News about the death of Bro. Eliseo “Eli” Soriano sent shock waves among his millions of followers Friday morning, two days after he appeared in a bible study over his long-running program, “Ang Dating Daan.”
The announcement was made by Members Church of God International (MCGI), the religious organization he served for 56 years. The 73-year-old Pampanga-born preacher (he turns 74 this April 4) has been based in Brazil, according to his website, where he has been spearheading his evangelistic and charitable work.
Soriano is well-known for his biblical expositions, where he urges the faithful to find the truth from the Bible. Aside from his famous expression “Basa,” an invitation to refer to particular Bible passages, he would often be heard telling his flock, “Wang kang magpatumpik-tumpik. Pagkakasumpong mo ng mabuti, gawin mo agad”—which means, according to one follower, to abide and be faithful to the Words of God as soon as one finds it.
According to one MCGI member’s post on Facebook, Soriano “stood for his faith and biblical principles” and “did what he could do to preach the undefiled word of God, expose the deceit in religion, and answer queries on matters of life.”
The tough-talking evangelist’s very direct, no-holds barred approach of “exposing” biblical truths, got him into heated debates with various religious sects, like the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) and the Roman Catholic Church. One even led to his conviction—over libelous remarks against Jesus Miracle Crusade International Ministry head Wilde Almeda.
The making of a preacher
With his hard-hitting comments on his program, it’s hard to imagine Soriano a shy and introverted boy. In an interview that aired on UNTV, however, Soriano admitted he had a severe case of inferiority complex when he was a child.
“Nagtatago sya sa aparador, minsan sa ilalim ng kama para huwag syang makausap. Minsan kahit kamag-anak namin ayaw niyang makipag-usap,” his brother Robert shared.
Because of this shyness, he often refused to attend school. He would make excuses—fake an asthma attack or slide on a muddy slope—so he could skip classes. He would only come in once or twice in a week. No wonder he barely passed his subjects.
But something in one of their recognition rites motivated the young Eliseo to overcome his shyness. Seeing his classmates bearing medals struck something in him. “Nagkaroon ako ng pagnanasa sa puso ko na patunayan [sa mga guro at kaklase ko] na hindi ako bobo,” he recalled in the interview. “Naiintindihan ko ang ginagawa nila. I was just too shy to volunteer, to answer questions, to raise my hands.”
From then on, he started excelling in class. In secondary school, there were times he would be tasked to act as a substitute teacher. He remembered being in third year and asked to teach fourth year students. That he, said, opened his mind to the “thrill of teaching, the honor, the prestige” of the profession. He was also elected student council president and became a consistent valedictorian.
His teachers, even the school principal, saw the many things he could be: a chemical engineer, a professor, a good doctor, or a scientist. But young Eli’s mind was not yet set on anything. “I didn’t have a dream of being anybody,” he said in the interview. What he knew for sure was that he loved science, life, and reality.
Faith and religion
Something also puzzled him at that time—why was he not interested in attending the Catholic classes provided for Catholic students like him? Instead, he enjoyed being outside the classroom—joining students from other religious groups (Protestants, Muslims, and Jehova’s Witnesses etc.) and discussing their religion.
In a November 2020 interview with Rab Chana’s podcast on Spotify called “Happiness Now,” Soriano shared that he came from a very religious family and was actually reared in a Catholic environment. His mom was a devout Catholic, the type who would walk on her knees to the church altar. His father used to be a sacristan. At least five of his cousins are Catholic priests. He also grew up under the care of a Catholic aunt. But Catolicism never appealed to him.
“Outside [the classroom], we’re discussing things like, ‘Si Kristo ba tao?’ ‘Si Kristo ba ay Diyos?” I didn’t know about the Bible then,” he shared in the interview. So he began to seek the answers. “That opened my mind about religion.” Little did he know he was already preparing for his future.
According to his biography, Soriano started reading the Bible and attending the Church of God community in 1964 through the prodding of his father. Three days after his 17th birthday, on 7 April 1964, he was “born in the spirit” and a couple of years after, decided to fully dedicated his life to the ministry. He became a preacher, or as he put it “living a life of investigations among religions.”
He trained under Bro. Nicolas Perez, who led the church from 1928 until his death in May 1975. Soriano was bestowed the Church Minister title in 1972, before Bro. Perez passed away. The latter’s death led to the split of the congregation into three—with Bro. Eli leading the Members Church of God the Pillar and Ground of the Truth in 1977, later renamed as Members, Church of God International.
Ang Dating Daan started airing on IBC 13 in 1983, with Bro. Daniel Razon, then still in secondary school, who served as the overall in charge of production and Sis. Luz Cruz, as executive producer, researcher and makeup artist. To date, the show has counterparts in 70 countries.
Ang Dating Daan (The Old Path), Soriano explained in the podcast, “represents God’s will, God’s commandments—everything that you have to do in life as you are living here on earth.”
It implies, he said, that “there is a path that a good human being must walk prepared by God for him to walk.”
Soriano was asked in the podcast interview why there were people who hated him. He replied: “Because you see, when you say that black is black, there are people who hate to hear that they are black… There are people who do not want to accept the truth.” Most especially if the truth is ugly, he said. He has been referred to as a “Truth Caster,” which also happens to be the title of one of his programs.
Soriano clarified in the interview that he is not against anybody. “I am against wrong principles, criminal activities, greediness… I am against all those injustices happening in our world, but I am not against any person.”
Asked about his thoughts on pastors asking money from their people, he said “religion is not a business” and so is “taking advantage of the poor.” ANCX asked a member of Dating Daan if the religious organization collects any contributions and donations from its members. She said, “Kusang loob.”
Soriano said the real meaning of religion in the Bible is “sacrificing one’s goods for the benefit of others,” “taking care of the orphans and widows,” and not about enriching oneself. “Money is not in any manner bad. What is bad is to love your money above your fellowmen, or to love your money above your God. Money must be spent in loving our fellowmen, and in loving our God.”
The evangelist revealed in the interview that before becoming a minister at age 19, he started a restaurant at age 14 with his mother, Catalina. This grew into 10 restaurants, some of them in Brazil, where he also has a farm. “These are businesses that earn money to care for the needy,” he mentioned.
His earnings from his business, he said, allowed him to support feeding programs and various orphanages, charitable works around the world—including Haiti, Africa, Brazil, and the Philippines. These can be found on his website Soriano is said to have remained single all his life, opting to focus his time and energy on his service.
“I’m so lucky that through the Bible, I found truth in my religion. I found happiness and contentment in my religion,” the pastor told Chana. “My faith in the Bible taught me to care for other people.”