The boy was shocked when Bro. Eli called him ‘iho’ (son). It was his first time to hear someone call him ‘iho.’ He boasted about the incident to his friends. He was marching with a smile, whistling, and saying, “Did you know Bro. Eli called me iho?”
By Jeffrey Eugenio
The young boy was sobbing in pain for he was battered by his ruthless stepfather. He had been hit by a stick – a forceful hit that made a slapping echo that turned his legs blue. The boy went to the corner of his dim room and embraced his mother’s portrait while his tears fell down on the glass frame. Staring at the painting he asked himself, “How does it feel to have a real father?”
The young boy sobbed but no one could hear him.
He turns to his mother’s hand drawn portrait for refuge. He holds it tightly over his knees to help ease the pain. The portrait was drawn in charcoal, a little faded by the distant past. It was painted when the boy was not yet born and was given as a gift by someone who admired his mother. The artist signed the painting with a surname similar to the boy’s last name. The artist is indeed not his stepfather – for the latter’s hands are skilled in beating, not in painting.
The boy endured his stepfather’s cruelty almost every day – through a broom, a wooden stick, a pipe, or bare hands should nothing is within reach. Kicks woke him up more frequently than an alarm clock; reprimands were served earlier than breakfast; and slams made him dozy faster than bedtime stories. He had been scalded, strangled, punched, bruised, and pinched at one point or another – what else could he ask for?
The ordeal did not end in their house. In the school, the boy was teased as bastard, orphan, or fatherless. When there were occasions such as PTA (Parents and Teachers Association) meetings, his classmates would show up with their father or parents but the boy would just watch them from a corner, very eager to know how it feels like to be with a caring father. The family affair would not be complete without him crying from afar.
A wall of hatred surrounded his heart, a cold look made his eyes appear cynical, cruelty fueled his fight engine, and his iron guts covered his weaknesses. Negativities piled as the young boy grew up and he became a brawler. He did not want being bullied anymore. His inferiority complex turned to arrogance and he wanted to be acknowledged by showing false bravery.
An abandoned building, or a farm, or a basketball court, or an alley, or a street can serve as his fight ground. He befriended what he believed was a fraternity to use them as deterrent against avenging enemies. He forgot how it was to be fatherless for he was cradled by selfishness and pampered by anger. A day would not be complete without him seeing others cry.
Something in his heart bothered him; it seemed that someone in his heart was crying. Every time he finished beating others, something would melt his fury and make him look shocked. It’s like a little warm voice in the middle of a cold, ravaging winter storm of temper. Something made him sleepless. It gave him a feeling of emptiness. It urged him to desire for peace. “Will there be peace in my heart and mind after all my wrongdoings?” he uttered. A night would not be complete without him crying in regret.
One night, he switched the TV on looking for religious programs in an attempt to seek answers for his questions. He found Mike Velarde’s program. It proved to be very helpful for it made the boy sleepy, but his wall of hatred preventing peace to enter his heart remained standing. On another day, he again searched and found the Catholic mass, the more it made him sleepy! “I’m not searching for a cure for insomnia; I’m looking for serenity to destroy my hatred. Better watch Tom and Jerry than to hear boring and empty sermons,” he said to himself. He even tried going to Born Again chapels with his new friends, but what they did was shout, and dance, and do some merry-making – a temporal joy raining through his ear but can be easily washed by storm of hatred indelible by the past.
One time, he sat in front of the TV with no plans to pursue resolution to his problem. A man with a loud voice shouted and read the Bible saying, “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins!” The man quoted Isaiah 58:1. The boy was surprised! “This preacher is cool!” he said. The way he delivered his preaching was far different among others – his words can be felt deep in the heart and his expositions are enlightening to the mind. He even uses variety in his teaching: he shouts, he whispers, at times in serious mode, at times in wholesome tone. He can make the audience laugh, though his words are harsh but true. He is Bro. Eli Soriano.
The boy promised himself to follow the preacher. He read Bro. Eli’s website, http://www.angdatingdaan.org, followed his program, and watched his debates. One time, his heart was touched when Bro. Eli shouted with commitment, “Sa Pilipinas, may mga manloloko! Sana maunawaan ninyo ako kung bakit nagagalit ako sa mga manlolokong pastor! (In the Philippines, there are deceivers! I hope you understand why I am angry at deceitful pastors!)” It’s anger with love! Usually, anger drives people away, but that time, it’s an anger of concern even to the enemy! Bro. Eli is like a parent caring for his children and he’s fighting for them. The boy felt an unexplainable feeling which trembled his hate-filled heart. He has found someone who cares sincerely to the extent of risking his life, though, they never met each other, nor are they blood-related.
At the age of 17, the boy decided to join the church where Bro. Eli is presiding, the Church of God International. He was baptized on July 28, 2000. In his teenage years, he experienced living in Apalit with Bro. Eli. In a youth gathering, after cleaning the convention center, youths were called upon and were instructed to fall in line. The youths were given plates and spoons and forks and glasses. At the end of the line, someone, wearing a cap and sandals, with white polo tucked in his short, was giving them food while saying, “I’ll be the one to serve food so there would be fair share. Make sure not to leave a single crumb. It would take three months to have a single grain of rice so do not waste it. Or else, you will be punished” Then he laughed. When the boy got his turn, he discovered that it was Bro. Eli who was serving the food.
While staying for a seminar, the boy witnessed how Bro. Eli took care of the elders, visited sick people, and cooked food for them. He’s really like a father to a big family. After cooking a meal, the boy approached Bro. Eli. Bro. The preacher’s polo was smudged with coal, his hair was flayed, his bangs covered his forehead, and he wore no pomade.
The boy asked Bro. Eli to sign his Bible. Bro. Eli said, “Oh! I’m sorry. I look shabby!”
The boy replied, “No! It’s okay, Ingkong. You are still Bro. Eli regardless of what you wear.”
Bro. Eli signed the Bible and then he asked the boy, “Have you taken your meal, iho?”
The boy was shocked when Bro. Eli called him ‘iho’ (son). It was his first time to hear someone call him ‘iho.’ He boasted about the incident to his friends. He was marching with a smile, whistling, and saying, “Did you know Bro. Eli called me iho?” His friends laughed. “He called us iho as well!” they said.
That night, the boy didn’t sleep a wink, not because of emptiness, but because he could not forget the word ‘iho.’ He looked at the sky, gazed towards the moon, and he saw the stars celebrating the joy he had. To add to that, he remembered that Bro. Eli taught, “We have one Father in heaven, our God Almighty.” It was a very peaceful night. We, indeed, have a Father!
The boy’s question was finally answered, but this time, it’s not a small F but a big F. “How does it feel to have a real Father?” The care of a preacher such as Bro. Eli is more than that of a real father; moreover is of the FATHER in heaven.
And now, this coming July, it will be the boy’s eleventh year in the church. And he, the author of this testimony, still enjoys the Father’s kindness and overwhelming words through Bro. Eli Soriano.