By Jullie Yap Daza
Who is Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, founder and self-anointed leader of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ?
When I told my friends about the telegenic Pastor ACQ that I had belatedly discovered on cable TV one lazy afternoon, no one paid me any mind. Not after I described his million-dollar suit, silky in immaculate white, paired with a necktie in a pale, seemingly fragrant shade of lavender. Not after I tried to interest them in his message, that God loves and rewards a cheerful giver (not his exact words). Not even when I raved over the lavish flower-bedecked set, the better for an array of cameras to zoom in on a choir of Caucasian girls robed in satin, and a stage built for a superstar.
This superstar, on that singular episode that had me hooked for two hours (during which I intermittently read one chapter of a book, dried my hair, worked my cellphone), is not your baduy character from a hick town, this is a pastor named after the sun god who projects himself as a CEO, and he’s saying God doesn’t want us to be poor because He has riches enough to give and to multiply. If we would just ask.
Not for ACQ the corny, threadbare, time-worn psychology of “blessed are the poor”: You are the heirs to the royal kingdom where he – now I remember that billboard on EDSA in 2016 with the headline “Son of God” – will lead his flock to abundance and prosperity. Everything about his persona is a statement: his fashion sense, his private plane, his TV show, his aura of power and wealth, his leadership qualities acknowledged by a reported 6 million followers.
As coincidences go, two days after I saw that episode last year, I was at our “Bulong Pulungan” forum when a stranger chose a seat at my table and started talking about Pastor Quiboloy. No one knew why she was there, yet she adroitly struck up a conversation about what-else-but. It gave me the creeps that having just watched her spiritual leader on TV, she should now be telling me how much the congregation loves him, how he gives away 5,000 sacks of rice every day, how membership has been growing “for the good of the country.”
Could the stranger have been the Felina Salinas who readily owned up to Hawaiian police that $40,000 of the $350,000 found in the pastor’s plane last Thursday is hers? Nah, of course not.