What It’s Like to Grow Up in the Philippines

by Mark Gideon Olat Agayo - January 27, 2022

A young man who attends COGWA in the Philippines relates some of his experiences and lessons he’s learned.

The author playing his guitar. 

People who are striving to live God’s way of life can be found around the globe. God is calling people to His way of life from many places. My name is Mark Gideon Olat Agayo, and I live in the Philippines. People very close to me call me Gideon. At school or work, they call me Mark.

In this blog post, I will try my best to use my personal experiences and perspective to describe what it’s like to live God’s way of life in the Philippines.

My childhood

My grandfather started attending the Worldwide Church of God many years ago. That started my family attending God’s Church.

I remember, when I was around 3 years old, we would go to the Feast of Tabernacles together, and everyone would have really huge smiles. We were all happy to see friends and family! It was like an annual reunion, and everyone was eager to talk to everybody after a whole year of not seeing each other.

Though my memories of those times are not very clear because I was so young, I will never forget those times of genuine happiness, smiles and lots of conversations.

A group of COGWA young adults in the Philippines. 

My teenage years

It’s hard to describe my teenage years with a word or a phrase, so I will share some of the stories and things that happened. When I was in high school, I was really shy and lacked a lot of social skills. Looking back, I think it was a depressing time. I was also really different from my classmates. They would eat anything they wanted, go to school on Saturdays, and keep Christmas. I didn’t do those things, and also left school for eight days to keep the Feast.

During my last year in high school, my father and grandmother died. That year was difficult on my family and had a deep impact on us. My father and grandmother were the pillars in the family and, thankfully, had been there to offer advice, support and wisdom.   

The next year, I entered college but dropped out after a semester. I wandered through random vocational courses and jobs. Finally, I went to college again but dropped out the second time.

Lessons learned

Looking back at my teenage years can be depressing for me. But I’ve learned that those were helpful experiences that taught me many important lessons. One of the most important things that has stuck with me is the importance of God’s Sabbath.

I remember that for all those years, we kept the weekly Sabbath and went to Sabbath services every week. As a young person, I was expected to go with my family to services on the Sabbath and feasts. I learned many lessons from going to Sabbath services even before I really understood why it was important and holy.

Here are some other lessons I have learned:

1. Nothing lasts forever in this world. Things you think are exciting and important in your teenage years, won’t always seem as exciting and important. Indeed, youth is like the grass that springs forth like a flower but soon fades away (1 Peter 1:24).
2. Without guidance, we would wander aimlessly. The deaths of loved ones who were pillars in the family taught me this. They also taught me that God is always there to guide us.
3. The Sabbath is very important and is a blessing. During those difficult times, had I not kept the Sabbath and gone to services with my grandmother, mother or brothers, I don’t know where I would be today. Though now some of my brothers are not in the Church anymore, I’ve decided to keep on.

A few words about my country

The Philippines is an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia and shares maritime borders with Taiwan, Japan, Palau, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and China. The country is divided into three island groups, namely Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao. Each island group is filled with people who speak different languages and have different cultures.

There is usually one Feast of Tabernacles site in the country, and this means that we get to meet our brethren from all over the Philippines. Furthermore, brethren from other countries—like Singapore, Australia and the United States—often visit us.

For my family, this has meant meeting others in the Church who are more verbally open and who tend to initiate conversations. I guess each of us in the family were not so good with conversations at first, but this has changed gradually as we’ve met people in the Church from different places in the Philippines and abroad.

Personally, meeting people from other areas in the Philippines or from abroad has taught me to appreciate other cultures and languages. I think it has helped me to become more open-minded and flexible to differences.

The Philippines is indeed very diverse in pretty much everything, and the diversity helps us broaden our perspectives about different peoples and cultures. It certainly makes life more interesting!   

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