The idea of an intentionally Christian college was initially conceived in1999 by its missionary founders, Bob and Marlyn Del Rosario, when their second son, Micah, was on his last year of high school. The Del Rosarios, founders of Lord of the Harvest Resource Ministries and faculty members at Campus Crusade for Christ’s International School of Theology-Asia, (ISOT-Asia) were homeschooling 4 of their 5 sons at that time. Since they had been homeschooling since 1988, it was their heart’s desire that their sons be further molded as men after God’s own heart while being prepared for a career through which they could serve the Lord.
The idea of starting a Christian college crossed their mind one Sunday on the way to church. As they thought more and more about a college for their sons, they became confident that they weren’t the only Christian parents who dreamed of sending their sons and daughters to a Christian college. They also sensed that what they thought was just an idea was actually a calling from God in connection with helping to fulfill Christ’s Great Commission in Matt. 28: 19-20.
In the beginning, the Del Rosarios thought that the college would be part of Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC). Being associate staff of this worldwide organization and faculty members of its seminary (ISOT-Asia), they felt that the most logical and strategic way to put up a Christian college was for them to volunteer to spearhead the work of setting up the International Leadership University that CCC was planning to put up in various parts of the world. However, in 2001, after 2 years of initial work, CCC’s international leaders decided to postpone the project indefinitely, believing that it was too premature to set up in the Philippines.
Bob and Marlyn, however, felt otherwise and were convinced of their calling to start what would be, not just an ordinary Christian college, but a college that is intentionally Christian. Another faculty member of ISOT-Asia, Prof. Great Mabuti, was in full agreement with them because, as principal and co-owner of a Christian high school, he was aware of this great need. Together, the Del Rosarios and Prof. Mabutiformed a team and invited two of their former students (Cherierinne Chua and Benjamin Chico) and a corporate planning expert and long-time friend Bach Johann Sebastian. Together, they embarked on a great adventure of trusting God for a ministry which they knew from the start would be bigger than anything they had ever done before.
Convinced of their calling, the group held monthly prayer meetings starting February 2000. Sometimes as many as 60 people came; at other times, there were only 15 people. Yet, it didn’t matter how many people came. From then on, every first Monday of the month became Messiah Prayer Night. In the beginning, the prayer meetings were held mostly at ISOT Asia; then, at Greenhills Christian Fellowship in Ortigas; later on, at Hope Christian Fellowship in the Ortigas Center. Finally, since November 2005, the monthly prayer meetings were held on the Messiah’s 2nd floor campus at the State Centre Building, Ortigas Avenue, Mandaluyong City.
The choice of the name Messiah College has a biblical basis. Initially, the founders conducted a survey and found that many people liked the name “International Leadership University” because it had the ring of an elite world class institution of higher learning. The founders liked it too; however, the Holy Spirit convicted Dr. Marlyn Del Rosario, during her quiet time, about the sense of pride that they felt concerning that name. The name exalted the school rather than the Lord. As she continued to seek the Lord’s will, she became even more convinced that the original name had to be changed. Her Scripture reading for the day was about Jesus admonishing the crowds and his disciples not to follow the example of the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, for they didn’t practice what they taught and they had an air of pride in all that they did (Matt. 23:1-7). He warned them further not to be called “Rabbi” or “teacher,” because they had “only one Teacher, the Christ.” (v.8-10). The footnote read “or Messiah.”
Because many businesses in the Philippines are named after wealthy individuals or their business owners, Dr. Del Rosario sensed that this college must also be named after its owner – the Lord Jesus Christ. At the next founders’ meeting, she suggested that the school’s name be Messiah, based on her Scripture reading during the time she was praying about it. The decision was unanimously in favor of her suggestion.
The founders envisioned Messiah’s graduates, above all, to be ambassadors for Christ in careers that could reach the most number of people with the Gospel message in the soonest possible time. Thus, the degree programs chosen were those that would produce future educators, businessmen, counselors, human resource trainers, communicators, consuls, and missionaries.
Recognizing the encompassing spiritual purpose of the college, the founders committed to put up a college that was not only Christian, but intentionally Christian at that. The Messiah community would be composed exclusively of Christian faculty, staff, and students. All subjects would be taught with a biblical perspective. In addition, all students would have a minor in Biblical Studies and Leadership Studies to equip them with professional, as well as, ministry skills, a biblical worldview, Christ- like character, and a heart for missions. A Christ-centered and God-honoring lifestyle would be the standard.
The founders ventured out with only God to back them up, but almost immediately, amazing confirmations followed as they took their first step of faith.
The first confirmation was a show of trust from a Christian whom they had never met personally. The Del Rosarios invited one of their former seminary students, Heidi Tenefrancia, to join the team. She agreed to pray about it. Over the weekend, she also shared the vision with her mother. The following Tuesday, a sealed envelope was delivered to Del Rosarios’ apartment at the ISOT-Asia campus. Thinking that it was a letter of regret from their student, they let it sit on the counter for an hour, but when they opened it, they received a great surprise! Inside was a check for P20,000! In her note, Heidi said that the money was from her mother whose desire was to see a college such as this become a reality. It was her way of encouraging them to go on. It was the first unsolicited investment in the Lord’s school and it immediately went to the start-up fund to raise P100,000 to register the school’s name with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The second confirmation was a divine appointment. One Sunday, the Del Rosarios got a call from their friend Joseph Lee, Phil. Director of New Tribes Missions.
Dr. Douglas Pennoyer, Dean of the School of Intercultural Studies at Biola University in La Mirada, California, was in town, and wanted to meet them, for some unknown reason. They decided to meet for lunch at the Shangri-La Mall. With a big smile on his face, Dr. Pennoyer walked towards them and held out his hand, saying, “Well, I’m here to meet you, but I don’t know why!” Rejoicing that he didn’t have an agenda, the two founders shared with him the vision of equipping Christian students, through an intentionally Christian college, for the purpose of bringing the Gospel to the global workplace through the graduates’ professional careers.
Their conversation went on for two hours. Dr. Pennoyer revealed that while still in the USA, he was going through the list of faculty members of the International School of Theology-Asia via internet, and when he came across the Del Rosarios’ names, he received a very strong impression that the Lord wanted him to meet them. Before they parted, Dr.Pennoyer promised to do everything he could to help.
The third confirmation was the overwhelming support of other Christian leaders, namely: Rev. Tom Roxas, the Director of the International School of Theology-Asia, Dr. Bailey Marks, President of Campus Crusade for Christ’s International Leadership University, Bishop EfTendero, head of the Philippine Council for Evangelical Churches, and Mr. Don Espina, Director of the Association for Christian Schools International. These Christian leaders all spurred them to move ahead with the vision. In addition, Dr. Clyde Cook, President of Biola University, showed his excitement about having a sister school relationship with them. Within a year, Biola University Library had sent over 1000 books for Messiah’s library and by the time Messiah opened in June 2006, about 70% of its library collection of more than 3,000 books had been donated by Biola.
Interviews with Christian high school & college students, high school principals and parents provided more evidence for the existing great need for a college that would not only train committed young Christian leaders for their future careers, but also equip them to spread the Gospel wherever God calls them to serve.
On July 12, 2002, the college was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission under the name Messiah International College Foundation, Inc.
The initial Board of Trustees was composed of its founders: Mr. Bob and Dr. Marlyn Del Rosario, faculty members of the International School of Theology-Asia; Prof. Great Mabuti, Principal and Co-owner of Fortridge Asian School; and Mr. Bach Johann Sebastian, Vice-President for Strategic Planning at JG Summit Holdings, one of the largest corporations in the country. Other board members were: Bishop Cesar Punzalan, Board Chairman of the Baptist Conference of the Philippines; Mr. Rommel Leuterio, President & Chief Operating Officer of the Investment & Capital Corporation of the Philippines; Mr. Mark Sosmena, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of MegatonePrinthauz; Mrs. Francie Castaneda-Lacanilao, Founder and Directress of the Learning Tree Child Growth Center; and Rev. Benjamin Miranda, Resident Pastor of Greenhills Christian Fellowship (North).
Messiah’s first office was at the Centerpoint Building in the Ortigas Center. The year was 2002 and Mr. and Mrs. Ben Chan – Christian owners of Celine Company – were vacating 70 square meters of office space. They decided to give Messiah free use of this space for one month.
The following year, the Del Rosarios stepped down from their teaching ministry at ISOT-Asia, in obedience to the Lord’s leading to begin full-time work to starting the college. Together with 4 of their sons, they moved out of their campus home in May, 2003 and rented a house in Pasig City near the Ortigas area. This house also served as a temporary office for the school during its pre-operation years (2003-2005).
The Del Rosarios felt that the Lord was leading them to set up Messiah in the Ortigas area, Mandaluyong City. It was centrally located and accessible to public transportation. On the other hand, before the Lord would show them that this was indeed His choice, He had to prepare them for the challenge of raising the amount needed to renovate it. Moving to a house in Pasig was the strategy that the Lord used for this lesson in faith. The house cost about three times more to rent than the one in ISOT-Asia, but their fear was laid to rest when they realized that the Lord was showing them that they would have to trust Him for this amount each month. Otherwise, how could they trust Him for the millions that would be needed to renovate His chosen venue and to operate the college, especially in its early years?
Then, two unexpected turn of events happened. While the Del Rosarios took their time in looking for a venue in the Ortigas area, they were invited by Greenhills Christian Fellowship (GCF) South Metro to set up Messiah on the rented property that they intended to buy in Alabang, Muntinlupa City before the end of the year. The site was inspected and approved by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED); however, setting up Messiah in Muntinglupa City was not God’s will. Not enough funds were raised to buy the property and GCF decided to buy a piece of land instead. The facility would not be ready for Messiah to open the following year. Rather than feeling disappointed, the Del Rosarios saw the situation as a redirection from the Lord back to the Ortigas area.
On June 3, 2004, the Lord revealed His chosen location for Messiah College. One of its faculty members, Dr. NarcisoMatienzo, who was tasked with finding a suitable venue, discovered a vacant floor at the State Center II on Ortigas Avenue! It was owned by Mr. Allen Roxas, the same Christian businessman from whom GCF South Metro bought the property they were going to build on. Nine months later, after much prayer and negotiation, Messiah’s Board of Trustees decided that the 2nd and 10th floors of the State Centre II Building in Ortigas Avenue would be the site for Messiah College.
Funds started to come in as early as December 2003, when the Del Rosarios used a portion of the house they were renting as an office. Christians, who believed in the same vision and mission, gave generously, yet the amounts coming in were just enough to pay for pre-operational expenses.
The actual amount needed to start, including renovations, was six million pesos! On the second week of March, a check for P2.5 million pesos was given as a gift to Messiah by a Christian woman to renovate the entire 2nd floor and the portion of the 10th floor that was to be rented at the State Centre II Building.
On March 14, 2005, the lease contract was signed at Old Swiss Inn, Mr. Roxas’ favorite fine dining restaurant in Makati City. Present at the signing were Mr. Bob and Dr. Marlyn Del Rosario, Mr. Bach Johann Sebastian, Mr. Rommel Leuterio, Prof. Great Mabuti, and 2 new members of the Board of Trustees: Prof. Jai Aracama, then Conductor of the University of the Philippines’ Concert Chorus and Mrs.Priscilla Co, President of Kimsan Development Corporation. Mr. Roxas generously agreed that Messiah would not have to pay rent until the school officially opened after a year! Mr. BJ Sebastian, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Took it upon himself to shoulder the monthly condominium association dues.
Then came more obstacles to hurdle… more mountains that seemed to block God’s work.
First, the Commission on Higher Education wanted the word “International” to be removed from the name of the college, although they had approved it 3 years ago when the school’s name was first registered. Changing the name required a resubmission of the Articles of Incorporation and time was already running out for the June opening. Knowing that the Lord is always in control, the team worked doubly hard and resubmitted a new set of papers for the change of name. The new name was simply Messiah College Foundation, Inc.
Secondly, Messiah was way behind schedule in everything and it seemed unreasonable to push for the school to open in June, 2005. High school graduations were over and other colleges were already open for enrollment. The Commission on Higher Education wanted to inspect the facilities on the first week of April, but renovations had not even started yet. The process of getting building permits took several months; the renovation was started only in August. Following the example of the disciples who kept rowing in spite of the strong wind and in obedience to Jesus who told them to meet Him on the other side, the Messiah team kept working and moving towards the goal of opening as soon as possible.
By the middle of November, 2005, the 2nd and 10th floors were finally completely renovated and the Messiah team moved the office from the Del Rosario’s residence to State Centre II Building.
The following month, the first member of the CHED-RQAT (Regional Quality Assessment Team) came to inspect the campus and the curriculum of the B.S. Accountancy program. Another member came in January, 2006 to check the same program. The other 4 programs were inspected in March. These were: A.B. Psychology, A.B. Intercultural Studies, A.B. Organizational Leadership, and A.B. Integrated Communication and Public Relations. It was April 2006 when the final inspection for the Accountancy program was completed; however, the written permit to operate was released only on May 26, 2006, barely 3 weeks before the target opening date. Like the Accountancy program which received its permit to operate very late, the final permit to operate each of the four other programs was granted on May 16, 2006.
The Messiah faculty, staff, and prayer partners prayed for 120 students, but the Lord did not answer their prayer in the way they had wanted Him to. There were several reasons:
First, He was more interested in their character growth (patience, perseverance, and complete faith in Him) than in the result of their hard work. This is why, in spite of intensive promotional strategies – radio announcements, posters in churches, Christian organizations, and bookstores, flyers, special dinners, and word of mouth – only 8 students actually enrolled for the first semester, and the school opening had to be postponed by a week – from June 19 to June 26.
Secondly, He wanted them to experience His power and sovereignty in removing all the obstacles that seemed to delay the opening of His College. “ Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts – you will succeed because of my Spirit, though you are few and weak… no mountain, however high, can stand before you (Zerubbabel)! For it will flatten out before you (him)! ” (Zechariah 4: 6-7 Living Bible). The Lord used an important person to hasten the release of the permits to operate, a major donor to provide a very large portion of Messiah’s financial and equipment needs, as well as, many individuals to provide books, journal subscriptions, furniture, and monthly operational needs.
Thirdly, He wanted them to know Him more – how He thinks and how He operates. The Lord sent only 8 students because, as the Messiah team discovered, that is how God operates – a soft launch rather than a big bang! The Lord said, “Do not despise this small beginning, for the eyes of the Lord rejoice to see the work begin…” (Zechariah 4: 10, Living Bible)
On June 23, 2006, Messiah officially opened with 8 students attending Freshmen Orientation Day. The following week, the students went through a one-day Leadership Training on campus, followed by 4 days of Leadership Training at the Rizal Re-Creation Center in Laguna.
Continued Financial Provisions: The Lord’s goodness towards Messiah continued to come in through His people. Mr. Allen Roxas graciously deferred the rent payments for another 2 years; an anonymous donor’s generous support provided for the major operational needs from the time Messiah official opened with only 8 students. Many others supported in kind and in cash during the succeeding years. Scholarships became available for needy, but deserving students and pastors’ kids.
Student Population Growth – The First Five Years: The following year, Messiah’s student population boomed from 8 to 32 and by fifth year, God blessed Messiah with a total of 64 students.
The first graduation was held at the Greenhills Christian Fellowship Auditorium on April 26, 2010. The first batch (Class 2010) graduated with only four students: Kristine Benny Grace Cuyco and Micah Del Rosario (both magna cum laude) and Andrea Adelle Gabot and Kenneth Rei Guillermo – all majors in Intercultural Studies. The second batch (Class 2011) had 11 graduates in four of Messiah’s programs. The first student to graduate summa cum laude in the history of Messiah College was Alyssa Chua who also majored in Intercultural Studies. Three students from this batch graduated with a magna cum laude: Jan Angelique Maravilla (Psychology), Constance Jane Tupe, and Joan Agawa (both Intercultural Studies); two graduated with a cum laude (DeAnne Kerstin Leones (Psychology) and Razillee Alexis Ecarg Cachuela (Integrated Communications and Public Relations). Class 2012 had 13 graduates of whom two were summa cum laude (Shaina Gail Cua, Psychology and Matthew Del Rosario, Integrated Communications and Public Relations); three magna cum laude (Aubrey Gayle de la Cruz. Intercultural Studies; Danielle Joie Tiangson and Keziah Pihoc, both Psychology majors); and one cum laude (Jan Abigail Maravilla, Accountancy). This was the first time that the graduates came from all five programs!
Gov’t Recognition of Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science Programs: In June 2010, Government Recognition Status was granted for the following programs: A.B. Psychology, A.B. Intercultural Studies, A.B. Integrated Communications & Public Relations, B.S. Accountancy, while B.S. Entrepreneurship was granted government recognition on April 28, 2011.