[Credit - SSD]

Southern Asia-Pacific

Adventists in the Philippines Celebrate 50 Years Since AIIAS’ Establishment

The institution recently published its first history book commemorating the events between the institution’s inception and the present—AIIAS: The First 50 Years.

Philippines | Sharnee Zamora

The year 2022 marked 50 years since the Far Eastern Division’s founding vote to establish the Theological Seminary in 1972. Instead of attempting an anniversary celebration last year despite pandemic restrictions, the Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies (AIIAS) decided to postpone its celebration until 2023. This extension of the timeline allowed the completion of the history book project, while people involved in the project were given the option to come and join in the milestone festivities.

AIIAS History Book Launch at SSD

AIIAS has published its first history book commemorating the events between the institution’s inception and the present. AIIAS: The First 50 Years was authored by Dr. Shawna Vyhmeister, a former AIIAS faculty member. The book was first released during the 50th Founding Anniversary Celebration of AIIAS, beginning with a book signing event at the Southern Asia-Pacific Division (SSD) Midyear Meetings on May 2, 2023.

History Exhibit Opening

The AIIAS Leslie Hardinge Library staff and the Physical Plant Department collaborated to set up a library exhibit featuring the historical shapers of AIIAS, the people who came to AIIAS through the years, the leaders who developed as students at AIIAS, and how the place looked from its modest beginnings.

From what used to be a coffee plantation and a few hectares of land covered with coconut trees, AIIAS now stands with its beautiful Asian-themed architecture featured across campus. From its humble beginnings grew a campus that serves as the temporary home of leaders, both present and future, who come to upgrade their education to be better equipped for their work.

Faculty and staff celebrated the opening of the exhibit at the library lobby on Wednesday, May 3, 2023. As AIIAS president Ginger Ketting-Weller stated, “This exhibit is here to remind us that there were whole stories, complex people, problems, events, joys, celebrations, challenges, people born, people falling in love, and people mastering hardships. All of this was already happening before most of us arrived at AIIAS, but it’s part of the story of this institution.” She urged exhibit visitors to take note of the power of storytelling in pictures to help them feel like a part of the history from the beginning.

Alumni Homecoming Dinner

The Alumni Homecoming dinner provided a special opportunity to connect alumni with AIIAS employees, board members, and retirees, some of whom served at AIIAS from its first days as an FED seminary. Attendees were treated to a wonderful dinner with live music in a truly spectacular, one-of-a-kind event for all who took part in the occasion.

Usually, during the May banquet, employees and board members join in an annual celebration of God’s goodness to AIIAS throughout the school year. The board chair shares the news from the meetings with an emphasis on the improvement of AIIAS, advancements in rank are announced, milestone and service awards are presented, and faculty receive their awards for scholarly achievements.

This year, the event included news and recognition, but a special historical focus was given through pictures and videos. Stories were shared by board members, alumni, and retirees who served at AIIAS from the time it began in Baesa, Caloocan City, then moving to Puting Kahoy, and eventually settling in its current location in Silang, Cavite. Extemporaneously shared memories by the former students and staff members became a highlight of the evening. These gave rise to observations that there should be a second history book, full of these personal anecdotes that were set in the context of the journey of AIIAS.

Campus Clean-up, Cultural Program, PNPA Silent Drill, and Health Fair

Early Friday morning (May 5), the AIIAS community of faculty, staff, and children gathered with their cleaning materials to collect all pieces of visible trash and dried-up foliage on campus. The participation of the volunteers was appreciated as they prepared the campus to be beautiful for the remainder of the weekend’s anniversary celebration.

On the same day, campus residents and AIIAS Academy students gathered at the AIIAS Siew Huy Auditorium to witness a mini-cultural show. The AIIAS Public Health Department hosted the event, which was put on in collaboration with the Student Association. Cheers of excitement arose from the crowd as each community showcased a bit of its culture through interpretative and folk dances.

Invited to join the AIIAS community for this event were the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) Batch 2024 cadets, under the direction of PNPA chief of staff, General Alfredo Dangani, and PNPA director, General Eric Noble. Following the cultural show, the cadets proceeded to the soccer field to present their slow drill exhibition for the AIIAS community to enjoy. The cadets performed with dignity and precision, demonstrating discipline through an organized routine and fancy drill work with their weapons. While bystanders watched, several young community members were allowed to carry an unarmed four-kilogram rifle with supervision to demonstrate that cadet skills are no easy feat.

Following the drill, the PNPA Batch 2024 cadets were treated to a holistic health fair at the gymnasium. They were systematically introduced to CELEBRATIONS, an acronym for 12 principles highlighting healthy practices: Choices, Exercise, Liquid, Environment, Belief, Rest, Air, Temperance, Integrity, Optimism, Nutrition, Social Support, and Services. AIIAS students from both schools provided stations to explain the importance and application of each principle. The cadets not only demonstrated fitness but also were treated to various activities that increased their knowledge about the importance of healthy lifestyles and strengthened their teamwork skills. They enjoyed a relaxing massage and took part in a free counseling session ending with prayer. A special lunch followed.

Worship Celebration, International Potluck

To highlight gratitude to the Lord for His faithfulness throughout the 50 years of AIIAS history, a special Sabbath School service featured the pioneering leaders of AIIAS through an interview with panel members Dr. Nancy Vyhmeister, Drs. Shawna and Ronald Vyhmeister, Dr. Mi Hyang Song, and Drs. Evelyn and Reuel Almocera. The participants shared their experiences from the transition period of AIIAS from Puting Kahoy to Silang, focusing on God’s goodness during that time.

During the divine service, Ketting-Weller’s sermon, “Still I Will Praise You,” began with a story about an experience she had as a 17-year old missionary kid traveling in Thailand. “Praise the Lord, the tractor’s broken” was the repeated theme as she related the story of Pat Gustin, a missionary at Chiang Mai Adventist Academy, whose plans were derailed after receiving news that the school’s tractor had broken, yet she gave praise to God. Ketting-Weller encouraged worshipers to praise the Lord for hardships or disasters that may come into one’s life. In order to do this, she stated, you have to hold three assumptions:

  • Your life’s story is part of the bigger story of God. First, one must assume one’s life story is about what God is doing, not “what I am doing.” In every hardship or circumstance, it is important to focus on the question “How?” more than on the question “Why?” How is God going to bring good out of a particular hardship situation?
  • God’s story is full of hardships and crises. Second, Ketting-Wellert provided an overview of God’s story as reflected in the lives of the Bible characters. She pointed out that their lives were full of mayhem, misery, and crises. Pairing this with the various challenges faced by AIIAS in recent years, the president emphasized that as we understand the great controversy story, we know AIIAS can also expect hardships and crises. They will come because the devil is a formidable foe, often stronger than we are, but not stronger than God is.
  • God’s story has a happy ending. Lastly, Ketting-Weller pointed out that we know God’s story in the great controversy will end happily, and that, too, is the case for AIIAS, one of His institutions. She noted that even chapters in the story that contain crises will end happily. She noted that this had happened with the procurement of the Presidential Decree for AIIAS, discovered by AIIAS leaders nearly a year after it was signed while they were starting to look to other countries for a better home for AIIAS.

Ketting-Weller then moved to a personal application of the message. “Just as Pat Gustin said, ‘Praise the Lord, the tractor’s broken,’ we can say, ‘Praise the Lord!’ … Whatever it is, whether you’re in a time of hardship and crisis today, let me remind you that God is faithful to listen. Your past and present are a preparation for your future with me. I am with you. Keep moving forward. Trust My promises. God’s story is full of hardships and crises, but God’s story has a happy ending.” The sermon ended with a special song by Himig, the AIIAS staff women’s trio, singing the song “Still I Will Praise You.”

The Sabbath service was followed by an international potluck, a tradition at AIIAS where an array of dishes ranging from staple meals to desserts were shared by each of the regional or national communities at AIIAS. Serving table themes ranged from African to South American, from Filipino to European, and more. An international potluck is a highly anticipated event for all who have been at AIIAS at one point or another.

Milestones 5.0 Fun Run

To end the 50-year celebrations, Sunday morning’s Milestones 5.0 Fun Run was enjoyed by novice and seasoned runners of all ages. Families participated in the five-kilometer and five-mile walk/run around the AIIAS campus, and refreshments were distributed afterward. Finishers received a shirt, while all went home with souvenirs, photos, and happy memories of the event.

“There has been no one particular ‘Moses.’ Each leader, each person who has contributed, has moved this institution forward. It is God who has been faithful to us,” said Ketting-Weller. “In these 50 years, it is God who has built what has happened, and everybody else has contributed little bits and pieces to it.”

AIIAS gives special thanks to the entire community for its participation and support in each of the activities, as well as to the organizers for their hard work in preparing for each event, making every activity worthwhile. In all these things, AIIAS gives glory to God for His faithfulness throughout the last 50 years. What a joy it has been to celebrate as AIIAS continues to develop leaders for God’s mission. AIIAS, press on!

The original version of this story was posted on the Southern Asia-Pacific Division website.