In preparation for Mexico’s first visit from Executive Minister Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, Southern California Choir Director Emilie Juatco reflects on the origins of the volunteer choir who traveled and witnessed the growth of the INC in the country.
Emilie Juatco: My name is Emilie Juatco. I’m a choir director. I have two locales in US, but mainly, it’s Tijuana, Mexico and Guatemala. And Mexico has two group worship services. I think we started in 1996 with Brother Joe Ventilation, when the church was just starting. We were asked because they started to have worship service. And of course, every worship service, you need hymn singing. There’s no choir member in Mexico, so when we go, we have a few choir members who volunteer to come. And that’s how we do it before. Only Spanish speaker we have is Sister Grace. And we have to teach our Filipino members how to sing in Spanish properly.╙
Grace Feliciano: We’ve been coming with Sister Emy for many years and transition from the Tagalog speaking like in Tijuana, it’s a lot of choir members but some of the hymns are Filipino.
It is very rewarding. You can feel it. Even though you do not understand, of course, we have the hymn in Tagalog and in English so we know the essence of the hymn. But you can feel every time we sing Spanish, we have worship service in Spanish, we feel the Holy Spirit. We have choir member who are already singing on their own in the worship service. They understand the duty. You know, despite of hardship.
Emilie Juatco: Oaxaca is, I think to me, the group worship service there is very rich in history. Because the first time we went to Oaxaca was already baptism. But I know, before that, they were already having worship service, before they were even members. But when we start going there, because they were already member, we can see the eagerness, the Holy Spirit in the heart of the brethren. See Oaxaca is very… the weather are extreme. If it is cold, it is very cold. Very cold. And when it’s hot, it’s very hot that it’s dry. You can see the plant, you can see even the donkey, because I haven’t seen a horse in Oaxaca. But I see donkey and goat but they’re very very unnourished. So you know the place is kind of very poor, in poverty. But during winter time, it’s very cold. The brethren will come and they will carry their babies, their little kids in their back. They have a little.. like a blanket thing that they wrap on the baby and they carry that blanket and tie it in the front. And they travel like that. And they are there. Sometimes it rains, it’s very wet but everybody’s there. So, it’s to us, who goes there because it’s about ten sometimes twelve hours of drive. It’s still very rewarding to be there.
Ka Richard Rodas: Don’t you worry Sister Tomasita. With God’s help, with the administration’s approval, I will visit you here.
Emilie Juatco: We have a sister there, her name is Tomasita, she loves the Church. She loves the ministers. She lives close to where we attend the worship service. You know how she make her money? She has a bathroom. She charges two pesos, for the public, to go to the bathroom. And that’s how she makes her money. But when the minister come, even when we go, she wants you to go to her house for breakfast before worship service. Let’s say the worship service is at ten, she wants you there at seven. And she will boil let’s say apple, and guava, and leaves. That’s in the tea. And the Mexican bread, she wants to share what she has and that’s all her income.
Even though they are far and the poverty is there, you can see they’re very loving to their duty, you would see them there during worship services at 7:30 on Thursday. It’s 10 o’clock on Sunday, one hour before, one and a half hour before, you can see them cleaning. The choir member, the deaconess, the deacon, you can see them all working to put the worship service, house of God in proper cleanliness. They have fear, holy fear. You can feel that they understand. And they are really striving to fulfill their duty during worship service, during practice. And we practice everyday. Of course not during the day, but during the night. They don’t mind. The night. Because there are sometimes we have new hymns, we have holy supper hymns, we have EVM hymns. They don’t mind. We stay there every night. They are there after work. They are there. I can see the faith.
Last night, in our practice, I see all these choir members. All these choir members are spending money. Bought their ticket, prepared their hotel, and some of them, even the whole family are going. And they leave their job. Some of them, maybe have vacation time or no pay, but it’s the faith. It’s the faith.╙
Emily Andrade: I’m able to express how happy I am to see them and how they inspire me, how I love my duty more.╙
Being a choir member, it gives us such joy to be given this kind of opportunity.
Kristal Richarte: We felt really the need and the desire to come not only to meet the brethren here, but to be united with the Church Administration as well as do our sole purpose which is to sing songs of praise to God as choir members.