THE FOUNDING OF THE IGLESIA FILIPINA INDEPENDIENTE IN NEGROS

THE FOUNDING OF THE IGLESIA FILIPINA INDEPENDIENTE IN NEGROS

(An excerpt from the History of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bacolod)

During the Philippine revolution of 1896, Negros did not participate although there were sympathizers and active supporters of that revolution. The sympathy of the Negrosanons was well kept because the Recollects collectively attested to the loyalty of the inhabitants here.

Nevertheless, the civil authorities were not so convinced because their spies told them that some leading citizens of Negros were supporters of the Luzon revolt. The government thus continued their espionage even after the Pact of Biak-na-bato that ended that revolt was signed. Their suspicion grew when some Tagalogs peddling their wares in Negros were found to be members of the Katipunan and were recruiting members. When one of them was captured and interrogated, he made a deal with the authorities and mentioned several names as members of the revolutionary movement. The vocal critics of Spanish rule were arrested but they were also released after they paid fines and corruption money. The action of the civil authorities created a resolve among the Negrosanons to revolt.

The Negros revolution of November 4-7, 1898, left many parishes without pastors. After the civil government in the towns surrendered, the revolutionary government arrested the Spanish priests. The revolutionaries did not arrest the Filipino seculars who were all assistant parish priests so they were able to protect the parishes. But these Filipino priests were few so that almost all parishes were left without pastors. Only Bacolod, Silay, Sumag, Valladolid, Binalbagan, Ilog and Talisay had priests. Talisay was spared because the Spanish priest, Fr. Cuenca who served Talisay continuously since 1850 except for two years leave, was already old and blind. Moreover, Aniceto Lacson, the head of the northern revolutionary army protected him. Fr. Miguel Alvarez of Murcia was also left alone because he was old and ill. The arrested Recollects were first incarcerated in Puerto San Juan (now Provincial Jail) and then in January 1899 were force-marched to La Granja for hard work in the experimental agricultural farm. Later, through the effort of Vatican, they were marched back to Bacolod and then shipped out of Negros for Manila. Some went home to Spain. Fr. Marcelino Simonena was allowed to return in 1901 to help minister to Fr. Cuenca who died the following year. Fr. Tiburcio Fernandez also returned to serve in Kabankalan but public indignation forced him to return to Manila.

The Bishop of Jaro, Msgr. Andres Ferrero, who had jurisdiction over Negros was a Recollect and he became the object of protest from Filipino seculars who wanted all Spanish priests out of the parishes, dioceses and seminaries. During the revolution, the Philippine revolutionary government appointed Fr. Gregorio Aglipay as its military vicar and in that position Aglipay ordered all Filipino priests to be loyal to the revolution and to place all church properties under the control and disposal of the revolution. The Americans took over the Philippines in 1898 and in 1901 the revolution ended and the country appeared to return to normal.

However, Aglipay’s order confiscating Church properties remained, thus tensions remained in the Philippine Church and compounded when the bishops invited foreign priests and missionaries to administer parishes that were left vacant by the different Spanish religious orders. The bishops’ move angered the Filipino seculars who felt that they would be relegated once more to the lower position of assistants. During the Spanish rule, no Filipino secular could become a parish priest or a bishop as long as a Spanish religious priest was around. The bishops, however, had little choice but import foreign priests from other countries. In the Diocese of Jaro, for instance, of its 210 parishes there were only 73 secular Filipino priests to serve 1.4 million Catholics. This number of priests was whittled down to 26 when the others joined the schism and became Aglipayans.

The schism began before Aglipay accepted the post as Supreme Bishop of the Iglesia Filipina Indepediente that was organized in August 1902. On February 13, 1900 the clergy in the Jaro diocese sent a complaint to the Papal Delegate in the Philippines, Bishop Louis Chapelle declaring their loyalty to the Pope but rejecting the Spanish bishops and the return of foreigners to the parishes. They demanded that seminaries be placed totally under Filipino priests and that more Filipinos would be allowed to enter the seminaries. Their petition went unheeded. When the IFI was organized in Manila some of the Jaro clergy were among the signatories to the IFI constitution but they did not reveal their affiliation at that time. In 1903, the Jaro clergy followed up their 1900 demand but this time they criticized the Pope and they assailed Bishop Ferrero for bringing in foreign priests.

The relief of Bishop Ferrero by American bishop Frederick Rooker did not mollify the complainants because Rooker was also a foreigner. This was the final break. Only 22 priests, however, joined the protest. Among them were three from Negros: Fr. Lorenzo Paloma of Valladolid, Fr. Santiago Descalzo of Ilog and Fr. Marcelino Guanco of Binalbagan. Fr. Guanco refused to leave the Church and later became vicar general of Jaro. Paloma became the IFI ecclesiastical governor of Negros and Descalzo the IFI bishop of Panay.

The schismatic priests in the parishes mostly in Valladolid, Ilog, Pontevedra, San Enrique, Saravia, Pulupandan, La Castellana and Bago brought their parishioners to the IFI. Their main line of argument was that the IFI was the Catholic Church in the Philippines independent of foreign authorities like the Pope and non-Filipino bishops. In sum the IFI was presented as the nationalist church. With the revolutionary fervor still high and many had gripes against the Spanish priests, the IFI gathered millions to their church. Negros became one of the major IFI strongholds with over a third of all Aglipayans in the Philippines being Negrosanons.

The IFI priests in control of a parish appropriated Catholic Church properties as well – churches, convents, cemeteries, lands and all religious articles, like vestments, sacred vessels and bells. The IFI argument was that these properties belonged to the people who contributed for them and when the people rejected the Catholic priests and joined the IFI, the IFI had the right to the properties. The Catholic Church filed a case against the IFI and several municipal government officials in Negros. The Supreme Court ruled on November 24, 1906 that the churches, rectories, cemeteries and all other Church properties which were in existence and under the possession and control of the Catholic Church prior to the revolution of 1898 belonged to the Catholic Church. The bishop of Jaro tried to repossess these properties but the local executives resisted. The Supreme Court again ruled on April 14, 1909 and granted the Church the writ of possession. Most properties were thus returned to the Catholic Church and in the process, the IFI lost a lot of “amor propio” and the trappings and prestige of a “true” religious organization.

While the case against the confiscation of Church properties was being prosecuted, the Church focused its attention to the IFI schism and the influx of American Protestantism that came in the wake of US colonization. The new Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Ambrose Agius called on September 8, 1907 for a council with the Philippine bishops that should meet in Manila on December 8 of that year to address these critical concerns. Bishop Rooker was unable to attend due to illness that later led to his death. The Council of Manila became the crucial move that thwarted the onslaught of anti-Catholicism and movements. Among the many decisions of the Council of Manila were the creation of more dioceses with Filipino bishops and the opening of seminaries to train more Filipinos for the priesthood and on to the episcopate. Three dioceses were then created following the Council but for Bacolod it would take some time.

http://www.dioceseofbacolod.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=47&Itemid=56

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IN 1902, the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines is governed by virtue of the Pope’s Apostolic Letter

TITLE: Quae, mari sinico
THEMES: On the Church in the Philippines.

POPE: Leo XIII, 1878-1903.

DATE: 1902 Sep 17
TYPE: apostolic letter: 2,950w

SUMMARY: Reviews maintenance of Catholicity under direction of Spain and patronage of Roman pontiffs; anticipates by directives possible relaxation of discipline after war (1898). Promises increase in hierarchy; details duties, relationships between metropolitan and suffragans; urges bishops to foster native vocations, keep priests out of politics; convene occasional synod to promote unity, confer on moral and liturgical questions, give care to seminaries, educate clerics in seminaries, lay students in episcopal colleges, send qualified students to Rome for higher studies, prepare secular clergy for pastorates to replace regulars, provide religious instruction for children. Gives directives for religious; recommends missions in towns, colleges; urges unity of the faithful.

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