This is Part 2 in a 3-Part tribute to Venite Castillo, written by his friend, Inah Tolentino.
Venite had been a believer of Christ since 1998. Members of our Christian organization, University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) Students of Destiny (now called Destiny Ministries International or DMI), shared the gospel with him. We met on campus where Ven studied BS Forestry. We served in the Mime Ministry together, although he had more active pursuits. Ven had a gift in performing arts, but he chose to serve in the quiet corners of a prayer room as an intercessor for most of his college life.
In 2005, he was commissioned to Malaysia as a missionary student. He studied at Universiti Putra Malysia (UPM) with a Master of Science in Forestry. At that time, Ven’s father just passed away and Ven did not have the luxury to grieve properly. Ven struggled emotionally for not having processed his grief, and this came out in bursts of unexplainable anger. He felt vulnerable and sore, and he learned to be vulnerable with God. It was in Malaysia that he was truly humbled.
Ven and his friends as missionaries in Malaysia
As a missionary, Ven sometimes felt abandoned and unsupported. He was disheartened a few times. There were moments when his allowance came late. He and his friend, Brian, walked around the streets looking for loose coins to buy food with. They found it as a creative way of God’s provision. Often, Ven felt that his labor did not bear fruit. It was during this time that he learned to surrender fully to God. He said those times taught him to “just do”– with no pretense or any expectations in return. He learned to simply do things out of love and not for anything else. Being able to serve God was itself the reward.
Venite went back to the Philippines in 2010 after he graduated from Malaysia. Around this time, he wasn’t active in church. He struggled with an offense toward God for taking his father, as well as feelings of perceived abandonment from his church. He was also occupied with taking care of his mother. Eventually, he found his way back to healing and joined Destiny Ministries International – South of Manila (Destiny SOMA). Coming all the way from Batangas, he commuted to the Metro, stayed at an Airbnb or a cheap hotel to rehearse with the Worship Team a day prior to Sunday service, and spent time with his friends. Often, on a weekday, he traveled back and forth on the same day to meet with his Life Group, as though a 6-7 hours commute a day was not draining enough.
His dedication was incredible. Ven didn’t make any commitments lightly. He’d simply say no if he could not put his heart and soul into something. He was an all or nothing kind of guy – often, all.
Venite was not always a worship leader. He started out as a dancer early on. Dancing for God introduced him to praise and worship that was expressed openly through movement and gestures. He didn’t think he had the voice to sing, anyway. Ven told me that he struggled to embrace his being a worship minister, although he knew by then that it was what God wanted him to do. As fun and as extroverted he seemed to be, he always tried to avoid the limelight. He was more than content being on the sidelines. For so long, he served quietly as an intercessor, or at the most, a backup singer. It was a stretch for him to go out and be seen front and center.
Finally, in obedience, he surrendered to God’s will. Oh, how beautifully he flourished once he embraced his calling! He was submissive and teachable, despite usually being the oldest church member in the team. He’d humbly accept correction. He didn’t take to heart the rejection and constructive feedback he received. He made new friends and loved them as though they were old ones.
Ven embracing his calling as a worship minister
Ven played an integral part in the birth of the album “Ilapit.” He recognized the need for more Filipino worship music. When he shared his song “Pasasalamat,” it inspired his mates to write and share their own songs, too, which eventually became the album. He submitted nine (9) original songs, and two (2) of them, “Nabighani” and “Malaya,” made it to the album.
“Nabighani” was written because Ven wanted to communicate how it is like to behold the beauty of the Lord. “Malaya,” meanwhile, is a song that is surprisingly not about our freedom –but God’s freedom to do His will upon us. Not only do we find freedom in God, but He Himself is freedom.
Life of Significance
Venites’ spiritual father, Ptr. Paul Yadao of DMI Metro, gave his eulogy during the funeral rites; and it seemed rather fitting as a brief description of Venite’s life. Truly, Venite chose significance over success. To be great is a matter of accomplishment. To be good is a matter of essence – and Venite knew what was essential in this life. He gave up temporary pursuits for lofty things. Instead, he dedicated his entire lifetime blessing others with the love that the Lord had blessed him with.
Paul and Ahl Yadao, together with their kids
Venite had spent his time serving his family, especially his beloved mother. He had spent hours making beautiful memories as a popular wedding singer. He never charged clients for them, but instead spent his own money on these weddings. He was devoted to a job that seemed rather menial. Yet even in that, he remained loyal and excellent that he’d been awarded multiple recognitions for his work. He couldn’t do anything half-heartedly; in fact, once, he bought a full gear Money Heist costume, made a short video teaser wearing it–all for a simple online costume get-together! Venite was always truly present. He was brimming with life!
Ven randomly declared his love for his friends both in private and in public. He didn’t withhold expressions of love, unless perhaps when it came to romance. In this regard, Ven never fully felt he needed one. He was more than content with the love he had in his life.
Leif Hetland, the founder and president of Global Mission Awareness, was deeply touched by the life of Venite. Leif was already touching hundreds of thousands of lives around the globe with his ministry. One time in Malaysia, Leif was feeling a little bit disheartened after a meeting with missionary leaders did not elicit an anticipated response. They were on their way to lunch when Venite volunteered to carry Leif’s backpack. Venite carried it with so much delight! He had a spring to his steps doing such a simple act of service. Seeing that, Leif felt God say to his heart: This is your family. These are the world changers.
Leif broke into tears. He was so encouraged by Ven and his spiritual family. That same night, they went back to their place of meeting and had time soaking in the presence of God. For more than an hour, God’s presence was so heavy that none of them could move, more so stand. Even years after that, Leif would continue to testify about that night being pivotal, as it was such a glorious encounter with God.
An ordinary act of kindness, when done with so much love and gratitude, can transcend cultures and reverberate across the world. That was what Ven did through the simple act of carrying someone else’s bag with pure joy in his heart.
On his final day alive, Ven was in a video call with two other churchmates to polish a new song. He gave them practical tips and encouraged them to submit the song for publishing. Their meeting got cut when he said, “Sorry guys, something’s happening to me.” Then he collapsed. He got up, said it again, and fell. That was the last time they saw him. Our churchmates reported what they saw to Ven’s family.
He was declared dead on arrival at the hospital. Later on, we found out that his death was due to an acute myocardial infarction or a heart attack.
END OF PART 2
Venite’s life impacted many. Does yours? Read more about his life in Part 3 of “Remembering Venite” by Inah Tolentino.
Inah Tolentino is an international trainer. She is currently a Training and Development Officer for Oceania Cruises. She maintains a blog called @inahrelationship. She’s a world traveler, public speaking coach, and freelance writer. She’s mom to Rohan and Shire, and wife to Ray. They currently reside and operate an Airbnb in Tagaytay City. Inah is affiliated with Destiny Ministries International.