Heritage Conservation Advocates
A brief history of the United Church of Christ of the Philippines in Cagayan de Oro
By Dr. Valentino T. Sitoy, Ph.D.

Dr. Frank C. Laubach and his wife, nee Effa SeelyThe American Board Mission in Cagayan

Being the natural port of entry to Mindanao from the north, Cagayan was a most strategic center for Christian missions on the northern Mindanao coast. Thus, it was not surprising that the American Board would choose it as their second mission station in Mindanao, to which they sent toward the end of 1915 the Rev. Dr. Frank C. Laubach (1884-1987), and his wife, nee Effa Seely.

Early Evangelical Success in Cagayan

Laubach found a prominent Aglipayan leader named Ramon B. Neri to help him up on his Spanish, and a young man named Pedro Acero, to teach him Cebuano.

Laubach began public preaching in July 1916, with Proculo A. Rodriguez serving as his interpreter. Before long, a small group of inquirers, mostly and intermediate students, had begun meeting regularly on Sundays at the Laubach home.

These were the products of the public school system and members of the new generation of English-speaking Filipinos. By September 1916, some 18 persons, including some prominent citizens, had been converted and baptized.

Perhaps the most important reason for the early success of the American Board mission in Cagayan was Laubach’s perceptive insight into the nature of the Filipino religious attitudes.

In looking into at the recent religious history of the province of Misamis, it must have particularly struck him to know that a very large proportion of Misamis province, both in the east and the west coasts had turned Aglipayan in 1902, though by 1916 many had returned to the Catholic Church, while others had ceased professing any religion at all.

In 1902, “two-thirds” of Cagayan and apparently also the surrounding towns had turned Aglipayan, though by 1916 the movement had appeared, if not moribund, at least inactive.

Laubach perceived that the reason, or at least part of the reason, for the Filipino revolt against the Catholic Church had been the indifference and mercenary motives of the clergy. Laubach puts it in even stronger terms, when he says:

Many people who joined (the Aglipayans) nominally had thrown over religion as a fake from beginning to end. There were people who wanted to join our church when it began so that they would have a place to be buried, and who told us  frankly that the future life did not concern them in the least.

To Laubach the, the evangelical message should definitely show people who are “strongly prejudiced” against religion that there is a one which is not “fake”.

What he sought to achieve in Cagayan was to offset the disappointing religious experiences which he perceived to have been common among its inhabitants. As he goes on to say:

Visayans found the Catholics tyrants, and the Aglipayan padres largely ignorant, incompetent or indifferent. The natural thing is for the visayans to be on the lookout for some of these qualities in the Protestant pastors or missionaries.

Straight-laced preaching they mistake for a new species of tyranny. Inferior preaching they will tolerate without complaint, but they will not go to church to hear it. A combination of severity and ignorance, such as they hear too often, becomes simply intolerable.

Briefly, the Protestant preacher has got to produce the goods. His success is exactly proportional to his capacity. That is a truism everywhere, but here, with two unhappy memories of church disappointments, the people are unusually sophisticated.

Thus, it was that Protestant preaching in Cagayan, Misamis was tailored to appeal to the local intelligentsia. By and large, the majority of the evangelical constituency in Cagayan, as indeed in nearly every other place in the Philippines, had always come from the educated middle class, or from the lower middle class seeking upward social mobility through education. [Proceed to second page.]