A Rough Childhood

I grew up and lived in Tondo, a place full of delinquency and trouble. Every night, I drank with my gang, and we always got into trouble. My father often beat me up whenever he was drunk; also, he quarreled with my mother. Eventually, I was tired of the system and cycle I was in. My breaking point came when I was in grade six.  In a fight, I used a pen and stabbed my classmate in the head. After he was rushed to the hospital, he stopped going to school and went to the province, afraid to live in Tondo.  At that age, I also tattooed my body to identify myself with my gang.  I indulged in rock metal and dark, underground music. Every time we performed that music, we were hyped. We screamed and let loose. We’d use drugs and find trouble. Stealing, rioting, and rebellion were my life.

Later on, I became the leader of the gang and a fraternity. Whenever someone asked us for “rescue” or for favors, we’d go and war against a rival gang even if it was not our business.

A Turning Point

A relative saw me and reminded me that I had giftings and skills that could be used for good. I liked playing instruments and was a natural storyteller. This relative tried to reach out to me even when I was drunk or just passing by his house.

One day, while being so drunk at the corner of a street, I saw a pastor passing by our neighborhood. He was doing a Bible study for my grandfather (lolo) and aunt (tita).  I asked him if I could play instruments at their church–even though I was drunk and addicted to marijuana and other drugs. I thought I could make money by playing.

Surprisingly, the Pastor said yes. I went to their church, still drunk and high. The service was almost over when I came in. They were already closing in prayer, and they sang a worship song. At that point, I felt an unexplainable feeling and went back to the church many times.

An Awakening

One Sunday, I decided to listen intently to the preaching. The pastor said that God had already forgiven me. In Him, I was accepted, and that He wanted to use my life for Him. That was when I decided to surrender my life to God. I was afraid and sure that I would end up being killed, hospitalized, or jaiIed. I decided to use church initially as my scapegoat from consequences, but as I developed a relationship with Jesus, I turned my back against my old self and old life.

 Yes, I decided to turn my back on my past. I left my gang and fraternity. I told them that I discovered true camaraderie— the kind that was actually good for me. I realized that God had saved me countless times in the past when I could have died in the streets. God had been rescuing me! His love spurred me to lay my life down for Him. I told God that I was willing to go to places where people didn’t want to go, to do radical things that He wanted His children to do.

A New Life

Everything is clear to me now—God’s purpose is the purpose of my life.

God has blessed me with a better relationship with my family. I also have my own family now—a loving and beautiful wife and wonderful kids. I am now pastoring people, and I’m reaching out to others through my God-given gifts and talents.

I have been honored to reach and minister to the poorest of the poor, the out-of-school youth, gang members, delinquent young people, drug addicts, prostitutes, and even victims of sexual, physical, and social abuse. There are many of these people in the streets of Tondo.

A Ministry to the Poor

Whenever I minister to them, I see myself in them. And I believe that just like me, their lives can be changed when they hear the Gospel and are given a chance to study. They need to be accepted and feel loved by God and other people. They are not hopeless; they just don’t have hope.

I believe that education is one of the main God-given keys that can bring these people hope. If we give young people the chance to study, it will bring back the dignity of their dreams to them.

If God can make a miracle out of my life, He can continue to make miracles in the lives of children and young people like them.

Pastor Herbie Castillo

Pastor Herbie Castillo is the Chairman of the Tondo Pastors Ministers Network (180 pastors). He also is the Lead Pastor of New Life, Tondo, and is the guidance counselor of the Gervasio Group of companies. Pastor Herbie likes to describe himself as a rider, a scuba diver, and a friend.