By Marlon Manlapao
Do you believe that angels could show themselves to humans to deliver messages? I received this story from Marlon Manlapao, a missionary to the Manobos, a mountain tribe of Mindanao.
Marlon tells his story:
The sky was gloomy on that rainy and chilly 18th night of September 2002 when my family sat down for a late supper. Normally my wife prepares early evening meals since the day we arrived on that lonely mountain we called "home" for a year. Since kerosene is scarce due to the far distance of the grocery store, we all usually go to bed early as soon as I come home from a day's work. But not that night, because during the past few weeks, I had been visiting six families and my wife and our three sons had been accompanying me. They provided the music during our Bible study sessions and we had been coming home late.
Earlier that night I had insisted that we should go despite the threat of rain. I was glad our Project Director provided us with raincoats. We would only worry about the cold and not the rain. It was unusually chilly up there in the mountains. The house meetings went well as expected until we arrived at the house of Saturnino Polao, our last Bible student for the evening. Saturnino was like a father to us. A former barangay captain, his leadership provided comfort to my missionary work in the village.
That night I talked about the clean and unclean animals of Leviticus 11, with great emphasis on those considered abominations to God. In that small hut made of wooden walls, a bamboo floor, and a thatch roof, I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit. It was evident from the attentiveness of my listeners.
"Mani tu nakag-iring kaw tu tinuroan tu tumanod, Sir?" Tatay Saturnino suddenly commented. He said that what I had just talked about is the same as the teachings of the "tumanod."
"Nukoy asu, tumanod?" Wondering, I asked him who was the "tumanod" and what did he mean?
As Tatay Saturnino told his story, my interest grew. He said that the "tumanod" was a stranger who made visits to their village. And the "tumanod" had given instructions to Pisaro Mantoggo, an old man in the village. Tatay Saturnino said that the "tumanod" wears white clothes, is unusually tall, and a kind fellow whose feet never touched the ground.
Tatay Saturnino said that after the "tumanod" had given instructions to Mantonggo who couldn't read or write, the old man became suddenly eloquent in his speeches. And that he could now sing wonderfully in English, and eventually translated those songs into his own dialect, the Pulanguihon Manobo. Old Mantonggo had related many stories to his people here in Tagaytay, forbidding them to smoke or drink intoxicating drinks, as instructed by the "tumanod." The "tumanod" also instructed them not to eat pork or horse's meat. And Montonggo suddenly had the "gift to heal" the illnesses of the poverty-stricken people of Sanipon.
Tatay Saturnino paused and stared at me for a moment. I wondered what was in his mind. "Antaw ag sugo kanyo tug simba tu Sabado, Maestro? (Who taught you to worship on Saturday, Teacher?)"
I was amazed about his question. I felt a chill run in my entire body. This veteran hinterland leader asked me who taught us to observe Saturday as a day of worship. The four families that believed Mantonggo also worshipped Magbabayo every Wednesday morning besides on Saturday. All their songs were similar to the hymns we sing during our morning and evening worship. My mouth opened before my mind dictated. "The "tumanod" who instructed you is the same "tumanod" who taught me also," I quickly answered.
I told him that the "tumanod" was not "taga-pangpang." Many people along Pulangi believed their frequent visitor is living in the cliff. Right away I felt the need to explain about angels who come from heaven to do their pioneering mission in the lofty mountains of Kibawe. I became aware that my family and the rest of the teachers on the other hill were sent here to intensify the first mission of the angel.
That night we were filled with utmost wonder. As we retired onto our beds, we had the best sleep of our lives—as if we were sleeping in a swinging cradle attended by a sweet, smiling "tumanod."
After my one year term there as a missionary, those Manobos who once only knew and worshipped the spirits of the trees and rocks, had become believers of a God in heaven. There were 42 precious souls who accepted Jesus and were baptized. Today they are excitedly awaiting the coming of our Lord.