! It was like demonic. I did not like to hear it because it was like calling for a demon.
There was crying, crying, crying – in waves and waves that rose and fell. The chapel seemed to shake from much crying. Since the chapel was concrete and enclosed, when they cried together, their prayer created an eerie sound, and then accompanied by waves.
I saw the INC having influence in the barangay because every time there is a problem and it is the INC members who are at fault, they are given favor. When it came to the local government, in the Municipal Hall, they are backed up by the Barangay Captain.
As an INC member, I was able to convert my father who was a Barangay Captain before. There were issues in the barangay. I think he needed some defense and the Iglesia ni Cristo promises defense for their members. Then and there, he got affiliated. So now, there were two of us attending the church gatherings.
What hurts was that, when I got affiliated with the Church of God International that Bro. Eli Soriano is Presiding Minister to, my father was excommunicated by the Iglesia ni Cristo. He was the incumbent barangay captain and he was to be on his third term. For this supposed third term, a Catholic fought him. Though the INC backed up my father, he lost in the elections because the strength of the Catholics was fierce.
According to my father, when you lose, you are marked; history records that loss. So after that loss, the following election, my father had his own protégé that he had groomed for Barangay Captain to beat the one who had beat him. But his opponent was rich. She paid the Iglesia ni Cristo. In short, the one carried by the INC was the one who paid them. The elections went on as usual.
My father did not completely believe in the doctrines of the INC who required bloc voting. In his pride, he still pushed for his protégé and disregarded the INC requirement. When the INC learned about it, my father got excommunicated.
I challenged my father: “Pa, I thought yours is the true church and outside, there is no salvation. Why did they excommunicate you? So now, you have no salvation!” My father simply bowed his head. He remained silent. I pity him.
But I didn’t count that as loss. There are many who had been excommunicated just for refusing to bloc-vote the candidate of the Iglesia ni Cristo. On the other hand, I am happy they excommunicated him. It is not a loss.
I grew up a Catholic, but there came a time I was looking for truth. I went here and there. I also listened to Wilde Almeda of the Jesus Miracle Crusade. I also listened to Mike Velarde. I have heard his three jumps, three eggs. Invert the umbrella for the rain of blessings from heaven. I knew all those. Those were really weird. Really weird! Now, here comes the Iglesia ni Manalo. They are using the Bible, but they are deceiving.
So, I was back to looking for truth but truth was like a shadow. You cannot see light in a shadow. My father began watching Bro. Eli, I began watching too.
But we were not allowed to watch Bro. Eli. So if you watch, you will have some guilt feeling. You would be shy to open the channels. But in RPN9, I watched Bro. Eli.
In the INC, they always read to us the Lamsa version of Acts 20:28. Take care of your body and the whole body… redeemed by the Church of Christ. Meanwhile, while I was watching Bro. Eli’s program, Bro. Eli mentioned that the INC exclusively use this version because it mentions “Church of Christ,” but all other versions use “Church of God.”
Now, since it was “Iglesia ni Cristo” (Church of Christ) that was instilled in my mind and not “Iglesia ng Panginoon” (Church of God), I believed Soriano was lying. Then I began to research.
We knew that. It was RPN9 and Free TV. It was clear to find it. I did not believe because I looked at Bro. Eli as a demon. That was what was being said with us. “Do not watch! His demonic spirit might convey to you!”
We read Pasugo, the INC magazine. But they did not allow us to read the Bible. They say there is a right involved. Since you cannot understand, why do you read? Oh, yes, so why should I read? To one who was made to understand that, it is to him who should read that. Reading is only meant for those chosen like the ministers, their pastors. They alone have the right to read the Bible.
So we had to listen to the minister. But when I got affiliated with the Church of God, I was surprised to find that all of the members carried Bibles. That is including the children from the Kawan ng Cordero (KNC). They, too, had Bibles with them. You see, we were much deprived of reading the Bible. Whenever we saw the Bible, we shunned it. But over here, everyone carries a Bible and is writing notes!
Over with the Iglesia ni Cristo, the talk is that Bro. Eli was their member but they excommunicated him. They said, he had misappropriated some funds and that is why he was excommunicated. That is how they bad-mouth him. They prohibited us from watching Bro. Eli’s programs. There were times it was their treasurer who was talking. They also said Bro. Eli is reading the Bible but his interpretations are not correct. What he was saying was not true, they said.
But my father watched Bro. Eli’s program. We were watching for two years. I was watching with my father. Bro. Eli was discussing things that were too hurtful to the ears. I was hurting. Bro. Eli was saying Manalo is not an angel from the east.
“No! That is really Manalo!” I was reacting.
“Read. The angel from the east is Christ! Those numbered were 144,000. So how can that be Manalo? Did Manalo ever go to Israel?”
After two months watching, I noticed that I was already wearing skirts – instead of pants. I was not cutting my hair anymore. From January 2000 onwards, I did not anymore.
I was baptized on July 28, 2000. By October, I became a Church worker. Then I was being sent to my assignments. But INC ministers began coming to our house. They had new fabrications about Bro. Eli that they were propagating – that Soriano is a rapist; he is like this, like that. When I went home, the head deacon had collected articles against Ang Dating Daan and Bro. Eli. He placed them at the side and gave them to my father for me. I think they wanted me back.
I was being visited by officials of the Church locale, and the minister assigned there. They insisted, “Christ is man!”
“No, he is not!” I gave them a verse so that they can understand, then we began debating.
“Ah, so, you are changing words in the Bible!”
“What changing? Read! Read!”
The following day I was assigned to the Locale of Yangka. Singing started. If you are the front, it means you are playing a role. I saw the QUAT all went out. After the gathering, as I left, I noticed that there were the INC ministers who went to our home! They were many! I think they were deacons.
They asked me, “What are you doing here?” That means they followed me to my assignment. I never thought they knew where I would be assigned. I did not know that. They were there: the INC deacons, officials of the locale. It has been three years, yet they followed me. They saw me.
“What are you doing here?”
I hurried out.
“Answer me! What are you doing here?”
That was night time when I left the house. My father said, “Did you know that my brothers are stalking you?” My father knew; he knew their caliber. He was their member that time.
Again, my father said, “One time, they asked me, how many children do you have?”
“Six. But one of them was killed by the Iglesia ni Cristo.”
I did not like this to happen. Because, you know, they know. That means we are on their hotlist. We were receiving many death threats. They had been going to my father too because they excommunicated him. They wanted him back.
I came here to Apalit because of our program. Bro. Marcos Mataro invited me. He was our pilot in D’X-Man. We were the ones answering the Iglesia ni Cristo for their attacks against Bro. Eli. I did not expect that the program will stay long. After three episodes, they let me stay here until I became a mainstay.
Of course, there is no verbatim order that we cannot get out of the compound. But since Bro. Marcos Mataro was murdered, things have become rather difficult. If you go home, you should ask permission. If not allowed, you cannot. They were texting before. “We will kill Marcos! We will bury him alive. Those of you who are alive, we will skin you alive.”
Our program had a cell phone number reflected for comments and suggestions. One comment said, “You are such an animal, Mataro! You are a loud mouth!” Another message said, “You will not last up to 2008.”
We laughed. Though we knew they kill, we never expected they would do it to Bro. Marcos. So when he was murdered, “Oh, yes, so they gave us an example! The text message, after all, is true. They’re going to do it!”
After that, my world has shrunk terribly. There are areas in the Convention Center Compound that I cannot go to. I simply shift from my office, then back to my quarters. If ever I go home, there is always an escort for me. After Bro. Marcos died, we had to stay put.
I want to go home to see my parents. Just in my dreams I wanted to embrace them. I simply embrace them in my dreams. One time, I was able to go home because I was escorted. I was worrying that my parents watched the “Cry for Justice for Bro. Marcos Mataro.” His lifeless body sprawled on the ground, his head smashed, his oozing blood – I worried that my parents saw those, or else they would pull me out.
I would not like to stop because we were at the peak of the battle for him. And UNTV had very good reception. I was just wondering that ever since Bro. Marcos died, up until I went home, there was no access to UNTV37 in our place. They did not know Bro. Marcos died. If they knew, they would surely send for me. More so if they learned about our bludgeoned brothers by Jollibee restaurant.
My father said, “It had been a long time we had no reception for UNTV.” I was very happy. Thanks be to God! Did you know when they learned that Bro. Marcos died? This December 2013! That was the time I had the courage to tell them Bro. Marcos died in 2008 yet. That’s already many years ago.
My father asked me, “So how is Mataro?”
“Mataro? He was elevated”
“Ah, is he now with Soriano?”
I told him, he died and because of the “Cry for Justice,” we were filed a case. We appeared in court once. Bro. Eli, Bro. Daniel, all X-Man hosts were named respondents.
Of course, there were the QUATS. Once, I was looking out at the veranda, the QUAT said, “Sis, no!” He told me to move away from there. Then the case filed in Marawi City in Mindanao, our lawyers there are the ones moving. Up until now.
My trials involve limited access to people. If you mention going to market, that would be like a dream come true to me. “Oh! Good for you, you were able to go to market!”
Bro. Marcos was just murdered. It changed everything for us and shrunk our personal space. Early morning you would be awakened, the security would give you instructions. The mind is so tortured. Then there were the threats. The press would bombard you with stories.
Amidst that, you hear, “Let’s go to the market!” If I could do that, I would find myself fulfilled that I can already die. My feelings were like that – because my world has become too small.
One time I went home, it was night time. Out of the window of the car, I saw the trees. I opened the windows and looked at them, the surroundings. When I looked at the trees, I was very happy. Just to see the trees outside, I was very happy.
Here’s one thing I cannot forget. When I was baptized, Bro. Eli said during our orientation: “Brothers and sisters, I have nothing to give you. My only instruction is, when it comes to righteousness, when it comes to faith, whatever the time, call me and I will defend you.”
That was what Bro. Eli said. “When it comes to righteousness, when it comes to faith, whatever the time, call me and I will defend you.”
I had not seen this with the ministers of Manalo – that when it came to righteousness, they are concerned for one soul that when you look at it, is like worthless, it is like nothing.
Not so with Bro. Eli.