I Salute Henry G. Cassell

By Eusebio Tanicala

As a student of the Bible and church history since 1960, I often heard the name H.G.Cassell as the one who continued on the Philippine work which was started by George Pepperdine and George Benson. George Benson taught for about 6 months in the Mansalay-Roxas area of Oriental Mindoro in 1927 then left for the States. Brother H.G. Cassell was sent over to the Philippines by the Southwest Church of Christ that met in Los Angeles, California where George Pepperdine was a member. H.G. Cassell came over to the Philippines in 1928. He and his wife stayed until 1945 and were repatriated to the United States when the University of Santo Tomas concentration camp was liberated by the U.S.Army from the Japanese Imperial Army.

Few of us in the Philippines know and feel the influence of H.G. Cassell in the growth of the Philippine work. Which is why I write this article to give honor to him and his wife.

In September 1999 while I was a guest in the home of brother Domingo Camaganacan and sister Veny Villanueva-Camaganacan in Ibaan, Batangas, I was introduced to an old lady seated in a wheel chair. She was then 93 years old but still possessed good remembrance of the distant past. This old lady was the mother of sister Veny Villanueva-Camaganacan and widow of the late brother Isidro Villanueva, long time evangelist in the Mindoro provinces.

She immediately recounted that she was taught and baptized by Henry Cassell in 1928 in Calapan, Mindoro. That was the very first time that I heard the name Henry Cassell. For 38 years what I had been hearing was H.G.Cassell. And sister Veny Villanueva-Camaganacan showed me a picture of Mr/Mrs Henry G. Cassell sent to them in December 1963. This picture was published in the August 2006 Word Ministry.

Another information Mrs. Isidro Villanueva gave me was that she knew of Pedro Asada who was the preaching partner and interpreter of Henry G. Cassell in the Mindoro work. For many years, we had also been tracing the background and family of the late Pedro Asada. Mrs. Isidro Villanueva told me that Pedro Asada brought his family to Lanao, Mindanao before the outbreak of the Pacific War. That one of Pedro Asada’s daughter, Aurora by name, at that time newly married was left behind and that Aurora is the mother of Eliseo Sikat. Many tiny bits of information were being pieced together.

Henry G. Cassell and Pedro Asada expanded the work in Mindoro from 1928 to the outbreak of the Second World War. Henry G. Cassell and his wife were kept by the Japanese Imperial Army in the University of Santo Tomas Concentration Camp from 1942 until the camp was liberated by the U.S. Army in 1945.

Few of us in the Philippines know that Henry G. Cassell made a trip to Pinaring which is now part of Cotabato City together with Pedro Asada before the Pacific War broke out. Pinaring was the temporary settlement of farmers arriving from Luzon. Among the settlers was brother Antonio Villanueva and his family who were identified with the Samahang Tagapagpalaganap in Nueva Ecija. Antonio Villanueva was an active member of the Church of Christ/Christian Church group. This information is part of the recollection written down this year of 2008 by sister Minnie Villanueva-Belo. Here is part of her recollection quoted from a copy shared to me by brother Dominador Belo of Tacloban City when I visited his home in August 2008:

“While these converts were in Pinaring, a missionary, Henry G. Cassell, arrived with Pedro Asada. They expounded the Bible truths including the prohibition of eating blood and the use of instrumental music.”

It was this missionary journey to Pinaring by Pedro Asada and Henry G. Cassell that convinced several leaders of the group organized by Antonio Villanueva that, indeed, eating of blood and instrumental music in worship were prohibited by the New Testament. From that time on the leaders of the Pinaring group like Cornelio Alegre and Laureano Belo, among others, started discussing with Antonio Villanueva to severe his ties with the Samahang Tagapagpalaganap. Consequently, Antonio Villanueva severed his ties with the Samahang Tagapagpalaganap.

Were it not for this missionary journey of Henry G. Cassell and Pedro Asada to the Pinaring resettlement, very likely, Antonio Villanueva, Laureano Belo, Cornelio Alegre and many others would have stayed with the Samahang Tagapagpalaganap or the Church of Christ/Christian Church. After the Second World War, it was this group that produced self-supporting evangelists who planted congregations in the old Cotabato province and in Zamboanga. From this same group came out congregational leaders that were established in other Cotabato towns like Tangtangan, Midsayap, Koronadal among others.

Brother Domingo Camaganacan, my host in 1999 in Batangas, belongs to a family converted by Antonio Villanueva from 1937-1939 in the Pinaring, Cotabato resettlement.

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