Chapter 38: Dedication of the Itawes New Testament

Now that our New Testaments were printed and ready for the Itawes people, there was another event which must take place. The purpose of this event was to dedicate the Itawes version of the New Testament to God. This event would also introduce the New Testament to the Itawes people and let them know it was there for them. “Make this dedication as big an occasion as you can. The bigger it is, the more copies you will sell.” This was the excellent advice from a friend of ours in SIL who had been involved in several New Testament dedications. The reason we went to write a New Testament translation was so people would purchase the book. But not just to buy it, they also needed to read it and follow it in their lives. We wanted them to come to know the Lord personally and be able to share their knowledge with others, so that as many Itawes people as possible could come to know Him.

During the four months the books were being printed, we spent a good portion of our time planning, and then doing everything we could think of, to make our dedication the best one possible. This was nearly overwhelming to think of doing by ourselves, Chuck and me, so we invited our language assistants who had been helping us through the years, to help plan the event. By this time, our language assistants numbered about ten men, most of whom were preachers. These men should be involved in the dedication of this book, as it was their book as much as it was ours. Knowing more about Filipino Event Protocol than we did, they helped us make many decisions, including the one to have the dedication be a two day affair rather than one evening alone. There were just too many things to do and not enough time in one day. We decided to have the dedication be a Friday night/Saturday morning affair with a lunch served at the end.

One of the first things we needed to decide was the location of the event. We lived and worked in Enrile, but for several reasons, we decided to have it in Tuguegarao. First, it was the most accessible town to all the Itawes people, many of whom used public transportation, and all roads led to Tuguegarao. Secondly, Tuguegarao was the only place around that had venues that could support the large number of attendees we were planning to have. Plus, by custom, all major events were held in Tuguegarao. With this in mind, we made arrangements to have the dedication service for the Itawes New Testament held at St. Louis College Gymnasium in Tuguegarao on Friday night, May 22nd and Saturday morning, May 23rd,, 1991. This building would hold at least 1500 people. Also included in the agreement with the college were sound equipment and a screen so we could have a slide presentation and video of The Life of Christ. They also provided tables to be set up at the entrance so we could have our books on sale there.

Once we had chosen a venue, we could figure out how to house those people who came from far away, and would be staying overnight in Tuguegarao. Fortunately, it was customary for schools to provide room for overnighters in such circumstances, and there was one nearby that volunteered to help us. The people who stayed there brought their own blankets or whatever else they needed for the night. They were served coffee and small bread rolls for breakfast in the morning. Volunteers from Itawes churches helped with this.

Our third logistical task was to organize the preparation of the large lunch we would serve after the dedication program. We decided to provide food for over one thousand people since that was our guess about the number of people who would attend. The menu consisted of chicken, rice, vegetables and a fruit salad for dessert. Each church represented by our preachers would be responsible for setting up a cooking station in the yard near the gym where the dedication service would be held. They needed to bring their own cooking utensils, firewood, pots and pans, and whatever else they needed to do the job. Each group cooked all the elements of the lunch menu except the salad. The churches supplied the rice to be cooked at their location, and STEP provided the chicken to be cooked. Chuck had investigated and found a company that would deliver all the chicken we needed. We provided the funds for whatever else was on the menu. A small fruit cocktail, prepackaged and delivered by an outside vender, was also provided for dessert.

Women of the Amulung Churches of Christ were in charge of stage decorations. Across the stage front they placed pink and white arrangements of artificial flowers. In large red letters on a pale green background drapery across the back of the stage was “Ya Kededika Ya Bahu nga Testamento kan Itawes” which means “The Dedication of the Itawes New Testament.”

We sponsored a poster contest in the public schools of the Itawes towns to encourage interest. Cash prizes were awarded to the best posters, and we had 100 copies of the Number One Poster printed. They were displayed in conspicuous places around the towns. The Number One Poster was also placed at the front of the pulpit where the Itawes New Testament would be Enthroned (an event I will describe shortly).

With most of the logistical support work finalized, we began to work more on the setup and scheduling of the actual program. There were certain specific people we had in mind to perform certain specific tasks. Some were invited to participate in ways such as giving an opening prayer, closing prayer, or giving one of the dedicatory prayers. Two special pastors were invited to be the masters of ceremonies. After receiving everyone’s replies, follow-up letters were sent to let them know what we expected them to do on the program and at what time. We personally invited all our fellow missionaries, pastors and leaders of the churches in the Itawes area, whether they were on the program or not. An important part of any Filipino gathering or event is the performance of special numbers, especially singing and dancing. With this in mind, over 25 different acts were scheduled from different towns and different religious groups.

The evening of Friday, May 22nd finally arrived, and I was very excited that the events we had planned for so long were finally under way. At 5:30 that evening, we had a dinner with our guests of honor at the Pension Lorita Restaurant in a hotel in Tuguegarao. Some of the guests were Archbishop Diosdado Talamayan, the man who signed the imprimatur for our Itawes New Testament, Henry Singayan, the Itawes priest who checked our book on behalf of the Archbishop, Monsignor Narciso Allag, and Reverend Efran Rivera, all of them were to be speakers at the Saturday morning dedicatory service. The Archbishop mentioned to me that this was the first time he had ever been invited to such a dinner as this by an evangelical group, and he seemed to be appreciative.

Charles W. Selby was also there from Aparri. He was the director of the Philippine Mission Churches of Christ of Northern Luzon, our sponsoring mission in the Philippines. Mrs. Asuncion Trinidad, wife of Pedro Trinidad, Division Superintendent of Education in Region 2, who was hosting some of our guests in her home, was also there. From the States, we had John Baker, member of the STEP board who would bring a word on behalf of our mission, and Betty Casebeer, Chuck’s sister, who was the secretary/treasurer of the STEP board. My sister, Violet, was also there.

After dinner that evening, we went into the gymnasium and took our seats, joining the crowd who had gathered to help us dedicate our New Testament. We were all welcomed by a recording of a special song written and performed by the brother of SIL Translator, Larry Allen, and his wife, Jan. It was written especially for their New Testament dedication, which happened just prior to our own. The song, named “Celebration” was perfect for such an event, and they were very kind to allow us to use their CD.

Domingo Tallud, one of the first men we sponsored at Aparri Bible Seminary, opened the service with prayer, and Carol Calucag, the Assistant Mayor of Tuguegarao, gave the welcome message. She encouraged the people to “Study God’s Word, glorify God, and to bear witness that Jesus is the risen Christ.” Then Violet Spainhour, my sister, of Sun City, Arizona, went to the piano and sang the theme song, “Holy Bible, Book Divine.” She sang and taught it to us, and we all sang it at different times during the dedication.

Following that, Chuck narrated a slide presentation. I had taken pictures of 57 of the 60 language assistants who had helped us in the translation task over the 17 years we worked on it. (Three had passed away.) There had been 25 men and 35 women who helped in this way, and presenting them in a slide show was our way of expressing gratitude for their service. Then the Enrile Teachers’ Dance Group performed native dances which were beautiful, all the members being in native dress. We enjoyed watching the video “The Life of Christ,” which was dubbed in Itawes by some of the same people we had just shown in our slide presentation. Violet sang again, this time singing, “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus.”

The keynote speaker was Charles W. Selby, veteran missionary with 45 years of service, founder and president of Aparri Bible Seminary. We had referred to our dedication as a launching. In his opening remarks, Charles likened it to the launching of the first rocket that carried men to the moon and said this launching was far more significant than that one because this book would touch the lives of thousands of people now and in the generations to come. In his closing remarks, Charles read the parable of the Pearl of Great Price in which the man sold everything he had to obtain that one pearl. Holding a copy of the New Testament aloft in his hand he said, “You will never find anything more wonderful, more valuable, than this little book right here.”

Philip P. Pattaguan closed the evening with prayer. Then we took our rented jeepneys back to Enrile, taking folks back that we had brought to Tuguegarao that evening, and got back to Enrile about 11:30 PM. On Saturday morning, bright and early, we went back to the St. Louis Gymnasium for the festivities. An opening processional was led by the Maria Male Choir of the Catholic Church in Piat who were dressed in beautiful royal blue robes, followed by the morning speakers and Archbishop Diosdado Talamayan, who walked in holding up an open copy of the Itawes New Testament and carrying it to the platform. He placed it on the pulpit in an act that was called “The Enthronement.” Rosendo Montilla, long time Itawes minister and assistant in the Itawes translation, was master of ceremonies for the morning. He gave opening remarks followed by Pacifico Catolos, his nephew, who played a trumpet solo. Brother Montilla prayed, and Jovie Ultu read Matthew 6:25-34 from his new Itawes New Testament. Verse 34 is a favorite, “Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Tirso Ibarra then read 2 Timothy 3:15-17 in Itawes, which says in English, “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Tirso also read John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Archbishop Diosdado Talamayan brought a fine message in which he encouraged his people to buy a copy and read it. Particularly memorable were two quotations he gave. The first was from Pope John Paul II, “Anyone who does not know the scriptures knows neither the power of God nor His wisdom.” And the second was from the Biblical scholar, Jerome, “Ignorance of the scriptures is ignorance of Christ.”

Another speaker was Fr. Henry Singayan, the Itawes priest appointed to review the translation. It was his approval that made it possible for the Archbishop to give his imprimatur. The Catholic Church had approved our translation, and the Archbishop’s signature (the imprimatur) was on the back of the title page. The imprimatur is the Catholic’s way of saying it is okay for their people to read it.

In his message, which was spoken in Itawes, Henry told of an event that occurred at his graduation from seminary. He was asked to give a talk, but was told he could not speak in any Philippine language— only Latin, Spanish or English. At the close of his message in English, a little old lady came up to him and said, “My son, I am your grandmother. Your face is very handsome and your voice is beautiful and your speaking is wonderful, but I didn’t understand a word you said.” It was then he realized the importance of bringing the Word of God to the people in a language they understand. That’s why he was so happy the Word of God was now available to his people, the Itawes people, in their own language. He, too, encouraged the people to buy a copy and read it, and then apply it in their lives.

The Maria Male Choir from Piat sang next, and they sang very well and looked very impressive in their blue robes. Bishop Cirilo R. Almario, director of the Biblical Apostolate of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, sent his representative, Fr. Efren Rivera, who gave the dedicatory message. He spoke in simple, friendly terms, and he supported the Itawes translation 100 per cent. Following this, we had a series of dedicatory prayers brought by four ministers plus a priest, most of them praying in Itawes, so those who did not understand, just prayed on their own. However, these prayers were very precious to those who understood.

After the prayers, the Aparri Kids’ Choir sang. These were children who were 5 to 12 years old who sang well and moved to the music in unison. They also had very colorful costumes and were delightful to see and hear.

Celso S. Caranguian, minister from Enrile, Betty Casebeer, Chuck’s sister, and Chuck presented certificates and plaques to those who assisted us in the task, as well as presenting complimentary copies of the Itawes New Testament to mayors of each Itawes town and ministers of the area as well as to others who had helped in the task. One of the highlights of the program was when Felipe Abbariao, Jr., who had been our main language helper throughout most of the project, gave his testimony. Near the end of the translation work, he was found to have cancer. He had three operations plus cobalt treatments.

There was a time when we thought he might not live long enough to see it through to completion. But God answered prayer and revived him, and he was able to finish it with us and have a part on the dedication program. He began by saying, “I am very glad that God allowed me to live long enough to see this day.” He went on to tell how God had changed his life and how the change had come about as he read the Word from day to day and let it work in his heart and life. It was a moving testimony, especially to those who knew Felipe before he started working on the translation. (He lived just three months after the dedication.)

Celso Caranguian also gave closing remarks and a prayer at the conclusion of the service, praying for the lunch that was being given to each one in his seat. The attendees were served by the church groups who had been outside preparing the meals as we described earlier. In the Philippines, if you don’t feed the people, you haven’t had a celebration. WE HAD A CELEBRATION. God was glorified, His Word was lifted up and launched, and the people were blessed and encouraged to use it.

The Itawes New Testaments went on sale just before the beginning of the Friday evening service. The cost per copy on May 22nd and 23rd was P40.00, but after that, as it was in the hands of distributors who must make something from its sale, the price became P50.00. This was less than five dollars. People were urged ahead of time to save their money so they could purchase their own copy. We printed only 3,000 copies, and there are over 100,000 Itawes people.

For seventeen years I had looked forward to this day—the dedication of the Itawes New Testament. When the big occasion finally came, things went beautifully. From here on, it’s up to Him. May His Spirit use this translation to accomplish His purpose in the lives of the Itawes people.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s