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A Case Study of the People of Looban Outreach Church


Academic year: 2023

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Jarrett Davis Preface

The study of identity is foundational in understanding not only who we are, but also what we can become. This research examines the development of self-identity in “Looban,” a marginalized, squatter- relocation community, on the outskirts of Metro Manila, Philippines. It focuses on the dynamics of social interaction between “Mother-church,”

a large, affluent church from the philippine upper/middle class, and

“Looban Outreach Church,” a mission outreach of Mother-church comprised largely of the social and economic bottom of philippine society.

Social Identity Theory serves as the theoretical framework for this case study. It understands that people will do whatever it takes to negotiate a “positive and distinct” identity for their own group, even if it means adopting another group’s identity. To this end, group identity serves to create and maintain a sense of self-esteem. The youth in Looban indicate a strong desire share in the identity of mother church, however, their social context seems to keep this desire from fruition.

Philippine social structure is organized as an interpersonal hierarchy of relationships that seem to mimic familial relationships. This hierarchy tends to prescribe and maintain the nature of interactions between differing social classes. Those of higher social class or position function in parental roles as caretakers, providers, and educators. As those of lower class or position are provided for, they, in turn, owe their loyalty and respect to those who have provided. As mother church has sent leaders to aide in the development of the outreach, most of these leaders have carried with them the strong social identity of mother church. Thus, under the sakop framework, the roles and expectations of both mother church and Looban have been clearly defined and static,




providing little social mobility. As Looban has tried to negotiate a

“positive and distinct” identity for themselves, they find themselves at a split. Are they a functioning part of mother church’s identity? Or are they just a charitable endeavor?

This study utilizes interviews and focus-group discussions combined with participant observation to give an ethnographic picture of the identity formation that took place between these two strongly contrasted socioeconomic identities.




Looban (an alias, pronounced “loh-oh-bahn”) is an urban-poor resettlement community that lies just outside of Metro-Manila. For its size and large population, very little is commonly said or known about the 171-hectare, government-allocated plot of land at the edge of Laguna Bay. For a number of years, the muddy plain saw very little activity other than the daily deposits of garbage that were collected from around the southern parts of Manila and left to decompose on its shores.

The great migration to the community was initiated by government proclamation 704 issued on November 28th, 1995 under the former president Fidel V. Ramos. This proclamation officially designated Lupang Looban as a “socialized housing project.” From an initial 124 families, a bustling community sprang out of the muddy floodplain with in just a few short years. Many of these early settlers literally built the community with their bare hands, moving to the area from economically depressed sub-cultures in Rizal Province as well as from the surrounding areas in Metro-Manila including Marikina, Makati, and Quezon City1.

There is little exact information known about the present population of the community. The most conservative estimates from barangay leadership hold the community’s population to be approximately 60,000 people,2 however the Asia Development Bank has published estimates as high as 125,000 inhabitants.3

1 Kito Ramos. Interview by author, 22 September 2009, Taytay, Rizal, Philippines. Digital recording.

2 Kito Ramos. Interview by author, 22 September 2009, Taytay, Rizal, Philippines. Digital recording.

3Asian Development Bank, The Garbage Book, (Mandaluyong City, MM:

Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, 2004), 72.






Amid this rapidly developing community, public health concerns and environmental issues have been just a few of the issues that have been raised. Until its closing in 2003, the Looban Area served as one of the 9 major garbage-dumping sites of the Metro-Manila area. The site closed when it reached capacity in 2003. Because of this history, the Looban community presently sits atop nearly 2 million cubic meters of decomposing garbage and it has become synonymous with rampant concerns for both public health and crime. One news article appearing in the Philippine Inquirer quotes one public official as saying that Lupang Looban, “has become a sanctuary for informal settlers, a disposal site for domestic and industrial waste and the subject of social clashes due to land tenure and ownership conflicts.”4 Notorious for such public identification, the Lupang Looban Resettlement is not only geographically “marginalized” on the outskirts of Manila, but also suffers from deep sociological marginalization as well.

Context of the Looban Outreach Church

In 2002, a fire ravaged through a community known as

“Pinestra” (about 10 kilometers from the Looban community).

Following the devastation, several families took the opportunity to pickup what things they had remaining and start over again in Looban.

Many of these families had been a part of an urban-poor outreach ministry of a large, affluent church (hereafter referred to as mother church).

As members of the devastated community relocated, mother church took the opportunity and made a bridge to the, now rapidly-expanding community of Looban.

Mission groups from mother church started to hold simple services in the community. They would gather in any open space to hold

4 Jerry Esplanada, “Special Report: Squatter proliferation worsens LLDA garbage dumping woes.” Philippine Inquirer Online 10 December 2003.

http://www.inquirer.net/globalnation/sec_prf/2003/dec/10-05.htm (Accessed 9 Oct.




Bible studies and outreach fellowships.5 Their mission outreach became known as Looban Outreach Church.

At this time, the community was little more than a dumping ground in the middle of a floodplain. The leaders would often need to drive four-wheel drive vehicles to navigate the unwelcoming terrain.

One leader recalls that there were very few houses at that time and boots were needed to travel down the narrow and muddy path to the ministry site in Looban. During those days, leadership and laity from mother church would hold Bible studies and to conduct evangelistic crusades in the community. At times they would have evangelistic film showings for which they would need to bring a generator, because there was no electricity in the community at that time.6

Perhaps one of the biggest changes to the outreach in Looban was in 2005 when Looban Outreach Church took shape in the form of a building. The project was a joint effort between a Work and Witness teams from the United States and groups from mother church. Under the direction of mother church, Looban Outreach Church was given a wealth of resources in staff, programs, and materials such as sound equipment, drums and the basic “furniture” that would be expected to come with the church “package.”

The Work and Witness team spent three weeks constructing the frame of the church building on the campus of the local seminary for the denomination. They transported the completed pieces to the Looban community for final assembly. One of the lay ministers from mother church comments that the building was finished in only three weeks and it was different than any other building that can be found in Looban.7 After the building was completed, it quickly became the permanent site of the feeding program and several of the weekly Bible studies for the members of the Looban outreach.

5 “Mother church Pastor,” Interview by author, 16 September 2009, Taytay, Rizal, Philippines. Interview Notes.

6 Pulpit pastor, Interview by Author, 22 February 2010, Interview transcript, 3- 7.

7 Pulpit pastor, 36.




Context of Mother-Church

The municipality in which mother church is located has its own unique identity as well. It is an urban municipality in the province of Rizal with a population of 262,485 people as of September 2009.8 Although it shares in many of the same economic hardships found throughout the Philippines, it carries a well-respected distinctiveness.

The socioeconomic and physical profile for the municipality commends the municipality for its active economy, hosting a number of big manufacturing industries9 especially its garment industries which supply demand both domestically and internationally.10 These industries generate substantial employment opportunities and contribute greatly to the economic growth of the area. On November 9th 2007, SM Prime Holdings opened a new 91,920 square-meter SM Supermall. The mall is well known in the area and has developed into a prime tambay (hangout) area for youth and adults from around the area.

Mother church is well-known and respected for its programs held in the municipality. The church’s high-end, well-produced, energy-filled youth services attract a few hundred youth from around the area. These youth gatherings are often hosted by a well-known radio disk-jockey, who serves as a youth pastor at the mother church. Sunday nights will sometimes feature testimonies from celebrities who have come to know Christ, along with performances from leading bands and singers in the area. Progressive groups of youth and adults from the area seem to

8 National Statistics Office, Republic of the Philippines. (n.d.) Population and Annual Growth Rates by Region, Province, and City/Municipality: 1995, 2000, 2007:

2007 census. Accessed 15 September 2009; available from http://Ibid.census.gov.ph/


9 These industries include: The Philippine Automotive Manufacturing Corporation (PAMCOR), Steniel, Fibertex, Capital Garments, National Panasonic, Singer, PHILEC, and Pacific Products. Taytay Socio-Economic and Physical Profile Guide, Section 5.1, 2.

10 National Statistics Office, Republic of the Philippines. (n.d.), Taytay Socio- Economic and Physical Profile Guide, Section 5.1.2. (Taytay, Rizal: National Statistics Office, 2004), 55-56.



resonate with the lively messages and innovative means of communicating Christ to the equally progressive area.

Amid the progress, behind the shopping and business centers, and despite the growth, the municipality still shares in the reality of the 30% (2003 est.) of Filipinos that are living at or below the poverty line.11 Mother church has played an active role in working among these groups who have been affected by the widespread cycles of poverty. Mother church has involved itself in many projects around the area. Food, clothing, even micro-economic projects have been facilitated by ministry teams desiring to share Christ’s love to the hurting people of the area.

The Relationship

Mother church has a great deal of clout in the Looban community. Mother church leadership continually provides for and nurtures the community, attempting to train Looban Outreach Church to be able to do what mother church does. Simultaneously, they minister to the Looban community in ways that address the issues of their poverty, providing them with feeding programs, relief goods, and other ministries while simultaneously interpolating a gospel message. One member of mother church leadership notes, “if you want to minister to the poor, it must be holistic—they don’t buy [accept] spiritual things very easily without something that they can get first.”12 This particular philosophy of “holistic” ministry typically illustrates mother church’s approach to inter-socioeconomic ministries in Looban and other less affluent areas around the area.

It is important at this point to consider what is meant by mother church’s usage of the term “holistic.” To be “holistic” is typically understood to be ministry to the whole person. Paul Benefiel, in a paper submitted to the Association of Nazarene Sociologists of Religion, defines “holistic” as considering “the total needs of a person. To be

11 The World Factbook, CIA.gov. Accessed 16 Sept 2009. Found at:


12 Mother church pastor, Interview by author, 16 September 2009, Taytay, Rizal, Philippines. Interview Notes.




holistic, by his definition, is not only meeting spiritual needs, but also physical, emotional, social, and other needs as well. 13

In efforts to be holistic, mother church has not only developed the outreach church, but also tried to help with many of the community’s social and economic needs as well. Nearly every step of Looban Outreach Church’s development as a church has been guided by mother church. This being the case, Looban Outreach Church has remained closely-tied with its mother-church. The success of mother church’s youth ministry, called Youth Corps (an alias), has inspired a smaller version of the program at Looban Outreach Church entitled “Mini-Youth Corps

which features much of the same music, terminology and catch-phrases that can be found at mother church.

Mother church admits a need to develop indigenous leaders within the Looban community, who will be more capable of understanding the context and sociological themes of the Looban community. Mother church leadership is presently mentoring one young adult perceived to be from the community how to lead mother church’s ministries in Looban. The church hopes that this youth will someday be able to lead in place of the mother-church leadership, although the transition of leadership has been slow and still goes unrealized.

Despite all the resources and energy that have been put into the Looban outreach, the leadership feels that its relationship with Looban is not moving forward. Mother church Leadership notes that Looban is dependent upon mother church.14 Very few of the members of Looban Outreach Church have taken ownership of the ministry efforts of the mother-church. Staff, resources, and funding have been poured into the Looban project from outside the community; however, Looban remains a mission outreach of mother church.

13 Paul Benefiel, “The Doctrine of Holiness as a Holistic Philosophy of Ministry” (Paper presented at the Third Annual Meeting of the Association of Nazarene Sociologists of Religion, Kansas City, MO, March 6, 1984).

14 Mother church leader, Interview by author, 10 August 2009, Taytay, Rizal, Philippines. Interview Notes.



One youth minister from mother church who serves in the community comments that Looban Outreach Church seems to be following mother church blindly—readily accepting the forms and patterns presented to them from mother church without developing their own identity.15 Mother church leadership admits that the Looban community greatly appreciates and accepts the resources of food and support. The youth love the contemporary music at Mini-Youth Corps;

however, leadership states that they are not developing into a self- sufficient community. Although, mother church sees Looban as a great ministry opportunity in an underprivileged community, the people of Looban Outreach Church appear to be the receptors of mother church outreach efforts.

Looban Outreach Church is unqualified to be a church on its own for several reasons. District Leadership identifies “the three S’s”

which are presently required for a church to be officially organized. They must be “self-supporting,” or financially able to fund ministries and daily expenses without outside funding. Secondly, Looban Outreach Church must be “self-governing,” meaning that they must develop their leadership enough to have a pastor and a full church board. Lastly, they must be “self-propagating,” or showing that they are able to reach out to other people and plant new churches.16 At this point, Looban Outreach Church is unable to meet any of these requirements. Therefore, the Metro-Manila District Church’s denomination does not recognize Looban as an organized church. It is only a mission-outreach or a

“preaching-point” under the supervision of mother church.

Mother church has been in this mother-daughter relationship with Looban for about 9 years. Both the Denomination’s Metro-Manila District and mother church had hoped that Looban could have developed into a sustainable, self-sufficient church community, but the daughter church is not advancing in this direction. Looban’s identity

15 Mother church leader, Interview by author, 10 August 2009, Taytay, Rizal, Philippines. Interview Notes.

16 District Leadership, Interview by author, 4 December 2009, Taytay, Rizal, Philippines, Interview Transcript.




appears to be meshed with that of mother church. Looban has been unable to become a fully functioning church with its own identity.

Research Problem and Sub-problems

Both the Looban community and mother church have distinctive identities of their own. Each entity is informed by its own indigenous values and worldviews. However, the identity of Looban Outreach Church seems to have been ambiguously intermingled with that of mother church. The people of the Looban Outreach Church are indigenously from Looban, but in many ways they seem to look and act like the people from mother church. Thus, this study asks, “What is the self-identity of the people of Looban Outreach Church in view of their relationship with mother church?”

This question focuses on Looban Outreach Church’s identity and the understanding of themselves that is created within their present interactions and on-going relationship with mother church. This study understands that identity and interaction are both reciprocal and interrelated. The formation of Looban’s self-identity is informed by their interactions with mother church. Similarly, mother church’s interactions with Looban are also influenced by the ways that they perceive and identify the people of Looban. It is often the case that one’s perception of another becomes the reality in which one relates to that other. Thus, there is a vital importance in understanding the way (or ways) that Looban Outreach Church understands itself because it is upon this self- understanding (or self-identification) that they will live and act.

Theoretical Framework

Much of the theoretical considerations for this study come out of the Social Identity approach of social psychology, culminating largely in the works of Henri Tajfel and John Turner.17 Simply put, this theoretical approach states that when a person belongs to a group, they are very

17 Michael A. Hogg and R. Scott Tindale, Blackwell Handbook of Social Psychology:

Group Processes (New Jersey: Weliey-Blackwell Publishers, 2002), 433.



likely to derive a significant portion of their self-identity from that group.

They also enhance their identities by comparing their own group (the in- group) with other groups (out-groups) that are not like them.

A group’s identity is formed on the basis of “fuzzy” sets of characteristics that “define and prescribe attitudes, feelings, and behaviors which categorize the one group and distinguish it from the other groups.”18 These categories can be any sort of distinguishing characteristics, such as ethnicity, race, social class, etc. In-groups and out- groups are formed and defined based upon observed patterns of similarities and differences. By making such categorizations, people sharpen their identities as they compare themselves to out-groups, or those groups with whom they do not identify and assign particular identities to those perceived social groupings.19

A great deal of Social Identity theory has to do with inter-group relations. It is concerned with how people understand themselves as members of one group in comparison with other out-groups. Specifically, it looks at the particular consequences of such categorizations, such as ethnocentrism and social stereotyping.20

Social Identity theory also affirms that social planes are not always level. Certain groups carry more social power and/or influence than others. If given the opportunity, members of less salient social groups are likely to take on the characteristics and likenesses of foreign social identities, for the purpose of achieving a more positive and distinct social identity for themselves.21 Groups with a stronger or more salient social identity often have more social influence, carry a greater social power, and are often ascribed authority.

18 Michael Hogg, “A Social Identity Theory of Leadership 5,” Personality and Social Psychology Review, (2001): 184-200, 187.

19 Naomi Eilmers, Russel Spears, and Bertjan Doosje, Social Identity: Context, Commitment, Content, (New Jersey:Wiley-Blackwell Publishers, 1999): 8

20 Jan E. Stets and Peter J. Burke, “Identity Theory and Social Identity Theory”

Vol. 63, Social Psychology Quarterly, (2000): 224-237: 226.

21 Turner, J.C. Social Influence (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1991).





Simon and Oakes, two recent proponents of this theory, discuss identity and social power. They distinguish both conflictual and consensual means of social power. Conflictual power is the power by coercion, which involves one group dominating another and controlling by authority. Consensual power is power by influence. In this kind of power, one group affects another group in such a way that the affected group ascribes power and authority to the group who did the affecting.

Most power relationships deal with both conflictual and consensual types of power.22

In a Philippine context this is particularly relevant. Philippine culture commonly exhibits a high-power distancing between social groups of unequal power. Geert Hofstede defines power distance as

“the extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations within a country expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.”23 Thus, in contexts with a high power distancing, members of low-status groups accept and expect domination by other high-status groups, and will often concede power to those of a stronger social identity. These concepts of power distancing and the Philippine social hierarchy are important to consider in this particular case. The Looban Community and the Community of which mother church is a part are at great variance with one another in terms of social power.

Thus these concepts are important in an effective framework for understanding the relationship between the two entities.

In view of this, it is also significant to mention the Philippine cultural value of Smooth Interpersonal Relations (SIR). This concept is defined as a way of going about interpersonal relationships in such a way that it avoids the outward appearance of conflict.24 Almost synonymous with this term is the concept of pakikisama which is defined as

22 Bernd Simon and Penelope Oakes, “Beyond dependence: An identity approach to social power and domination,” Human Relations 59 (2006), 116.

23 Geert Hofstede, Culture’s Consequences: Comparing Values, Behaviors, Institutions, and Organizations Across Nations (Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publishing, 2001), 98.

24Frank Lynch. “Social Acceptance Reconsidered,” found in Philippine Society and the Individual, Edited by Frank Lynch (Quezon City: Institute of Philippine Culture, Ateneo de Manila University, 1984), 36.



“concession” or “going along with” another person or group of people for the purpose of outwardly preserving the “SIR” value system.25 Pakikisama concedes one’s personal likes and dislikes in order to identify with another person or group of persons (at least on the surface) for the purpose of maintaining a harmonious relationship. At its best, this cultural value seeks harmony with others and with oneself; however, it is also possible that it can force one to “go along” with other particular social conventions at the expense of one’s own identity.26

One’s group identity is important because it both describes and prescribes who a person is and how they will act in that society. Having a strong identification as a part of a group is vital in the creation and maintenance of self-esteem, and the reaffirmation of the self.

Conceptual Framework

Figure 1 shows the two distinct identities of mother church and Looban Outreach Church. Each group has their own understanding of themselves (Self-Identity). As the groups interact with one another, there are particular perceptions that are formed on the basis of the ways in which the two groups interact with one another, and each group interacts with one another on the basis of those perceived identities. This process takes place within a social class hierarchy which effects the ways in which the two groups interact.

25Frank Lynch, 36.

26Evelyn Miranda-Feliciano. “Filipino Values and Our Christian Faith.” (MM:

OMF Literature, 1990), 24-25.




Looban and mother church have their own respective self- identities. These self-identities are the ways in which they understand themselves in terms of their qualities and potential. As these contrasting identities of mother church and Looban Outreach Church interact, perceived identities are formed of one another based upon the ways in which the two groups interact. The two groups interact by mother church providing ministries to Looban Outreach Church and Looban participating in those ministries that are provided for them.

There are two identity layers defined for both Looban Outreach Church and mother church. There is the inner-layer of self-identity (how



the group perceived themselves) and the outer-layer of perceived identity (how the group perceives the other). There is an interrelation between the inner layer of self-identity and the outer layer of perceived identity.

It is important to note that Looban and mother church exist on greatly differing social and economic planes. In this context, the process of identifying the self and other takes place within a hierarchical class system of Sakop Values,27 which tends to prescribe the nature of interactions between these differing social classes. This value system, in turn, influences the nature of the identities and interactions between the groups.

Presently, Looban Outreach Church seems to be living amid two possibly conflicting identities: one that is truly theirs and another that is borrowed or imposed. Social Identity Theorists affirm this possibility noting that individuals can identify themselves in terms of “a range of identities within which contradictory interests are embedded.”28 The question remains, What is the self-identity of Looban Outreach Church in view of their relationship with mother church ?

Significance of the Study

The study of identity is significant because it is foundational in the formation of not only who we are, but also what we can become. Seriously asking questions of identity and perceived identities within intergroup relationships can be vital to the effectiveness of those relationships. This is especially true when undertaking the difficult task of communicating between starkly contrasted social, cultural, and economic identities.

Without critically making such considerations, it is easy to generalize or to assign a particular, sweeping identity to a given group of people, and consequently fall short in the assessment of one’s own role in relation to that group of people.

27 Tomas D. Andres and Pilar B. Ilada-Andres, Understanding the Filipino (Quezon City: New Day Publishers), 1987. 56.

28 Simon Bernd and Penelope Oakes, “Beyond dependence: An Identity Approach to Social Power and Domination,” Human Relations 59 (2006), 127-128.




It is my personal hope that this study will bring about a deeper understanding of marginalized people groups who are often on the receiving end of outreach and humanitarian aid. I hope that this study will be effective in clarifying a positive and distinct identity for the people of Looban. But more importantly, I hope to clarify the strengths and abilities of such groups of people. It is my hope that their story will bring about a sense of respect for the diversity of ideas and perspectives that could be offered by a wide range of social identities. I hope that such an understanding will serve as a tool to better equip and partner with such groups of people so that they can truly be empowered to minister and lead in their own rites and identities in ways that are most effective for them.

More directly, I hope to aid those interested in church planting to understand some of the social dynamics that are taking place between

“mother churches” and their outreaches. Looban provides a prime example of these dynamics. I believe that there are important things to be learned by looking in-depth at a relationship such as this.

This study will attempt to investigate some of these very basic questions to aid potential church planters, organizations, and churches to have a fuller understanding of the dynamics in communicating between such diverse cultural and socioeconomic groups.

Scope and Delimitation

The narrative of this study comes from recorded interviews and dialogues that were held January to March 2010. In addition to the interviews, I have sat in on church meetings and fellowships, attended regular church services and participated in activities in the Looban community from January 2009 until March of 2010. This is an etic, qualitative study examining the self-identification of the people of mother church’s outreach in the Looban community. Specifically, this research focuses on the roles assumed and the self-identities that are adopted in the relationship between the diverse social and economic entities of mother church and Looban outreach church. The study examines the role that the Philippine social hierarchy (sakop values) plays



in the relationship between the two churches. Also, the study considers the implications of the particular attitudes and postures held by the mother church Facilitators in Looban outreach church and the Looban community. In particular, this study hopes to uncover what of these attitudes and postures might prevent Looban outreach church from becoming a self-sufficient church in its own right.

Definition of Terms:

The following a list of several key terms defined as they will be used in this study:

Barkada - A term for a Filipino friendship group used to describe a close, intimate group of friends in which the relationships are relaxed, tolerant, and guided by the principle of pakikisama.

Church - A community of confessors who gather together for holy fellowship and ministries.29

Etic Research - Research that is approached from the “outside,” in which the researcher does not share in the direct identity of the context of research. This is contrasted to emic research in which the subject of research shares in the identity of the researcher.

Kasama / Patron-Client Relationships - a kind of informal sharecropping agreement between landlords and peasant farmers based on a mutual sense of utang na loob. This kind of relationship is characterized by mutual obligation and long-term dependency.30

Outreach Church - A group sponsored by the local church or district who meets regularly with the goal of becoming an organized Church.31 Pakikisama - a sense of getting along with one another in which the desires of the one are often suppressed for the desires of the group.32

29 Blevins, Dean G., Charles D. Crow, David E. Downs, Paul W. Thornhill, David P. Wilson, Manual: Church of the Nazarene, 2009-2013 (Kansas City: Nazarene Publishing House, 2009), 37

30 Willem Wolters, Politics, Patronage and Class Conflict in Central Luzon (Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 1984), 24.

31 Manual: Church of the Nazarene, 339.




Perceived Identity - one’s particular interpretation or understanding of another’s potential and qualities.

Priesthood of All Believers - The Christian belief that all people who are in Christ are qualified to do the ministry and work of Jesus Christ.

Sakop values - an interpersonal hierarchy of relationships that seem to mimic familial relationships.

Self-Identity - the recognition of one’s own potential or qualities.

Utang na loob - A debt of gratitude; A characteristically strong sense of obligation for gratefulness that is treated with great seriousness in Philippine culture. 33

Values - the principles or standards of a person’s behavior which are at the core of one’s worldview.

Worldview - the way in which one understands the world and society around oneself. This is the filter through which one interprets the meanings of actions and interactions with others.


The present study assumes that:

• Every social group in human society has its own unique identity.

• There are an infinite number of differences or variations from one group to the next.

• Differing groups influence each other through interaction.

• Group identity is of great value in that it informs us not only of who we are, but what we can become.

• Group identity inevitably leads us into action in that knowing who we are informs us of what we can do.

32 Niels Mulder, Inside Philippine Society: interpretations of Everyday Life (Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 1997), 121.

33 Rolando M. Gripaldo, Ed., “Filipino cultural traits: Claro R. Ceniza Lectures,”

(Washington D.C.: The Council for Research in Values and Philosophy, 2005), http://books.google.com/books?id=hXJe6vKMjroC&printsec=frontcover&source=gb s_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false (accessed: January 3, 2011).



• Group identity and its interactions with other groups are both reciprocal and interrelated to one another.



Looban represents many things to many people. For the uninvolved many, it is just another squatter community where the unnameable “others” of Philippine society find their dwellings. For the visiting relief workers following a recent and disastrous typhoon,

Kawawa” (pitiful) became a nearly synonymous term for Looban when the former dumpsite-turned-community became an expansive lake, as flood waters engulfed a massive portion of the area. Investors see the rapidly expanding community as easy cash, while for nearly 100,000 Filipinos, “bahay ko” (my home) is a far more fitting nomenclature. What it is to each person, of course, all depends on how each person interacts with it.

Identity and interaction stand at the heart of this study. These two terms are understood to be related and reciprocal. Our identities are formed by how we interact with the people and world around us, and our actions are influenced by who we understand ourselves to be. Thus, if we attempt to answer questions about the reflexive perceived self- identities between mother church and Looban Outreach Church, we must first examine the interactions between the two groups.

The Relationship Between the Churches

The relationship between mother church and Looban Outreach Church is that of parent and child. The parent looks after the needs of the child, including its leadership and financial support based upon the understanding that the child is not yet capable of taking care of itself.34 The goal, in this model, is that the young and developing church will eventually gain independence. Before it can be independent, the church must be able to generate enough revenue to support its own pastor, pay

34 District leadership. Interview by author, 19 January 2010, Taytay, Rizal, Philippines, Interview Transcript, line 45.




its bills, and maintain its own facilities. Secondly, the church must be able to govern itself, making its own decisions through a church board that it is independent of the parent-church. Lastly, the church must be capable of being a parent-church itself, that is, it must be able to plant other churches. Because of the context of the Looban community, there has been some difficulty in reaching a point where these three goals are able to be sufficiently met. Essentially, the child has had some difficulties in imitating its mother. The turn-over of leadership has not yet happened for Looban Outreach Church, mother church is the parent and Looban is the developing child, learning from the parent how to stand on its own.35

Looban Outreach Church began with a simple outreach. This is a typical beginning for most urban poor church plants on this district of the denomination . In this model, a local church will start a church plant by conducting a simple “outreach ministry” which provides something for the community, such as a feeding program, a film-showing, or evangelical outreach program. Once the leadership from the parent- church has made sufficient connection with the community, they will begin holding regular worship services at the site and try to develop a weekly church program with regular attendance. 36

Once the outreach has formed regular church services, it will be referred to as a “recognized church,” or a “mission church.” This means that the district recognizes the outreach as a church with a leadership and government in development. It is during this process that the recognized church begins to develop its own offering and begins to support itself;

however, it is still an outreach--and not able to officially be a church in the denomination.37

The final step, and goal of this process is for the mission- outreach to become an “organized church” which is fully recognized by the district. However, this requires that the church is able to lead and support itself. This was the development model used by mother church.

35 District leadership, 47.

36 Ibid, 99.

37 Ibid, 100-101.



111 First, a feeding program was started in the Looban community. Children would gather and eventually the program leaders would get in contact with the parents of the children. After this, a weekly church service, patterned after mother church services was started with similarly styled worship and preaching, and the relationship between the two groups began to form.38 The hope that somehow throughout this process, the necessary shift from outreach to church would happen, but it has yet to be seen.

An important leader from the district (referred to as “District Leadership” from here on) is in charge of the oversight of “outreach- churches” like Looban Outreach Church.39 The leadership believes that the Looban Outreach Church is developing, but not in a way that will be beneficial to both the mother church and the local church. The leadership asserts that the way that they are presently developing,

“[Looban] will continuously be a burden on the mother church, and it will create a continuous dependency on the part of the local people in [Looban].”

District Leadership has noticed that leadership in Looban always tends to be equated with assistance, such as the feeding program. In other words, the people who are doing the ministry, giving the food, and providing the relief, those are the ones who are in charge of the church.

District Leadership feels that the ability to make decisions is a very important factor in leadership. The District is aware that the people of Looban are often assisting with many of the outreach programs, but the decisions of how much money will be spent, what kind of food will be given, those decisions are all made by outsiders--they do not come from Looban. District Leadership says, “I believe, if they will be given the opportunity to decide and be given responsibility and to be accountable for their actions, then they will develop.”40

In this relationship, it is important to consider a few factors.

Mother church and Looban Outreach Church are two entities of greatly

38 Mother church Leader, 106.

39 District Leadership, 5.

40 District Leadership, 81-82.



unequal status and power. Mother church generally represents the upper ranks of Philippine society and Looban is at the very bottom. Mother church has provided land and a building for the people of Looban, as well as utilities. They have staffed the church with workers who regularly provide worship services, food and donations to the people of the community. It is important to ask here what are the outcomes of a relationship such as this? In Philippine society, one almost inevitable outcome in a context such as this is utang na loob (debt of gratitude), or the feeling that something is owed in return for a particular favor given.

More specifically, the social context of the relationship between mother church and Looban runs parallel to a particular kind of class relationship, called a “kasama relationshipwhich has been deeply rooted in Philippine society since the 18th century.41 The center of this kind of relationship was a kind of informal agreement between landlords and peasant farmers. The landlord would supply the peasant farmer with the land, advance seeds and financial help for the planting and harvesting of the field, while the farmer would in turn till and farm the land, often using his tools and animals. In this way, the two would work together each providing a need of the other. In addition, the landlord would often be obliged to help the farmer with his daily needs, often giving him advances without interest.

This kind of relationship pivoted on the concept of utang na loob.

However, the landlord was the more powerful figure, and was in a position to determine the price of the goods, thus controlling the utang.

As time went on, problems arose in that issue of utang kept the peasant farmer in a constant position of dependency on the landlord.42 The resulting cultural phenomenon is a system of inter-class relationships that are based on mutual obligation and long-term interdependency.

This is the social background of the sakop values system that is seen in Philippine culture. This system stresses an interpersonal hierarchy of social relationships that seem to mimic familial

41 Willem Wolters, Politics, Patronage and Class Conflict in Central Luzon (Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 1984), 24.

42 Wolters, 25.



113 relationships.43 Within the sakop understanding, the parents are responsible for the children, and children owe their loyalty and gratitude to the parents, whether they are biological parents, or figurative societal

"parents" such as a mayor, pastor, or other form of group leader.

The parent-child model of church planting calls for the parent to initiate, plant, and empower the child to be independent and then move on.44 The ideal is that the parent and child learn to function independently of one another free of utang no loob, or a socially-based debt of gratitude. However, the present social and cultural context may require just the opposite. This could create particular difficulties in constructing a healthy and productive relationship as is ideal in the parent-child model.

The Leadership Team and Their Interactions

The leadership team in Looban (referred to as Leadership from here on) consists of 4 members of mother church, who serve in the community on a volunteer basis. The team is composed of a coordinator, a lay pastor, a pulpit-pastor, and a younger member from the mother church youth group who serves as a youth leader in Looban.

The coordinator and lay pastor carry a great deal of responsibility for Looban. The coordinator manages the feeding program on Saturdays, while the lay pastor conducts Bible studies in homes, and does pastoral visitation all throughout the week. Pulpit-pastor visits the community once or twice a week ministering and delivering the Sunday sermons on a weekly basis.45

The pulpit pastor arrives in the Looban community on his motorcycle every Sunday at about 8am. He is met there by lay-pastor and coordinator, who are brought by a service tricycle which takes them from their home which is outside of the Looban. It takes about 20

43 Tomas D. Andres and Pilar B. Ilada-Andres, Understanding the Filipino (Quezon City: New Day Publishers, 1987), 56.

44 District Leadership, 44-46.

45 Pulpit pastor, Interview by Author, 22 February 2010, Interview Transcript, 132.



minutes to travel the long road and through the dry and dusty--or muddy and water-laden streets of Looban (depending, of course, on the season).

Worship usually consists of a mixture of English songs (many of which can be heard at mother church Youth Corps) and a small selection of favorite Tagalog songs. Preaching is generally done by Pulpit-pastor, who is in charge of the preaching for the outreach. Only recently has children’s Sunday School been offered during the morning worship.

These classes are usually led by the older Looban youth, following curriculum and direction of Coordinator, who manages Christian education in Looban. Following the services, three Sunday School/small groups gather: the Kananayan (adult women), the Katatayan (the adult men), and the Kabatayan (the youth). Coordinator serves as the leader for the Kananayan, Lay-pastor for the Katatayan, and Michael for the Kabatayan.

The Youth Leader, Michael (an alias), remains quite busy and is in charge of leading the youth and the worship on Sunday Mornings. The other members of the Leadership comment that Michael is unique in that he is perceived as from the Looban community where they have been ministering. In regards to identity, this makes Michael quite different, although, is somewhat of a hybrid. Although he lived in Looban briefly, he was initially a member of mother church, has participated in their ministries, been a part of their small groups, and has been under the mentorship of one of their youth pastors. Michael and his mother moved to the Looban area from Laguna, however, Michael only resided in the Looban community for a short while. He has more recently taken employment in mother church.

One member of the lay-leadership comments that the four of them in leadership have been very busy with the ministry in Looban.

This is the first time that they have been able to create a full 12-month calendar of events for the church. The leader adds, “I think the leadership inside the church is quite good.” She explains the process of decision-making for the leadership team; the four of them will talk together and make plans, after about an hour of deliberations, they will come to an agreement, settle, and commit. She explains the importance,



115 in this process, of having open communication among the team that is united with a common ambition.46

The coordinator boasts that Leadership in the Looban outreach is better and busier than ever. Following a recent typhoon, Leadership, along with the mother church brought relief to many people in Looban.

Leadership counts this as a blessing in disguise, as it has increased their attendance and allowed their ministries to flourish. Leadership envisions more livelihood programs for the community, a school, and a greater capacity to develop the Looban community in the near future.47 This would be in addition to an already busy weekly schedule. Presently, on a weekly basis, the Leadership provides Sunday Morning worship, a youth service (“Mini-Youth Corps) on Sunday afternoons, as well as home Bible studies, a feeding program on Saturdays, and other special events that are scattered throughout the calendar.

The pastoral staff usually wear Barong Tagalog or Camisa de Chino with black pants as their general Sunday attire, excluding Michael, who dresses much more casually, often sporting a Youth Corps T-shirt and Jeans. During rainy seasons, the Leadership from mother church will often have to either wear boots or change into these clothes upon arrival in the community, since the trip into the community tends to be a muddy one.

Sunday afternoons in Looban belong to the youth. The youth begin gathering for Mini-Youth Corps at or around 2pm. Not too long ago, these services had been led by a youth leader from mother church.

However, in more recent day, Michael has entirely taken over the program, leading the songs and giving the message.

The feeding program has been a long-running ministry of mother church. It is supported through a monthly gift of about 14,000PHP (~$300) to mother church from a donor in the United States.48 Coordinator began working with the feeding program in Looban in 2005.

46 Outreach coordinator, Interview by Author, 8 February 2010, Interview Transcript, 118.

47 Outreach coordinator, 122.

48 District Leadership, 48.



She would come to the community for several hours every Saturday morning. At this time, they had no tents or buildings and were forced to conduct the simple program under the heat of the morning sun. The ministry was small but rewarding. They would put on a simple program for the children and provide them with a hot meal of rice and ulam.

Coordinator comments that she loved her ministry with the children,

“the children were very eager to smile and to form lines to get their food.”49

Apart from feeding program and weekly services, Leadership began involving themselves in the community through home Bible studies. Lay-pastor was responsible for the development of many of the home Bible studies that have been done in the ministry. He comments that it has been slow development from the time that he first began ministering in 2000.50 These Bible studies would often be held in the homes of the local members of Looban Outreach Church, often at the request of the Leadership. Leaders indicate that they had some difficulties in operating a ministry such as this, in that there was poor attendance and a lack of cooperation from the homeowners.51 Regardless, Leadership felt that bible studies such as this were significant in helping to nurture the spiritual lives of the people in Looban, while keeping them connected with the church.

Aside from ministering within the community, Leadership has also, at times, brought the people of Looban to mother church to join for fellowship and special services. Usually during these times, special programs are held, meals is served, and/or donations of clothing and necessity items are given. Most recently, mother church held a “family day” for the people in Looban. About 500 people from the Looban community were brought to mother church taking multiple trips with one van. Several members from mother church met with the people from Looban, played games with them, and distributed donation packages.

49 Coordinator Coding: 16.

50 Lay pastor, Interview by Author, 8 February 2010, Interview Transcript, 12.

51 Outreach coordinator, 74; Pulpit pastor, 68.



117 Through the efforts of the Leadership from mother church, the outreach has been able to expand. The feeding program and surrounding outreach programs were considered a success as people kept returning week after week. Coordinator recalls that several of the regular youth present today were products of that very program.

Development of Local Leadership

There is a unanimous indication from the Leadership that they desire to see strong leadership from the youth, however they show some ambiguity as to whether Looban is capable of such leadership.

Coordinator believes that it will be difficult and take a long time to develop lay-leaders in Looban, “it will take time for a kapwa-Looban to believe that God can change the lives of some [of the] Looban people. It will take time--except in the case of Michael. Michael is from Looban.

Other than Michael, we have no leader any more coming from Looban.

So, we are praying for another Michael to be raised up by God.”

The Pulpit-pastor indicates that he has tried to aid in the development of leaders from the adult men by assigning them positions in the church, such as chairman, co-chairman, treasurer, and so on.

Pulpit-Pastor allowed the men to think of the roles through which they could serve in the church, and then assigned them titles so that they would sense that they were leaders.52 It might be important to note here that the Leadership still made the decisions and controlled all of the church’s funds, despite the assignment of these roles. Preaching-Pastor explains that he did this so that they would realize that one day they would be on their own. He has also instructed for Looban Youth Leader to do similar role assignments with the youth.53

When asked about the gifts and abilities of the other youth within the community, Coordinator laughed and jokingly mentioned two particular youth who are believed to be especially unfit to lead. This leader then cites reasons, on the basis of maturity, that would make these

52 Pulpit pastor, 104.

53 Pulpit pastor, 105.



persons unsuitable. The leader’s list continues, mentioning several more inadequate leaders, and a couple who would be ideal as assistants. After some additional thought, this leader is able to name two youth (present Sunday School teachers) who are believed to have the attitudes of a leader.54 Coordinator does admit to seeing strong leaders from Looban.

She specifies, “specifically leaders with submissive hearts, because every time you talk to them and I name my plans, they are not arguing. They follow.”

In addition to this, members of the leadership team list,

“cooperation,” “willingness to continue what has been planned,” and “a willingness to follow commands” as positive characteristics of potential leaders in the community. Mostly these characteristics deal with the fulfillment of the plans of the mother church in the community.

This is a very telling statement made by Coordinator.

Coordinator implies that the Leadership is looking for leaders who do not make decisions for themselves. They are looking for leaders who will not stray from the course that the present leadership has set. This would seem to indicate a lack of trust in the abilities of the people of Looban and a fear that they might not continue in the path presently defined for them. Why look for leaders who are defined by their ability to follow?

This seems to be a contradiction.

Coordinator indicates that, given a commitment to the ministry, Leadership is able to delegate work to the people in Looban.

Coordinator names a few tasks such as the assembling of children for feeding program and cleaning the church. One of the reasons that Coordinator has an aversion to allowing members in Looban to lead is that they lack confidence or have fears of leadership. She mentions two youth who are skilled in music, but states, “they cannot handle Bible studies, because they told us that they are afraid to teach.”55 So far, only Michael has been given the opportunity to lead and make decisions.

One member of the Leadership notes that, as a developing church, it is necessary that the they try to take care of Looban’s needs,

54 Outreach coordinator, 165

55 Outreach coordinator, 169



119 improve their living conditions, and help them to take care of their families. She believes that if these needs are addressed, and Looban is given sufficient food on their tables, them they will be able to worship Christ more. By doing these things for them, they are allowing them to worship Christ.56 This leader sees a great future involvement in the Looban community, including a school and a livelihood program, as well as a bigger church building. 57

Why Looban is still not ready

Leadership in Looban cite and imply a number of various reasons that make it difficult to raise up a leader from the Looban community:

Looban is poor. Looban leaders have been waiting for the Looban project to generate enough money to support a full-time pastor, but Looban doesn’t seem able to bring in enough money in its offerings.

One member of the Looban leadership explains that many of the people are dependent upon collecting loose garbage to earn a living, so only a very few people have any money.58

Looban is poorly educated. Many of the people in Looban are not fully educated. One leader from Looban explains that Leadership must spend extra time with the people from Looban because of this factor. 59 He adds that it is important that Leadership preaches to them using the simplest Tagalog, because there are many things that they are not able to understand. He says that, “the words [we use] are the simplest Tagalog that we have, but some of them, they do not understand, because some of them stopped school, and never finished;

that’s why we need to take time, especially with the Bible.”60

Looban is a big investment. The outreach is the recipient of various funds and assistance from churches abroad, missions teams, and NGO’s. District Leadership notes that there is fear that Looban must be

56 Ibid, 147.

57 Ibid, 122.

58 Ibid, 45.

59 Pulpit pastor, 93.

60 Pulpit pastor, 99.



able to perform for its sponsors, “If Looban will die, what answer will [the leadership] give to these people who are interested in the development of Looban?”

Looban cannot do it as well as mother church. District Leadership believes that there is a fear that if the leadership would allow Looban to lead, they will not be able to deliver the same results as what the mother church would be able to deliver.61 Essentially, there is belief that the outreach would be sacrificing quality of work if they would allow Looban to lead. District Leadership believes that Leadership in Looban have fears because they want to ensure that the Looban project is operating well. 62

In addition to these reasons, Leadership commonly cites numerous social problems in the community such as gambling, drinking, gossip, and violence. They mention that this is a part of the “mindset”

of the people in Looban.63 This is never directly connected to Looban’s inability to lead. However, this perception seems to stand forefront in the minds of the Leadership and is presented as a notable part of the identity of the people of Looban.

District Leadership says that the inherent problem here is that Looban is being measured by a foreign standard. Looban Outreach Church is not mother church. But, it seems that they feel that they need to be like mother church in order to be sufficient for self-leadership.

District Leadership notes that they should be measured with respect to their own context. He adds, “we might think that if they will take the lead--they are not efficient in doing [the work], but we don’t know what the people are thinking. They might see [their work] as ‘super-efficient’

because that is their level. Point is--they should be given a chance.”64

61 District Leadership, 89.

62 District Leadership, 110-111.

63 Outreach coordinator, 79.

64 District Leadership, 92-93.

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