Brother Eli Soriano of Ang Dating Daan has died, the ministry said Friday. He was 73.
At the time of his death, Ang Dating Daan has branched out from its TV roots to live broadcasts on YouTube and Facebook. Aside from English and Filipino, Ang Dating Daan also broadcasts in Portuguese, for its large Brazilian audience, and in Spanish.
Generations of Filipinos will associate Soriano with the Tagalog verb for read: basa. That was Soriano's trademark, for every imaginable question, he had an answer from the bible and would summon his pastors to read it with the imperative: basa.
Here's the story of Soriano and Ang Dating Daan, according to his official biography.
Bro Eli grew up in Pampanga
Soriano was born in Pasay City to Triunfo Soriano and Catalina Fernando on April 4, 1947. His father, a foreman, raised his brood of eight (the evangelist was seventh) in Pampanga.
A shy kid, Soriano started school a year late and often skipped classes. He studied hard only after he was left out at a recognition ceremony.
By the 1960s, he was president of the student council and consistent valedictorian while serving as a substitute teacher.
He started reading the bible in high school
Soriano started reading the bible just a few weeks shy of his high school graduation. He felt the bible gave him "knowledge and wisdom unlike anything" he read on textbooks. He stopped attending school.
His parents were members of the Church of God.
However, Soriano refused to join his parents in church gatherings, until his father slapped his bottom with a slipper. After they came home from that service, he read the bible from Genesis onwards, for 12 hours until 4 a.m. the next day.
Days later, on April 7, 1964, Soriano considered himself being "born in the spirit." He wanted the presiding minister in their village to baptize him as a minister but refused because he was too young, then only 17.
Bro Eli was an eager pastor
Soriano had a mentor, Bro. Nicolas Perez. He started as a transcriber and was later trusted by Perez to identify topics for their services.
It was around this time that he met a young Daniel Razon, a popular broadcaster who would become the face of Ang Dating Daan alongside Soriano.
When Perez died in 1975, he gave Soriano the only Church Minister title ever given in the organization. Perez's death split the ministry into three, with Soriano leading one group.
Soriano registered the Members Church of God the Pillar and Ground of the Truth before the SEC in the 1980s.
Ang Dating Daan started on radio
Soriano believed he couldn't reach the entire Philippines without tapping mass media. He started Ang Dating Daan on DWWA 1206 kHz.
It took off on GMA Network's DZBB, where popular host Don Manolo Favis gave him a regular guest slot. At the same time, the ministry also aired on DWAR, DZME, DZMD, DWAD, DWAN, DZXQ.
Ang Dating Daan moved to TV in 1983 on IBC 13 with a three-person team -- Soriano, Razon (who was still in high school at that time) and Sis. Luz Cruz.
Soriano brought the food, Razon was the technical hand while Cruz was the producer, researcher and makeup artist.
'Ask Bro Eli' was the winning formula
It was Razon who suggested to Soriano to invite people to a gathering where they would ask the Ang Dating Daan founder questions.
This was the start of their trademark "Bible Exposition" where common folk would ask every imaginable question and Soriano would answer them with specific bible verses.
The expositions took off and soon enough, Soriano and his panel of pastors wearing barong tagalogs were touring basketball courts and auditoriums around the country.
Ang Dating Daan online was inevitable
The Ang Dating Daan website was launched in 2000 and riding on the bible expo formula, its biggest draw was Ask Bro. Eli, The Bible Will Answer.
In 2004, their church was renamed to Members Church of God International, reflecting their goal to go global.
'Basa' takes flight, goes abroad
With Ang Dating Daan present on the airwaves and on cyberspace, Filipinos began associating Soriano with basa the imperative.
"For those who have listened to him preach even for just five minutes, the term is an unmistakable staple and signal that the statements following suit would be verses from the Bible," according to his biography.
By 2007, Soriano's bible expos were being held in the U.S., London and Singapore. He also started blogging on Wordpress, publishing “Dissecting the Worst Mass Murder in American History” and “Is There Another Earth?”
In 2008, Soriano flew to Brazil and got an interpreter for O Caminho Antigo, that's Portuguese for Ang Dating Daan. Brazil would become his biggest ministry outside the Philippines with 400 locales.