Wednesday, March 12, 2008



Reprinted from the CFC News Supplement in the CBCP Monitor,March 3-16, 2008

In this issue, we begin a series on the history of Couples for Christ its origins, its development, the struggles and challenges it faced as it spread not just in the Philippines but worldwide, and its particular charism. This is an honest attempt to finally write the definitive history of CFC, and to leave to future generations a legacy of a true, fair and complete assessment of a community that began as a small group, became a movement and finally a Vatican-recognized international and private lay association of the faithful.

At an earlier time…

Charismatic is an umbrella term used to describe Christians who believe that the manifestations of gifts of the Holy Spirit seen in the first century Christian Church are available to contemporary Christians and may be experienced and practiced today.

The Catholic Charismatic Renewal as it exists today is the outgrowth of a retreat held in February 1967 of several faculty members and students from Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, U. S. A. Many of the students experienced a movement of God's Spirit called being “baptized in the Holy Spirit.” What happened quickly spread to graduate students and professors at the University of Notre Dame and others serving in campus ministry in Lansing, Michigan. The movement spread rapidly, so that, as of 2003, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal exists in over 230 countries world wide, touching over 119 million members according to David Barret, head of Global Evangelization Movement in Richmond, VA.

The movement was given a major endorsement by Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens, a leading liberal cardinal in the Catholic Church. Three popes have acknowledged the movement: Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI.

In March 1992, Pope John Paul II stated: "At this moment in the Church's history, the Charismatic Renewal can play a significant role in promoting the much-needed defense of Christian life in societies where secularism and materialism have weakened many people's ability to respond to the Spirit and to discern God's loving call. Your contribution to the re- evangelization of society will be made in the first place by personal witness to the indwelling Spirit and by showing forth His presence through works of holiness and solidarity.”


In the Philippines, the Ligaya ng Panginoon (LnP), founded in July 19, 1975 became the leading group in the charismatic renewal movement. It started as a simple prayer group held every Friday. Fr. Herb Schneider, S.J. who just arrived from Innsbruck, Austria, was invited to join them. By 1979, LnP was conducting two weekly charismatic prayer meetings one in Assumption Convent in San Lorenzo Village, Makati and another one in Christ the King Seminary in Quezon City. Around 800 people usually attended the Assumption prayer meeting every week while the other one had an average weekly attendance of 400. They were practically the biggest prayer groups in Metro Manila during that time. Women comprised about 80% of those who attended. The men stayed away from the prayer meetings, averse to the loud prayers and raising of arms in worship which characterized those meetings.

In one of his trips abroad, Fr. Herb, head of the coordinators of LnP was invited to attend a breakfast forum for men. The experience inspired him to form a similar one back in the Philippines. Together with some LnP businessmen, he started a breakfast meeting for businessmen which eventually led to what is known today as BCBP (Brotherhood of Christian Businessmen and Professionals). Among those who attended the prayer groups were faculty members from the UST College of Engineering. In time, this led to the first campus based evangelization of students known today as the CYA (Christ's Youth in Action).

So in 1980, the coordinators of LnP led by Fr .Herb, directed one of the Ligaya coordinators, Vic Gutierrez, to design an outreach program that could attract married couples toward a renewed Catholic life. They realized that to effectively renew society, a conversion of both spouses, and consequently families, to Christ was necessary.

Vic Gutierrez formed a team and, after much prayer and discernment, they decided to hold homebased Life in the Spirit Seminars (LSS). They wanted to try a new evangelization method one that could draw the men in. They invited married couples to a social evening in the home of Eli and Ophie Concepcion in Quezon City. Vic told his team: “Our strategy is to introduce these couples to a personal relationship with Jesus in a social setting. We will invite them to a social time, not to a prayer meeting. There, we will share with them God's invitation to a renewed life with Him.”

His team arranged the living room to exude a friendly, relaxing atmosphere. They engaged the invited couples in small groups, discussing the challenges and joys of raising a family in the modern world. Light snacks and drinks were served. Before the evening ended, Vic spoke to them about the strong need to support each other in caring for their families and for Divine Guidance in their role as parents. He closed the evening by inviting the couples to come again the next week and start meeting regularly. He said a quick prayer and asked someone to lead in a group singing.

In an interview with Vic Gutierrez, he recalls: “In the succeeding weeks, we held discussions and sharings following the topics of the LSS. The ambience in the host home was so unlike the atmosphere of a charismatic prayer meeting. In those days, charismatics were often regarded as oddballs. So, we didn't raise our hands in worship. We didn't close our eyes as we prayed. No loud clapping of hands nor of booming 'praise the Lord' clichés. The invited couples, including the husbands, were more relaxed and, thus, more open to listen. We succeeded in bringing them through seven weeks of the LSS. By November 1980, all six couples who finished this LSS joined the community.”

Soon, another LSS was held, and 16 couples came. These couples and an equal number of service team members could not fit in the living room of the Concepcions. So, the team sent the other half to the nearby house of Poy and Elvie Estrellado. They all completed the LSS but unlike the previous group of six couples, they could not become part of LnP because the coordinators decided to postpone the community weekend retreat which serves as the entry point for LnP membership.

Vic and his team thought of offering a course that would sustain the interest of these 16 couples and guide them toward Christian maturity while they were waiting to come into the Ligaya. They adapted a program used by The Word of God, a pioneer covenant community in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They modified the talks to suit the needs of the couples and added inputs of interest to the families. This became the first Christian Life Program (CLP).

But soon, Vic and his wife, Agnes, felt in their hearts that God had a greater plan. They sensed that God wanted the 16 couples to be the seed for a new movement for the renewal of families. Consulting with their assistant couple, Ed and Flory Montalvan and the rest of the team, they held the first CLP. Before the course ended, they had a name for the group Couples for Christ.

Vic recalls: “In May 1981, I was coming home from a meeting in Rome of the first Council of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services (earlier known as ICO) of which I was a member. I decided to pass by Jerusalem to pray for God's direction in this new ministry. As I visited and prayed in the holy shrines, I felt in my heart that God was urging us to continue with what we had planned to do to establish Couples for Christ. When I got home, I wrote the covenant of the CFC, which we would use at the closing of the CLP.”

Thus in June 1981, Vic and Agnes and Ed and Flory led the 16 couples in making their covenant to the Couples for Christ a family life outreach of Ligaya ng Panginoon community. These are the 16 couples:

1) Danny & Tess Aviado
2) Romy & Irene Arguelles
3) Chito & Shirley Borja
4) Tito & Tuding Collantes
5) Pete & Fely Cambel
6) Tony & Cora Espiritu
7) Manny & Ditas Garcia
8) Danny and Eggie de Guzman
9) Larry & Brenda de Guzman
10) Frank & Gerry Padilla
11) Monching & Baby Ramirez
12) Rey & Diday Saavedra
13) Boy & Elma Santillan
14) Jimmy and Malou Tan
15) Jun & Auring Tan
16) Jojo & Hedy Villegas


The 16 couples were divided into four cell groups called households where they would be formed in the life and spirituality of the new movement, Couples for Christ. Vic and Agnes trained four couples from the Ligaya to serve as the first household heads: Manny and Nida Sandoval, Manny and Josie Gaddi, Manny and Zeny Sy, Henry and Baby Hizon. Ed and Flory assisted Vic and Agnes until they were replaced by Ely and Nena Lademora.

The Christian Life Program (CLP) became the Christian initiation course of CFC. The strategy of introducing people to a renewed personal relationship with Jesus in a relaxed and friendly social setting proved to be very effective. The CLPs were held in the living rooms of the homes of CFC members. The warmth of personal relationships was a key factor in this type of evangelization. Personal evangelization was encouraged. As charismatic renewal gained wider acceptance, CLPs became bolder in their charismatic expression. Evangelization was brisk and, by the end of 1981, CFC had a total of 34 couples. Two years later, the CFC had grown to 160 couples.

Other groups involved in family apostolate began to take notice of the enthusiasm and commitment of the Couples for Christ. Fr. Ruben Tanseco, S. J. was particularly keen on the follow-up program which was part of the pastoral formation tract. He then invited CFC to tie up with Marriage Encounter. Couples for Christ started to conduct CLPs for their ME couples. However it was not pursued as other concerns later surfaced. In the meantime ,CFC was invited by Fr. Mark Lesage of Las Piñas and Msgr. Mercado of United Paranaque to introduce CFC to their parish. Two CLP teams were formed to serve in these parishes. Thirty couples in Las Piñas and 13 couples in United Paranaque were the graduates of the first parish-based CLP.

“CHARTING” a new course…

With the growth of CFC came many challenges. The rapid spread of the movement demanded that a clearly shared vision. In 1983, Vic formed and trained a pastoral team to help him lead and manage the growing movement. The team was composed of Ely Lademora, Raul Sarceda, Frank Padilla, Bobby Pilar, Popoy del Rosario, Pio Acampado, Danny Aviado and Jojo Villegas. Danny Aviado was later replaced by Carlos Salinas when Danny migrated to the U. S. Vic brought this team to a weekend planning session. There he wrote CFC's Statement of Mission while Raul Sarceda did the Statement of Philosophy.

By this time, CFC was beginning to receive many requests from all over the country to help in establishing family life apostolates. To address this need, Vic Gutierrez discussed with the pastoral team the idea of developing what he termed “exportable packages” -- a start up kit that would allow other provincial groups to establish new chapters with minimum help from CFC Manila.

Providentially, Ligaya member Raul Sarceda had resigned from his job to make himself more available to the work of Ligaya and its outreaches. Vic appointed him the first Executive Director of CFC and immediately put him to the task of developing the manuals of the CFC programs: CLP Manual, Household Heads' Manual, the Marriage Enrichment Manual and the other teaching courses of CFC. These manuals, together with audio teaching tapes, comprised the “exportable packages”. A number of overseas CFC chapters tremendously benefited from these materials. Considering CFC's limited resources, and that its overseas offices were set up and operated without much assistance from CFC leaders in Manila, these materials played a tremendous in helping to bring CFC's vision and mission.

Attention at this point was focused on developing and training leaders and imbuing them with the vision of CFC. A number of dedicated and committed leaders -- among them, Frank Padilla who was trained and appointed by Vic Gutierrez to replace Raul Sarceda as Executive Director when the latter moved his family to Malaybalay, Bukidnon in 1985 to help build a covenant community.

In 1983, upon the advice of the Ligaya Body of Coordinators, CFC was registered as a non-stock, non-profit corporation at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under the name: Couples for Christ Foundation Inc. The incorporators and members of the first Board of Trustees were:

1. Victorino B. Gutierez
2. Raul G. Sarceda
3. Francisco A. Padilla
4. Francisco F. del Rosario
5. Pio S. Acampado
6. Jose T. Villegas
7. Roberto Pilar
8. Carlos C. Salinas
9. Antonio O. Vasquez
10. Victor U. Gamboa

Under Vic's leadership, CFC spread out to other provinces and eventually to other countries. The succeeding leadership continued with as much passion in spreading the mission of CFC. In his exhortation at the CFC 9th anniversary, Vic challenged the CFC community: “Let us bring whoever we can into a personal relationship with Jesus just as we ourselves have experienced it. Let us populate this nation with people who shall live according to this new morality the life of God. It is our duty to God. It is our duty to our nation. It is our duty to ourselves and to our children the future generation.”

The members heeded Vic's call. By 1992, CFC had grown. The Spirit was leading the community to greater heights. It would not be long before the community would feel the Spirit's stirrings to include their children in their new-found life in the Lord.

It has been more than 26 years since that first group of Christians was introduced to Christ in a social setting. Vic continues to be amazed at how CFC has grown. He now says: “…Since 1981, Couples for Christ has grown beyond our wildest imagination. Today, I watch from the sidelines, amazed at what God has done and continues to do through Couples for Christ. I am grateful for the privilege of having been there in its beginnings.”

(In the next issue: The Split of 1993)


Download as a PDF file HERE.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The 15th CFC-HOLD International Conference will be held in Subic.

A message to all from Mina Francisco at CFC-HOLD:

The 15th Handmaids of the Lord International Conference (HOLD ICON), which will take place from April 18-20, 2008 shall be held definitely in Subic, Zambales, at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center (SBECC). Any conflicting information should be disregarded.

Any interested or confused party/member may also inquire directly with the HOLD secretariat at, or directly to Mina Francisco through

Here is the text of latest memo from Sis Didi Galsim:
03 March 2008

To HOLD Regional / Provincial Coordinators
HOLD Metro Manila Sector Coordinators

From Didi Galsim
International HOLD Coordinator

Subject 15th HOLD International Conference

Dear Sisters,

Our 15th HOLD International Conference on 18-20 April 2008 at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center (SBECC) is fast approaching. As you are campaigning for attendance in this important event, please be guided by the following:

  1. We would like to emphasize that this annual international conference is not only for leaders but also for members. We have been given permission to drop the word "leaders" from the title HOLD International Leaders Conference. And so, henceforth, this event will be known as the HOLD International Conference or HOLD Icon for short.
  2. We have been blessed by the good Lord with a substantial discount on the venue rental fee. And so we can now afford a bigger hall, praise God! We believe that He has arranged this because He wants as many of His Handmaids as possible to meet Him there. So, fellow servants of God, let us encourage and excite our sisters in each area to reach, or even exceed, the revised targets. (Please see the attached.)
  3. We would also like to ask you to personally invite the Provincial CFC Council / Metro Manila Sector CFC Governance Team, most especially the wives of our CFC leaders. Let us share the beautiful Icon experience with them.
  4. All HOLD Regional / Provincial Coordinators and HOLD Metro Manila Sector Coordinators are asked to attend the HOLD International Leaders Forum (HOLD ILF) on Sunday, 20 April 2008, 2:30 - 7:00 p.m. at the Vista Marina Hotel and Resort, SBMA. Dinner and fellowship will follow immediately after. Let us take this opportunity to meet and hear from other HOLD leaders from around the world. No substitution will be allowed in case a Regional / Provincial Coordinator or Metro Manila Sector Coordinator is not available. This activity, including the food, is free of charge.
  5. We have attached the Accommodation and Transportation Guidelines. Please read carefully and be guided accordingly.
  6. Please join us in praying and fasting for the success of our HOLD Icon.

The HOLD Icon is such a great blessing of the Lord for His women. Let us do our best, as HOLD leaders, to see to it that as many as possible are able to enjoy this blessing.

God bless us all!

Your Sister-in-Christ

Didi Galsim
You can download this memo as a PDF file for distribution HERE.

Apparently, the FFL has announced that their own HOLD ILC will be held on the same dates, but in Batangas.

There has been word going around that CFC's own HOLD venue was being diverted, and that misleading information is going around that the venue might have changed to Batangas. This is patently false.

Just to make things very, very clear:

the CFC-HOLD International Conference will be held in Subic, Zambales, at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center (SBECC).

If this isn't enough proof that having the same name isn't good for either group, then I don't know what is.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Nothing to Complain About

A heartwarming article in the Philippine Star website proves that CFC is on the right track, and because of it, the Aetas are now much better off, with nothing to complain about.

Gawad Kalinga reaches out to Aetas
By Patricia Esteves
Sunday, March 2, 2008

In a Gawad Kalinga village in Burog, Bamban town, Tarlac, neatly dressed Aeta children gather inside a Sibol classroom, GK’s pre-school facility, listening intently as their teacher reads books and counts numbers.

Their parents, meanwhile, are out in the field, harvesting fruits and vegetables or tending to livestock.

A few years back, Aeta children and their mothers picked through trash for bottles, metal scraps and newspapers that earned them around P50 a day, while others simply roamed around the city begging for food.

For a time, Aetas in Tarlac have been used to living in poverty, with misery and ugliness all around them, and people paying little or no attention to them.

But today, things are different. The 100 Aeta families in this town now live in brightly colored, clean and sturdy homes and are beneficiaries of free schooling and sustainable livelihood.

Apart from this, Singles for Christ (SFC) and Couple’s for Christ (CFC) members continue to care for the Aetas through various “Kapatiran” and fellowship activities meant to “reinforce GK’s thrust on building not just homes but more importantly, relationships.”

CFC members conduct values formation programs among the Aetas.

Last February 12-14, SFC members from Zamboanga Sibugay, Metro Manila, Tarlac, Canada, Australia, United States and the Middle East spent three days in GK Burog to bond and interact with the Aetas.

After having built more than 150 houses for the Aetas, GK said that by bringing volunteers to the Aeta sites, they are able to show that GK genuinely cares for them.

SFC members like Delson Villanueva, an engineer from Qatar who participated in the event dubbed “Kapatid, sa GK walang Iwanan,” said they did not only teach the Aetas but also learned their culture, history and way of life.

“The event wanted to highlight the beauty and the treasure within the Aetas. It also aims to awaken participants on some social issues affecting the Aetas,” GK champion Tony Meloto said.

‘Survivor series’

The SFC participants did not just construct houses but activities, patterned after the “Survivor Series”, were integrated in the building process.

A total of 33 participants were divided into three tribes such as Manwelek, Oyha, and Abukay, Ayta Mag-antsi for a large forest rat, deer and civet cat, respectively.

Some of the workshops/challenges were the “Hunt”, where participants were taught how to use the bow & arrow used by the Aetas for hunting; and archery.

The participants were given an overview of the history and culture of the Aetas and were oriented on the Mag-Antsi language of the Aetas.

The indigenous people harvest and sell papaya, the main source of income in GK Burog, for only P10 pesos per kilo (farm-gate price).

‘Love the other’

Filipino-American Justin Claravall said he felt a profound calling to “love the other” when he spent time with Aetas in Burog.

“When I first got off the minicab and saw the children playing, shouting, rolling on the dirty ground, a thought invaded my head: ‘These kids are dirty.’ How embarrassing it was for me to judge these kids so immediately,” Justin said, recalling his first visit to a GK site.

He said he reflected on his guilt and asked for God’s forgiveness and this drove him to be close to the children.

“After a couple days, the Aeta children returned love in spades. Little girls followed me around, hugging me and telling me they’ll cry when I leave,” Justin said.

“From the initial prejudice up to the time we left, I felt more accepted and I cared more for the well-being of the villagers, especially the children, who lavished me with so much affection,” he added.

In totality, he said the whole experience brought him closer to God by showing him that to love Him, he must learn to love his neighbors.

Justine was raised in California and is a member of the GK Builders Corp for six months.

Delson, who also spent time in GK Burog, was introduced to GK by SFC-Qatar. As an overseas Filipino worker (OFW), he realized that GK was the perfect vehicle for him to express his love to his poor kababayans, particularly street children.

“Everytime I do GK work, I’m very inspired because I know that it is full of love – love for people, love for country and love for God,” Delson said.

“It’s a different experience for me. We were very happy to be welcomed by the Aetas. You can see that they were very willing to learn and improve their lifestyle. They do not want to beg but they would rather crave for attention, understanding and love,” Delson said.

“My commitment to GK is to continue to support their program and as an OFW, I will continue promoting GK in our area in the Middle East particularly in Qatar. By God’s will, I want to be a full time GK worker someday. We in SFC-Qatar have a GK pledge and that is going to GK San Martin every year, that’s the place we want to build a village,” Delson said.

The Aetas’ homes, free school education and livelihood programs are part of GK’s Indigenous People (IP) program, which aims to help indigenous communities build ecologically sound and sustainable villages, sharing a common vision that is economically progressive, promoting social equity and providing a good quality of life.

“So we are bringing in the programs for health, education, food production together with improvement of shelter that respects the history, tradition of indigenous peoples,” said Meloto in an interview.

Their goal is to preserve the beautiful culture and unique qualities not only of Aetas in Pampanga, Zambales and Tarlac but also of the Mangyans in Mindoro, the Dumagats in Aurora and Rizal, the Palawonons of Palawans, the Bilaans, Tibolis, Mamawons, Subanens and other indigenous peoples in Mindanao.