Words of praise
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - August 22, 2019 - 12:00am

Here’s good news about the “Woman of the Hour,” Comelec Commissioner Ma. Rowena Amelia Guanzon. A letter sent to his Class 64 batchmates by Prof. Leslie Bauzon announces  that a feature of  the 2019 Silliman Founders Day celebration is the launching of Commissioner Guanzon’s  book, The Government Auditing Code of the Philippines (Manila: Rex Book Store, 2019), on Aug. 27 at the  Sixto and Elvira Guanzon Room of Silliman’s  Villareal Hall. This book is about ethical and accountable governance, a timely topic by the 2015 Outstanding Silliman Awardee. 

According to Bauzon, now a University of the Philippines history professor, “Commissioner Guanzon – a true-blue Sillimanian – is like a lotus flower blooming splendidly in the middle of swampy surroundings. She is upholding ethical and moral excellence despite being surrounded by shameless corruption and impunity in government.”

Bauzon  has words of praise too  for Arthur Lim, another 1964 batchmate, and a former Comelec commissioner, for “actualizing basic and ethical values in daily government service.” He remembers Lim, then Integrated Bar of the Philippines president,  as  an “awesome batchmate – courageously speaking on nationwide television in 2000 against President Joseph Estrada, who was subsequently deposed in the January 2001 EDSA People Power Revolution.” 

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Below is a letter from writer Margaux Salcedo, in response to my column the other day on Matias Cuadra, the first Muslim who became a Protestant bishop.  
  “I read with such pleasure and pride your column today on Bishop Matias Cuadra. We bought so many copies of STAR today and I will have your column framed!
  “He is my great grandfather!!! 

“I am the daughter of the late Ephraim Matias Cuadra Salcedo (named after Bishop Matias, passed away 2016), son of the late Salamia Cuadra Salcedo (passed away 2006), the only daughter of Bishop Matias and Maria Vidallon Cuadra. 

“Bishop Matias passed away before I was born I think but Maria Cuadra (Lola Mary to me) lived with us and taught me to play the piano when I was a toddler!

“Your column today is such a treasure for our family! Thank you! I wish that my dad were alive now to read it as he was very proud of his grandfather  and would sometimes even go by the name E. Matias instead of Ephraim to emphasize that he was named after Bishop Matias. My father was very proud of our Muslim roots and this distinction of being the first Muslim turned Christian. He visited Siasi a few times before he passed away. To honor his grandfather, my dad also founded the Bishop Matias Cuadra Memorial Church in the 1990s although it was not sustained when some pastors retired and we returned to worship at Union Church of Manila. 

“I have a copy of my great grandfather’s thesis as a student of Columbia University. It was submitted to the Union Theological Seminary in 1930 but my cousin found it in the library of Columbia University. The title is “The Problem of Presenting the Life of Jesus to the Moro Students of the Philippines.” It was submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Sacred Theology in 1930. 

“This is a three-part thesis beginning with the history of the relation of the Moros to both Islam and Christianity including the response of the Moros to Protestant missionaries. It concludes with Bishop Matias Cuadra’s suggested solutions including a presentation of the parallel traditional sayings of Mohammed and Jesus as well as a presentation of the common grounds of beliefs of Moros and Christians.” 

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Here is the second part of my column on the late Bishop Matias Cuadra.

The Muslim boy turned Protestant bishop

“Father,” said Matias. “You know that I have become a Christian. Today is the anniversary day of my new life, and I want you to hold a feast. And Father, I want you to become a Christian too.”

“My son,” said the old man, “I am proud of you, the greatest young Moro of them all. But I am too old to be a Christian, besides, what would I do with all my wives?  No, son, I shall want you to make Christians out of all the children.”

Many weeks later, Matias Cuadra baptized all his brothers and sisters and some of his cousins and uncles and aunts as Christians. The old father built a Christian church on one side of his house, while the Mohammedan mosque still stood on the other.

Came a feast of the Ramadan, where the Moslem priests or “pundits” asked him to talk about his faith. He then leapt upon a waiting horse and rode to the next mosque and the next, until daybreak. He had ridden around the island of Siasi.

His work experiences included pastoring in many churches, working as secretary to Sen. Hadji Butu and with the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes under Hon. Sanvictores. President Quezon twice offered him the position of governor of Sulu, but he declined both because as minister of the Gospel, he may not be a good politician.

Mrs. Cuadra gave birth to Salamia (Sally) in Marahan, Alfonso, Cavite. Her husband left the  family in the care of church people while he studied at the Pacific School of Religion in Los Angeles, California, then at the Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University in New York where he received his Bachelor of Divinity and Master of Systematic Theology. During his stay in the US, he traveled extensively, speaking in churches and schools.

In 1932, the Cuadras sailed for Dansalan to help Dr. and Mrs. Frank C. Laubach in his mission with the Congregational churches in Mindanao and the Maranao Folk School. In 1933, he served as pastor of the Iglesia Independiente in las Islas Filipinas church. He was elected secretary of the Philippine Committee on Christian Education during the visit of another legendary missionary, Dr. John R. Mott. Then he was sent as delegate to the 10th World Sunday School Convention held in Oslo, Norway, where he spoke to thousands of delegates from 54 countries.   In 1937, he was selected the first Protestant chaplain of the Philippine Army.

In 1943, the famous United Church of Christ in the Philippines figure, Dr. Enrique Sobrepena, was elected president of the Officers of Religious Education, and Matias Cuadra, secretary during the Japanese Occupation. They were incarcerated at Fort Santiago by the Japanese; after the war,  Dr. Sobrepena was tried but acquitted by a Court Martial for collaboration; Cuadra was convicted, but later granted amnesty by the President of the Philippines. Again, and again, Matias Cuadra’s challenges and triumphs were accompanied by the fervent prayers of believers. 

In 1945, Matias’ daughter Sally was married to Filemon Salcedo Jr. The following year, a grandson was born – Filemon C. Salcedo III – who married Alice Lichauco – a philanthropist by word and deed, a friend of countless pastors, and extremely proud of his great grandfather – Bishop Matias Cuadra.

Bishop Cuadra passed away on Sept. 20, 1964.

There’s still a lot to say about the first Filipino Muslim to become a bishop. But then, there’s this tyranny of space limitation. . .

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Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

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