He is Brother Elpidio Villanueva, also known as Pidiong. Pidiong was chosen as a leader of the Parish Renewal Experience and installed as a 1st degree Knight of Columbus and elected as secretary for the Barangay (Village) Pastoral Council of the Roman Catholic Church and one of the elected political counselors of the Barangay.
In February 2008, Arturo Estimo, an assistant elder of the Aringay Seventh-day Adventist Church and Manny Vanderlipe, the head elder, spoke to me about Pidiong. Manny asked me to visit his classmate. When we arrived at the house, Manny called out, “Hello Pidiong, how are you?”
Pidiong turned his head and answered, “Who are you?”
“Oh, I am Manny Vanderlipe, your classmate in Notre Dame High School.”
Pidiong thought a bit and replied “Oh yes. I recall you now. You were my silent classmate who had a crush on our Valedictorian classmate. Ha ha!”
After a short conversation, Pidiong asked, “What is your purpose for coming? Amazing, for almost 40 years we don’t see each other and now, here you are!”
Manny introduced himself as a Seventh-day Adventist missionary and introduced me as an evangelist. Then he testified about his conversion in 2000.
Wow, what a good start. It caught the attention of Brother Pidiong. We discovered that he was searching for truth. Even though he was a Roman Catholic, he allowed Protestants and Christian sects to study the Bible with him and he subscribed to tracts and magazines from them. He was unsatisfied with his Catholic belief. He knew that they were living in tradition. Let us read his oral testimony that I have noted;
From my childhood, I was an active member of the Roman Catholic Church. I received an academic award as a Salutorian (2nd to the top) from Elementary to High School. After my High School graduation in Aringay Notre Dame, I become a University student and received awards as academic topnotcher in all kinds’ of examinations in the University of Baguio (UB) and graduated as Cum Laude at Philippine School of Business Administration (PSBA). I stopped attending our church masses and found my self as a lost sheep.
As a skilled man, I was immediately hired in Manila City and served as one of the department heads, in the Department of Tourism procurement branch. There were many ways to produce extra income, besides my salary. I often spend my free time in five star hotels, eating and drinking, the well-known and classy hotels in the Philippines, just to enjoy myself only, and stayed to a well-known subdivision in Makati, Forbes Park residence of prominent people in the Philippines. However, I failed to enjoy it. I still felt I had a lot of problems and I had no peace of mind. I became like a Vagabond. I finally resigned from my job and went home with my daughter and my wife in Aringay.
Since that time, I was evangelized by the Couples for Christ of the Roman Catholic Church and became one of their leaders. I served in the Parish Renewal Experience and as a Knight of Columbus, but I again became in-active because I couldn’t see Christian reflections from them.
One day, Maxwell Agunan, a GO Evangelist and Manny Vanderlipe visited me. I saw God’s will and felt His love and mercy from their Bible presentations. I was really enlightened and impressed. After three consecutive Bible discussions, I asked them, “Why you are evangelizing me but you don’t invite me to attend your church services?”
They smiled and said, “You are welcome Brother!” I started to attend the Sabbath Services. I was a political leader and Barangay (village) counselor in Santo Rosario West of Aringay. Every time we had our community services and meetings, I delegated my job to others and provided free snacks for the workers to make myself free so I could attend the Sabbath Services. I revealed it to my boss, our captain, and he asked why?
“I am becoming a Seventh-day Adventist now and I have to attend and celebrate the real Lord’s Day that our church does not recognize,” I answered. Our captain was amazed. In fact, the captain was a Knight of Columbus too, but he couldn’t do anything. It was my choice.
After they knew that I was becoming an Adventist, our priest desired to talk with me but I refused to face him. My friends and former brethren concluded and often told me that I was a lost sheep. But I made a solid decision to be baptized and I am proud of it.
After my baptism on April 5, with the two teenager Bible interest, I felt a real happiness. I had been baptized as a child into the Roman Catholic Church but my baptism as a Seventh-day Adventist was something unique.
A few days prior to my baptism, my friends and co-workers told me, “You have already changed and we were no longer friends.”
I replied, “No, we are still friends. The only difference is I am now a Seventh - day Adventist.”
It was our first time to meet a brilliant and optimistic person searching for the truth. Upon arrival and after a short conversation about our personal experiences, we leaped directly to the Sabbath topic because he wanted to hear the differences between denominations and what makes Adventist unique? Of course he knew already the basic Biblical doctrines, so we thought there was no need to discuss it. We addressed his needs.
After showing the Biblical perspective of the Sabbath we pointed out that it was the Roman Catholic Church who made the changed. We never saw negative reactions from him because he knew the history of the church. In our second visit on Saturday afternoon we discussed Daniel chapters 2 and 7. He understood clearly. On our third visit, Manny and I discussed the Adventist diet. Just after the presentation, he asked, “Why we are you not inviting me to attend your church services”.
We were amazed! Upon our departure, while driving my motorcycle, Manny and I had tears of joy, because we were catching a big fish. We really felt the joy of serving because we saw how the Holy Spirit worked with us. As a result, we were thoroughly strengthened to find more souls.
After experiencing our Sabbath services, he promised to attend regularly. The following Monday afternoon, he asked, “Do you believe in baptism?”
We replied, “Yes!” I then discussed Biblical baptism. We learned that he had already prayed and decided to be baptized and he wanted it as soon as possible. Wow! Amazing! We had a problem since our district leader was not ordained. Therefore, we had no available minister baptize unless we sent a request to the Mission but still it would depend on the availability of an ordained minister or director from the Mission. I called the President of Northern Luzon Mission, Pastor Danilo Asuncion, but he could not because he was scheduled in Bagulin, La Union, where he would baptize also. I followed-up a second time and requested him through phone that if he was not available could he send someone or could he swap with another minister, because our church wanted him to baptize Pidiong. After ten minutes, I received a text message saying, “OK, I will take the responsibility!”
Our beloved spirit-filled sponsors, your donations have been worthwhile. I believe God is using us. Without our united efforts, our ministry would be sluggish. If we did not go out and find souls, we never would have met Pidiong and he would die in his wickedness. Without your financial support we would not be able to go out. We would think of earning a living first before we go. But because God called you to finance us to be full-time evangelists, we took this opportunity to find more souls. I believe you are also happy when we succeed because you know that you are part of the ministry.
Brother Pidiong is now one of my volunteer assistant. We are planning to evangelize his former members. We know that he is a very influential person.