Second week in Iloilo

IMG_6186Things are quite familiar as the days continue. When I go down for breakfast, the ladies at the front desk greet me warmly and hand me my order form with names filled in already. The lady in front of the seafood restaurant across the street now greets us insteadIMG_6185 of trying to persuade us to take a copy of the menu. That’s a benefit of being one of the very few anglo faces in this town that’s off the tourist trail. The stand just down the street where we get our mango shakes just ask if we want our favorites. The ladies tell us stories and give us suggestions on places to go. If you click on the lower picture, you’ll see why their menu makes us smile!

2015-05-27 18.48.07

On Wednesday evening we made the 2015-05-27 17.55.04trek to the Cafe Panay. It meant walking through the center of the old city which reminded us of how our section of Manila looked when we lived there in 1969-1972. Lots of crowds and “down home” shops and street dealers selling all sorts of useful things. Our table was in front of a fuzzy picture which becomes quite a marvelous2015-05-27 18.10.20 picture of old Panay in a photograph. The Cafe specializes in local items and foods, so we asked the server who told us what would be best. And indeed she was right. Instead of calamunsi, she suggested Red Taho iced tea. Just enough zing to 2015-05-27 18.31.20make it interesting. I chose chorizo Ilonggo with purple rice (yes, purple!), Itlog na Maalat (a pickled flower) and salted egg all on a traditional banana leaf. Super tasty, especially when followed up with Cafe Panay Turon in Muscuvado Carmel Sauce (and Tablea Dip)2015-05-27 18.34.56 which being translated means banana in lumpia wrap with caramel and chocolate. Yum!! I loved hearing traditional Filipino folk music in the background as we ate. The owner showed us around the shop while telling us stories of the history of Panay and the items for sale in the shelves of the shop. We took a different route home and were soon in the area of the middle class folk with large malls and noisy music.

IMG_6170We treated the students to lunch in the hotel restaurant. It was not lunch, but a feast!The food just kept coming including century eggs and drunken shrimp and Crab Morcon and Sharksfin Guisado and a whole fish in sweet and sour sauce as well as a great soupIMG_6166 and a beef brisket hot pot all ending up with Filipino fruit cocktail. Even the students couldn’t identify some of the dishes. The servers (a whole crowd of them) were glad to explain. IMG_6172Fortunately the discussions during my afternoon class were active enough to ward off the spirit of drowsiness which threatened to attack the students with all that marvelous food in them.

Iloilo weekend

P4210002-001Saturday was for site seeing so Sherry visited the little travel agency next door to the hotel to see what they had. Too late for a tour but they gave us the itinerary which was perfect. It started20150523_102247 with a walk down to the old provincial capital (which was undergoing an extreme make over and uninhabited) and the Museo Iloilo. We paid our fifty peso entrance fee (about $1.25) and found that we got a guided tour from Shomai, who said she was a guide in P4200004training. Sure sounded like an expert to me as she explained each of the displays. There was the “olden days” and the salamander skin diapers (which I wanted to touch to see if itP4200009 was soft), and the wrap (?) made from spider web (hard working spider to make something this large!) as well as many religious items and weapons from a millennium ago and from the Japanese P4200015occupation in WWII.  There was a display of excellent pieces of fine art by Iloilo artists. This “prayer in the middle of war” riveted my attention and left me pondering all that was symbolized here. LORD grant us Your peace.

We hailed a taxi to go to the Molo (a suburb of Iloilo)P4200026 Church, St. Anne’s, also known as the feminist church since all the saints in the church are female. I was pleased to see Sherry doing her devotions under the icons of the lady saints. The church was quiet with just a few people inside who were meditating in the beautiful church.

P4200036One altar had pictures of two women saints, one of Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese who was enslaved as a child and subjected to horrible abuse over the next half dozen years until she was bought by a kind Italian who took her to Italy where she lived until the courts ended her slavery and she became a Canossian Sister serving until her death in 1947, and declared a saint in 2000. Quite an amazing story.

The plaza across from the church is called theP4200041 “Athens of Iloilo” because of its central display of Greek gods. The contrast between the Greek Pantheon and the Feminist Roman Catholic Church could not be greater! I went to buy some water as Sherry sat in the shade. A beggar began asking her lots of questions, making her a little uncomfortable, until a student came to rescue her. As we talked, it turned out his mother works in the embassy in Washington, DC and he’d done a year of studies for his foreign service degree in Florida.

P4200048As we arrived at our next stop, the Jaro Cathedral, we joined in a baptismal service for three babies, with lots of proud family members. It was fun to see the celebration even if we could understand nothing of the Visayan service. The saints in this church were all male. Shomai had told us this was a good place to pray for a boyfriend. Sherry said she had hers, so we prayed for Cyndee’s tall, dark and cute one!

We asked the taxi driver to take us the the Cafe Panay, the final stop on the itinerary, but he had no idea where it was and neither did we, so we went back to the hotel instead where we had a great lunch followed by mango shakes at our favorite little stand down the street from the hotel. They know us now and our favorite kind of shake. Friendly people everywhere.

My student, Chester came to fetch Sherry and Dave and me for churchP4210004 on Sunday. Zion, another student, is one of the pastors there. Since he is the only close by pastor, I decided we’d visit and see what is going on. They insisted that I preach, so I put P4210003on my barong in the very warm day and joined the celebration. With open walls and several fans, it was quite comfortable othP4210022er than being very much the oddity in the full sanctuary! After the sermon, they asked us to stay for Sunday School reports. I wondered what that might be until I saw the P4210018children being guided onto the stage to recite their memory verse and their lesson. It was super fun as they went from primary to junior high. The primary group had aP4210020 whole group of eager coaches! Everyone wanted to greet us and shake our hands after the service was over and I got to hear a number of stories of service. Finally we gathered the four students, the pastor and his wife and another pastor to go P4210027.JPGto Tatoy’s Manokan Seafood, the local sea side restaurant for a feast! Along with chicken (the whole chicken!) and other dishes, we had oysters baked in a delicious cheese sauce. No one left hungry! As we finished the pastor’s wife came over to sit beside Sherry and quietly told her about her battle with breast cancer. Sherry’s pastoral heart came out big time and she listened and prayed with her.

P4210029The van took some back to the church where we picked up several women who were going to the downtown church for a women’s fellowship. Happily that crew included a very cute little guy whom I grabbed quickly! He was pretty eager to drive the van.

Doane ChoirDave and I went to the 88th anniversary concert at Doane Baptist Church. It was one of the first churches in the area and now has a Bible institute and a seminary as well as a large sanctuary and not a single anglo face other than Dave and me, I’m glad to say. The choir was great!

Jefferson burn 2As I slept in the quiet of our room, I was awakened at 2:00 am by sirens which stopped. I looked out the window to see fire trucks in front of the hotel. I saw that they were rushing into the Camp Jefferson bar across the street. Soon the street was filled with trucks and I saw flames coming out of the roof of the building which caused me some IMG_6129great concern: could they see what was happening from the street or inside the building? The flames soon disappeared, I was relieved to see. I don’t know how long the activity went on as I crawled back in bed and went to sleep. The fire damage was apparent on Monday morning. Glad the fire crews were able to stop it before it spread to surrounding buildings.

Iloilo City

2015-05-17 11.18.38We arrived here on Sunday from Cebu on a half full flight and miracle of miracles Sherry’s cane got us upgraded to economy plus Smile. The fellow issuing our boarding pass thought it too far for her to walk to row 10, so row 4 it w2015-05-17 11.28.28as! Since the flight was only 35 minutes, it was not a big deal, but the consideration was much appreciated after a long wait in the crowded departure “lounge” where I took advantage of our status to get a little more room. I did get a kick out of the group of young American men doing what comes naturally: checking their phones!

2015-05-17 12.55.37We arrived, greeted by a most inviting advertisement, to find no driver from the hotel waiting for us. That kicks in my travel paranoia big time! But the police officer and the taxi coordinator got involved while I texted Dan, our contact, who was still in Manila. After a 20 minute wait, they found a Mid Town Hotel driver in the parking lot and called him over. He declined their request noting that he was going to be picking up the guy on his sign: Gerry Breshear! We were soon on our way to the center of Iloilo.

I’d seen in Travel Advisor that we should 2015-05-18 07.09.41ask for a room away from the street because of the very noisy girlie bars. Not something I’m interested in dealIMG_6116ing with for sure! Our assigned room looked over the street but these aren’t quite girlie bars! Click on the pictures and you’ll see why we’ve enjoyed their presence. We met Dan and Dave Kennedy, the other professor who is doing Daniel in the mornings while I do spiritual warfare in the afternoon.

Monday morning class meant meeting the pastors. UnIMG_6102fortunately two of them were not able to come at the last minute but we had Zion join for the week as an auditor before he has to go to other commitments. So I only have six students who are great guys! Seems we are always laughing.

Dan, the coordinator is in the plaid shirt. William, laughing next to him, is a graduate of seminary already as a Catholic. He’s retooling as a Baptist! Our conversations have become quite wide ranging as questions multiply as the we build trust and openness.

2015-05-20 18.19.26The days have had walks around the streets to get dinner, snacks, and mango smoothies of course!The lemon chicken at Gloria Maris was wonderful. The carrot “flower” would do well on Food Channel Asia which Sherry is enjoying while I teach class. 2015-05-19 10.31.45

The street has a pedestrian “fly over” so Sherry was able to get her exercise only to be told by a nice lady that seniors could just cross the street. Sure enough when we tried it the next day, a policeman stopped the traffic and waved us across. A smiling lady with a cane gets favors here.

We are always impressed by the friendliness and helpfulness of the people here. The crowds are significant, but everywhere people smile and greet us. The hotel staff can’t do enough to assist us in every way. We saw an interesting but identified dish going to another table, so we asked the server. He told us, but the words weren’t familiar. So he brought a menu and showed us the dish. We tried it today and it was super tasty!

There is no separation of church and state here as these pictures make very clear.

2015-05-21 17.25.44

2015-05-21 17.26.47






Two of the local students are helping plant a church not far away, so I asked if we could visit on Sunday. They promised to take us to a really good sea food restaurant after. I asked for the church address so we could get a taxi. I don’t know the area, so going on by jeepney isn’t a good idea. They responded by arranging a car to fetch us, and then bringing an invitation from the pastor to preach. I will “earn” our lunch!

Teaching Pastors in Cebu

The trip to Cebu began early! Sherry woke up about 2:30 to finish our packing and preparations to meet Cesar at 4 am for the trip to the airport. Even at 4 am, the traffic was dense. Loved getting Cesar’s personal travel narration as he told me about growing up in absolute poverty in Masbate, courting Carla for seven years before they had enough to be married, and then going into pastoral ministry with the Teaching pastors 1Baptist General Conference. Now he has been appointed bishop so he can be chairman of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, a group of 35,000 churches through out the nation. But his heart remains with Baptist churches. Thus my involvement teaching the pastors in the Pathway Church facility in Cebu. I never got a count, but about 50 men (and one wife) gathered and the discussion took off! Cesar took pictures of the men  as we studied.

Teaching pastors 2

Teaching pastors 5





Teaching pastors 6Teaching pastors 7





We covered a wide range of topics: what is the gospel, why are we not sinners if we enjoy roast pork (a local specialty), how do we do baptism if Acts 2:38 is right: “repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins,” what is the role of gifts, what does church leadership look like, finishing up exploring calminianism. Of course there 20150515_105105were tangents along the way. When we finished at 3:00 on Friday, the men agreed quickly “Pastor Gerry, may we be excused? Our heads are full!” There was a lot of pictures as pretty much everyone wanted a picture with me alongside them. It was a little strange being treated like the celebrity!

2015-05-14 15.52.58The top event of the two days of study was when the men broke into groups to pray together. Cesar encouraged them to pray with someone other than their normal partner. I found out later that two pastors who had long standing conflict resulting from one of them going into serious sin while on the other pastor’s team was resolved with real reconciliation coming in the days together in the class and in the Baptist Guest House.

IMG_6062Saturday was our site seeing day with Pastor Jingo and Jenny. Jingo is president of the Conference and our host for the time. He and Jenny picked us up to tour Cebu. We started with Magellan’s Cross, planted on EasterIMG_6065 Sunday 1521. The original cross is said to be inside the contemporary cross. The Basilica Santo Nino, originally built in 1565, burned twice with the current building finished in 1737. The earthquake that shook the town just before Typhoon Hayan destroyed IMG_6074Tacloban, brought down one of the towers. Of course they rebuild.

The inside is magnificent with many people doing devotion before the complex altar. Ceilings are filled with art and the lobbies have IMG_6070images of the Blessed Virgin with people touching the glass, hands encased in a handkerchief, to receive a blessing. Not my style of religion, I have to say.

As we left the Cathedral, a girl selling tourist items begged us to buy her wares. I decided to do that and immediately drew a crowd of young folk wanting to purchase some of their too. But I’d used up my smaller bills and they don’t have change so I smiled and walked ahead. One boy, holding his items up for me to see, kept calling “share the blessing, share the blessing.” The poverty is appalling. Ironically in the very nice malls most of the workers are poor who are far enough along in school to qualify for jobs. But my heart goes out to those who have no money for uniforms, fees and such. The churches sponsor many, including Cesar and Jingo years ago, but there are so many more.

IMG_6082Of course we had to have food after the mid-day’s site seeing. Jenny picked out our fare including Crispy pata (deep fried pork and sago gulaman (she got us the really good drink with gelatin and palm heart balls rather than the normal tapioca pearls). We went to the hotel to rest for a while and then out again to see the lights of the city from The Tops. Beautiful! And of course more feasting after with Pastor James and Sandra and Gloria, their daughter and Jingo/Jenny’s two sons joining.





We finished off with Halo Halo that was so good even  the fish wanted some it!









We finished the evening with tea at the guest house. Lots of good conversation, laughter and sharing God’s goodness.

Last Days in Manila

The days with the Hope Advance youth retreat were so full of energy. I was delighted to hear that 14 young folk followed Jesus in baptism on the last day. Too bad I wasn’t there to enjoy the fun. That would have been much more fun than spending the day working on class schedules and revising syllabi for Western’s On Line campus! I still am Professor Gerry.

2015-05-07 13.56.34Sunday was my opportunity to preach at Union Church Manila ( Pastor Steve Ruetschle is an amazing man. His story of healing after a motorcycle accident left his C6-C7 near complete separation. He went from total paralysis from neck down to walking and preaching though with lots of pain and challenge. You can read his blog at

His schedule through the parables in Luke had Luke 13:1-9 for today, the parable of the barren fig tree: “unless you repent, you will likewise perish.” A very difficult parable and especially on Mother’s Day! But I love Scripture and dug into it to find God’s word. You can watch it on the church web site. The three sermons went well though my cold made the exercise more difficult. A snack of fresh mangos after second service helped a lot!

IMG_6038Monday was with long time friends, Rene and Carla Chanco. They took us up to Faith Academy where I got to see the next round of changes. They say the Cadd Auditorium has the best acoustics in the Philippines and it may well be so. The Manila Symphony comes to do recordings here. IMG_6036They were just starting to build it when we were here in 2007. Now it is absolutely beautiful. They bless the whole neighborhood as well as the city by allowing groups to use the facility. The arts program is flourishing now that they added an arts period where students can do arts or nothing. With the the shift of the missionary cadre from North American to Asian, there are fewer Anglo students, even higher academic achievement and (sadly) lesser sports involvement. Tine Hardemann, IMG_6043the 50 year basketball coach and now sports chaplain just shook his head. Ken Kiehlbauch and I came to Faith the same year (1969) but he stayed and built an amazing science program. Now the wing is named for him. And the Arts students crafted quite a portrait of him.IMG_6039 Dave French, the 27 year art teacher was proud to show us his first floor workroom where students hang out creatively. The IMG_6047entrance to the main classroom building hasn’t changed though all the interior has. I am very glad to see the school improving, but a bit sad that “my classroom” isn’t even a part of the math area any more!

IMG_6052We went to the CB guest house and saw the improvements there and then on to Asian Theological Seminary, where Rene uses a good part of his time. As we waited to close the gate at the seminary, I took some street pictures and pondered theIMG_6042 contrast with the erupting sky scraper behind the older buildings and tricycles. Wonder how long it will be before the area here looks like nearby Cubao or Ortigas Center (as viewed from Faith)?

The evangelical explosion here in the past generation has transformed the country with many churches including world class mega-churches like Christ Commission Fellowship with a 24,000 member base gathering, 30+ other CCF gatherings but has also planted hundreds of churches all over the Philippines and China. Peter Tan-Chi, who was in my D.Min. class at International Graduate School of Leadership, began the church as a home Bible study in a living room near Faith Academy and the rest is history.

Tuesday was our “off day.” We took it easier and went out to a nice supper in a local restaurant before Wednesday’s trip to Cebu.

Teaching in Manila

SEATS Teaching 1How much can one enjoy a week of teaching in Manila? I don’t know what the possible is, but I surely enjoyed it immensely! The dozen pastors were from many different parts of the Manila area as I mentioned below ranging from seminary to lay educated but all eager to interact with Jonah and Ruth as we worked from text to sermon. I love teaching as we look at the Bible together wrestling with what it says and means.

HOPE Advance 2015 at Febias College Of Bible 2The all day classes were followed by rest as the cold I picked had it’s impact. Coughing, blowing, head packed, ears plugged, voice failing: it’s not good. It was a special challenge as my role switched to Bible teacher at the Hope Advance 2015 youth rally. I had almost no voice at all, so I sucked Ricola, spoke right against the microphone, and tried not to breathe deeply which set off a coughing attack! The teaching actually went well once the failed microphone and video projector were replaced.

IMG_6010Merienda with Bishop Efriam Tendero, the new Secretary General of The World Evangelical Alliance was a great privilege. He and Cesar (who is also a Bishop) are great friends so I got to join their time. Just too quick to do anything more than pleasantries before Bishop F (as he is known) headed off to South Africa. Quite a responsibility he is undertaking as he steps into a great heritage.

The second evening of the Hope Advance was so much fun. It began with dinner served for the youth in traditional style on banana leaves. They faced off and went at it with gusto, leaving little to mop up.





HOPE Advance 2015 7


HOPE Advance 2015 6



I had a great time watching especially since I had my meal served in a style more befitting my advanced years!

Going back to FEBIAS College of the Bible was retreating in the the Philippines I remembered from 1970: old style buildings nestled in spreading trees , open windows, fans blowing, people open to Jesus.






IMG_6034The students were so excited about worship and sopping up the teaching, repeating back the principles of the gospel and for living God’s will. Part of their small group work was to make personal mission statements in English and Tagalog based on what they learned. MyIMG_6031 voice was much better which made it a lot more comfortable for me. But it was also really warm which meant creative ways to prepare!

It was wonderful to hear that where three students had committed to baptism, as the actually service began, that number swelled to 14. The Gospel is alive!

First Manila Days

Teaching pastors is always fun! But it is even better when  they are Philipino men working as church planters in Muslim areas, in poor barrios as well as the wealthy Ortigas Center area where we are staying. Hope Christian Fellowship meets in a 100 square meter room and packs in 70 people twice every Sunday. But the key is that men who interned at Hope have gone out and planted 21 churches. This small room has become a prayer central for many leaders since Cesar Punzulan is an ordained bishop, head of the Philipino Council of Evangelical Churches (there are 70,000 churches here) as well as a very strategic leader in the country. On top of that, he is a very fun guy who invests everything in his people. Unfortunately I got so wrapped up in the teaching that I forgot to have someone use my camera to take a picture of the guys! I’ll get some from Cesar.

2015-05-04 14.50.10Manila has changed dramatically even since we were here in 2007. The hotel we are staying in is more than 48 floors, the tallest residential building in Manila when it was built in 2011. But there have been many others since and there are many others going up even now as you can see in this picture taken from our window. 2015-05-04 08.04.54There are many solar cells on top of buildings as well as beautiful PGA level golf courses. And cranes everywhere. Oh, yes. And traffic. There are more than 12 million people in the city they tell me. I have also heard 15 million if you count the people with no address.

2015-05-05 08.44.18America has invaded: Virtually every Western restaurant is here from McDonalds (where you can get rice or spaghetti with you hamburger) to Starbucks to TGI Friday’s. But Donn (my son who lives in Kansas City after spending the first three years of his life here) and I were both astonished with Kansas City Ribs! Our daily routine includes a trip across the street to SM MegaMall to get mango smoothies. The twin towers is our hotel behind this enormous mall. It is an astonishing contrast to the huge poverty in the country, which is so easy to forget here in the super wealthy area. But I also remember that this chain began as in Marikina. When we planted Calvary Baptist Church there in 1970, it was a small shoe market (thus the SM) where a small business man has made super good, raising the lifestyle of many others in the process. Odd contradictions.

2015-05-06 14.55.11I walked by Greenhills Christian Fellowship, a church planted by Dave and Patty Jo Yount who we worked with at Calvary Marikina. It was pastored by Luis Pantoja who went to Denver Seminary with me in 1972. I preached there in 2000. Three years ago Luis dropped dead while on a ministry trip to Singapore. I hear the church is dong well, but is no longer THE place to go. I won’t be there this time as I’ll be preaching at Union Church in Makati. Lunch with Pastor Steve tomorrow.

On a happy note, Sherry’s new computer crashed. We tried to take it to a repair shop, but the dealer is in downtown Manila. That’s not a trip for the faint hearted. So she brought it home. Later in the day, she texted me: “It’s healed!” Well, briefly. But since then she has worked with it, muttered at it, worked some more, and now it appears to be working again. Tomorrow will be the test.

Hong Kong Days

2015-04-30 09.18.39It kinda caught me by surprise that our four days in Hong Kong were over. Even before we got into a rhythm, the time was gone. The hotel breakfasts were sumptuous and as befits a truly international hotel, quite varied. I have never had watermelon juice as a possibility. Noodle soup is common in many cultures. I will admit that I thought about trying this pastry, but I couldn’t quite work up the courage when there were so many other yummy possibilities.

2015-04-30 15.50.24Kiki showed up at 8 in the morning to take us to the conference session at The Vine Church. She was an amazing host making sure all of our needs were fully satisfied including my need for coffee in the morning. My first interaction was with a developmentally delayed young man. At first I thought he was cerebral palsy, but as I tried to interact, it became clear that his thinking processes were not doing well. I found myself getting irritated that he was taking one of each of our limited supply of brochures. It was even worse when he showed up the next day and did it again. We really tried to communicate, but alas, it was not possible.

2015-04-30 17.02.02Kiki took us to the Hong Kong Cafe, a local “hole in the wall” where she said the food was really good. I could not pass up the opportunity to try the “Sichuan saliva chicken.” And it was2015-04-30 16.45.27 good! Dr. Cesar Punzalan was my partner. He is head of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches and a very good guy. We became friends very quickly as he regaled us with stories.

Andrew Gardner, the lead pastor of The Vine, hosted the sessions. He and I had a plenary session together. We played off each other as I argued that justice IS part of the gospel. I took them through Acts 2:22-47 in my question asking style, which was totally different than any other speaker.

Saturday, the final day turned into an ordeal as my allergies kicked in. I was  pretty miserable as the faucet would NOT turn off. I was really worried about my hour long workshop but fortunately the drips stopped about 5 minutes into the time. My interactive style fit the audience w2015-05-02 18.52.35ell and the end of the time did not end the questions. But I was due as a speaker’s reception so I was dragged out. Turned out it was a stand up, crowded, quick connection time with people I will never see again, the very thing I really don’t like. So we left a bit early and Kiki delivered us to the hotel.

Sunday morning meant checking out, loading our things in a van and making the long trip to the airport. Once again, Sherry’s wheelchair status got us special treatment. We’d never gone through the crew entrance before. The flight was uneventful until the end: my ears did not equalize. , I couldn’t hear people trying to help me which is pretty frustrating. Cesar’s daughter met us and he drove us through streets that used to be familiar but no more. We recognized nothing. He dropped us at the hotel where we soon got into our 43 floor room. The poor little air conditioner struggled hard over come the 95 degree, 80% humidity weather. It will be nice to live in this “home” for 10 days. Sherry is much intrigued with Asian Food Channel!