When I got baptized, they said, “Poor you! The devil won you over! The devil snatched you! Oh, what has happened to you? What a waste!”
By Larry Licudine Erfilo, D’X-Man
I am a former member of the Iglesia ni Cristo. I stayed with that group from 1970 until 2003 – that is 33 years to be exact. With the Central office, I stayed from 1984 to 2001. That means I stayed with the Central Office in Diliman for 17 years. My parents were deacon and deaconess. We grew old there, and that is where they died. My father conducted indoctrinations as a volunteer.
As for me, I am a “handog.” I had no particular assignment in the Church. I say Church because my functions at the Central were different. Aside from being a church member, I also became a deacon – but only for one day.
I had undergone the process of selection. They included orientation and oath taking. In fact, I already had my oath-taking. I handled a group but since I had a problem with my family that time, I was removed from my post. And one more thing, I was somewhat non-committal since I did not entirely believe in their teachings and in particular, about Christ being a man.
When I was small, even before I got baptized with them, my mind was focused on John 1:1-14. I kept reading and reading those verses and I saw no reason that Christ should be a mere man as we believed with the Iglesia ni Cristo. Up until I got baptized at age 11, yet I was not convinced – totally. I got baptized with that objection.
But what a coincidence! The following day, it was Sunday – my first attendance after my baptism. The topic was about Christ being man to them. After the worship service, I talked to the deacon.
“Why are they saying Christ is man? In John 1:1-14, it is very clear that Christ is God.”
“You are a fool! You went through indoctrination; you were baptized, then your faith is like that? Better get yourself indoctrinated again,” the deacon – the head of them – said.
Day1, they scolded me! My parents told the deacons and deaconesses that I was too young to understand. So that was that. There was no choice but to wait until I could understand.
But I had aged and had reached up to 33 years staying there with them, yet I had not accepted that teaching. That explains why I did not handle a responsibility in the Church.
In my teen years, I was evading having to invite people. I did not like it. Why should I invite? I did not even conform to the teachings. Yet I was active as a member. My attendance was complete. When it came to giving contributions, it cannot be that you are inactive with the Iglesia ni Cristo. All members must be active when it came to giving.
I had been part of many Church Locales. First was in Pangasinan. Then we transferred to Zambales, but the longest was at the Temple. My Ate Lydia was employed there. Since she was our guardian, she took us with her. So I was very young then. I was only 19 when I began working at the Central. I was a gardener. Plants were my forte, although I studied air-conditioning, electrical, electronics courses. But I chose to stay with plants because I like them. I worked first in the canteen, then on to landscaping. I started as a sweeper. After 5 years I was promoted, up until I became head of Landscaping.
Regarding vices, I am different from most. I only drank occasionally. If I got invited, if there was a birthday, if there was an occasion – those were the times only when I went out with people. I went alone. If I went to the beerhouse, I went alone. I don’t like hassles.
As a gardener, I also struggled, but the best part was that when it came to pay day, it is really salary that you receive. In my 17 years there, I have not known of any instance that we have not received salary. That was where they were careful. When it came to monetary benefits, they were very careful. Although the salaries were not that competitive, they were given on time. But there came a time when I really had a position and there I also experienced having a high salary. I became Assistant Administrator of the Landscaping Department at Central.
There were many intrigues. I found that we were spending millions just for landscaping alone. Our department was second to the Engineering Department. Since I could not stand the waste, I went up the Administration Office to complain. But then, no one sided with me. Up until I went with the trend. We bought and bought materials and there was no limit. There came a time that we were over-pricing, I knew about it because I was signing and signing. Mark Manalo, the son of Eraṅo Manalo was our manager. No one could question our papers because it was a Manalo who signed. Mark was very good to me; when I had personal problems, he was much helpful. One time, he told a colonel, “Colonel, this is Ka Larry. Don’t leave him alone. He has a problem.”
There were times that suppliers would endear themselves to me. I was then the approving officer of all materials bought for landscapping at the Central, Diliman. They would invite and bring me somewhere. Since those were males and we leave at 10PM, you know already where we would go. And pocket money? They would give 3,000 pesos. “Larry, you might need to tip.”
I have experienced as far as this. And from what I knew, those who do these things are from other religions, right? And yet, some were from us – the INC!
I had experiences there that I did not like. Jun Manalo slapped me. Jun is a first cousin of Eraṅo Manalo. I had a problem with that, but for those who do not know, if ever one of the Manalo’s slapped you, it means you are being counted as family. Many envied me then, but I did not like it. Truth to tell, there is no escort, no one in the upper positions who had not had tasted a slap from the Manalo’s. Since they knew me, they thought it was okay with me, that I would remain there, that it is my desire. The problem was that I did not permit that. It was not all right to me, not acceptable.
Of course, there was that nagging belief in me that Christ could not be a mere man. Then there was the character of the ministers that does not settle right with me. What they do is different from what they preach. They say that it is not right to drink liquor, but try to go where they go and you will find them drinking. How many times did I go to Cavite during fiesta? I was invited by an employee one time to do landscaping, but I found out it was her birthday. She had visitors. I found there INC ministers from the Central. One of them was Lito Tongol and one Maṅalac. They had high positions at the Central and I found them there drinking. They were inviting me. “No, I have ulcers,” I said.
That is what they do. They do their thing far, far away. When we go to the beach, each one has his…. later on, they get drunk.
How I came to know Bro. Eli was on account of watching him every 3pm. It did not take years. When I first heard him, I was not like the others who were angry. With me, no! When I watched him, I suddenly realized [sobbing] … this is the messenger I had long been looking for!
I bought a headset, and then I watched Bro. Eli with me alone hearing him. I stayed alone in the room while my two children were outside. They did not know I was watching Bro. Eli.
Ang Tamang Daan appeared very suddenly. Then they had an exchange of discourses with the Ang Dating Daan of Bro. Eli. All questions were being answered by Bro. Eli – very quick. And Bro. Eli was that ready.
When I was asking to leave from the office, I told them I would be studying in UP about landscaping architecture for 2 years so they allowed me. They also felt that I was somewhat fighting the doctrines. But my real intention was to leave and so when I got my bonus, we transferred residence. We were staying at the Central then, but we transferred quarters outside the compound. Everyone pitied me – including my relatives.
They could hardly accept what happened; more so with my Ate Lydia because what they knew was that the Iglesia ni Cristo is the true church. When I got baptized, they said, “Poor you! The devil won you over! The devil snatched you! Oh, what has happened to you? What a waste!”
There was talk that a cult got me. I secretly was watching Bro. Eli. It did not take long. I think that was just a month and a half. Since I had an old jeep, I searched for a Church locale of the Ang Dating Daan that was quite far from our compound. I found one and knocked. At that time, the TV fight between the Ang Dating Daan of Bro. Eli and Ang Tamang Daan of the Iglesia ni Cristo was not that hot. I introduced myself as from the Central of the Iglesia ni Cristo and told them I wanted to get affiliated with them. The secretary let me in.
This was in Montalban. The secretary said, “If you really want to get affiliated with us, start with indoctrination sessions.”
“Can I skip the indoctrination? I believe this is the true church. I had been watching Bro. Eli on TV.”
“Come, let’s begin,” said a church worker. Then the following day, I would go where there was indoctrination. I would start at 8am in one locale, and then go to the next. I was the one bringing the Church worker and I did not care what number the indoctrination session was. Up until 10pm, they were indoctrinating me. I was already sleepy but I took coffee cup after coffee cup.
That involved only one church worker named Bro. David. He did not leave me, as long as I needed his service. Wherever he was to give indoctrination, I went with him. Then when he had none, I was alone. That’s why there was not even one week and I was done.After that, I got baptized.
After my baptism, we were presented by Ang Dating Daan on TV day in, day out. We were INC’s that left our religion – that was the gist. My plan before was to construct a letter addressed to Manalo challenging him to debate with Bro. Eli, but after my Sis Lydia talked, I realized it is nonsense to do that. There is no need to debate with Manalo face to face. I realized they were defeated. I knew that if I dared them on TV, they would wait for us below.
After that, the ministers began coming to the house – the squad of Eraṅo Manalo. Ka Guina asked, “What is the problem? Why did you leave?”
They were not yet meddling with my Ate Lydia as she was still considered their member. They were focused on me. They looked at my sister as one fired up to talk because of me.
Ka Guina warned me, “Ka Larry, never, never fight against the Iglesia for if you do, there’s a place for you!”
The following day, deacons and ministers came. They were making me write something. “Ka Larry, so you do not really like the Iglesia?”
“I don’t. And I need not say, I don’t.”
“And why not?”
“We are killing people!” As soon as I said that, a deacon stood up to hit me.
“Just like your actuations now! What does that mean? You will kill me? Go ahead, do it! I know you are capable of doing those things. I know you. But mark this, I am ready!”
They left. They were making me write a letter. “Write a letter as a proof that you do not like the Iglesia ni Cristo anymore.”
“What I am saying that I do not like the Iglesia anymore pertains to your killing! Write that and I will sign. And don’t you disturb me anymore. I will not exert an effort to write but what I am saying, you write that down: that we are killing people! And that love does not thrive with us here! Write that down; I will sign it.”
After that they did surveillance in our place. I told the District Servant of Ang Dating Daan, “Can you do something? My days are numbered!” On April 18, 2003, a week after we talked at SBN21, bullets rained at our house in Christineville. Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!
There was no tip whatsoever, but a Ford Fiera was seen observing our place. The subdivision residents noticed that taxis were able to enter days before. There were times there is no passenger in the taxi that was just cruising. The taxi comes without a plate, without a passenger; then makes a cruise slowly, and gets out again without a passenger. When it arrives, it circles the compound of the subdivision, it returns and leaves without a passenger. That was the kind noticed by the neighbors.
It was 7pm when the house was strafed. Two of my children were with Ate Lydia and Bro. Mar, my brother-in-law. They were suddenly shot upon. The culprit inserted his gun through the gate and with his hand he shot them with his Colt .45. With his first shot, Bro. Mar was hit on the hand. Ate Lydia and the children went straight under the table and hid there. But while they were there, bullets rained on them. The gunman let loose his bullets outside, so four of them were able to hit Bro. Mar.
The gunman did it fast, then left. There was a look-out. There was a taxi, and then there was another look-out. All in all, they were three: the driver, the look-out, and the gunman. But they were caught! The taxi driver was caught. There was an investigation, but you already know. It went to nothing.
I was in Apalit because it was a Thanksgiving Day. The indoctrination for my Ate Lydia was set on a Monday. Our International Thanksgiving was set, so there was no one to indoctrinate people. The church worker said “We set it on Monday.” So my sister’s indoctrination was set even before they were strafed. It was Bro. David of Montalban Locale again who was to indoctrinate her.
After the house was strafed, Bro. Eli took us in. From that time forward, we never left the ADD Convention Center.
I had the fortune to go up close to Bro. Eli. He called for me one time to give direct instructions about planting some trees. Then he asked questions about possibilities like inserting plants between trees. “It’s not possible anymore. The distances are too close,” I said. And you know what? Even for those few moments, when we walked side by side while talking about plants, our arms locked like comrades in battle, I considered that a fortune that most in this generation have not had.
There’s another thing I cannot forget. Knowing of our struggle as a whole, when Bro. Eli saw our situation here, he said, “Because of that kind of people, I am emboldened to go on.”
I am sad because we are still struggling. We do not know what will happen. We might make mistakes. But I cannot forget what Bro. Eli said about us: “Because of that kind of people, I am emboldened to go on.”
More so with us, X-Man, we are also struggling. You already know where we came from. From foolishness! We grew up with a different mindset. Now, here we are! As others are struggling to change, more so with us because we were taught merciless ways that even Catholics do not do. That explains why we have different experiences not found in others that make the fight more difficult for us.
Just like this: We are hosts of the D’X-man program. We cannot go out as we please. We cannot. But we have accepted that, only it is hard on us. It is very hard to adjust. But life is like that, right?
Materially, we were contented over there. But when it comes to the spiritual side, there is no comparison. If you are here, not even a drop of beer can you taste. But over there with them, there is no day, no whole week that you cannot drink. Drinking is impossible to do here. Just with that point, we are able to go forward – with the mercy of God, right?
When I left the compound to transfer here, my problem was how to bring out the bottles of liquor from our house. As I began to clean the cabinet below the sink, I found it so full of bottles and bottles. I then went out to look for one buying bottles. He came with me. I told him. “Just stay here and wait for my jeep. I will not stop. When you see me, just board the jeep. Get all the bottles. You don’t have to pay me.”
So it was like that. The load was sacks and sacks. I was surprised I was able to accumulate that many. It was because every time I had birthday, I would buy cases and cases of beer and gin. Of course, that was a long time we stayed over there and I did not notice how these bottles were collecting. Now, we have stayed here for 10 years already and we have not tasted those.
A church worker was one of those who had inspired me to leave the INC. At that time, I was looking for a group that is sure to be the true one. I saw those former INC’s – Bro. Romy Espaṅol, Bro. Cesar Adamos. But those were not enough reasons for me to get affiliated here, too. I waited first to see if this is the real one before I would leave.
Bro. Romy’s brother named Robert is the one I came to know. You see, Bro. Romy has another status. As a minister, he is not seen… he seemed untouchable. So when I saw him here, I was happy. With these former INC’s – Bro. Romy Espaṅol, Bro. Cesar Adamos, and Bro. Marcos Mataro – following Bro. Eli, the INC should have been triggered to fight in a debate. Bro. Cesar even gave them a countdown up to the end of the month. I was happy, thinking there would be a debate, but they did not bite. That refusal was one of the factors that pushed me to leave the INC.