My Husband’s Experience
Please allow me to digress a little and talk about my husband’s experience about this same time I was in distress. This was late 1972. It will show you a little about God’s timing.
My husband needed to have his gun licenses renewed. My half-brother, who lives in Aurora Avenue in Santa Cruz district, was in the gun licensing business. My husband went there to engage his services. After winding up the business, my half-brother invited my husband to attend a worship service just around the corner in Sulu St. The worship was to be held in the apartment owned by Mrs. Magat. This fellowship was an outstation of the Bethel Temple at the corner of General Luna St. and Taft Ave (it is now known as The Cathedral of Praise).
The congregation consisted of squatters, sidewalk vendors, taxi drivers, a public works engineer, a buy-and-sell merchant, and a few “tambays”. The speaker that night was Brod Alano, the station master at the Culi-Culi railroad station in Pasay. He carried a well-worn and grimy Bible. They started by singing a few hymns (without accompaniment). But there was a difference. They sang from the heart. The members of the congregation were ex-somethings — Ex drug addicts, ex cancer patients, ex heart patients, ex convicts, ex deserted wives, ex unemployed etc. They sang at the top of their voices slightly off-key, hands raised, eyes closed, faces turned upwards as if in a trance, tears rolling down their cheeks. They sang “How great Thou art”, “Amazing Grace”, “This is the day that the Lord had made”, “Not by might nor by power”; sometimes in Tagalog, sometimes in English. It was the women in the congregation who would lead to the next hymn, so the singing was continuous and uninterrupted. The fervency steadily increased until it reached feverish proportions and when they ran out of hymns, the shouting began. “Praise the Lord” in Tagalog and English was shouted all over the place. Some were jumping up and down, some were clapping, some were bawling like babies. It was just like they were watching a basketball game. They were simply cheering God.
This hysterical and almost violent method of worship shocked my husband. He belonged to a conservative evangelical church where an order of worship was followed. Everything was scripted, the hymns were sung to the accompaniment of either a piano or thundering organ, there was a choir singing well-rehearsed anthems with conservatory voices; a scripture reading here and there which somehow or other rarely ever had any pertinence with the sermon, the crowning achievement of the pastor after so many hours of preparatory work and meditation. But my husband frequently complained that the sermons were lullabies. And so he expected Brod Alano’s sermon to be likewise. He was wrong.
Going back for a moment to the praising, my husband was scandalized. It was bedlam. So he retreated to the back of the staircase to weather the storm. Engineer Arambulo approached him. This man was a cancer survivor. It was several years earlier when he was healed during a fellowship such as this. Arambulo told mu husband that praising God was not a suggestion or an option. It was a command.
“Try obeying it,” he said. “You have nothing to lose but your composure and dignity. If you lost those here, the congregation will just ignore you.” Then he turned around and went back to his corner.
My husband tried it, sheepishly at first. Hands half raised, he muttered, “Praise the Lord.” Nothing happened. No bells ringing. No angels singing. Try again. Hands raised higher and with a little boldness, “Praise the Lord.” Still nothing happened. What the heck. This time with a loud voice, just like everybody else in the room, and with arms fully raised. That did it. My husband reports air warm and cold at the same time descending upon him and joy unspeakable welling up from inside him. But it is best he describes it himself.
Let us go on to Brod Alano’s message. My husband reports that it was rather short. Scriptures cited were: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I say rejoice.” “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of the Father.” That meant thanking God for everything, good or bad. What my husband considered the punch line was when Brod Alano pointed a finger at him and thundered, “The Lord will do anything for you. But there is one thing He will never do. He will never tell you a lie.” Brod Alano continued, “There are two thousand promises in the New Testament alone. Take your pick. But be careful. There is a stern warning in the book of James about ‘asking amiss’.” Now let us go back to my story.
Kapit sa Patalim
Here I was. No bleeding but still miserable and ill. I tried herbs; no good. I would not even think of surgery. I was not getting any better. I was still losing weight. I still looked like a crone. So my husband suggested that we two attend the fellowship at Mrs. Magat’s place. I said okay. Never mind if it was “protestante”, I did not want to die. My children were still very young.
The congregation was still the same. There were two visiting pastors: Brod Crispin and Brod Evangelista. I was unfamiliar with the order of worship, if indeed there was one. The boisterous praise was, to my mind, simple sacrilege. Being Catholic, I prayed with my eyes open. That became a problem to me because at Mrs. Magat’s place, there was no icon to look at. The hymns were unfamiliar. Stand up. Sit down. For what, I could not understand. Then came the sermon. There was this praising God no matter what. Praise Him for the good that happens and just as fervently praise Him for the bad things that happen to you. I thought they were nuts.
Then came the clincher. They started preaching against idols. That did it. They were attacking my religion. I promptly went to sleep. When it came time to pray for the sick, they could not pray for me. I was asleep. They prayed for other sick people and were polite enough to seemingly overlook me. I went home that November night frustrated and miserable. I told my husband never to bring me to any house of fools again.
A few days later, it was All Saints’ Day. I decided to bake a cake. I brought out my brand new mixer from storage which I bought in Hawaii, wiped it clean, and laid it on the dining room table, while preparing the ingredients in the kitchen. Here comes my oldest son Dennis, barely out of grade school, enthusiastic about having cake soon. He gets the 110-volt mixer and plugs it into a 220-volt outlet. Result: BANG! I was so enraged I could not remember the foul language I used on the boy. I gave up the cake project, went to the garage and started the washing machine to do the laundry, grumbling as I went along. The thought of the mixer persisted in my mind. Maybe I could borrow one. But from whom? My neighbors were ‘burgis’. You don’t borrow things from them.
Then I heard a small voice. “Praise the Lord.” I ignored it. How can I praise a Lord who allows my mixer to blow up? Again, I heard the same voice, “Praise the Lord.” “Okay Lord,” said I. “If that is You, okay, I praise You even if I lost my mixer.” To be sure I followed the correct formula, I raised my arms while praising, like they did in Mrs. Magat’s place. “Sana may kapalit,” I said idly. I finished the laundry and went back to the kitchen to prepare lunch. I forgot all about the mixer.
The food was on the table. Everybody gathered around the table for a late lunch. Here comes Mrs. Tiongson, our piano teacher. She was supposed to give the children their piano lessons that afternoon.
“Naku, Lulu,” she exclaimed. “I forgot to bring the mixer.”
“What mixer?” I hissed, anger building up in me again.
“The mixer I planned to give you for Christmas,” she answers. “I have two mixers. I know you have none. I intend to give you my other one. It is slightly used. But it is still good. It’s General Electric, 220-volts. I already wrapped it up but I forgot to bring it.”
I half rose from my seat and stared at her as my jaw dropped. Alarmed, she started to retreat from the house. She thought I was angry at her. I had to calm her down.
“So you are the one who is bringing the replacement,” I asked, still panting. “What time did you decide to give me the mixer?”
“About ten this morning,” she said.
“Exactly the same time I praised the Lord,” I gasped as I sank back to my seat.
“Ah, E.S.P”, said Mrs. Tiongson.
“No, not E.S.P. That was the Lord,” I said rather fiercely. “Daddy, I am going back there to the house of what’s-her-name Mrs. Magat.”
Mrs. Magat’s fellowship was scheduled on Wednesdays. There was one scheduled earlier. Same congregation. Same pastors. The earlier one was to be held in an apartment along Rizal Avenue Extension, near 5th Avenue. It belonged to a Major Eustaquio Sanchez, another “baby” Christian. I could not wait for Wednesday. I decided to go the earlier fellowship. I was getting ready for my miracle. The mixer incident was an overwhelming sign that something wonderful was about to happen.
There were three of us who went to Sanchez’ apartment: my husband, Dennis, and me. The apartment was a three-storey building, with the third floor used exclusively for worship. Even before reaching the third floor, I already felt heat swirling around my abdomen. I don’t remember attaching any significance to it. The “sanctuary” had rows of folding chairs for about 50 people. There was nothing else. No pulpit, no musical instruments. An ordinary dining room chair served as a stand for the preacher’s Bible and notes. The usual crowd was there, of course with a few additions. There was Sister Clara, an ex hunchback with a beautiful voice. There was a mother with two pretty daughters who were regular attendees. They were constantly praying for their father, a Chinaman who thought Christianity was foolishness. Brod Crispin and Brod Evangelista were there. Assisting them was Atty. Asterio Saquin and Major Sanchez himself. Quite an array of preachers.
The service began with the singing of hymns. Brod Crispin, the song leader, would merely set the pitch and the singing would take off from there. After almost a dozen hymns, the congregation settled down and cooled off for a sermon. Being Catholic, I was used to homilies. Hearing about the love of God, Jesus Christ the man, forgiveness of sins past, present and future; “By His stripes, we were healed”, forgive others if you expect to be forgiven yourself – there were different flavors from the homilies I was used to.
Then came the altar call. Brod Evangelista made the call. Invitations to receive Christ were issued. Some newcomers in the congregation stood up and went to the front. Brod Evangelista did not stop pacing back and forth in spite of the fact that there were no more takers. He said there were still some who wanted to accept Jesus Christ but were too bashful to say so. I thought he meant me, but for Heaven’s sake, I did not want to stand up in front of all these people. Brod Evangelista continued his pacing. He reminded the congregation that if Jesus Christ could die for us in public, the least we could do is accept Him also in public.
All of a sudden, Dennis beside me shot up from his chair.
“I accept! I accept Jesus Christ!” He was flushed and sweating.
Brod Evangelista immediately stopped his pacing and invited all who made decisions for Christ to follow him in the Sinners’ Prayer; all in loud voices, especially Dennis who remained where he stood. Here I was, in need of a prayer, unable to master my pride; and my own son had to rise up and substitute for me. I felt so embarrassed before God. It reminded me of what was said in the sermon that night – that the Christ on the cross was a substitute.
It was now time for healing. A healing line was formed. Officiating was Major Sanchez. Assisting him was Atty. Saquin. One by one they came. The sick, them laden with problems. When my turn came, Atty. Saquin asked me what my trouble was. I told him I had a tumor. “That’s easy,” he said. (The nerve of that guy, I thought.) Major Sanchez laid hands on my head and prayed in tongues. Then they asked me if I felt anything different. I said no. Atty. Saquin asked me if I have forgiven my enemies. I did not answer that. He immediately turned around, faced the congregation and announced:
“Everybody! Please pray for this lady! She has a tumor!”
All at once, the hall resounded with petitions in my behalf. Some were praising and thanking God for my healing. Some were weeping their petitions. Some were imploring God for my healing at the top of their voices. It seemed as if Heaven was under siege. I was so overwhelmed by the concerns and love for these complete strangers that I raised my hands in surrender and blurted out, “Lord, I forgive my enemies in UE; those people who are trying to grab my manual. Even Mrs. F who has been usually mean to me!”
Right away, warm air enveloped me. Heat circled my girth several times. I seem to have gone into a trance because I felt I was floating in space with stars all around me, and I could hear the voice of Sister Clara mingling with the now muted tumult of the congregation praying for me. Never have I experienced anything like this before or since.
We went home that night as if we were on Cloud Nine. My husband remained silent. Dennis was wondering, “What made me do it?” Me, my face was wet with tears that would not stop flowing.
Weeks passed. It was early 1973. We regularly attended Bible studies or worship services either at Mrs. Magat’s or Sanchez’s. Interestingly enough, again God’s timing, I was in the middle of a crash program in Bible. Of course I was unaware of it. The charismatic movement was at its hottest. Several visiting evangelists came to town: Don Stewart, The Happy Hunters, Johnny Cash, Janet Combs, Lester Sumrall, Pat Robertson, Kenneth Copeland, Jimmy Swaggart, Morris Cerullo, Yonggi Cho, and several others I cannot remember. We also had our local evangelists: Patrolman Samfer of the Manila Police Department, Jonathan Sebastian, Rudy Lim, Lito Balana, Fred Cheock, and many others. Of course I tried wading through scripture myself but I approached them like any academician would – chapter by chapter. Too slow for me. I learned more stuff from the evangelists.
The heaviest impression upon me from wading through scripture, specifically the first four books of the Old Testament, was how narrow-minded God was about idols. Being Catholic, this disturbed me. On the other hand, what delighted me was that God was not a God that had to be appeased but that God was a Father reaching out for His children. Nothing like this in Catechism. The book of Psalms, for instance. I did not know that it was in the Bible.
My new “classmates” frequently visited me at home. Between their smiles, they would cast uneasy glances at the idols on the altar I had at home. The altar was actually a book case tall enough to keep my idols beyond the reach of my children. I had, among several others, the Holy Family sculpted in Paete, Laguna; a statue of the Virgin Mary festooned with sampaguita; “The Eye”; I had a small portrait of the Virgin Mary which I could carry around if I wanted to. I had so many I could not remember some of their names. If my husband wanted to pick a fight with me, he would turn my idols around so that there backs would be towards me. I loved my idols.
Then, on one visit, a “classmate” of mine suggested that I cover the idols with tablecloth. She was sure it would offend no one. It could be removed any time. That seemed fair enough. So after they left, I covered my idols with a white tablecloth. As I said, the charismatic movement was at its hottest. We were having a picnic. I forgot about my altar. Several weeks passed. My co-teachers were friendlier, it seemed. They said they would not be surprised if I preached at the corner of Recto and Lepanto. But they were worried about my health. They insisted that I go for a medical check-up. I ignored them. That incident at Sanchez’s place was too real for me.