A Report On Our Trip To The Philippine Islands
Roy E. Cogdill
On Wednesday morning we left by plane from Manila for Davao City on the Island of Mindanao, accompanied by Brother Gamit. We were met at the airport by brethren Rodrigo Diego and Juanito Balbin. They with some of their families gave us a very warm reception and helped us find our way to the Bus Station and get on a very crowded bus to make the trip from Davao City to M'Lang. The public buses on the Islands are on the order of school buses in this country minus the sides. They are entirely open and are both express and local. The public riding them carries almost every imaginable article on the bus with them and it seems like nearly everybody is going somewhere at nearly all hours of both day and night by public conveyance. The reason for this, of course, is the fact that the most of the people own no private means of conveyance at all.
We travelled at a rather high rate of speed over unpaved roads most of the way and they were as rough as I can remember ever riding over. The trip was quite an experience. It was about 150 kilometers and required several hours. We eventually came to a station stop at a cross road and got off the bus to await some means of transportation for the last several kilometers of our journey on into M'Lang. After a while a "Jeep-ney" came along that was willing to take us into M'Lang. Public means of transportation in the Philippines consists of planes, boats, public buses, mini-buses, Jeepneys, Honda cycles with side cars, and horse drawn two wheel carts. Their horses are about the size of our hackney ponies in this country and the carts have very large wheels and you are made to wonder how the horse stays on the ground enough to pull the cart when they get it loaded. All of the vehicles are overloaded usually. We saw eight grown people piled on and in one of the Honda vehicles that really has room for only three. We rode on all of these different kinds of conveyances before our trip was over.
Brother R. B. Agduma and the brethren in M'Lang had extensive preparation for taking care of the visitors who came to a five day lectureship they had planned. It embraced Wednesday night, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, May 21-24. The services each day began about 7:30 each morning and lasted until about 9:30 each night. We had about an hour and a half off at lunch and about two or two and a half hours in the evening between services. Brother Agduma's home is just back of the meeting house and fronting on another street. He, with the help of the brethren, had covered his whole side yard with an arbor made of bamboo poles and thatched with grass covered roofing and had thus provided a place for tables and seats to feed and entertain the many visitors. His home was crowded for the four full days and I suppose the same was pretty well true of the other homes of the brethren in M'Lang. Brother Agduma's good wife managed the purchasing and preparation of all the food for all the visitors, three times a day for all four days. She had some good help and the chicken, fish, roasted pig and goat, with rice, vegetables, fruits, and deserts were in abundance and delicious. Visiting brethren contributed individually to the expense incurred until Brother Agduma said sufficient amount had been received to take care of the expense. But his wife and others could not have been compensated for their generous hospitality and hard labor for the duration of the lectures.
About three hundred brethren attended the five day lectureship and some forty preachers were there from the provinces of the Island of Mindanao with a few from some of the other Islands. The Filipino brethren are sweet singers and the song services were a very enjoyable part of the worship. They sing, for the most part, in English though they have the words of many of the songs mimeographed in some of their native dialects for some of the members not familiar with English. They have used song books that have been obtained from American churches and use two or three different kinds because they do not have enough of one kind to go around and the numbers are announced for each book. There are a number of the churches over there that could use some good used song books that have been discarded or replaced over here. If you have any or can obtain some and are not directly in touch with any of the Filipino brethren, write either Brother Willis or me and we will put you in touch with some of them so you can send your used books to them.
We arrived on Wednesday and Brother Willis and I spoke on Wednesday night since a good number of the brethren had arrived by that time. We also spoke at several of the services during the four days of the lectureship but we had the opportunity of hearing numbers of the Filipino brethren. They impressed me, for the most part, as a group of men who have a very clear understanding of New Testament truth, deep convictions concerning it and a great deal of ability in teaching and contending for the faith. They would compare favorably with any average group of American preachers in these respects and from most any other point of view when you take into consideration the advantages, education, etc., of the two groups. The Filipino brethren impressed me as a whole as being eager to learn, firm in their convictions, fervent in their love for the Lord and truth and warm and responsive in their regard for duty. Twenty-eight were baptized while we were in the Islands and two were restored from liberal error. We have had the report of quite a number of baptisms since returning.
In general I would say that my estimate of the situation in the Republic of the Philippine Islands would be that there is one of the best opportunities for the growth and expansion of the Kingdom of God that can be found anywhere on earth today. Truth is making tremendous progress and with the proper help and encouragement, even greater progress will be made in days to come. While in M'Lang, Brother Willis and I rented rooms for ten in a small hotel that was comparatively new and clean for the five full days of our stay there for the sum of $25 (American money) and had a number of the preachers stay there with us. This gave us a lot of association with them and a better chance of really getting acquainted with them. Incidentally, it also kept strangers out of the hotel and gave us an escort back and forth to the services at the meeting place.
A Legal Handicap
The building at M'Lang and one other small building out of Calipan on the Island of Mindoro were the only two places of worship we saw which were owned by the brethren. Most all other congregations meet in rented quarters, most usually in private homes. Some few have acquired lots for building "chapels" as they call them, or places of worship, though I do not know how title to these properties are being held. The legal situation is this: the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippine Islands provides that a society, religious or otherwise, that is not affiliated with a corporate organization registered with the Federal Security Exchange Commission cannot hold title to its own property, have a bank account in its own name, or hold public meetings without a permit, nor can its preacher be recognized as having the right to officiate in performing weddings, etc. I do not know what influenced this provision but it has been quite a handicap to independent congregations. This has prevented, together with the lack of resources, the congregations that are independent and opposed to human organizations or a federation of local churches from owning their own property in their own name. This is the legal handicap already spoken of and which we had hoped to help work out in some manner.
Of course, this has constituted no problem for the liberal churches for they do not object to federating the churches into one organization. They have met this requirement by incorporating the Philippine Bible College, registering it with the S. E. C. and then registering the liberal churches under this organization. The P. B. C. has as its Board of Directors the elders of the Inglewood, California, church. This places a considerable measure of power over the churches in the hands of the P. B. C., as well as control over the preachers of the liberal churches and they have not failed to take advantage of it from several instances about which we were told.
I talked with the lawyer in Manila, hereinabove referred to, about the possibility of meeting the requirements of the law without forming an unscriptural organization of federation to control church property and funds and thereby to control the churches themselves. We had some difficulty in communicating because of the language barrier. However, most of the Filipino people with any education read and understand English better than when they hear it spoken. He is studying some of the suggestions I made and I am writing him, putting the questions in direct simple language, and expect to receive an opinion from him as to whether or not a solution can be found. I am a little doubtful. The Filipino brethren, who are determined to stand for the New Testament pattern of things in the organization and work of the church as well as all other matters without any federation of churches, are doing a splendid job of propagating the truth without big church buildings which we so often deem so necessary to congregational growth and activity here in America. There are many instances of "the church which is in thy house" over there and they are busily engaged in a personal program of teaching and preaching wherever opportunity affords and with whatever facilities are at their command and they are doing a good job of it too, from what I could see and judge.
There must be seventy five or eighty faithful groups meeting in the Islands and we met forty-five or fifty preachers whom we had reason to believe are committed to the principles of congregational autonomy, independence, and equality and firmly opposed to any kind of a human organization being built and maintained as a church institution or out of church funds to function in the work of the church. There are no American preachers in the Philippines who are not liberal. Those over there, for the most part, have taken every opportunity to make things more difficult for those who oppose their human practices and liberalism and will not go along with them. We will deal with some of that in a later article.