My fight with my brother went on and on and on. I was saying Christ is man while my brother was insisting Christ is a god, and he only manifested as a human being, but his true nature is that of a god. Night and day, those became our fights. Up until Bro. Eli said on TV, “That Felix Manalo is a demon!”
By Lydia Erfilo Manuyag, D’X-Man
We became members of the Iglesia ni Cristo in July 1970 in Dagupan, Pangasinan. The whole family got affiliated and we were baptized the same day: my parents, my siblings, my in-laws. That’s why we had a big celebration that time in the Church locale of Dagupan City.
I am not a “handog.”They included me with my father in the baptism. There is what is called quota-system in the number of those they baptize. That’s why they included me, to come up with the quota of the church worker assigned there.
I was only 14 then, very innocent. I did not quite understand the doctrines of the Church where I got affiliated with. But I was happy because this was something different. I thought I was in the true religion because we were Catholics before. So we were baptized in 1970.
After baptism, I was given a task. I became a choir member up to 1981, up until I became the treasurer of the Church locale, and then a secretary of another locale.
They taught us how to worship. They taught us who Felix Manalo is, who the messenger in these last days is, that Christ is man, and that no one shall be saved except us in the INC, and no more. They gave weight to giving respect that the messenger is Manalo.
We simply followed what the INC taught us. Up until we grew up, our focus was on what to do on Wednesday-Sunday, Tuesday – Saturday. That was what we always heard. We went to Church with our parents.
When it came to contributions, it cannot be that you have nothing to give. Even with the children, there are required contributions. Even with special offering, they also give. Whatever contributions the adults gave, it was the same with the children. That was complete. Babies contribute, too. Even those without work, they also gave in the yearly thanksgiving.
During Worship Services, men and women are seated separate. The Worship Service for the youth is different; that means they have another day and time for the youth. They do not go with the adults. That is the kind of discipline they are proud of – that when adults worship, there are no children around. They are restricted.
More so when I was at the Temple. Over there, there is a separate place for the children with aircon. They did not mix with the adults to keep the worship service very solemn. If you carried a baby, you stay at the far end. You have a place. You cannot stay at the front. Their side is to preclude noise so that the adults will not be disturbed.
If there are VIP’s, they have reserved seats at the front. I saw that by 1984 at the Central in Diliman, they have a separate place with aircon. The glass is tinted and you cannot see them. If you see that the windows are wet with dews dropping, that is a sign the Royal Family is there. That is what we called them. That is when there is a Special Thanksgiving when a new chapel is to be presented – or what we call special worship services. VIP’s have seats at the front. You can see the RESERVE tags there.
When I stayed longer, I became senior choir – not because of biological age because members are selected. It was critical – and it was for those with 18, 19, 20 years training in the choir. So I was member of the Temple Choir.
My husband did not exactly like my serving the Church which I liked so much to do. He would hurt me for it. He is a Church member but he did not like me serving the Church. But I was President of the Choir in Olongapo that time. I thought I would find peace in Central Diliman and that’s why I left home. Another thing, our mother died, leaving us all alone in Olongapo. So I left and my brother Larry also followed, and then all my siblings.
At the Central in Diliman, my position got better. I became staff member of the Ladies’ Dorm Management. We took care of the students as I am used to caring for people. If I stayed at the Ladies’ Dorm, I knew very well how to take care of the students. If anyone got sick, that was me around. Then I became Auditor of the Finance Department. That was a position – not a responsibility without salary. I was an employee of the INC Central at Diliman for five years.
I handled 22 provinces. The abuluyan (collections) is called P-1 – the collections from Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. The one called P-9 is for lagak (Building Fund) every end of the year.
We were a select few then. I audited 22 provinces in the whole Philippines. That was really a lot, but these I audited were papers – not money. The money came in through the receipts. The receipts piled higher than the height of people. That’s why they pulled me out from the Ladies’ Dorm when they saw my biodata and the credentials I had submitted.
I had reached 3rd year college in Accounting so I had knowledge in accounting. Then I also had worked in an accounting firm before. They transferred me to the Finance Department. That is where I found out about the extent of money being collected by the Iglesia ni Cristo in the country.
I had seen anomalies. Since we were the ones auditing, once we see problems, we would call the attention of the ministers. They are the ones in charge of the Divisions, so they were our contacts. But, there would be gifts for us from some ministers in case they would be found with discrepancies in their reports. These, of course, are considered under the table.
We would call up the ministers if there is something lacking in the money they remitted. If the money exceeded, we need not call up anymore. The call-up is only when there are problems. So, this position is very critical, and I was one of the auditors.
I had experienced covering for what is lacking when I was treasurer – at the same time treasurer of the Locale. But being auditor is different because that covers the whole Church – the whole country. When I was treasurer, if we made a mistake – for example, we wrote 1,000pesos instead of 10pesos, we would have to cover for that. The figures in the receipt and the money remitted should tally.
We did not have those secrecy codes because we were the ones who knew all about the money. They entrusted those to us. Each province was handled by us. For example, I handled Bulacan. I handled all of Bulacan and it is me alone who knew about that. Our positions were like that. No one knew those things but the one who handled the account. So, for that place, I would be the one to make reports. I would be asked, how much is the money in Bulacan for P-1? P-1 is for abuloy.
It was normal for me to see Eraṅo Manalo every Wednesday. He is kind. He was kind to us. We handled money matters, so of course, he was kind to us. But the ones he entertained every Wednesday are those involved in Balikbayan Day. Balikbayans are those from overseas; they are rich. To my mind, I have not seen yet poor people being entertained by Eraṅo Manalo – only the rich, those from abroad, It was only them he faced. There was no instance he was meeting with the poor.
Before you get to meet Eraṅo Manalo, there is a security guard who screens those who could go to him. You cannot go direct. Weekly, he talks to people. That is the time he offers church work. That’s the only time he shakes hands with people. He is not like Bro. Eli Soriano. He does none of entertaining brethren with problems. Manalo only entertains the rich.
You see, we even had photographs with him. My sister is a balikbayan, that’s why. My problem was that she had two husbands: one Filipino and one American. But she is INC. They let my sister and the American come. They got affiliated, being rich. So, it is the rich they have eyes for. Come to think of it, even the ministers have two wives each. I knew personally who those were.
They bring to the offices their mistresses who get employed. These women are given houses of their own. Whenever I arrive, the guard would salute me, too. I am from the Finance Department, you see. That’s how spoiled I was over there.
I had many experiences from there. The bad one is about those killing people. I had hitman friends. I had one who was killed by a minister in Cavite. Whenever he has killed someone, he would go to his mistress who was my friend. The name is Gerry. Ka Gerry had a beautiful mistress. In fact, all of the mistresses there are beautiful.
One time he arrived, his eyes were blood-shot.
“Ka Gerry, what happened to you?”
“I killed again.”
“Oh, my! What did you kill again, chicken? Man?”
“So who did you kill this time?” I knew Gerry. He is really a killer.
“The one who raped a student in UP. Our sister, he raped.”
“You killed him? Why didn’t you bring him to court instead? Mercy me! It’s evil to kill!”
“No! This is to reduce evil people in this world. To reduce those who are evil!”
Of course, we were socialized in the Iglesia ni Cristo that to kill and to be killed – especially when it comes to the messenger – is holiness. That is why killing has blessing from management. That is how grave it is.
I had a friend there who was a security guard with a high position. One time, he asked me, “Ka Lydia, got someone you want killed? My gun’s gone rusty too long.”
Killing with them is common and natural. It is not a new thing. Up until my hitman friend said, “You know what, Ka Lydia? Am tired of killing. I don’t want any more of it. I want to change.” You see, my friend has killed many already. He said his conscience bothered him. Up until the minister killed him. He had refused to follow instructions. He did not like to kill anymore.
I also had my own experience. I already knew they kill. But I stayed there with the INC. During that time, I had not heard anything about Bro. Eli yet. All I knew was that I was in the true church so I had embraced that faith. I stayed there for 33 years – no Bro. Eli yet in my awareness.
My brother, Larry Erfilo, was secretly listening to Bro. Eli inside his office. At home, there was an earphone that he used so that we would not be hearing him. It was Bro. Larry insisting that we listen to what he had discovered. We would have fights day and night because we lived together since he left the house awarded to him. And he left because he had affiliated with the Church of God.
“Christ is God,” he said.
“No! Christ is a mere man!”
“Christ is God. Begotten by God.” That was the new thing he had learned.
“He is a man, Christ is a mere man!”
It went on and on and on. I was saying Christ is man while my brother was insisting Christ is a god, and he only manifested as a human being, but his true nature is that of a god. Night and day, those became our fights. Up until Bro. Eli said on TV, “That Felix Manalo is a demon!”
Ouch! That’s painful!
I heard that and it hurt. I knew Felix Manalo to be a messenger, an angel. I had high respects for his son, Eraṅo Manalo. So I reacted to Bro. Eli. “Call me a demon, but not my messenger, please.”
“That Manalo? He’s a demon! He is just fooling you!” Than man on TV was saying.
“Ah, how dare you speak like that!”
When my brother left for indoctrination, I watched SBN21. The INC had a program there too as well as of Bro. Eli. I heard Michael Sandoval of the Iglesia ni Cristo and Ramil Parba call Bro. Eli Soriano, mandarambong, manghuhuthot, mandurukot, manloloko, and many others. I was intrigued! They were saying Soriano is a plunderer, extortionist, a thief, a deceiver. Why were they doing that to him? Was it because Soriano was saying Manalo is a demon? But those accusations were too much for defense!
When Larry came home, he was bragging to me about Soriano. “You know what, Ate? Soriano is very kind. I saw him cooking food, and then he distributed food to those attending services.”
My brother was a new convert with Bro. Eli’s group. “Oh? You saw him?”
“Yes! He is the only preacher I saw who is like that. He is really very kind, Ate!”
When I heard that, I was wondering why Larry was telling me different things. Who of them is telling the truth: my brother, Larry? Or those saying Soriano is a plunderer, extortionist, a thief, a deceiver? Who?
I became curios. What kind of religion is this that Larry went to? In January 2003, I began listening, up until March when Larry was baptized. Larry did not stop pestering me until he brought me to Apalit to the Convention Center.
I was a guest. I covered myself with a large towel so that I would not be recognized. Then I was asked to sit in front. But I went to the part where there were senior citizens and inserted myself. Suddenly, Bro. Eli came out and began giving texto!
Normally, if not other ministers, it would be Bro. Daniel talking first. But this time, it was quickly Bro. Eli! Worse, he went to the edge where I was and stood steady there! Naturally the camera followed him. What I knew was that I had requested the one who had invited me to tell them not to focus the camera on me or else I would be excommunicated. I was begging, or else the INC will expel me.
But Bro. Eli stood right there where I was. Worse, he said so many hurtful words as if addressing me. “Your sugo is a demon! Not a real messenger!”
I do not know. Perhaps someone had tipped him that there was someone at my side who is an INC. Larry and Sis Lisa – they were the officials in Montalban. My heart was beating fast and hard. His words were much hurtful to my ears.
But looking at Bro. Eli, I pitied him. I cannot tell what; I could not decipher what I felt for him. But I looked at him and remembered those ugly accusations about being a plunderer, extortionist, a thief, a deceiver. Still, I ached from what he said about Manalo being a demon.
Breaktime, I pulled Larry. “Let’s go home! I cannot stand what he is saying!”
“Be patient with it! He will explain! He will say why.”
“No! Let’s go! It’s already 3PM. I will attend the Worship Service; I cannot be late!”
And so we left. Larry had a vehicle, but I found out, the Locale of Montalban had contracted for it and left us. So I went to the Worship Service because I did not like to be excommunicated from the INC.
The following days, I noticed some changes in me. My thoughts were saying, “Listen! Listen!” Before, I used to fight with my brother, but later I said, “Okay then, I will go for indoctrination. But let me first be a guest in SBN21.”
“Yes! I mean it! I will be a guest there.”
My brother called Bro. Mel Magdaraog, a minister. Right away, he said yes. When we reached SBN21, I could not explain what I was feeling. We went up. Bro. Mel looked to me like a boy; he was very thin. In my mind, I was belittling him. I was like that before. I looked down on people. I am used to seeing people in coat and ties, in Amerikana. The INC ministers looked that way.
When we went up and saw that there were many guests lined up before me. Then Bro. Mel said, “Sister, you can now ask your question.”
“Ah, nevermind. My boss might see me. I might get excommunicated.”
“No! You just ask questions.”
The lights flashed on me. I did not ask questions. I was correcting Bro. Eli.
“Bro. Eli, I watched you in our program, Ang Tamang Daan. You said, Manalo is a demon. That was painful to me.” Silence. No reaction.
“Then I heard them say you are a thief, a deceiver, plunderer… all forms of plunder you are doing. But my brother Larry here said you are not.” Silence still.
“But you know what? Where I come from are deceivers!” Bro. Eli was surprised.
“So you knew what SAY Magazine was saying about us being billionaire? That is not true!” Silence again and some discomfort.
“That’s not true…. We are more than that! We are more than billionaires. To prove to you, I am an auditor of Central Diliman. I am an active member.” More surprise.
“I handled 22 provinces. Yes, we used to be billionaire – but not anymore. We are trillionaire, not billionaire. That was why when you were saying we are billionaire, I had wanted to tell you we are not, but there was no way. Now, this is my chance to tell you – because they are saying you are a deceiver, a plunderer, a thief. With us, we have many forms of contributions, many forms of offerings, many ways to gather money.”
Then suddenly Bro. Marcos Mataro appeared. We talked and talked. Bro. Eli appeared to cry. He said, “Because of this kind of people, I am emboldened to go on and continue propagating the words of God.”
“Sorry for my Tagalog because I am an Ilocana from Pangasinan. My mother is an Ilocana.”
“Is that so? So that’s why we should see each other!” Bro. Eli answered.
After one week, a gunner pelted our house with bullets. Before that, everyday, people with high positions came to us – the SCAN, the ministers, men who demanded to know why I was speaking on TV, and why I even seemed to be defending Soriano.
But I continued going to Church with the Iglesia ni Cristo. They took my tarheta (tag) back. “Why are you like that?” they demanded. Tarheta is one used to register attendance in Church services.
“Because I am hearing from Soriano… perhaps he is telling the truth that Christ is God. And then his teachings. Why don’t we follow his teachings if those are true?”
The minister got mad. “Oh, my! Your mind has really darkened. You are like Larry now. Both of you share a bad spirit.”
“I don’t think so. Why don’t we make research?”
“No! I will give you 24 hours. No matter what time – even midnight – whatever time you like, call me and I will bring you to Ka Erdie.”
“So that you can tell him that Soriano only taught you those things you said at SBN21.”
“No! I was the one saying all those things that I knew. It is really true we are rich. That is very evident. Is it bad to say so? It is really true we have many forms of collections. Our chapels are beautiful, everything is beautiful. Is that bad?”
“That is bad!” he retorted.
They were waiting for my call but I did not budge. Larry felt that something will happen. He collected his clothes and left. They thought Larry was home with us because his vehicle was there. At 7PM they rained bullets to our home.
We were about to eat. We had a dirty kitchen outside and that was where we wanted to eat. Since it was summertime and it was so warm, we preferred eating outside. This one had a fence.
“Give me water, please,” Bro. Mar was saying. I handed him a glass of water and then sat down. Tsiiiiiiinnnnnnnnggggggggg! A bullet hit Bro. Mar’s hand. The second bullet went to the sink. “Daisy! Daisy! Lie flat!” We crawled under the table and stayed tight there. Richard ran inside and looked for a bolo. He was ready to fight. Daisy and Richard are Bro. Larry’s chidren.
The witness said I was the target and the gunman was aiming at my head. But I felt that as if something pushed me and there, Bro. Mar’s hand was hit. Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!
Four bullets were fired on Bro. Mar’s body and the blood splashed at us. We played dead until it was over. Under the table we lay flat and tight – me and the child of Larry. The other one was able to run away. Bro. Mar was fully bathed in blood.
“Dear God! Please don’t allow it! Keep us safe!” The killer approached the main entrance, and then Bro. Mar raised his hand. “Stop! Stop.”
Bro. Mar was not the target. But they thought I was dead because there was so much blood on me that splashed from Bro. Mar. The killer left and the neighbors rushed in.
The neighbor witness said they saw a man in short pants that was surveying the area. He was tall, a son of a deacon. They are really killers. From where we came from, there are really killers. They even followed us to the hospital.
I was on foot. I was crying for help. “Save us, please help us!” We ran to the nearest hospital and that was in Amang Rodriguez. They thought I had gun shots because I was full of blood – but the blood came from Bro. Mar.
At Amang Rodriguez, someone recognized the security guard who happened to be a deacon of the INC. Later, there appeared a van without a plate. They witnessed that there were brethren from the Ang Dating Daan helping us.
I had asked help from Bro. Eli and that was the response. I learned the Thanksgiving Service was disrupted somewhat. Bro. Eli instructed that we be transferred to the Chinese General Hospital. At Amang Rodriguez Hospital, we stayed only for a while because our lives there were in danger. Everything went fast.
At Chinese General, a minister of the INC came, pretending he was a relative. Later, many QUATS came to guard us.
There was a Bible Exposition at the Cuneta Astrodome that time and we were watching. We were monitoring. Bro. Eli was saying there were people being fired at and they showed our faces. The other patient in the room learned that it was us, and so he transferred. Our guards were in military uniform, making him more afraid.
We stayed in the Chinese General for a week. I then learned that Bro. Eli taught the members about love for the brethren… to help them, to guide them. That is where I saw this teaching in action. I saw them bring us fruits, food. And we had many guards. Then I heard them say, “Salamat sa Dios” (Thanks be to God!)
“What? Why is it like that? I should be the one to thank you. Why are you the ones giving thanks?”
“No, it is really like that. You will understand that after you undergo indoctrination.”
After the bullets were extracted from Bro. Mar, we were transferred to the ADD Compound. We were accommodated at the clinic for a month. We got baptized on May 16, 2003 as Bro. Mar still had wounds. That’s how grave our experience was. Of course, because they were so angry.
All these things came from whispers that moved me. My brother Larry was saying, “Ate, Soriano is really very kind”
It was the opposite of what Michael Sandoval was saying that Soriano is a deceiver. That is not true! That is what pushed me to find out who was speaking the truth. It was what pushed me to speak out one thing that the religion where I was affiliated with got so angry. I was active then.
After I spoke, Atty. Pacing Rosal said, “Ka Lydia, you were so brave. I was afraid for you if something might happen to you. What did you eat that you were that brave?”
“No. I felt nothing. If something happens, nothing. I just asked the Lord to take care of me.”
After a week, there it went. Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang!
In fact, a minster said to me, “Why do you believe Soriano? Didn’t you know we have a medical certificate from the Mental Hospital proving that he is insane? He is mentally disordered. Is that the one you will listen to?”
“So, if he is insane, why don’t you face him? So that things can be cleared out, why don’t you face him? If we are looking for truth, true service, face him in a debate so that whoever has the truth, we will go there.”
I even dreamed. Aren’t our temples beautiful? Suppose one day, the group of Soriano is here? I was wondering if the Iglesia ni Cristo ceased to exist and we only have the Ang Dating Daan. I was imagining that the name placed at the temple is Ang Dating Daan. Then all the temples of the INC will be changed. That was what I had imagined – yet at that time, I was still there with them.
I could not watch Bro. Eli’s program because we were prohibited. We can only watch the INC program, Ang Tamang Daan. When Bro. Cesar Adamos was speaking against them giving a countdown, they did not show that. They only showed our side.
With us, former INC’s, it is so hard to eradicate the false teachings they have implanted in us. But Bro. Eli is so patient especially during consultations. He is very sleepy but he does his best. Even those questions that are not that important, he still answers them.
“Oh, yes, Ate! I pity him. He is very, very tired. Even in those debates when the contender is repetitious and does not accept defeat. But with Manalo, he does not care for people. He only collects and collects money. Unlike Bro. Eli who is loving and comforting to those in need.”
I felt the care of Bro. Eli. We were not even members yet when he was helping us save our lives. I learned that Bro. Josel Mallari was afraid that the ADD Convention Center might be intruded if we came. But Bro. Eli did not have a second thought. “Get them over here,” he ordered the brother.
When we were here finally at the Convention Center, Michael Sandoval was calling us. “Get out from there fast! Soriano will kill you! He was the one who had you gunned down. He is only fooling you!”
Every day, Michael Sandoval was brainwashing us but I did not budge.
“No! Bro. Eli is a real messenger. Why should it be you I listen to?”
“Don’t you have any love left for our Administration?”
“None. No more. And I am sure of that.”
That explains why we cannot simply go out from the compound – now that we do not belong to Manalo, especially now that they are preparing for their 100th year anniversary celebration. They will need someone to offer.
Bro. Eli understands our situation. He knows where we came from. We were used to good life. He had free housing, we were used to celebrations.
When Bro. Eli was here, he would give us gifts. There were times we ate dinner with him. One time he said, “Stay steadfast! To the religion where you came from, never, never go back.”
After two to three months the D’X-Man program was conceptualized. X-Man means former Manalo members. We were to reveal the false teachings of the Iglesia ni Cristo. We are the living witnesses. Imagine, I stayed there for 33 years. The same with my brother, Larry. Bro. Cesar Adamos also stayed long there. We then can say what is falsely being taught there.