Davao City is the new Jerusalem... Wow, that would really be terrific!
Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ the Name Above Every Name is the anointed son of God... uh-uh, tell me more...
He is the second coming... Oh.
That in essence described my reactions while listening to the answers of one Reverend Quiboloy's followers last week as I interviewed her.
That led me to listen in to one of his programs on television that same night, just to see how the pastor tackles the idea of being the 'anointed son of God'. In that program, he said, it follows that there will be rejection and ridicule, among other resistance by those who do not believe.
"What Christianity has been waiting for is right here in Davao," Catherina C. Fournier, one of the program hosts of ACQ-KBN, said in an interview.
"He is the appointed son of God, chosen by the Father to bring salvation," Fournier said.
Meaning, he is the prophet Jesus in the Gentiles setting just as Jesus Christ was in the Jewish setting.
But, no, he is not God.
That should be a little difficult to comprehend, but here's how the explanation went.
Jesus Christ is also the Father--remember the Holy Trinity?
He came down on earth as a man to bring the message of repentance to the Jews because they were the chosen people of God, but this message was rejected by the Jews.
But, His coming and eventual resurrection made us all the children of God as Christians.
Quiboloy then is just one of the children of God.
The bigger but here is that his growing number of followers believe he is the appointed child/son of God.
Now, if that still isn't enough to boggle you, here's one more. The Kingdom of Jesus Christ the Name Above Every Name, King of Kings, Lord of Lords (that's the full name) is not a religion or a denomination. Rather, it is the Kingdom of God.
And yes, those two claims are not being welcomed by all.
But, Quiboloy only has this to say: "They can call me by every name in the book. I don't care. I am here to preach the truth. This is the Kingdom of God."
Rejection and ridicule is just among the hazards of the trade for them it seems.
"The funny thing is, people all over the world are accepting the message," she said, the message being that of repentance, the primary call of their pastor.
Thus, Fournier said, they are not sidelined by criticisms or disagreements just like Quiboloy.
"As far as Pastor is concerned, it's a calling, it was given to him. Whether or not he will be criticized for that by other groups, he will still accept the message. May mensahe si Pastor. Ang gustong tumanggap, tanggapin nila. Kung ayaw, hindi sila pinipilit. Everybody is free to choose," she added.
And no, Fournier said, they do not force anyone to join.
This was made in response to a new in a national daily the other week where a couple were claiming that Quiboloy and his followers abducted their teenage daughter and are keeping her in Davao against her will.
"First of all, Arlene is 19 years old. She is of age to decide ano yung gusto niyang gawin sa buhay," Fournier said.
Arlene, she admitted, became an active member after joining a youth camp with the approval of her parents then. She said they always require parental consent for participants of their youth camps.
When the girl came of age, however, she decided to join the ministry work and left home.
Fournier theorized that the reason the parents are trying to get their daughter back by accusing Quiboloy of abduction is that the girl is an only child.
"Marami pa silang plano para kay Arlene. Hindi siguro nila matanggap na nakapagdesisyon na ang anak nila in the service of God," she said.
In Quiboloy's preachings, he constantly stresses that the message of God is plain and simple repentance. A message that has been obscured through the years.
"My mission is to preach the good news that Jesus Christ broke the power of sin in the lives of His children. What it takes is imply that you repent," he said. "Repentance is the key to the Kingdom of God."
Whether the pastor is the second coming or not or whether he is the appointed son of God, distinguishing him from all other children of God will be something for the believers and non-believers can debate on.
What is very tangible, however, is how the Quiboloy-led Kingdom is growing.
In fact, last Friday was a momentous day for the whole congregation, and for Davao City as well in fact, because the Kingdom launched its Sonshine Channel 43, joining all free-to-air television channels in the country; among them the giants--ABS-CBN and GMA7. The Davao station will be broadcasting at 10,000 watts.
What differentiates this from the giants is that the ACQ-Kingdom Broadcasting Network Sonshine TV is broadcasting from the Jesus Christ Compound in Davao City, that huge compound everyone gets a glimpse of upon arrival at the Davao International Airport.
This is the first of 38 free TV stations all over the country that will be opened this year; the second of which will be in March--the Sonshine TV Channel 39 in Manila, which will be broadcasting at 60,000 watts. This, Fournier said, is far more powerful than what the biggest TV network in the country has.
The other stations now under construction are in Iloilo, Laoag, Zamboanga, General Santos, Bacolod, Baguio, San Fernando, Naga, Kidapawan, Koronadal, Cotabato, Iligan, Santiago, Calapan, Legaspi, Ormoc, Surigao, Tuguegara, Lucena, Puerto Princesa, Tacloban, Butuan, Bangued, Tagbilaran, Kalibo, and Vigan. While those still in the process of being acquired are in Digos, Tarlac, Ozamis, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Virac, Sorsogon, and Masbate.
Also launched last Friday were the 17 AM radio stations of Sonshine Radio, two of which are in Davao--the dxRD 711 and dxAQ 1404.
These, on top of the visible structures that the Kingdom has, including the Prayer Mountain in Upper Tamayong, Baguio district, and the Jose Maria College in Catitipan inside the Kingdom Compound can strike awe on anyone--believers and non-believers alike.
To think that all these started just a little less than 20 years ago from scratch.
Eighteen years ago, Quiboloy set out on his own with just 15 followers after he was banished from his denomination.
From those early years of struggle, which his followers say was carried on by faith alone, the Kingdom of Jesus Christ has grown to what it is now.
In fact, the ACQ-KBN is an interesting story by itself.
The seeds were planted in 1991 when Quiboloy started preaching on Channel 13 in Davao as a block-timer or an independent program to reach a larger audience.
With just one camera and no editing machine, the group managed to produce the "Gospel of the Kingdom" regularly. Then came "Power Line", and the "Hour of Truth".
Tapes of the pastor's sermons, appearance, programs and preachings, were also produced through equally primitive means and sent out to their missionaries all over the country, and later abroad too.
Now, barely 14 years later, the group has its own broadcast network that, when fully constructed, can be at par or even be better than the giants in the industry. The difference is, they're not selling ads. Which simply means, they generate their own income to sustain and upgrade operations.
Aside from the physical structures that attest to the heights the Kingdom has reached, it is also the main benefactor of a host of associations that help people of various sectors.
There are associations for the disabled, children in need, victims of calamities, there are associations for livelihood, Fournier said. All these are operated independently but with the full support of the Kingdom.
Fournier said, one of the associations--the Children's Joy Foundation--targets to feed and clothe one million children all over the Philippines starting this year. This is aside from the ongoing charity programs, she said.
Is Davao the New Jerusalem? Is Apollo C. Quiboloy the appointed son of God and therefore the second coming?
His followers will resoundingly say, "Amen!"
But they will not force you if you believe otherwise.
What is clear here is the fact that nothing is impossible when a group of people believe in one cause and one calling. The Kingdom of the Jesus Christ Above Every Name, King of King, Lord of Lords have all these to show.
Maybe the Filipinos as a nation can learn something from this so that the country will finally be over this financial crunch it has been festering in way before Quiboloy and his 15 followers left their original congregation to preach on their own.