News Release

Faithful and True: Pioneers in the Philippines (Mindanao)

Special Feature on Maximina and Isidro Rubio, Emerson and Pacita Abraham

Full-time missionaries began working in the Philippines in 1961. When the Manila Philippines Temple was dedicated in 1984, 23 years later, the Church had grown from a handful of Filipino members to more than 75,000 Latter-day Saints, 15 stakes, and numerous districts, wards, and branches. Today the growth of the Church continues at a rapid pace, with the number of Filipino members exceeding 800,000. On 28 April 2021, the Church will celebrate 60 years in the Philippines.

Missionary Work Begins in Mindanao

Less than one year after Cebu City was opened, two other cities in the southern islands were opened to proselyting by missionaries from the Southern Far East Mission. Bacolod City on Negros Island opened on 15 May 1967 and Iloilo City on Panay Island was opened in May 1967.

For almost a year President Rose used his available missionaries to expand proselyting work on the Island of Luzon, in and around Manila and to replace missionaries who finished their labors in the three cities opened in the southern Philippines, but no other new cities were opened until May and December of 1968. Davao City on Mindanao, the second largest island, was opened 20 May 1968 followed by Tacloban City, on the island of Leyte in December 1968. Missionary work flourished, with new Groups and Branch’s being organized in previously opened cities.

In 1969, five more cities were opened on the Island of Mindanao; Cagayan de Oro, 30 April 1969, General Santos, 29 April 1969, Butuan, October 1969, Ozamis, October 1969, and Iligan on 19 November 1969. The same year, Dumaguete, the second city on Negros Island was opened on 19 November 1969. Ormoc City, the second city on Leyte, opened 8 December 1969, bringing the total of new cities opened during 1969 to seven. The following year, 1970 saw five new cities open in the southern Philippines. On Mindanao, Pagadian opened 21 February 1970, and Zamboanga on 17 April 1970. On Samar Island, Catbalogan opened 20 April 1970, and Roxas, a second city on Panay Island also opened 20 April 1970.

Due to the rapid growth and success in the southern Philippine Islands, on 1 July 1974, the Philippines Mission was split. Raymond L. Goodson, one of the first four missionaries to serve in Manila as a young Elder in the Philippines in 1961, was called as President of the newly created Manila Mission and the new Cebu City Mission President was Carl D. Jones.


Maximina Rubio and Isidro Rubio

The original seed was carried and sown on the island of Mindanao, Philippines, by an American U.S. military soldier who landed with General Douglas McArthur on the Island of Leyte in 1944. This soldier, Dean Clair, never returned to the States but had chosen to stay permanently in his beloved Philippines. Brother Clair found his way to Pagadian, Zamboanga del Sur, a small town in Southern Mindanao, and married Sister Leona Seno, a Filipina and a native of Pagadian. From Pagadian, Brother Clair re-established his residence in Davao City after selling his business.

His wife, Leona, has a niece, Maximina Flores Rubio. She was a teacher studying at a university in Davao. Brother Clair had known, at this time that the Manila Philippines Mission has been opened and full-time missionaries were now doing proselyting work in the Philippines. He has not been in contact with the Church for at least 28 long years. Dean wrote to Church Headquarters in Salt Lake City and requested that a Church be established in Davao. Full-time missionaries were sent to Davao to contact him. Sister Maximina Rubio met them and was taught the gospel but could not be baptized without the consent of her husband, Isidro. When he learned that his wife was interested in joining the Church, he threatened to leave her.  Meanwhile, their 13-year old child Randy listened to the missionaries and decided to get baptized. He was among the first group in Davao to do so.

Maximina soon followed. She got baptized on 6 June 1969. One night, Isidro heard their son Randy offer a vocal prayer asking Heavenly Father to soften his heart and accept the truth. Touched by this prayer, Isidro was baptized on 14 December 1969. On 20 December 1969, Rene Rubio, the eldest son of the Rubio’s, was also baptized in Ozamis, Misamis Occidental in Mindanao, becoming the first person to be baptized in Ozamis. Their family became the pioneers in the area.

Emerson and Pacita Abraham

Maximina Rubio requested the full-time missionaries to come to Pagadian. Soon after, Elders Greenwood and Petty, who were assigned to open a group in Ozamis, were also directed to do part-time proselyting work in Pagadian from Thursday to Saturday each week.

As a result of this arrangement, Brother and Sister Armando Rodrigo were baptized. The missionaries, by the good twist of things, were introduced to Brother and Sister Emerson and Pacita Abraham. They were taught the gospel, and on 7 June 1970, were baptized near a beach in Tukuran, Zamboanga del Sur. They became the third pioneer family in Pagadian to join the Church.

Two months later, Pagadian was organized to become a group by President DeWitt Smith, president of the Manila Philippines Mission. About six more months later Pagadian became a branch. Emerson Abraham was called as branch president with Isidro T. Rubio and Amando Rodrigo as his counselors.

In 1976 Brother Abraham left government service in order to concentrate on church service and to tend to their family business. This venture allowed them to earn enough money to travel around and minister to the saints. He served as district president in Cagayan de Oro. When this district was split, he was again called to become the district president of Ozamis District. After a few years and the creation of Pagadian District, he was set apart to lead this newly created district. In 1995 he was released following a 20-year service.

Today, the prayer of Elder Gordon B. Hinckley, that “many thousands who shall receive this message will be blessed,” continues to be recognized and fulfilled as evidenced by the phenomenal growth of the Church through the efforts of dedicated members and missionaries. This short summary of important events gives only a glimpse of the past, as the great work of the Lord will continue to be hastened in the future.

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