As a person entered the gymnasium of Cagayan College of Tuguegarao (CCT) the morning of November 28th, 2009, he was greeted with a view of the stage where the dedication program would be taking place. Neneng Tallud and her sisters and perhaps others had made it a beautiful place for the program. They had hung a dark blue curtain backdrop which had large yellow letters spelling out “Ya Kededika YA ERGO Y AFU DIOS.” (“The Dedication of THE WORD OF LORD GOD”) In front of that on the stage were three large tables covered with red cloth that were spaced about a yard from each other in the middle of the stage. Above the middle table was a large white clothcovered hoop with white posts on each side, which were also covered with white cloth and had several balloons floating from them. There were four posts on each side of the red tables, spaced a little ways apart, and all had white cloth flowing from them with a few balloons floating from the top of each one.
At the rear of the gymnasium were tables where Itawes books were to be sold, and ladies from Enrile would be stationed to take care of the sales. Cartons of Bibles were placed nearby, out of the way, for replenishing what was sold. Other books we had translated through the years were there also.
There were more than enough chairs to seat those who came. A large screen was set up, upon which would be projected the words to the songs we would sing during the song service. The visitors filed in and found their seats. Finally, the audience was all in place with guests of honor in the first row: Carl Stevens, missionary director of Christian Aviation and Radio Ministry; Jim Huckaba, professor of Philippine College of Ministry, in Baguio; Jeannie Hoffman, president of Manila Bible Seminary, and her friends from MBS. All was ready for the processional to take place.
The launching of Ya Ergo y Afu Dios in Itawes, the Word of Lord God, had come. Bishop Dionisio Baccay led the procession with the Word of God held high in front of him. Bishop Baccay was chosen to be on the program by Archbishop Talamayan who could not come due to ill health. Next in the procession was Monsignour Henry Singayan, one of the Itawes priests chosen by the Archbishop to review the book, the one we chose to bring a message to the Itawes people that day. He walked, accompanied by Domingo Tallud, Itawes pastor and the main speaker of the day. Celso Caranguian and Dominador Tallud came next, two Itawes pastors who were part of our reviewer team. They were followed by Chuck and me, translators of the book. Then came Esmelito Acson, president of Aparri Bible Seminary, Lito Binasoy, Itawes pastor and reviewer, Eddie Tallud, Itawes pastor and song leader for the day, and two others, Danny and Marcial Andal, brothers who would join Eddie on the worship team. The Aparri Bible Seminary Choir brought up the last of the procession. These all marched in to the tune of “Onward Christian Soldiers” played on the loud speaker system.
Bishop Baccay carried the Word of God up to the pulpit where he enthroned it in its place of honor at the center of the stage. As the speakers and people on the program came in with the procession, they took their places in front of their chairs on the stage. The ABS choir stood along the front of the stage as the entire audience stood. They all sang the National Anthem.
After the National Anthem, Dominador Tallud opened the service by reading a selection from the Scripture. Then Celso Caranguian read more Scripture and gave the opening prayer. He read Isaiah 40:8: “Maggangu ya kaddat, en mallelay ya lappaw na, ngam ya ergo ya Dios tera, mannanayun kan awan na nga panda.” (“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”) He continued his part by closing in prayer. He thanked God for sending His Word to each one of the Itawes people. He said, “We know that You love us, and we love Your Word, which lasts forever. We thank You because You always help us. Bless our meeting now and all that we do in our program. We ask this in the most blessed Name of Jesus.”
Tirso Ibarra was the Master of Ceremonies. He introduced Chuck, who spoke next. Chuck told the story of our coming to the Philippines both in Itawes and English. He said “My wife and I came to this place in March of 1974. We wanted to translate the New Testament and went to Abra, but that did not work out. You people asked us to come to the Itawes area. In May 1992, we dedicated the New Testament, and in 1999, we dedicated one-fourth of the Old Testament in Itawes. Then in February of 2005, we dedicated the same scriptures in Malaweg.
“We had planned on retiring after the dedication of the Malaweg Bible, but we learned that Pastors Lito Binasoy and Celso Caranguian had heard from an Enrileno lady living in the States who wanted to see that people in her home town had the Word of God in their own language. Using her money, they bought all the remaining Itawes Bibles and gave them to people in their barrios. Since we now had no books for the next generation to buy, we realized we could not retire but needed to stay, revise the New and Old Testaments, and translate nine more books of the Old Testament. Three Itawes men agreed to work on these translations. After a short while, Pastor Tirso Ibarra realized that he was not cut out to be a translator, so he dropped off the team to devote himself to become an evangelist. Pastor Dominador Tallud and Junior Dolorfino continued on, translating the books of I & II Samuel, I & II Kings, I & II Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther, which we and our reviewers checked and brought to completion. Our reviewers were Tirso Ibarra, Dominador Tallud, Celso Caranguian, and Lito Binasoy, all being pastors in the area.” This completed Chuck’s story.
Tirso next introduced me to speak. I brought greetings from the board members of STEP in California. Betty Casebeer, Treasurer/Secretary, had expected to come, but was not able to do so. Nor was Violet Spainhour, my sister, who couldn’t find her passport when she tried to do so. She had a minor heart attack right then, so we believe the Lord was in control by letting her lose her passport just at that time. I told that we had come here to do translation work. Two Itawes men came to us, Mr. Rosendo Montilla and Felipe Catolos, and we went to Piat because they told us it was the town that had the best Itawes. We found that wasn’t exactly the case, so God led us to Enrile instead where we made our home and did our work for decades afterwards.”
Tirso then announced that Eddie Tallud would lead the singing, and four men were on the praise team: Eddie, his brother, Dominador, and Danny and Marcial Andal. We sang “Send the Light” in Itawes as well as “Draw Me Nearer” and “I Need Thee Every Hour.” Eddie led in prayer after that. Next an Agta group came and sang two special songs, “Love Lifted Me” and “Raise Me, Jesus.”
There was a special number by the ABS Choir of ten women and ten men. Their song was beautiful and was mainly “Hallelujah, Amen.” We were very honored to have them at the dedication. Their director, Grace Alvarez, was well-known all over Cagayan because of her expertise in directing choirs before going to ABS to be their music professor.
Tirso then introduced Monsignor Singayan who said, “The Bishop will speak in English, but I will speak in Itawes.” He told about being invited to speak at a graduation ceremony one time, but was told he could not speak in his native dialect. He could only speak in English. So he spoke in English. Afterwards, a very dear little old woman in her 90s came up to him and said, “You are very handsome and I appreciate that. Your voice was clear and I could hear you well, but I could not understand a word you said!” “Since then,” he said, “I never speak in English when my audience speaks my own dialect.” He told them that this Bible is now in their own dialect, and they can understand it. They should not only read it, but also they should follow it completely, and they would be blessed for eternity.
At this point, Tirso Ibarra announced that Archbishop Diosdado Talamayan could not be there. He had been the speaker for the New Testament Dedication in 1992, and was also there when we dedicated the Malaweg Bible in February of 2005. However, he was not able to be there that day, but he sent Bishop Domingo Baccay to be with us. Then the ABS Choir sang another special number, which was a fast paced song, very nice for the occasion. Tirso announced Bishop Baccay, who expressed his appreciation for the beautiful singing of the ABS choir, though he was not surprised because Grace Alvarez was their director, and he knew her for her expertise in music. He was happy to be with us and with Monsignor Singayan. He praised the Lord that he “was able to read the Word of God in this language, the language of the people of Cagayan, the Itawes speaking people.” He said that Bishops all over the world are concerned to hear the Word of God in their own language. This is true of the Biblical Apostolate in the Philippines. He said, “You translated the Word using the language they know. Thank you to Dr. & Mrs. Charles Richards who spent most of their lives translating the Bible into your language. God’s love is shown through people like this, who love the Scriptures so they would come here to do this translation. This is my first time to hear your songs translated into Itawes, and I loved it. Thanks to all of you, especially to Dr. & Mrs. Richards, for bringing this and having me be here to participate in it.”
Tirso next introduced Domingo Tallud, the main speaker of the day. But first, three students from the ABS Choir sang a special number. Then Domingo started his message with a prayer. After that, he greeted the speakers and recognized Jeannie Hoffman and her companions from Manila Bible Seminary and other visitors from Solana and ABS plus people from churches in Tuguegarao. Domingo’s message was spoken in Itawes. He said, (roughly translated into English), “Because of the work of this couple, we now have a book that is something like a mirror. You want to look into it and see how you are. We all like to see that. We go to the Word. It will grow in our hearts, and when it grows in our hearts, it becomes big. We praise the Lord. It shines. At the same time, it is sharper than a two-edged sword.” Domingo was very thankful because of this book, and he said he became more able to respond to it because it was in his own heart language.
Following Domingo, the wife of the man who was to greet the audience today spoke. Her husband had to go to Bulacan on business (near Manila). After greeting the audience, she thanked us for translating the Bible which they can now give to their children. It will be beautiful in the future at weddings because now they can give a beautiful Itawes Bible instead of an English or Tagalog Bible.
The main highlight of the program was the dedication of the Bible. Esmelito Acson was the first who spoke in Ilocano. Domingo Tallud came next. Jeannie Hoffman spoke her prayer of dedication in English and said, “Thank You. Bless the Richards for this great achievement, for their love of Your people in the Itawes region. This is a light they can work with, through hardship, sorrow, sacrifice, and the wonderful life they chose to come here and do this.”
Jim Huckaba prayed, “Thank You for Your grace to the whole world, for the coming of Your Son and what He did for all of us. We are thankful for the Word. They did this translation under the influence of the Itawes culture, the message, and the theology of Your Word. Thank You for being with the Richards as they served You. We pray that the Church will be faithful to Your Son and the Church will be faithful in every way.”
Lito Binasoy prayed in Itawes and so did Dominador Tallud, two of the reviewers, as they continued the dedication of the Word of God, holding their hands on it as they prayed. It was a very touching ceremony.
Then the certificates of appreciation and special plaques were presented to those who had earned them. Chuck gave special thanks to the wife of Domingo Tallud, Neneng, for work she did on decorating the platform and many other things that both Domingo and Neneng did during the preparation for this dedication service. They had had the food prepared for the lunches, but we had so many more prepared than people present that we decided to tell each church group to get 50 more lunches and take them with them when they left.
The closing prayer was given by Carl Stevens, followed by the singing of the ABS Choir and the closing song. The people ate their lunches, which were served to them at their seats. The feeding of the people constitutes the completion of any Filipino program.