The “Sabadista” in the Philippines

The “Sabadista” movement is the Filipino version of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, which is distinguished by its observance of Saturday, the seventh day of the week in the Christian (Gregorian) and the Hebrew calendar, as the Sabbath.

I am not interested in expressing judgement or criticism through a blog, I just want to throw a couple of scriptures as food for thought to highlight whether this idea is consistent with the original teachings of Jesus Christ. I am not advocating Christianity or anything else through this blog: I am just a lover of studying bold claims about religion, politics, various diets and medical advice etc that people make and their consistency with the raw source where their beliefs are supposedly taken, in the same way as I would, for example, evaluate the consistency of someone who claims to be a communist leader but runs a company that underpays his workers with the original teachings of Karl Marx. This is not to say that Marx was right but just to compare and contrast the “original kernel” with those who claim to follow it.

So what does the Bible teach about whether Christians should keep the Sabbath?

A couple of scriptures come to mind:

Rom. 10:4: “Christ is the end of the Law, so that everyone exercising faith may have righteousness.” (Sabbath keeping was a part of that Law. God used Christ to bring that Law to its end. So, according to Christ) having a righteous standing with God depends on faith in Christ, not on keeping a weekly sabbath.)

Col. 2:13-16: “[God] kindly forgave us all our trespasses and blotted out the handwritten document against us, which consisted of decrees and which was in opposition to us . . . Therefore let no man judge you in eating and drinking or in respect of a festival or of an observance of the new moon or of a sabbath.”

So, clearly, Jesus Christ did away with the Law of Moses and everything that it entailed, including the Sabbath.


Born Again in the Philippines

Because I am trying to go deep into the culture and the language of my wife’s country, I cannot help but touch on all aspects of it and, because religion is a very strong component of the Filipino culture, I also have to gloss over it.

I try to stay as neutral as possible, I just try to highlight how, despite being so religious and having so many churches and denominations, religion doesn’t really seem to raise the consciousness of the general population in the Philippines…and pretty much everywhere to be honest.

Among the movements that seem to be pretty strong in the Philippines, besides the Iglesya ni Kristo, the Dating Daan, the Rizalista and others, there are the so-called “Born Again”.

In a nutshell they seem to believe that, in contrast to one’s physical birth, being “born again” is distinctly and separately caused by the operation of the Holy Spirit, and it is not caused by baptism in water. Being “born again” refers not to the physical resurrection that Jesus Christ experienced, but rather, it speaks of a “being born again […] in a spiritual realm and is experienced by people who receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior”.

What do I have to say about this movement?

I remember a famous motivational speaker by the name of Jim Rohn saying: “results is the name of the game”.

I couldn’t agree more: the gauge that I personally use to judge whether an ideology, a doctrine, a diet or anything else is true is whether that thing is yielding results. After all Jesus Christ himself said that his true disciples could be identified by the “fruits” they produce.

And what are, at least according to the Bible (I am not discussing whether God exists, Jesus existed or the Bible is correct), the “fruits” that someone who claims to have the “Holy Ghost” is supposed to manifest?

There is an interesting passage in Galatians 5:22,23: “The fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.”

I am not by any means saying whether the “Born Again” folks are displaying these fruits or not: I am just baffled by the rift between the large amount of people who claim to be guided by the Holy Spirit and the scarcity of people (in the Philippines and elsewhere) who produce the results or “fruits” that said spirit should produce….

“Tanungin si Soriano” and the “Dating Daan” Movement

The Old Path is the radio and TV program of Eli Soriano, the founder of the Members Church of God International (MCGI), based in the Philippines. The Tagalog name of The Old Path is Ang Dating Daan.

Soriano used to make use of television, radio, and social media programs utilizing a question-and-answer method to propagate his teachings, known as “tanungin si Soriano”, or “ask Soriano”.

Like the Iglesya ni Kristo, they have some correct understanding of some Biblical topics: for example they neither believe in the Trinity nor do they celebrate things like Christmas and other celebrations that are common among other denominations, like the Catholic Church for example, but that have pagan origins.

But they also hold some weird beliefs like, for example, the idea that God has human body parts like arms, eyes, and feet. But God has no knees, since He will not worship any other gods (there are many gods according to Soriano) and that God is residing in His own planet somewhere in the universe.

Anyway, apart from the quote-unquote doctrinal aspect, which I don’t want to get into too much through a blog, there is a song that comes to mind, regarding the use of TV shows to talk about religion, a song by Chet Atkins and Margaret Archer that Ray Stevens made into a hit back in 1987

“Woke up this mornin’ turned on my TV set
There in livin’ color was something’ I can’t forget
This man was preachin’ at me, yeah, layin’ on the charm
Asking me for 20 with 10,000 on his arm

He wore designer clothing and a big smile on his face
Selling me salvation while they sang Amazing Grace
Asking me for money when he had all the signs of wealth
Almost wrote a check out, yeah, but then I asked myself

Would He wear a pinky ring, would he drive a fancy car
Would His wife wear furs and diamonds, would his dressing room have a star
If He came back tomorrow there’s something I’d like to know
Would Jesus wear a Rolex on His television show?”

So the question about the “Dating Daan” and other TV preachers is: would Jesus use a TV show to spread his message?

Did Jesus, for example, want his disciples to wait for people to come to them? After his resurrection, Jesus told hundreds of his followers: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of people of all the nations, baptizing them . . . , teaching them to observe all the things I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19, 20)

They were expected to be the ones to reach out to people not host a TV show or anything like that and wait for people to come…

So these are just some of my ideas about this fancy movement which I have been curious about since I started going to Filipino parties and noticing how some were watching this “tanungin si Soriano” thing…

The “Iglesya ni Kristo”: Does Salvation Come from the Philippines?

Because I have been in a relationship with a Filipina for almost 25 years now and I have interacted with thousands of Filipinos during these years, I cannot help but go deep into both the language and the culture of my wife’s country.

Here in Rome we’ve got between 50,000 and 100,000 Pinoy and almost all of them are deeply religious.

Here in Rome we’ve got plenty of Filipino churches and denominations, and one of the most widespread is the so-called “Iglesya ni Kristo” or “Church of Christ”.

And so I have decided to look a little bit into what these folks believe and I have found some interesting things that are, actually, more consistent with the Bible than what other groups, like the Catholics for example, believe.

Now, as a disclaimer, I keep repeating that a personal blog is not a place for promoting any kind of belief or ideology, and I would also say that there are issues that are deeper and more fundamental than estabilishing which group is more consistent with the Bible, and those more fundamental issues are: how do we know that there is a God? How do we know that, out of the thousands of gods that people believe, the Biblical one is the right one? How do we know that Jesus actually existed? Did humans evolve or were they directly created by God?

So I think that a serious religious group should, first of all, be able to answer these and a lot more foundational questions before jumping into a discussion over which doctrine is right.

But, assuming that the Bible is the word of God, that Jesus actually existed and so on, which, out of all the Filipino denominations comes closest to the original teachings of Jesus Christ?

I have already espressed very serious doubts about Catholicism and, particularly, the selective assimilation of Christian values into the pre-existing animistic rituals, that the Spanish promoted to indoctrinate the indigenous people of the Philippines. That is, pretty obviously, at least in my opinion, something that has absolutely nothing to do with the original kernel of Christianity.

So what about the so-called Iglesya ni Kristo?

There are actually things that they teach that are way more consistent with Jesus’ teachings than what other groups teach.

And these include:

The followers of the Iglesya ni Kristo don’t believe in the Trinity.

The Trinity doctrine was never directly mentioned by Jesus or any of the early Christians (meaning the first century ones). The word itself “Trinity” is nowhere to be found in any of the Gospels and there is, actually, a particular verse that says that Jesus said something along the lines of “the Father is greater than I am”.

In the Bible it is also said that Jesus is the “Firstborn of all creation”…meaning that he was created, whereas the Father was never created because He created everything.

They follow the Bible and only the Bible.

This sounds pretty consistent with a statement that Saul of Tarsus, who later became an apostle, made, which says “do not go beyond what is written”. And, in fact, apart from what’s written in the Bible we don’t know anything about Jesus and his teachings from other sources.

They don’t practice infant baptism.`

That sounds consistent with the Bible, and with logic too, because, first of all Jesus was 30 years old when he got his baptism and…what does a baby know about what becoming a Christian entails?

They don’t celebrate Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, or any holiday based on pagan beliefs.

This is consistent with the Bible too, because, by looking up any encyclopaedia one can easily discover that none of these teachings has it’s roots in the teachings of Jesus Christ, who, for example was certainly not born in December nor did he ever say that his birth was something that his followers should celebrate.

They also believe that the reestablishment of the Church is Bible-based and supported by biblical prophecy.

The apostles warned on few occasions that, after the death of the last apostle, many would have deflected from the original teachings…which is pretty obvious if we look at all the inquisition, the persecutions, the wars and many other heinous things that the various churches have done, especially during the Middle Ages.

And so, it sounds like those Iglesya ni Kristo folks have quite a few things that sound rather consistent with the original teachings of Christianity.

However there are also things that, at least based on what I know, aren’t too consistent with Jesus’ teachings.

For example it seems like the Iglesya believe in a heavenly resurrection, or, at least, that all the good ones will go to heaven, which doesn’t sound very consistent with such things as the resurrection of Lazarus and other people whom Jesus supposedly resurrected.

Lazarus was for example Jesus’ friend and if it was true that the good ones go to heaven there was no need to resurrect him and bring him back from heaven to this life filled with problems…better off in heaven, than in this system of things here on this planet filled with troubles of all kinds. So, if Jesus brought Lazarus back to earth this probably means that by resurrection he meant a resurrection here not in heaven.

And another thing that sounds a little far fetched is the idea that a Filipino (Mr. Felix Manalo) was some sort of modern messenger of God and that, therefore, the Philippines is some kind of chosen land.

First of all that sounds kind of nationalistic, and the text that they use to back up this idea is a particular verse of Revelation that talks about an angel coming from the East.

Though this fifth angel is not named, in my opinion it looks more like the verse here is talking about Jesus. In line with Jesus’ being the head of the angels, he is here shown to have authority over the other angels. (1 Thessalonians 4:16; Jude 9).

Another claim that the Iglesya make is that they are preaching the Gospel worldwide and that, eventually, through this Filipino-based organization the whole world will be converted.

If this was the case the Iglesya ni Kristo should, by now, be widely known by a lot of people worldwide…but I have a feeling that if I hit the streets and asked 10 Italians, 100 Italians, 1000 Italians, 100,000 Italians etc, if they have ever heard about the Iglesya ni Kristo not a single person would say yes…

So there are some interesting things about this movement, which is in many ways closer to the Bible than many other groups, but there also seem to be some major contradictions in their teachings.

But, most of all, what really matters is not the doctrine but if this religion actually produced what Christ called “fruits”, which, in other words, means that what’s true is what works.

If all Filipinos became Iglesya ni Kristo would corruption, heavy drinking, violence, the “ako muna” mentality and other things that plague the Philippines cease to exist and would the Philippines become a the land of flowers, rainbows and butterflies?….food for thought….bilang ‘pampatunaw’

Faith Healers in the Philippines

A disclaimer before I dive into this topic: I am not promoting any particular religion or ideology but just trying to analize the Filipino culture in all its avenues, including the mystical and religious aspect, one of which is faith healing and how, as I have mentioned in a few posts, certain non-Christian rituals and beliefs get mixed with Christian elements.

In the Philippines there are basically 3 types of faith healers.


An albularyo is a “folk doctor” generally found in the kabukiran of the Philippines.

An albularyo heals people using herbs and hilot or massage. The main reason why people resort to albularyos is because people believe that they have supernatural powers.

The albularyos practice their healing using prayers and rituals.

The Baylan

So called mediumistic healing. In the Philippines, mediums are believed to possess the power to cure various diseases and to interact with spirits .


These healers are called spiritualist, psychic or astral surgeons who claim to cut incisions with their fingers and perform other miracles of para-science.

Now, since most Filipinos who resort to the help of those faith healers are Christians, the question that arises (independently of whether Christianity is right or wrong, true or not) is: are faith healers consistent with Christianity, at least with the original core teachings of it?

Can the ability to perform miracles come from a source other than the God of the Bible?

Moses and Aaron appeared before Pharaoh of Egypt to request that Israel be allowed to go into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to Jehovah. As evidence of divine backing, Moses directed Aaron to throw down his rod and it became a big snake. That miracle was done by God’s power. But then the magic-practicing priests of Egypt threw down their rods and these, too, became big snakes. (Ex. 7:8-12) By whose power did they perform their miracle?—Compare Deuteronomy 18:10-12.

Matt. 24:24: “False Christs and false prophets will arise and will give great signs [“miracles,” TEV] and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones.”

Matt. 7:15-23: “Be on the watch for the false prophets . . . Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works [“miracles,” JB, NE, TEV] in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

Does the way of life of members of the organizations of which “healers” are a part give evidence that they have God’s spirit?

As a group do they outstandingly manifest such fruits of the spirit as love, long-suffering, mildness, and self-control?—Gal. 5:22, 23.

Are Christians supposed to be identified by the ability to do miraculous healing?

John 13:35: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (This is what Jesus said. If we really believe him, we look for love, not miraculous healing, as evidence of true Christianity.)

So, at least from the standpoint of the original teachings of Christ, the practice of faith healing is not very consistent with anything that Christ taught…then whether Christ existed or not, his message is true or not is another story…I am not by any means making any claims about those issues through a blog.

How Christianity was Introduced into the Philippines

Animism was widely practiced in the pre-colonial Philippines. Today, animism only exists among a few indigenous tribes. The term animism describes a set of beliefs based on the idea that the world is inhabited by spirits and supernatural entities.

The main pre-colonial Tagalog deity is Bathala. Tagalogs also venerated animals like the crocodile (buwaya). A common ancient curse in the Katagalugan is “makain ka ng buwaya” “may the crocodile eat you!”

Although animistic practices vary between different ethnic groups there are some common threads including magic, chants and prayers.


When Magellan first landed, he encountered the local kinship feud between two chiefs, and he attempted to ingratiate himself with one of them, Rajah Humabon.

While Magellan was in Cebu, Humabon’s wife fell in love with a small statue of child Jesus, which was given to her as a gift.

Forty-four years later when Spain sent Miguel Lopes de Legazpi to colonise the Philippines, a Spanish soldier found a statue which was probably the image left by Magellan. The statue was used for religious conversion and it gave birth to the devotion to the Santo Niño, which survives and thrives to this very day in Cebu, particularly when the Ati-atihan fiesta takes place in Kalibo.

After Legazpi captured Manila, a sailor found another image, a statue of a lady. The statue was declared miraculous and it was given the name of Nuestra Señora de Guia.

The book Culture Shock Philippines by Alfredo and Grace Roces says the following about these images: “These two religious images, linked directly with the Spaniards, reveal that Christianisation at the outset did not totally cut itself off from pre-Christian links and beliefs. Other images introduced developed cults, the Marian being strongest, with the Virgin of Antipolo and the Nuestra Señora del Rosario (La Naval) drawing large followings during the Spanish reign. A folk Catholicism evolved which the historian, Phelam, described as one permeated with ‘an atmosphere of the miraculous and the supernatural’”

So, basically, it turns out that one of the ways the Spanish introduced Christianity into the Philippines was by creating some sort of “halo-halo” of pre-existing animistic rituals and Christian elements, which relies very heavily on the use of images.


I am not by any means trying to use a blog to make any kind of religious or ideological propaganda, I am just analyzing the culture of the country my wife is from from different perspectives, and religion is a very important component of the Filipino culture.

In my opinion, since the word Christianity comes from Christ, it should have been introduced the way Christ would have introduced it.

Would, for example, Christ have promoted a smooth transition into Christianity by giving pre-existing animistic rituals a Christian veneer? Would he have encouraged the use of images?

As far as I know, Jesus said something along the lines of “go in through the narrow gate” and he said that only few choose to go through that gate: this probably means that he would not have tried to sugarcoat his message to suit it to the emotional needs of the people he preached to.

A Bible verse comes to mind, which says “we walk by faith, not by sight.”

Another passage in the Bible says: “true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth: that is the kind of worshipper the Father wants. God is spirit, and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth.” Those who rely on images as aids to devotion are not worshiping God “in spirit” but they depend on what they can see with their physical eyes.

So, in my opinion, Christianity in the Philippines (as well as in Spain and all the other countries that spread Christianity in formerly pagan lands) has very little to do with the original core teaching or set of teachings that the founder of Christianity meant to introduce.

And this well explains why, although the teachings of Jesus Christ are all about love, peace, brotherhood etc, in the Philippines (and in basically all the “Christian” world) there is selfishness, materialism, hatred, division, violence and a lot of other bad stuff that doesn’t quite qualify as Christian.

Are Westerners Happier than Filipinos?

The English language, and several other Western languages, are, generally, more nuanced than Tagalog.

For example in English there are two words, being “faithful” and “loyal”, that describe two very different concepts: a dog can only be faithful while a human can be both just faithful or go higher than that and be loyal.

But when it comes to the concept of happiness Tagalog has a richer vocabulary, as in Tagalog there are two words that communicate the idea of happiness, being “masaya” (a happy state induced by stimulation and titillation) and “maligaya” (a more permanent calm and even keeled state that does not hinge upon a particular kind of stimulation: in other words unconditional happiness).

On the one hand, Filipinos rely very heavily on food, socializing, having the latest electronic gadgets etc to be “masaya” and there are, relatively few people who isolate themselves and meditate to induce a state of more permanent bliss, while in the West there is plenty of people who, for example, go on solo hikes, are into meditation and so on.

On the other hand though in the West there are way more people who are goal setters and have to-do lists, while most Filipinos simply coast through life spending long hours in idle chit-chatting, especially in the countryside.

So many Filipinos are more about being than doing, while in the West there are a lot of human doings who only allow themselves to be happy when the things that they are able to mark off their to-do lists happen.

So, as a Westerner married to a Filipina, I can’t quite tell if rich Westerners are necessarily happier than poor Filipinos…

How to Deal with What ifs in a Relationship

Marriage, and all the more so if the relationship is a multiethnic one, is one of those things that can be heavily crippled by what ifs.

A long term relationship with a person of the opposite sex often leads to all kinds of challenges and being in a relationship with a person from a radically different culture, like the Filipino one, increases those challenges rather exponentially.

So it is inevitable to get to the point where what ifs creep into the mind of someone who is in a relationship filled with cultural and psychological challenges…”what if I married a woman from my own country?” “What if I didn’t enter this relationship at all?” and so on and so forth.

A nice story comes to mind. It’s the story of the farmer and the horse, which goes something like this: once there was an old farmer who was cultivating his land when his horse suddenly ran away.

The villagers, hearing of this news, made their way to the farmer’s house and said: “we are so sorry about the bad luck you’ve had”. The farmer looked at them and said: “maybe that’s bad luck but, who knows? Maybe that’s good luck”.

Few days later the horse returned to the farmer bringing a bunch of wild horses, so now the farmer had his horse back plus few more horses.

The villagers quickly ran to his house to tell him how lucky he had been. Again the farmer said: “maybe that’s good luck but, who knows? Maybe that’s bad luck”. The villagers left his house scratching their heads….

Few days later, while the farmer’s son was feeding one of the horses, the horse kicked him and he broke his leg.

Again the villagers, hearing of this news, made their way to the farmer’s house and said: “we are so sorry about the bad luck you’ve had”. The farmer looked at them and said: “maybe that’s bad luck but, who knows? Maybe that’s good luck”.

Few days later the army officials came by looking for all the healthy young man to conscript them to go to war but they couldn’t take the farmer’s son because he was not able to walk.

So, given how random and uncertain life is, there is no possible way to say if something that happened to us, like entering a multiethnic marriage, is good luck or bad luck.

Maybe if I had remained single I would have saved up more money but who knows if that decision would really have lead to a string of positive events? Maybe I would have used that money to travel more but by now I could be dead because of a plane crash…

So, really, there is no possible way to know if something we did or didn’t do is positive or negative….this means that what ifs don’t make any sense.

Where is Beauty?

I spent many years, actually decades looking for beauty: I looked for it in relationships, I looked for it travelling to many countries including the Philippines.

Beauty doesn’t magically come after you find the right relationship or find ways to make your current relationship work, nor does it magically show up once you get to some exotic paradise: you find the Beauty with the capital B once you realize that it is already all around you, you just stop taking it for granted.

Although you don’t really need to go on a hike to find beauty, as you can find it in a smile, hiking around Rome has helped me find the most incredible river gorges, canyons and waterfalls I have ever seen in my life.

Although hiking in your backyard is not fundamental for finding, or rather learning how to appreciate beauty, it’s a good metaphor for how appreciation of Beauty is a skill that requires proactive cultivation. No one is gonna force-feed it to you. And you shouldn’t wait for a trip to some remote paradise or the perfect relationship to start practicing it.