This is not the typical “Juan tamad” story we might have heard from our parents or yayas. The common Juan story relates to the Filipino’s laziness and usually ends in tragedy or humiliation of poor Juan.
The story of Juan F. Ancheta typifies the industrious and diligent Filipino who is hard working, God fearing and successful.
Juan F. Ancheta grew up in San Andres, a remote coastal town in Tablas Island, Romblon. Born on May 19, 1928 to a very poor family of eleven siblings, Juan struggled to live a hard life in their barrio.
Traditional farming and fishing were the town’s livelihood because machines were still unavailable and a luxury during those times. The way of life in the barrio raised him to develop a strong body structure and determined spirit.
He was graduating high school when he passed the test to be one of their town’s sanitary inspector. However, his conversion to Christ through an evangelization team from CPU changed everything. His commitment to follow Christ was so intense that after his baptism on April 2, 1950 he decided to go to CPU in May and took up the Theology course.
Work student days at CPU
During his beginning months at Central Philippine University, Juan recalled being rough in ways, clumsy and his physique gave the CPU community the impression of a rural boy. He had the feeling that he is not fit to work in a city church. However, his unorthodox qualities proved to be an asset because it helped him survived and overcome the difficulties of college life.
He was about to quit school after two to three months for lack of financial support. Determined to finish his schooling, he approached Dr. Joseph Howard, the dean of the seminary. He begged for any kind of work.
Juan’s first job was to varnish the newly acquired chairs in Johnson Hall. Next he was assigned the janitorial jobs in the elementary building, which was then made of lumber.
As a work student, he polished the floor, cleaned the toilets and mowed the lawn. In order to mow the lawn of Elementary School, he had to borrow the lawn mower of Rev. Ralph George, who lived in one of the mission houses. He did not mind being seen by the throng of students as he pushed the lawn mower. A town mate of his recalled that many times he heard Juan singing while scrubbing the floor. That town mate remembered sharing pandesal with Juan for some short respite.
Weekend pastoral work at Ito Baptist Church
After two months in school, he was given a weekend assignment in Ito Baptist Church, Cabatuan as part of seminary training. The place was a Huk area. (Huk is the short term for HukBaLaHap which stands for Hukbo ng Bayan laban sa mga Hapon, a guerilla group which fought the Japanese army but its ultra nationalist stand after the Liberation made it an anti-government group similar to the NPA of today.) The Huk was so strong in Ito but he managed to establish the presence of Christian ministry in that area.
Juan was assigned as weekend pastor but was not intimidated by rich people because he strongly believes that he is a minister of God. Juan shares, “I may be clumsy but it is the work of God and not mine. Why should I be ashamed?” Apprehensive of his safety, CPU decided to pull Juan out of the area. Shortly after, the Huk rebels overran Ito.
Finding a partner in life
He believes that to avoid any idea of misconduct you have to woe somebody outside of your parish. He was looking for a person who can help in the ministry, one who loves serving God and has a strong Christian character.
He found these qualities with Nellie a dedicated person, honest and very independent. She got the qualities that would enhance the ministry. Nellie also studied Theology. Juan and Nellie’s calling into the ministry runs parallel. Both of them were faced with good opportunities when they decided to enter the seminary.
Juan and Nellie got married on May 23, 1958 in a simple wedding at the Johnson Chapel. He was so poor that after the wedding, he could only afford ice cream for his guests.
He intended to bring his wife to his boarding house after the wedding but a fellow pastor secretly gave him P10.00 to spend for a night in a downtown hotel. At that time, a night’s lodge was only six pesos.
Juan and Nelly are blest with two son’s, Junell and Jorge.
I almost shed tears when i read this article. Very inspiring. I’d been a work student in this university for five years and it molded me to be a better and strong person.
Dear Toto Jonan, You wrote a wonderful article about Manong Johnny. I do admire him and I thank you for writing about him. More power to you, dear friend. MM