After a rough-and-tumble beginning, IN Philippines Board Chair Pastor Chito Ramos is tenaciously devoted to furthering the Lord’s work in his native island home.
Coconut trees thrive in the warm, tropical climate of Chito Ramos’ rural hometown 300 kilometers south of metro Manila. The coconut harvest, which comes every two months, is at the center of the town’s industry. And lambanog, a strong coconut wine made by boiling the sap of the coconut flower, is at the center of town life.
Known as the “poor man’s drink,” lambanog flowed freely during Chito’s young adulthood. It was the low-cost entertainment of choice in a town without electricity and roads too pockmarked to be navigable.
“I became involved in many vices at an early age,” says Chito matter-of-factly. “I became a drunkard at the age of 14. And I became a gambler and a womanizer.”
The eighth of ten siblings, Chito graduated from high school at 17 and moved to metro Manila to attend college at 18. But Chito’s brother insisted that Chito move to Mindanao, the country’s southernmost major island, to manage a gas station that he owned.
Living and working in Mindanao, the country’s “Wild West” where 95 percent of the inhabitants own guns, made it easy for Chito to settle deeper into his “vices.” On a number of occasions, he narrowly missed injury or death and eventually skipped town after several vehicles filled with armed Muslim rebels began hunting him down.
Soon after, Chito’s life took a dramatic turn. He returned to Manila, where his mother had recently been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. Chito assumed the duty of caring for his mother, nursing her through her final five months. She died in July of 1982 at the age of 57. Three months later, Chito’s father was diagnosed with cancer; he died three years later.
Confronting his parents’ mortality prompted Chito into a time of personal reckoning.
“I began to ask, ‘is there really a God?’” he says.
Although he had been raised in the Catholic Church, Chito first came face-to-face with the reality of God’s love after attending a local Pentecostal church. After an all-day service, he gave his life to Christ on November 25, 1982. He was 20 years old.
“The change was so dramatic,” Chito recalls. “I suddenly stopped drinking, smoking marijuana, and womanizing.”
Soon after, Chito went back to school to become a certified public accountant and began working as a computer auditor for international companies.
One day, just as he was poised to accept a lucrative job with IBM Philippines, the pastor at his evangelical church was called away. Because of his extensive involvement as a lay leader, the congregation urged him to take the helm.
After much prayer and consultation with his wife Salve, Chito accepted the position. In spite of the dramatic pay cut, he knew the Lord had called him to this work.
To bolster his effectiveness, Chito sought formal theological training at Asian Theological Seminary in Quezon City, earning a master’s degree in Christian leadership and later a master’s of divinity.
Eventually, Chito also earned a master’s in organizational leadership from Philadelphia Biblical University. Most recently, he has pursued doctoral studies in theology at Asia Baptist Graduate Theological Seminary in Baguio City.
Chito holds multiple leadership positions, serving as the national minister of the Alliance of Bible Christian Communities of the Philippines (ABCCOP), in addition to many others. In 2011, he joined IN Philippines’ board and became chair in 2013.
As chairman, Chito is intimately involved in IN Philippines’ (INPH) many thriving ministries. They include a sponsorship program for 700 needy children that provides holistic educational programming like summer youth camps and vacation Bible school. Members of INPH’s “Cappuccino Club” support college students by forgoing one coffee a day.
INPH is also heavily invested in church planting, adult discipleship programs, medical and dental outreach to the poor, and a livelihood program that offers vocational training to victims of the country’s frequent natural disasters.
Chito has also helped organize a special new outreach to the Mamamwa—a tiny minority tribe of African ancestry who, having been caught between internecine wars and pummeled by a recent typhoon, were discovered eking out a precarious existence atop a barren hill without water, toilets or electricity.
“We adopted them,” says Chito. “Through a joint project between INPH and my church denomination, we bought land and are gradually building a livable community for all 23 families.”
Always forward-looking, Chito aspires to bring IN USA’s Seminary in a Suitcase to the Philippines, allowing for an educational exchange of 50 U.S. and Filipino pastors and missionaries. He also dreams of implementing a bold new plan to purchase a small chain of profitable Filipino pharmacies to provide jobs and a sustainable income for INPH programming.
Ultimately all of Chito’s efforts are in the interest of drawing people toward the saving love of Jesus Christ.
“If you give food to the needy, they will last a few hours,” he says. “If you give them clothing, they will last six months. If you give them a house, they will last until the next typhoon. But if you give them the gospel of Jesus Christ, and then they pray to receive the Lord—that will last them throughout all eternity.”
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