Western Mindanao Conference

By Bobby M. Asis, and Remwil R. Tornalejo

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Bobby M. Asis, a Filipino by birth, is a product of Christian education from elementary to graduate school. He likes freelance writing and carpentry. Currently, as the education director of South Philippine Union Conference, he advocates the importance of Adventist education and excellent Adventist way of teaching.

Remwil R. Tornalejo is an associate professor in the Historical-Theological department of the International Institute of Advanced Studies Seminary (AIIAS). Tornalejo has a B.A. in theology from Mountain View College, Valencia, Philippines, and M.P.S., M.Div., and M.Th. degrees from AIIAS. He had served as a pastor, Literature Ministry Seminary dean and instructor at the South Philippine Union Conference. He had served as chair of the theology department of the South Philippine Adventist College. Tornalejo completed his D.Theol. from Theological Union (ATESEA). He is married to Marilou Manatad. They have four children.

First Published: January 29, 2020

Western Mindanao Conference (formerly Western Mindanao Mission) is part of South Philippine Union Conference in the Southern Asia-Pacific Division of the Seventh-day Adventists. Western Mindanao Conference was organized in 1958. It comprises the territory of the province of Misamis Occidental and parts of the provinces of Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Lanao del Norte, and Lanao del Sur.1 It is divided into 37 districts and has 299 churches and a membership of 53,566 in a population of 3,279,224.2 It has one academy and 18 elementary schools.3

Origin of SDA Work in Conference Territory

The humble and modest beginning of Adventism in the Western Mindanao Conference territory can be attributed to the publishing ministry and the pioneering medical work of Dr. Ulysses Charles Fattebert and his wife, Ellen. The Fatteberts were believed to be the first foreign Adventist missionaries to step on the soil of Mindanao, particularly in Misamis. The Fatteberts with Mr. and Mrs. Robert E. Stewart had started Adventist work in Argao, Cebu, before the Fatteberts moved to Mindanao.4

As early as 1918, Adventist periodicals in Tagalog regularly found their way to the island of Mindanao.5 In 1919, the Fatteberts arrived in Mindanao to rest and recuperate from an illness they had acquired while working incessantly in the islands of Cebu, spending time on a hill near Lake Lanao’s shore.6 In mid-July 1920, they returned to Mindanao to the town of Misamis as Adventist medical missionaries.7 According to Fattebert, a canvasser had already started selling books in Misamis that summer vacation before they arrived.8 The canvasser Fattebert referred to must have been Manuel Kintanar.9

Soon after the Fatteberts’ arrival, they looked for a strategic place to set up a medical clinic to accomplish their mission.10 Providentially, they found a vacant room in one of the buildings adjacent to the former municipal hall of Misamis. That small room provided a space to share the Adventist message with those who came and benefited from the medical services they offered. Dr. Fattebert wrote:

We came to Misamis about the middle of July. Houses were hard to get, and we had to take an unfinished one and finish it up on the rent account. It will make a nice home and office when completed. I had to build in a basement for office and waiting room, and if work goes well will build in a couple of rooms for sick people. The office is 18 feet by 12 feet, and the waiting room 18 by 28. We will use the waiting room for chapel and class room. We are already using these rooms, though they are still unpainted. Being unable to get a carpenter, the house boy and I have had to do the work ourselves. He is not a carpenter, and neither am I, and so the work has gone slowly, but we make some progress, and so keep of good cheer. We would get along faster if I did not have to leave the building so often to attend to medical practise.11

Through the Fatteberts’ medical work, many were interested in knowing more about the Fattebert’s faith. Patients who went for medical check-ups demonstrated interest in studying the Bible and were eager to know more about the Sabbath. According to the report of the couple, “The first week we were here some came in wanting to know if they might attend our services the following Sabbath. We of course told them that we would be glad to have them come, and since then we have had good Sabbath services.”12 Eventually, the Fatteberts’ dedication and untiring efforts resulted in the conversion of a number of prominent families in town: the Bongabongs, the Medinas, the Fabrigas, and the Balitons, among others. They became the core of the first Adventist congregation in the island of Mindanao.13

Since there was no church building at that time, the brethren created a group which gathered regularly for worship in the house of Attorney Jose Fabriga. It took them several years to build a church, but this did not discourage them. The core members never gave up the faith. Instead, they zealously shared their newfound faith with those who were willing to listen, which resulted in the conversion of more people in the area.14

God, in his infinite wisdom, chose men and women to establish the first church in Mindanao, specifically in Cabunga-an, one of the large barangays of Clarin, Misamis Occidental, about 25 kilometers away from Misamis. This “virgin” territory was ideal for spreading the Adventist message. Therefore, when Islao Rodriguez, a lay worker from East Visayan Mission, arrived, he quickly established a congregation with the support and cooperation of the brethren from Misamis.15

One of the pioneers whose noble deeds contributed significantly to the progress of the evangelistic endeavors in Cabunga-an was Gaudencio Bongabong, who later became the church’s first elder. He owned a fertile farm in the area and would occasionally check on it. Greatly encouraged by the progress of Rodriguez’s evangelistic activities, Bongabong decided to become a part of the growing congregation. With a burden to find a parcel of land where the first church building could be erected, the Holy Spirit directed him to the homestead of Mr. and Mrs. Petronilla Fernandez. Upon Bongabong expressing the need of the church, they graciously offered a corner of their land along Barangay Road for the church to be built. Soon, there stood a simple and modest church – a grand landmark to behold as the first milestone in Adventist history in Mindanao.16

In 1922, a group of Adventist believers from Magallon, Negros Occidental, led by Tiburcio Singuillo migrated to Sindangan, Zamboanga. Later in the year, Singuillo requested that a minister be sent to Sindangan to baptize his candidates. Pastor G. Hugh Murrin was sent to Sindangan and baptized 21 believers. Later, the Sindangan church was organized with a membership of 29, and Brother Singuillo served as an elder for a long time.17 A 1926 report of the Mindanao church’s early beginnings states:

Imagine our surprise to find a church in Misamis with a membership of sixty-seven! Up the coastline twelve kilometers, at the town of Clarin, we found another flourishing church; and out in the country still another. South of Misamis there is a group of believers that will soon be formed into a fourth church; across the peninsula, at Sindangan, in the province of Zamboanga, there is a church with a membership of about thirty.18

Organizational History

Western Mindanao Conference in Ozamiz City (formerly Misamis) was organized in 1958 as Western Mindanao Mission through the initiative of the Far Eastern Division and was officially recognized by the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.19 South Philippine Union’s leadership had recommended its organization, for it had seen the mission’s spiritual maturity and was able to meet its financial needs. Furthermore, it had shown commitment to spearhead and supervise the Lord’s work to speedily fulfill the Church’s gospel commission in the area originally composed of Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Lanao del Norte, and part of Lanao del Sur provinces and the Jolo-Sulu Archipelago in Mindanao, Philippines. Juanito Obregon served as the first president of the mission.20 It was a pioneering mission field with six districts: Pagadian, Dipolog, Dapitan, Ozamiz, Oroquita, and Molave. At its organization, there were 152 churches and companies with a total membership of 4,980.21 From its beginning, Western Mindanao Mission had undergone a continual succession in leadership, which paved the way for its full spiritual maturity and capability of pursuing the Adventist mission.22

Like many pioneering institutions, Western Mindanao Mission based its beginnings on “faith that works,” a classic principle of bold and resolute missionary spirit, which was demonstrated by the pioneers in the island of Mindanao. In 1958 and 1959, during Pastor Obregon’s term as pioneering president, the first mission headquarters was located in a rented house at Rizal St., Ozamiz City. The rented space was literally bare without furnishings. Pastor Obregon requested the South Philippine Union Mission (now South Philippine Union Conference) executive committee to appropriate funds for office equipment for the new mission office. The request was approved, and the funds for the purchase of the much-needed equipment were released three months later.23 After a few years, the city’s fire department inspected the building and declared it a fire hazard, and an immediate transfer to a safer place was necessary.24

In 1964, the mission headquarters was moved to the ground floor of a safer, more presentable two-story building at Valconcha St., Ozamiz City, owned by a Mr. Maghanoy. This was in overdue compliance to a recommendation from the city’s fire department. Although the new location was in a flood-prone area, it temporarily provided a convenient and comfortable place for workers and brethren who occasionally visited the headquarters to conduct ministerial and evangelistic transactions. However, frequent flooding on the streets surrounding the office building became unbearable. President Paterno Diaz, a visionary leader, transferred the mission headquarters to a duplex building owned by a Dr. Libonao and located at Barangay Carmen, New Annex, Aguda Extension, Ozamiz City. Years went by, and, during President Anastacio Gayao’s term (1977-1979), the mission headquarters was relocated to a new seven-room building next to the Grand Hotel at Ledesma St., Ozamiz City.25

Sometime in 1980, during Pastor Fernando Pangca’s term as president, the mission headquarters was moved to its present location along the national highway at Barangay Gango, Ozamiz City. Throughout the years, the mission experienced every aspect of growth, demonstrating a “metamorphosis” through God’s unending grace and showing a classic example of transforming a mission into a matured conference.26

In 1994, upon the recommendation of its conference status survey commission, the Far Eastern Division granted conference status to Western Mindanao Mission.27 Mission President Rodulfo Yap was elected president of the new Western Mindanao Conference.28

On November 19, 2003, during South Philippine Union Conference’s 4th General Constituency Meeting at Western Mindanao Academy in Dumingag, Zamboanga del Sur, it was voted to divide Western Mindanao Conference into two fields: Western Mindanao Conference, which retained the original name and location; and Southwestern Mindanao Attached Field located at 290 A. Climaco Drive, Talon-Talon Loop, Zamboanga City.29 Edwin Gulfan was elected president of Western Mindanao Conference, and Ephraim Paquibo was elected first president of Southwestern Mindanao Attached Field.30

Through the years, Western Mindanao Conference has waved the banner of victory in Jesus against the forces of evil. The conference stands as one of the most attractive and modern Seventh-day Adventist conference headquarters in the Southern Asia-Pacific Division territory. Its administration, leaders, pastors, and workers remain humbly and fervently committed to the conference’s noble mission of preparing people for the Second Coming of the Lord.

Executive Officers Chronology

Western Mindanao Mission

Juanito Obregon (1958-1959); Elpidio Lamera (1960-1961); Bayani Arit (1962-1963); Tomas Cabaluna (1964-1965); Paterno Diaz (1966-1967); Loreto Duriquez (1968-June 1972); Clemencio Rosco (July 1972-December 1972); Tomas Rojas (1973-1976); Anastacio Gayao (1977-1979); Fernando Pangca (1980-1984); Lorenzo Lacson, Jr. (1985-1990); Rodulfo Yap (1991-1993).

Western Mindanao Conference

Rodulfo Yap (1994-1996); Luciano Nermal, Jr. (1997-1999); Alejandro Perez, Jr. (2000-2003); Edwin Gulfan (2004-2006);31 Luciano Nermal, Jr. (January 2007-November 2007);32 Rudy Jimenez (December 2007-May 2014); Segundino Asoy (June 2014-2015); Carlito Quidet, Jr. (2016- ).33

Sources

Asiatic Division Mission News, July 1, 1915.

Crisler, C. C. “Unentered Regions: Mindanao and Sulu – ‘Moroland’.”Asiatic Division Outlook, March 1-15, 1918.

“The Unentered Regions.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, January 1926.

Fattebert, Ulysses Charles and Ellen. “A New Mission Station in Mindanao.” Asiatic Division Outlook, November 1-15, 1920.

Murrin, G. Hugh. “Occupying a Field Hitherto Unentered.” Far Eastern Division Outlook, February 1928.

Obregon, Juanito R. “Report from Western Mindanao Mission.” The Advent Review and Herald, June 4, 1959.

Roca, Nicolas T. “Reports of the West Visayan Mission.” Asiatic Division Outlook, November 1, 1923.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook. Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press, 2015, 2018.

South Philippine Union Conference. Executive Committee Meeting, January 25, 2016. 2016-012. South Philippine Union Conference Archives. Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines.

South Philippine Union Conference. The Centennial Book: 100 Years of Adventism in the Philippines. Cagayan de Oro City: South Philippine Union Conference Resource Production Center, 2004.

South Philippine Union Mission Executive Committee, January 7, 1958. #58-260. South Philippine Union Conference Archives, Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines.

Western Mindanao Conference Fifth General Constituency Meeting, November 29 – December 2, 2006. 2006-121. Western Mindanao Conference Archives.

Western Mindanao Conference Statistical Report, 2017. Western Mindanao Conference Archives, Ozamiz City, Philippines.

Woodward, Nannie L. “Notes from the Philippine Union.” Asiatic Division Outlook, December 15, 1919.

Notes

  1. “Western Mindanao Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Nampa, Idaho, 2015), 406.

  2. Ibid.

  3. Western Mindanao Conference Statistical Report, 2017. Western Mindanao Conference archives, Ozamiz City, Philippines.

  4. Asiatic Division Mission News, July 1, 1915, 4.

  5. C. C. Crisler, “Unentered Regions: Mindanao and Sulu – ‘Moroland’,” Asiatic Division Outlook, March 1-15, 1918, 3.

  6. Nannie L. Woodward, “Notes from the Philippine Union,” Asiatic Division Outlook, December 15, 1919, 8.

  7. Ulysses Charles and Ellen Fattebert, “A New Mission Station in Mindanao,” Asiatic Division Outlook, November 1-15, 1920, 5-6.

  8. Ibid.

  9. G. Hugh Murrin, “Occupying a Field Hitherto Unentered,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, February 1928, 8.

  10. South Philippine Union Conference, The Centennial Book: 100 Years of Adventism in the Philippines (Cagayan de Oro City: South Philippine Union Conference Resource Production Center, 2004).

  11. Fattebert, 5-6.

  12. Ibid.

  13. South Philippine Union Conference, The Centennial Book, 2004.

  14. Ibid.

  15. Ibid.

  16. Ibid.

  17. Murrin, 8.; and Nicolas T. Roca, “Reports of the West Visayan Mission,” Asiatic Division Outlook, November 1, 1923, 4.

  18. “The Unentered Regions,” Far Eastern Division Outlook, January 1926, 4.

  19. “Western Mindanao Conference,” Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press, 2018), 350.

  20. Juanito. R. Obregon, “Report from Western Mindanao Mission,” ARH, June 4, 1959, 24.

  21. Obregon, 24.

  22. South Philippine Union Conference, The Centennial Book, 2004.

  23. South Philippine Union Mission Executive Committee, January 7, 1958, #58-260. South Philippine Union Conference Archives, Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines.

  24. South Philippine Union Conference, The Centennial Book, 2004.

  25. Ibid.

  26. Ibid.

  27. Far Eastern Division of the General Conference Annual Council, 800 Thomson Road, Singapore, November 3-9, 1994, 94-187.

  28. Western Mindanao Conference, Ozamiz City, Philippines, December 12-13, 1994, 94-166. First constituency meeting.

  29. South Philippine Union Conference Year-end Meeting Minutes, Upper Carmen, Cagayan de Oro City, December 2-4, 2003, 226, 219, South Philippine Union Conference Archives, Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines.

  30. Ibid.

  31. Ibid.

  32. Western Mindanao Conference Fifth General Constituency Meeting, November 29-December 2, 2006. 2006-121. Western Mindanao Conference Archives, Ozamiz City, Philippines.

  33. South Philippine Union Conference, Executive Committee Meeting, January 25, 2016, 2016-012. South Philippine Union Conference Archives, Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines.

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Asis, Bobby M., Remwil R. Tornalejo. "Western Mindanao Conference." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Accessed May 20, 2022. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=CAUA.

Asis, Bobby M., Remwil R. Tornalejo. "Western Mindanao Conference." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. January 29, 2020. Date of access May 20, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=CAUA.

Asis, Bobby M., Remwil R. Tornalejo (2020, January 29). Western Mindanao Conference. Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved May 20, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=CAUA.