Thursday, September 18, 2008

Rev. Matias Angiwan Sr. Tribute to his classmate and friend

APRIL 11, 1957 TO APRIL 11, 2007

Let me start my testimonial to Bishop Juan Abellera Marigza on the 50th anniversary of his Ordination to the church ministry by reading Isaiah 6: 1-8, In this chapter we find the record of the call of Isaiah to the prophetic ministry of his time. Verse 8 stated the call: Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: Whom shall I send and who will go for us? And Isaiah said, Here I am, send me…

I first knew then Pastor Juan Abellera Marigza when we were students in the College of Theology of La Union Christian College, San Fernando, La Union. They were second year and I was first year. From the College of Theology Pastor Marigza heard the call just as Isaiah did hundreds of years ago. “Whom shall I send and who will go for us to Lamut Ifugao? And brother Juan said: Here I am, send me.” But the Lord said, it is not good for man to be alone, I will send a helper suitable for him. And so Miss Lourdes Ofilas was sent as a Deaconess to team with Pastor Marigza. It was not long when LOVE blossomed into a beautiful union, and they were supposed to be married at the United Church of Lamut, Ifugao but cultural convention prevailed when some Elders and relatives from Aringay sprinted them away from Lamut to Aringay, the hometown of Pastor Marigza. Their wedding ceremony and celebration was then held at the United Church of Christ of Aringay, La Union in 1951. It was the team ministry of Pastor and Mrs. Marigza that inspired me so when I got married in 1954, we also started a Team Ministry with my wife because I saw the imperative of the wife of a Pastor to team up with her husband in the local church diversified ministry.


In our theological studies at the Union Theological Seminary at Taft Avenue, Manila, we were classmates together with Daniel Nebres who is retired and now residing in Japan. It was in UTS where we developed a very close relationship as brothers in the Faith and fellow-servants in the Lord’s Vineyard. When Cr. Horace Dewey, a Methodist American Missionary helped in organizing a Four Sharp Quartette, Daniel Nebres was the bass, Juan Marigza was the baritone, Juan Sagun a Methodist student was the tenor and I was the melody or soprano. The Four Sharps became the core of an Evangelistic Team of the Union Theological Seminary than went to some local churches and sang evangelistic hymns and Gospel songs. I wish Danny is here so we can sing one of our favorite gospel songs, now that the former baritone is a Bishop.

Brother Juan Marigza’s genuine brotherly love and concern for others was demonstrated when in September 1956, I received a telegram that my father died, and without my knowledge, he went around the Seminary campus soliciting money for my transportation. When I was leaving the dormitory he handed me an envelope with Ph 180.00 which was an amount at that time. Indeed brother Juan Marigza demonstrated the words of Jesus to carry one another’s burden. Again when I was hospitalized at the Bethany Hospital in San Fernando, La Union due to a deadly infectious hepatitis, Rev. Juan Marigza was there to pray for me, gave encouragement and spiritual strength. He sent a telegram to my wife in Bontoc and she came the following day. When I was discharged from the hospital, we stayed with Rev. and Mrs. Marigza in the Parsonage where they were living as the team workers of the UCCP of San Fernando, La Union.


After four years of theological studies from the College of Theology of La Union Christian College to the Union Theological Seminary, we graduated in Bachelor of Theology on March 19,1957, the golden jubilee year of UTS. The commencement speaker was Senator Claro M. Recto who spoke on “Defending the Philippine Constitution.”

While at the Union Theological Seminary, Pastor Marigza invited me more than once to Agoo where they were assigned. They have two little daughters at that time. One morning I climbed a tall coconut tree to get some nuts but I did not know that there were many of the ants with painful bites. After pulling three nuts, my eyes were “napulingan” with dusts. I had to rush sliding down to the ground but the ants already inflicted several injections on my neck and back. In the afternoon Mrs. Lourdes Marigza was startled to see me carrying Marje on my back the Ifugao way. These are some of the memorable experiences I had with the Rev. and Mrs. Marigza.

On April 11, 1957 Pastor Juan Marigza received his ordination to the sacred ministry of the church at Vigan, Ilocos Sur during the Annual Session of the North Central Luzon Conference. I was ordained five days ahead on April 6, 1957 at Kiangan, Ifugao during the Annual Session of the Highland Mission Conference, but I do not have the interest to celebrate also my 50th anniversary because I am now alone and no one to share the joy with me. I jokingly told Bishop Marigza that I may just join him in our thanksgiving to God for the privilege of serving the Church for the past fifty or more years.

After he received his ordination, Rev. and Mrs. Marigza continued their unselfish and dedicated Team ministry for the glory of God and the nurturing of His people. His charisma in pastoral care is beyond question. His gift of touch and prayer is a healing to the sick, a comfort to the broken hearted and bereaved, giving hope to the hopeless, and strengthening of faith to the wavering. His powerful preaching of the Word of God is food to the spiritually hungry, it is uplifting to the weak, it is challenging to the people of God to carry out its vision and mission as mandated in the Great Commission for the salvation of humanity. Sometimes his preaching is a thorn to the proud and uncommitted to the Lord, and finally his open life is a living testimony to the love of God which he demonstrated in his long years of dedicated ministry through the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.

In 1966 the Philippine Bible Society initiated the translation of the Bible into the Iloco language that could be understood even by the ordinary people. In 1967 to 1978 Rev. Marigza was called to this task of Bible translation. Rev. Marigza was called to the Bible translation while at the same time the Pastor of the San Fernando, La Union local church from 1966 to 1968.


When I resigned as Associate Pastor to Rev. Rizalino Subido in this Baguio City Church, and Rev. Subido retired, Rev. Juan Marigza was called to assume the Pastorate of this idealistic and intellectual church of the City of Pines. He served this local church from 1973 to 1986. It was during his Pastoral stewardship of the City church that saw the revival and renewal in the life of the local church starting the steady growth to what the church is now. An ecumenical Sunday School Union was organized in this church in cooperation with other denominations in Baguio City. Then an American missionary couple from the Youth with a Mission came in to reorganize the Sunday School and set up the Sunday school program. Then the Campus Crusade for Christ came in and started the evangelistic movement in the Church and in the City that started the increase in church attendance and membership.

When the Nursery-Kindergarten school of the church was required to register and apply for permit to operate, Rev. Juan Marigza fought against it on the ground of the Constitutional provision of the separation of the Church and the State. However, he gave way together with the Church Council because of the requirement of the Department of Education that graduates from kindergarten schools can not be admitted to grade one unless a permit to operate was granted. Meanwhile, our children were apparently watching the examples from their parents so Reuel, and his brother Jan Fleming, and my son Matias Angiwan Jr. together with their wives bonded together to revitalize the Christian Youth Fellowship not only in the local church, but especially in the Highland Conference. Through their initiatives and resourcefulness, an annual Summer Institute on Biblical Studies (SIBS) was organized and inaugurated at the United Church of Christ of La Trinidad, Benguet. I understand the SIBS is still alive.

In his ministry in the City of Pines, Rev. Marigza went through many disconcerting experiences such as harsh criticism, dislikes and opposition to some of the reforms being undertaken. More than once, a critical Church Council led him to kneel down in prayer crying at the foot of this altar. But God was with him as promised in the Great Commission, “I will be with you till the end…” Rev. Marigza continued to lead the way to growth and development because a dedicated servant of God cannot be dettered even in the midst of threats and intimidation, to fulfill his prophetic ministry as mandated by the CALL OF GOD.

Then in God’s own time, Rev. Juan Abellera Marigza was called and elected into the Bishopric of the North Luzon Jurisdiction of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines from 1986 to 1994. He became the 5th Bishop of the Church to come out from the former United Brethren Mission in La Union, the smallest denomination that later on joined in the formation of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in 1948. When he was Pastor of the UCCP Baguio, his hair was intact but when he became a Bishop his head began to be shiny and luminous so that someone made a comment that the luminous head is the passage of the Holy Spirit when descending upon him.

During his stewardship of the North Luzon Jurisdiction successful programs were implemented in mission and evangelism and church growth, stewardship and church finance, and Christian education and nurture. Then in 1994 at the end of his term Bishop Marigza by action of the General Assembly on motion by Atty. & Pastor Matias Angiwan Jr. became officially Bishop Emeritus which is equivalent to Bishop for life. But when the North Luzon Jurisdiction was vacated with the resignation of Bishop Sarte, Bishop Emeritus Marigza was recalled to active service again as Jurisdictional Bishop until a new Bishop was elected.


Brothers and sisters, this is my testimony and my tribute to a holy man of God whose unblemished character and pleasing personality is reflected in his 50 years as an ordained Minister. His life as a Minister of God is an open book. His ministry to God and the Church is untarnished. The Lord Jesus Christ said that many are called but few are chosen, and Bishop Marigza is one of the few so much so that two Marigzas have answered the call to the prophetic ministry as their Bishop-father did more than fifty years ago. Revs. Reuel Marigza and Jan Fleming Marigza following the footsteps of their father are both active in the ministry of the Church.

May God bless Bishop Marigza and give him more years and good health to continue his mandated ministry to God, the Church and people even as he is on the threshold of his sunset years. To God be the glory. AMEN.


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