The launching of Ya Ergo ni Dios Ama (The Word of God the Father) occurred on February 19, 2005, at Rizal, Cagayan. The launching or dedication of the Malaweg Bible turned out to be a beautiful occasion indeed, and we all had a wonderful time. Chuck’s sister, Betty Casebeer, the secretary/treasurer of STEP, and our son, Ronald LeRoy, came to be with us for this occasion.
The program started out with a procession consisting of people who were important to the success of the launching. It was led by the Archbishop of Tuguegarao, Diosdado Talamayan, who held the Bible up in front of him as he entered, followed by other priests of the Catholic Church. Then Chuck and I, Betty and the mayor’s wife followed along with the pastors of the Non-Catholic Malaweg churches.
Guests, named below, followed after them. At the end of the procession were supposed to be students of the St. Francis Academy, the high school in the center of town, but they actually came in after the procession was over from the sides of the platform in order to sing and dance their invocation to the ceremony. They had a very delightful part on the program with their singing and dancing. With dark tights as costumes and white gloves on their hands, they choreographed their song, and it was very gracefully done.
The guests were mainly missionaries from our churches who worked in various parts of the Philippines and had come for the occasion: Conley and Sandy Stephenson, Kay Davidson, Carl and Ronalyn Stevens and children, Chip and Michelle Hardy and children, and of course, LeRoy Richards, our son. Conley and Sandy worked in Mindoro teaching the churches there, Kay was the director of the children’s home in Solano, Nueva Vizcaya, in Northern Luzon, and Carl and Chip were pilots and mechanics who worked with Christian Aviation and Radio Ministries (CARM) in Tuguegarao, Cagayan. These folks, minus their children, were with us also the day before when we went to the Roma Hotel for lunch. For all of us, it was a special occasion because it was very rare to go out to a nice restaurant for lunch, especially with a group of other missionaries.
There were other special guests, too, at the dedication. They consisted mainly of our Itawes preachers and their wives, and it was good to have them show their interest in this launching. We also had one bus and two jeepneys, about 100 people, who came to the launching from another town nearby which is almost 68% Malaweg. It was very important that the Malaweg speakers be a part of this launching, but how were we to assess the extent of their involvement in it? By a head count of those in attendance, altogether, there were about 1900 people who were fed at this occasion, so that was a good showing of interest by the Malaweg people.
Following the invocation, we were led in the singing of the national anthem, and after that, although the mayor was unable to be there to give his welcome message, he sent his wife who had arrived that very morning to take his place. I was very proud of her. Chuck led in the theme song, a children’s song about the Bible —“The B-I-B-L-E,” after which we sang the Rizal Hymn, led by a Malaweg song leader. (That’s the town of Rizal, not the National Hero, Jose Rizal.) Chuck spoke about the history of the Malaweg Bible, followed by Betty who gave a report from STEP.
The second part of the ceremony included prayers, special speakers and musical numbers by different churches, schools, and individuals. These were interspersed throughout the program. The first one was a duet by Conley and Sandy Stephenson, “It’s Still the Cross.” This set the tone in a very nice way for the rest of the special numbers, and almost every one was exceptional.
The first speaker was the Malaweg priest who reviewed our Malaweg Bible (parts of the Old Testament and all of the New Testament for the Archbishop of Tuguegarao, Rev. Fr. Rotilio Mamauag, founder and director of the Lyceum of Alcala, a high school. Alcala is an Ilokano town to the north of Tuguegarao, and he founded this school there in 1995. The next special speaker was the Archbishop who had spoken for our Itawes launching in 1992. We knew that both of their messages would be very special, and they pointed out the importance of not only reading the Bible, but also of following its words in their lives every day. The third speaker was the spokesman for the United Christians of Rizal, Vicman Duque, who also had an excellent message, interspersed with several scriptures from the Malaweg Bible which he read for the people.
It was at this point that we had the dedicatory prayer, which was to be the climax of the program. This prayer was quite elaborate with half a dozen different men involved in the public prayer aspect. When the formalities were completed, the third part of the festivities began. This consisted of the distribution of complimentary copies of the Malaweg Bible to reviewers, main naïve checkers, priests and pastors and special people of the town. We also presented the cash prizes to the grand prize winners of the poster contest that we had. The mayor’s son, Christian de la Cruz, coordinated the making of posters by children in each of the 16 elementary schools of the town plus the three high schools along with Out of School Youth, a group of kids who don’t do well in school but are able to contribute elsewhere. Three prizes were given to each school, and the number one winners of those brought their posters in for the judging to see which ones would receive the grand prizes.
We felt that this was a big part of the success of the launching because it reached into the homes of people who would probably never have been interested in it without this, but now even the elementary schools and their families became a vital part of it We gave certificates of appreciation to all who had participated in the program, although to groups that brought special numbers, only one certificate for the group. Afterwards, Christian suggested that he have them laminated so they would last much longer. This was something they would remember years from now, as this was definitely an historic event, and they would not soon forget that they had been a part of it. The Bibles were distributed, contest winners accepted their prizes, and the certificates of appreciation were handed out, all up on the stage in a public display. Meanwhile, lunch was being served to the rest of the people. They had already received a snack around 10 AM, and at noon, they got their lunch, mainly rice, meat of various kinds, and fruit cocktail for dessert. Drinks were either packaged soft drinks or mineral water that came directly from their own spring.
Also, even while some of the speakers were speaking, people began buying the books, 200 pesos each, and if they wanted to get eyeglasses, too, they could turn in their receipt that showed they had bought the book, and they could choose the glasses that fit them best. During the entire sequence of events that day, Carl Stevens and his son, Nathan, documented the affair with still photographs and video tape. We were so very grateful for all the prayers on our behalf and monetary support from our brothers and sisters in the US that made all this work of ours possible. About 140 books were sold on the day of the launching, but when others got money, they would buy their copies later, we were sure of that. Altogether, it cost about 90,000 pesos (about $1650, U.S. equivalent) to put on the main part of the program which included all of the food and the decorations and many other things involved. God blessed every part of it in every way.