There are so many blogs and news articles online that talk about the origins of Couples for Christ. And it sounds like a drama played over many, many years. You get to read so many names, from different places and organizations. But rarely do you hear from the people who were actually there.
Here’s an account of the start of Couples for Christ from someone who was really there – Gerry Padilla:
“When we joined the group that was to become Couples for Christ in 1981, we only had two children, two boys. Frank was an impossible man to be married to, so every day, I would cry out to God, “Lord, I think I made the wrong choice. I want to return him to his mother but she won’t accept him either. I want our marriage to last, but how will I do it? I know I’m not bad looking, but the problem is I don’t know where he’s looking.”
God heard me. In January 1981, Tony Ganal, a friend of mine, came over. I was already in the charismatic renewal but we were all “desperate housewives”. There were around 15 of us who went to regular prayer meetings every Wednesday and all of us were praying for our husbands. Tony said “Gerry, why don’t you bring Frank to the Life in the Spirit seminar?” I replied, “I can’t because he doesn’t listen to me.” But you know, my feminine genius suddenly kicked into gear. I told Tony “Let’s make it a party. I’m sure Frank will go if it’s dinner.” And so he did.
I remember telling Tony to make sure that there would be other men there or else I’m dead. And so when we went to that dinner, we were around 16 couples. And I guess Frank was surprised when a Jesuit priest, Fr. Herb Schneider, began giving a talk. I vividly remember that Fr. Schneider wore checkered pants. A Jesuit priest wearing checkered pants, can you believe that? I also remember thinking that this would probably be the last time Frank would attend. So I was surprised when the leaders there asked who among the group would like to return for the next talk and I saw Frank’s hand was raised! That started our walk with the Lord as a couple.
Every week we would be there and it wasn’t all exciting. You are all aware that some of us were fast asleep at some of the talks during our own Christian Life Programs (CLPs) [now called Christian Life Seminar or CLS]. And this is how I know that it is really the Holy Spirit who works in us and allows us to finish what He starts in us. It is really the Holy Spirit who, first, brings in the couple, second, allows them to remain in the program for the whole 13 weeks [now 9 weeks], and third, allows them to stay as members of CFC for years and years.
So after a few weeks of attending that first LSS in 1981, we continued meeting weekly, and further talks were given. And sometime in June of that year, some of us said, why don’t we call ourselves something? Nobody had any particular name at that time. I can’t remember now who said it, but since we were all couples and we were all there for Christ, why not call ourselves Couples for Christ? There wasn’t any magic attached to that name then, but we liked it and so that was what we called our group.
To my amazement, it was Frank who began to really be passionate about our involvement in CFC. I, who was desperately praying for him earlier, could only stand in awe at how changed he was. I remember one particular day after we had already been attending the regular weekly meetings. We were late for one weekly meeting because I had to feed him at home, and Frank got upset. So he said, “next time I don’t want to be late for a household meeting, I’d rather not eat than be late for a household meeting.” And that’s why he’s thin.
So in the beginning, CFC was only for couples. The rest of the family would come later. But the Spirit was so wise in allowing us to begin with couples because usually for a couple, the husband would be very quiet and the wife would be very talkative. So what CFC did for couples (really we women decided, which is very smart of us) was to allow our men to shine. That’s why in the beginning only the men were giving talks. I remember when Frank gave his very first talk on “Who is Jesus Christ?” he wrote his talk and memorized it. I was sitting at the back and I had his talk with me, and to my amazement, he really said it word for word! He was so nervous but he gave a beautiful talk because he prepared for the talk, he learned who Jesus Christ is in his life. Both of us continue to learn this.
And so from that initial year, we continued on in CFC, experienced the love of more people in more households, went on to more activities and more missions and saw the Holy Spirit working not just in our lives and our families but in our country and the whole world.”
Who were those first 16 couples?
- Frank & Gerry Padilla
- Danny & Tess Aviado
- Romy & Irene Arguelles
- Chito & Shirley Borja
- Tito & Tuding Collantes
- Pete & Fely Campbel [Cambel]
- Tony & Cora Espiritu
- Danny & Eggie de Guzman
- Larry & Brenda de Guzman
- Monching & Baby Ramirez
- Manny & Ditas Garcia
- Rey & Diday Saavedra
- Boy & Elma Santillan
- Jimmy & Malou Tan
- Jun & Auring Tan
- Jojo & Hedy Villegas
And, 30 years after, where are they now? Thanks to Facebook, the internet and a lot of common friends – we were able to track them down all over the world.
Frank & Gerry Padilla
Frank is the Servant General of Couples for Christ Foundation for Family and Life. Gerry is active in pro-life circles around the country. They are active in global evangelization work, are members of the Pontifical Council for the Family, and reside in Antipolo, Philippines.
They now have 5 children and are going to have their 5th grandchild in 2011. Ramon is an entrepreneur (Browhaus and The Strip) in New York. Xavy is a missionary and is married to Des with 2 (going on 3) kids – Sabine and Aida. Vania, a mompreneur, is married to Santi with 2 kids – Santino and Bella. Lil (also an entrepreneur) and Josh (a student) are in Manila.
Romy & Irene Arguelles
When CFC started, they were raising a family. All 4 of their children have now married and have left home. They are now grandparents to 3 beautiful girls – with a 4th granddaughter to be born in January. All their children were raised in the CFC environment.
They now reached retirement age. Romy has retired from work while Irene is planning to retire soon. They both love to travel overseas. During these travels, they visit CFC communities in various US cities, Canada, France, England, and most recently, Spain.
They are now devoted grandparents.
Pete & Fely Campbel [Cambel]
Pete lives in Garland, Texas with his children Audy and Aurie. Pete continues to be an elder, and attends, community meetings with Families for Christ in Dallas – a community where his family is very involved in.
Fely has since passed away. Picture below is of: (From left front) Ady Cambel (4th child); Pete Cambel; Celia Solis (Eldest – now deceased). (From left top) Armand Cambel (5th); Aureo Cambel (3rd). Not in picture are Fely Cambel and Brenda de Guzman (2nd) [who was married to Larry de Guzman (also part of the first 16 couples)].
Tony & Cora Espiritu
Tony is a member of Couples for Christ Foundation for Family and Life – and is a leader in the ministry of Servants for Family and Life, especially in Novaliches.
Below is a picture of their family with tita Cora. Tony and Cora, their two (2) children Eric (with his wife Joy) and Emmie (with her husband William Cortez). Inspired by their involvement in CFC since 1981, their two children both joined CFC immediately after they got married. They got involved to the Community until they were given household and unit for their service.
Cora joined the Lord on February 27, 1997.
The photo below (from Tony) shows household meeting of their group in their house in 1981. This is just one of the first four (4) household groups that composed the first 16 couples of CFC.
Second Row: Pete Cambel, Fely Cambel (+), Baby Collantes, Tuding Collantes, Shirley Borja (+), Cora Espiritu (+), Remy de Guzman (+), Josie Gaddi, and Chito Borja (+).
Danny & Eggie de Guzman
From 2005 to the present, Danny is pastoring Christ’s Commission Fellowship (CCF) Marikina with an average of 365 worshippers. Eggie is full time Pastor’s wife, helping in his ministry work. Prior to 2005 he pastored several pastors in another church. From CFC years, they continued to minister to couples and families together with our family.
They have 3 sons who are now married and have 5 grandchildren. Richard is married to Odelyn – a full time housewife attending to their two children – JR and Jasmine Ruth. Richard is with Nestle Philippines as Asst. Manager, IT Support Group. Francis, who is with Emerson Process Management as a Technical Specialist, is married to Maribeth – a full time housewife with 2 children – Mikayla and Nicole. Vincent is married to Charmaine with a son – Caleb. Vincent is Courseware and multimedia developer for IBM Business Services.
Larry & Brenda de Guzman
Both Larry and Brenda have since passed away.
Manny & Ditas Garcia
Manny and Ditas are member of CFC Global Mission Foundation, wherein Manny is a member of the International Council. They have four children.
Jimmy & Malou Tan
Jimmy and Malou, and their family, went on mission to China from 1990 to 1994. Jimmy is currently a licensed architect and a pastoral counselor with a MA in Pastoral Ministry in Family and Counseling. He also is a Candidate for a Ph.D in Developmental Psychology: Major in Family & Child. Malou is a licensed interior designer, a pastoral counselor and a Board Member of the Council of Interior Design Educators. She is a professor at the College of Fine Arts and Design, U.S.T; and has a MA in Guidance and Counseling.
They have three children: Stephanie Joyce who is married and with an MA in Architecture, Germany. She is teaching at De La Salle University-St. Benilde. James Emmanuel passed away at 12 years old. Elizabeth Ruth finished Advertising Management at De La Salle University and now works at Associated Advertising, Hyderabad, India.
Jojo & Hedy Villegas
Jojo took an early retirement from his corporate job at 3M Philippines at the age of 55 to go on fulltime mission work for Familia, an outreach of the Ligaya ng Panginoon Community. He did active mission work until he had a stroke in 2003 which forced him to stop traveling.
Their eldest daughter Tricia is baking full time and operates Pink Sugar Classic Desserts which specializes in Dessert Buffets. Their youngest son Kokoy is currently a Vice President and Mancom Member of both First Gen and Energy Development Company (EDC). Kokoy is married to Rica and have 3 year old twins – Nino and Gaita.
Jojo and Hedy together with their daughter Tricia remain active members of the Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon Community.
Tito & Tuding Collantes
Tito and Tuding are active members of Bo Sanchez’ Light of Jesus community. Tito is now 75 and Tuding is 77. They just celebrated their birthday last Nov. 16 and 15 respectively.
Tito is a Lay Minister and Tuding is an Usherrette. Tito is also an extrordinary minister in St. Jude Thadeus parish.
They are now living in Las Pinas. Unstoppable still as you could imagine.
Chito & Shirley Borja
Both Chito and Shirley have since passed away.
Jun & Auring Tan
Jun and Auring are now based in California. They are part of a Charismatic Prayer Group in Artesia/Cerritos. They also have a group called The Lord’s vineyard.
Monching & Baby Ramirez
Monching and Baby are members of Ligaya ng Panginoon, and are based in Washington state in the USA. They actually clarify that they were not members of Couples for Christ (though in history books, they will be remembered as part of the first 16 couples).
Danny & Tess Aviado
Danny and Tess are now based in the Toronto, Canada. And are still members of Ligaya ng Panginoon. And as of press time we are waiting for pictures from them.
Rey & Diday Saavedra (still in search of them!)
Boy & Elma Santillan (still in search of them!)