(In June 12, the Philippines will commemorate the Independence Day from Spanish colonization proclaimed in Kawit, Cavite on June 12, 1898. The Aglpayan re-posts this IFI historical Sketch to encourage our members to reflect on the heritage of the IFI and how this heritage may help us understand our responses to the challenges and context of our ministry.)
CENTENARY OF THE IGLESIA FILIPINA INDEPENDIENTE
Celebrating the Heritage for National Freedom,
Independence and Abundant Life
A Historical Sketch
Filipino Resistance Against American Colonization
The First Philippine Republic, which was the rightful goal of the Revolution against Spain, was inaugurated in January 23, 1899. Less than two weeks later, the infant Republic became involved in the Filipino-American War. America, which came projecting itself as an ally was exposed in the Treaty of Paris for having entered into an agreement with Spain that nullified the gains of the Filipinos. This treaty became America’s legal claim for sovereignty in the islands.
A longer and bloodier war ensued for more than three years. This is glaring evidence that the infant Republic enjoyed the full support of the populace. The invaders minimized this into a Philippine Insurrection against the United States. Part of the strategy to minimize Filipino resistance was the establishment of a civil government in the pacified areas. Positions in the provincial and municipal government lured many of the leaders to collaborate with the Americans. The Philippine Commission, established by the Americans as the civil counterpart of the invading military, legislated the Sedition Law in 1901. This prohibited the advocacy of independence in the occupied areas. Superior forces and discipline of the enemy led to the surrender of Aguinaldo two years later. Some Filipino generals continued the fight but by May of the next year, Miguel Malvar who was the last leader with official links to the Republic also surrendered.
The end of the Filipino-American War as officially proclaimed by US President Theodore Roosevelt on July 4, 1902 did not mean the end of Filipino resistance or in a more positive manner, the Filipino desire for liberty. The laws passed by the Philippine Commission (which was the sole legislative body until the establishment of the Philippine Assembly in 1907) could be seen as evidence of continuing Filipino aspirations for liberty. Three of these would be the Sedition Law (1901) which forbade advocacy of independence even through peaceful means; Brigandage Act (1902) which classified all armed resistance as pure banditry; and the Reconcentration Act (1903) which gave legal justification for hamletting to deny the guerrilla’s support from the populace. A later one was the Flag Law (1907), which prohibited the display of the Flag (used in the Proclamation of Independence on June 12, 1898) and the playing of the Philippine National Anthem (Marcha Nacional at that time). The Filipinos’ expression of their desire for liberty was varied and these laws could be seen as curtailing such a struggle.
Resistance in many forms characterized the first decade of the 20th century. In the urban centers most particularly in Manila and Cebu, journalists and writers like Aurelio Tolentino, Juan Matapang Cruz, Juan Abad, Vicente Sotto and others, continued to write in symbolism. Some of their writings were judged as seditious. Various groups continued the armed struggle. The Brigandage Act branded as bandits many of the revolutionaries who continued the struggle for liberty like Macario Sakay and the lieutenants of Vibora (the Viper who was Artemio Ricarte). Even millenarian movements joined the fray or even if they did not, they were suspected as such, and therefore suffered persecutions.
In this period of continuing resistance when the institutional and missionary churches were cooperating (explicitly or otherwise) with the newly established American colonial government, the Iglesia Filipina Independiente was born and grew rapidly.
The Founding of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente
It was Sunday, August 3, 1902 when in a meeting of the General Council of the Union Obrera Democratica (UOD), its head, Isabelo de los Reyes, Sr., popularly known as Don Belong, proclaimed the establishment of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente. To give shape to this Church, he proposed the creation of two councils to operate in one equal level: the Executive to be composed of lay people and the Doctrinal to be composed by clergy who were nominated as bishops of the dioceses. Fr. Gregorio Aglipay was proposed as the head with the title of Obispo Maximo (Supreme Bishop). To give credence to this movement, prominent Filipinos were nominated and the civil governor, William Howard Taft, Emilio Aguinaldo and Pardo de Tavera were proposed as honorary presidents.
In the following two weeks, many protested such move in the press. Except for Aguinaldo, all the lay people rejected their nominations and denied involvement. Fathers Manuel Roxas, Mariano Dakanay, Jorge Barlin, Adriano Garces, Praxedes Magalona, and several others privately requested Don Belong to exclude their names. The most telling blow came from Fr. Gregorio Aglipay whose circular to the Filipino clergy dated August 16 and was published on August 20 called for a meeting assuring them that “he had not approved the declaration of any schism before all means of reaching an understanding with Rome should be exhausted.” The Manila American published the following day a derisive article picturing the IFI as “the church that died before it was born.”
Nevertheless, one year afterwards, the IFI can count, if not claim, one and a half million members roughly one fourth or 25% of the population. The start of the swelling membership can be gleaned from two articles in the first official organ of the church, the La Iglesia Filipina Independiente Revista Catolica (LIFIRC). The first article explains:
Therefore, Isabelo de los Reyes, deeply offended by the rebuffs of his own friends formed an Executive Committee from the Staff of the Democratic Labor Union and began to print circulars and the first two Fundamental Epistles, which were later approved by the Supreme Council of Bishops.
The people, on the other hand, aligned themselves behind SeÃ±or Reyes from the beginning, many popular organizations and Protestants joining the Filipino Church, as indicated by the testimonies which the press kept publishing which we will reproduce in the next number. The Ecclesiastical Governor of Ilocos Norte, the singularly praiseworthy Pedro Brillantes, today, the most notable Bishop of that diocese, as head of the Clergy, accepted and solemnly joined our Holy Church, and this gave great impetus to the religious movement.
The second article listed the First Adherents of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente. First among the numerous groups were 63 residents of Navotas (first on the list was a woman’s name – Saturnina Bunda). Other groupings included priests, seminarians, faithful from several municipalities, guilds and other labor groups, local committees and even expatriates.
On October 1, 1902, Pedro Brillantes took possession of his diocese and proclaimed Bacarra as his episcopal seat. In his Acta de Posesion, he made it clear that he had been “canonically chosen and elected Bishop according to the ancient usage of the Church” and that he was chosen by the “clergy and the laity belonging to various political parties in and Manila, ” and that this election was confirmed by the faithful of Ilocos Norte province. Priests consecrated him on October 20 in accordance with the First Epistle, which justified the consecration of bishops.
Documents also show that on October 1, Bishop Gregorio Aglipay headed the signatories of the short-lived 1902 Constitution of the Philippine Independent Church. The titles attached to the other signatories also showed that they had accepted their nominations as bishops in the August 3 proclamation.
The following day, the Second Fundamental Epistle was issued as a reply to Bishop Alcocer’s denunciation of the Church separation. The members were exhorted not to render evil for evil. More importantly, this epistle laid down the IFI’s belief that revolutions are in accordance with the will of God as its first paragraph says:
Neither the leaf of a tree nor a single bird falls to the earth without the will of our Heavenly Father (Mt. 10:29). Revolutions, therefore, are perfectly providential, and despite their causing us momentary disasters, they ultimately bring us far-reaching redemption and result in benefits that will bless many generations to come. They are like typhoons which, in the twinkling of an eye, destroy and erase secular vices and abuses, and their social upheavals, moreover, have this time been used by Divine Providence to castigate the errors of an enthroned frailocracy, errors over which we now wish to draw the veil of merciful oblivion.
The first that was formally signed by Bishop Aglipay was the Third Fundamental Epistle entitled Declaration of Principles which was issued on October 17. This was publicly read during the inauguration through a Solemn Pontifical Mass on October 26 officiated by Bishop Aglipay. It was held in an open field in the corner of Lemery and Azcarraga Streets before a congregation of several thousands. Three days later, the Fourth Fundamental Epistle that further laid down the organizational structure of the Church was issued. This epistle also prescribed the curriculum for theological education and some immediate steps to remedy the need for more priests.
On November 2, in a public announcement, Bishop Aglipay set aside this date for a special commemorative service for the heroes of the Philippine Revolution – Rizal, Burgos, Gomez and Zamora, and other heroes and for all insurgents who died in the struggle for freedom. On that day an incident took place which led to the takeover of the church in Paco, Pandacan and Sampaloc Churches by the Aglipayans. On the ninth, the Municipal Council of Lagonoy with some of the prominent citizens passed a resolution that declared themselves and their parish priest as members of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente renouncing their allegiance to the Catholic Church of Rome. The following day, William Howard Taft, the Civil Governor of the Philippines submitted his official report concerning the situation of the country. Taft mentioned the Aglipayan movement could have “have an important bearing upon future conditions and which may perhaps add much to the labor of maintaining of peace and order in the archipelago”
On the 16th, Bishop Aglipay issued a manifesto due to the rapid growth of the national Filipino Church and the necessity of an authoritative outline of the Church that all may know its object. The manifesto contained statements that expressed much of the rationale of the newly founded Church. At one point, for instance, it declared “The time has come for a Filipino National Church for the Filipino people, ministered by the Filipino clergy. Years of friar oppression made this imperative. The liberty of worship and conscience and the separation of Church and State could make it contemptible for us to give spiritual allegiance to the Italian in Rome claiming temporal power whose recognition from government by all means known to masters of deception.”
On December 8, Epistle V was published in protest against the Quae Mari Sinico, the papal constitution giving the Holy See’s answer to the religious turmoil in the Islands. It became a rallying point for the IFI against the Holy See.
Year 1903 – 1945
Struggle for National Freedom, Independence and Abundant Life
The Iglesia Filipina Independiente was founded by the people of our country. This is the product of their desire for liberty, religiously, politically and socially. I was only one of the instruments of its expression.
Gregorio L. Aglipay
The new year was started by the concerned civil and religious authorities agreeing that the four religious orders should be withdrawn in two years and that only secular and non-Spanish members of the regulars should act as parish priests as part of the contract on the sale of friar lands. On the 18th of January, the Bishops of Isabela, Cagayan, Pangasinan, Abra, Nueva Ecija, Cavite and Manila consecrated Bishop Aglipay. A newspaper of the IFI, the La Verdad came out with its first issue on the 21st.
In the month of February, Aurelio Tolentino delivered speeches before two IFI Congregations, Guagua and Mexico Pampanga. In his speeches can be found the first reference to the IFI as one, which rose from the ashes of the revolution.
In May 14, Bishop Aglipay submitted to Taft’s office copies of the royal and papal decrees substantiating his claim to the Cathedral of Manila and all the properties stating that they belonged to the Spanish government and not to the Church, and that therefore the same should be the property of the insular government of the US.
The Sixth and last Fundamental Epistle was issued on August 17. This Epistle is very explicit in dealing with liberty. Though it was intended as an exhortation for the Filipinos, its publication in the official organ of the church can be seen as scathing remarks for the Americans. More importantly, it laid down the principle that it is in accordance to the will of God and the nature of man that humankind enjoys liberty:
Ah Liberty! Its worth is understood only when it is lost; it can only be loved in the ‘saddest darkness of prison cells.’
A free man is a complete man, dignified, honorable, of lofty sentiments, attended by all his rights and by his unavoidable duties as well; but a man who becomes a slave of his own free will is a man with a vile heart, a deceitful, abject psychopath – a person, in short, deserving of pity.
We are born with the right to think freely and express our thoughts according to the light of reason which the Divinity has given us; we are born with the right to associate freely with those we choose for the purpose of our own perfection and needs; we are born with the right to govern our own persons, our families, home and birthplace; we are born in short, with the right to do freely whatever is our own pleasure so long as we do not violate the liberty and rights of others.
On the 17th of September, The IFI formally canonized the four Filipino heroes, Rizal, Burgos, Gomez and Zamora. They were to be regarded as saints but not with idolatrous intent of rendering them with divine honors. No veneration would be accorded to them. Instead, emulation for their exemplary courage and heroism was encouraged. This expressed the nationalistic spirit of the new church. On October 11, Don Belong returned from Japan and began the Church publication La Iglesia Filipina Independiente Revista Catolica (LIFIRC).
On October 28, the IFI adopted the Doctrina y Reglas Constitucionales (DRC) that replaced the Fundamental Epistles as the doctrinal foundation and governing rules of the Church until 1947 with only slight revisions in 1918 and 1940. On August 5, 1947, the IFI adopted a new Constitution and Canons as well as a Declaration of Faith and Articles of Religion. In its opening paragraph, the DRC declared:
The object of the founding of the Philippine Independent Church is principally to respond to the imperative need to restore the worship of the one true God in all its splendor and the purity of his most holy Word which, under the reign of obscurantism, has been diluted and distorted in a most disheartening manner for any Christian of even moderate education.
On December 1, Bishop Edward Herzog of the Swiss Independent Church of Berne, Switzerland wrote in recognition to the new Church that “we conserve the Catholic Faith, Catholic Sacraments, the Catholic Liturgy and the Catholic Constitution but added that they are independent of the Pope and especially denied the decree of the Vatican.”
February 21, 1904 saw the start of the serialization of the Lecturas de Cuaresma in the La Iglesia Filipina Independiente: Revista Catolica. The last of the series was on May 1, 1904. The whole series was published in Barcelona in 1906. Achutegui and Bernad wrote that this book is one of those that stated that the IFI is the most rationalistic religion based on the Bible.
On June 26, Bishop Aglipay accepted the invitation to attend the Provincial Synod of Manila convoked by the Apostolic Delegate, John Baptiste Guidi to be held in August 7, 1904. Bishop Aglipay’s letter also expressed gratitude to this conciliatory gesture especially since it did not contain the usual fulmination and menacing phrases. However, he wanted to know if the synod would be willing to discuss the motives, which had driven the Filipinos to that painful separation.
On July 24, 1905, the Philippine Commission enacted a special law to decide the controversy between the Roman Catholic Church and the Philippine Independent Church. This was the Philippine Commission Act No. 1376 and entitled “An Act Providing for the Speedy Disposition as to the Right of Administration or Possession of the Churches, convents, cemeteries and other Church Properties and as to Ownership and Title Thereto by Vesting in the Supreme Court of the Philippine Islands original jurisdiction to decide such controversies and for other purposes”.
On November 30, 1906, the Supreme Court handed down a momentous decision that in effect ordered the IFI to return all properties it had seized and occupied from the Roman Catholic Church. The US Supreme Court upheld the decision in 1909.
A more important event for this year was the publication in Barcelona of the Oficio Divino by Isabelo de los Reyes, Sr. This book was officially adopted on June 10, 1907 and thus became the official Prayer Book and Ritual for the IFI until 1947 when a new Declaration of Faith and Articles of Religion was adopted by the General Assembly. However, it was only in 1960 that it ceased usage with the adoption of the two official Liturgical Books, the Filipino Missal and the Filipino Ritual. Between 1924 and 1932, there were promulgations of Bishop Aglipay to amplify Unitarian reforms he wished to bring about in the IFI. The majority of the people especially the clergy however did not accept these promulgations.
Translations into the different Filipino dialects ensued, some in parts, and some in whole. That this happened could be proven by the two letters of Don Belong from Barcelona published in El Renacimiento in the February and April issues of 1908. In the first, Don Belong was urging Bishop Aglipay and the IFI authorities to translate the Oficio Divino into the major Philippine languages. The second was an apology after knowing that Bishop Aglipay and the IFI authorities were doing their jobs seriously. Another evidence is the 1921 publication of Fr. Sabino Rigor’s compilation, Mga Panalanging Hinango sa Oficio Divino ng IFI, translated by Fr. Ceferino Ramirez.
On May 21, 1909, the Philippine Assembly approved a resolution approving the constant desire of the Filipinos to attain independence. The IFI had this theme in its regular and special liturgical occasions. In 1910, the church started the yearly celebration of the Misang Parangal sa Mga Bayani ng Himagsikan. Its Preface soon became the oft-repeated Preface in the Sunday Eucharist and special celebrations in the IFI. Its most celebrated phrase that brought tears to many members of the congregation is the phrase that contains the explicit succor for national freedom, independence and abundant life (kalayaan, pagsasarili at kaginhawaan). These terms in the Prefacio are especially reminiscent of the words of the Kartilya ng Katipunan. On June 4, 1910 the first Celebration of the Feast Day of Maulawin took place in Sta. Cruz, Laguna.
In 1911, there was the composition and speedy dissemination of the Hiligaynon hymn, Ambahanon sang Himaya (Song/Hymn of Adoration) composed by Fr. Jose Javellana an IFI priest in Antique. This hymn has a Tagalog version included as Hymn 89 in the Imnaryong Pilipino published by the Diocese of Cavite in 1990.
On September 28, 1924, the Maria Clara Christ’s Church was inaugurated. The best-known religious statue is the Birhen ng Balintawak (Our Lady of Balintawak). There are actually two images in the statue: the Virgin, in a gown designed after the Philippine flag, symbolizing the mother country; and a young boy, garbed as a Katipunan guerrilla representing the struggle of the Filipino people. In the original statue, an inscription is written: Ama ko, sumilang (or sumikat) nawa ang aming pagsasarili (Our Father, may the day of our joyful independence rise). In the following year, Bishop Aglipay’s Pagsisiyam ng Birhen sa Balintawak, translated by Juan Evangelista, was published.
Such liturgical celebrations advocating Philippine Independence saw other complementing activities in the church. On February 26, 1930, the First Independence Congress organized by Bishop Aglipay unanimously adopted the desire of the Filipinos to be free and independent. In the ensuing years until the institution of the Commonwealth, Bishop Aglipay issued statements exhorting the priests and faithful to join in the activities that spearhead or advocate independence. He also issued a statement justifying the participation of the clergy in such kind of politics since “beneath their robes, they are Filipinos.”
On March 28, 1931, Bishop Aglipay with Bishops Isabelo de los Reyes, Jr. and Santiago Fonacier left the Philippines for Boston to attend the Annual Convention of the Unitarian Association. The party was feted in almost every large city of America by various local groups of Unitarians. The Unitarian Convention passed resolutions for Philippine Independence and admitted the IFI to the International Association of Liberal Christianity. Bishop Aglipay was also given an honorary degree by Meadville Theological School in Chicago. In 1939, Dr. Louis C. Cornish of the American Unitarian Association visited the Philippines and was made Honorary President of the IFI. This seemingly tied the two bodies. However the closeness of these two bodies remained at the level of the national hierarchy, the rank and file of the clergy and laity remained Trinitarians in belief and Bishop Aglipay’s stand was regarded to be contrary to the majority.
On October 10, 1938, Don Belong died. There are claims that he retracted and returned to the Roman Catholic Church but his son, Isabelo de los Reyes, Jr. who later became Obispo Maximo vehemently opposed said claim.
On August 30, 1940, Bishop Fonacier, after having been informed by Bishop Jamnias, went to see Bishop Aglipay who was lying motionless after a stroke. Bishop Fonacier immediately called up Dr. Arzaga, Bishop de los Reyes and others. After making the calls, he returned to the side of the Supreme Bishop who finally was able to speak two words which turned out to be his last – Gracias Que. When Dr. Arzaga, Bishop de los Reyes and others arrived, the Supreme Bishop was already in coma and they decided to bring him to the clinic of Dr. Arzaga.
On September 1, Bishop Gregorio Aglipay, one of the founding fathers and the first Obispo Maximo of the IFI died at the age of 80. As an old guerrilla fighter and patriot, he was given an impressive funeral to which the President of the Commonwealth, his Cabinet, and the most of the highest state officials came to pay their respect. Newspapers bade farewell to the Martin Luther of the Philippines. His remains are now kept at the Aglipay Shrine in Batac, Ilocos Norte.
On October 14, Bishop Fonacier, an ex Senator from Ilocos Sur was elected Obispo Maximo of the Church for a period of three years by a General Assembly. In said election, Bishop Servando Castro withdrew in favor of Bishop Fonacier with the agreement that the Church shall respect and implement the “Bacarra Formula”. Bishop Isabelo de los Reyes, Jr. was also elected as the General Secretary, a position that was provided for in the revision of the DRC. The new Obispo Maximo was installed in a solemn ceremony attended by some high government officials as among the sponsors on November 21.
A Mellowing Nationalism
On September of 1961 the General Convention of the American Episcopal church in one of its great moments, approved a Concordat of Full Communion with the Iglesia Filipina Independiente. By such historic action the American Church has laid down a bridge of recognition between the America and Filipino Churches that shall assuredly promote a healthy trade of spiritual riches between the Christians of America and the Philippines. Through this Concordat the Filipino Church has strengthen its roots and has been welcomed into the open road that leads towards the reservation of its own identity and independence while simultaneously assuring for its clergy and laity a gradual increase of living contacts with the national Churches of the Anglican Communion…We rejoice, beyond the power of words to express, at the termination of our half-century of isolation and no longer feel ourselves the orphans of the Pacific. And while we are pledge to carry on our revolt and prove worthy of the Concordat but in terms of all our nothing, but adopting the principle of moderation and love for truth that, in the words of Albert Camus, is the main characteristic of all proper revolutions.
Supreme Bishop Isabelo de los Reyes, Jr.
On the Cross Roads
During the Japanese occupation, the church leaders fought for their convictions as they had done through the years. Good relations with the Japanese authorities enabled the clergy to obtain passes and therefore mobility to serve the people. The Japanese authorities attempting to obtain cooperation of the Filipino people however befriended the church leadership. The political crisis constrained the hierarchy of the Church to cooperate with Japan. The Obispo Maximo and the General Secretary were made to broadcast favorable accounts of Japanese occupation of the Philippines as part of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. However, a deviating opinion started to be articulated by the General Secretary when he started proclaiming that true nationalism means unity of all Filipinos in defending their nation from all forms of foreign invasion.
The post-war period ushered in a new episode in the history of the Filipino people. It was the time when the campaign for ‘nation building’ infected the air, being the normal consequence, not so much the result of the Japanese invasion, but rather with the American bombings of Manila. In September 1945, after the surrender of the Japanese, government was turned over to the Commonwealth under President OsmeÃ±a. Trouble started in the new Church when Fonacier asked Bp. Remollino to transfer from the Diocese of Cavite to Cebu. Events that followed led to a Supreme Council of Bishops meeting on December 4. The Obispo Maximo was charged with violating the Constitution in consecrating bishops, removing the church headquarters to another town and failure to give an accounting of church funds.
On January 21 and 22, 1946, the Supreme Council of Bishops met upon the summons of Bishop Aguilar, and removed Bishop Fonacier from office and elected Bishop Gerardo Bayaca as his successor. The General Assembly that met on September 1, 1946 duly elected Bishop Isabelo de los Reyes, Jr. as the Obispo Maximo.
Thus, a rift befell the Iglesia Filipina Independiente. On May 17 1950, the Court declared Bishop Isabelo de los Reyes, Jr. as the sole and legitimate bishop of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and ordered Bishop Fonacier to render an accounting of his administration of the properties and funds of the church. On May 20, 1950, Judge Felix Martinez of the Court of First Instance, Manila handed down a decision in which Bishop de los Reyes, Jr. was declared the legal head of the IFI. On January 28, 1955, the Supreme Court of the Philippines declared Bishop Isabelo de los Reyes, Jr. as the legitimate incumbent Obispo Maximo of the IFI. Bishop Fonacier eventually formed the Independent Church of Filipino Christians (ICFC) and seceded from the Iglesia Filipina Independiente.
Earlier applauding the US granting of independence to the Philippines and enticed by the neo-colonial spell of ‘participation in nation building’, Bishop de los Reyes transmuted the revolutionary nationalism of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente into ‘sentimental philippinism’ that was coupled with a passionate pursuit for ecumenism. Likewise, the rationalism and socialism of Bishop Aglipay and De los Reyes Sr. were abrogated and affiliation with revolutionary movements were severed. Observably, in contrast with the figure of Bishop Aglipay, the hierarchy withdrew itself from any significant participation in the revolutionary struggle.
On August 4 1947, the IFI General Assembly petitioned the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church to bestow the Iglesia Filipina Independiente the gift of Apostolic Succession. The following day, the Declaration of Faith and Articles of Religion (DFAR) and a new Constitution and Canons were approved.
The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church of the USA granted the IFI petition during their meeting on November 4-7 1947. On April 7, 1948, in a service, held at the St. Luke’s Pro-Cathedral in Manila, three bishops of the IFI – Isabelo de los Reyes, Jr., Gerardo Bayaca and Manuel Aguilar, received the gift of apostolic succession from the hands of Norman Binsted, Bishop of Missionary District of the Philippines, acting for the Presiding Bishop of the ECUSA, Robert Franklin Wilner, Suffragan Bishop of the Missionary District of the Philippines, and Harry Scherbourne Kennedy, Bishop of the Missionary District of Honolulu.
On September 2, 1957, the General Assembly of the IFI ratified the proposed amendments to the 1947 Constitution extending the term of office for the Obispo Maximo to four years. During the General Assembly of the IFI on May 8, 1961, the major amendment was the “supplication” of the Oficio Divino by the Filipino Missal and the Filipino Ritual. The two books became the official books of worship and administration of the Sacraments in the IFI. The English translation of the Luwalhati stripped its meaning and the Bendicion was totally deleted. The Prefacio was also revised in such a way that the petition for independence, freedom and abundant life for the nation was deleted. In many instances, however, the Prefacio was be revised in such a way that the petition was changed into succor for the maintenance of the Independence which was already granted.
On one hand, these liturgical revisions were primarily responsible for the watering down of the nationalism in the IFI. On a more positive note, these actions paved the way for broader international and interdenominational relations.
On August 8, 1958, the Iglesia Filipina Independiente became an active member of the World Council of Churches. On August 21, 1958, the WCC unanimously welcomed the IFI as a regular member. In 1961, the Church participated in the Third Assembly of the WCC held in New Delhi, India where Bishop Macario V. Ga was elected member of the Central Committee for a term of seven years. Bishop Ga was elected for another term during the Fourth Assembly held in Uppsala, Sweden, in 1968.
On May 8, 1960, when the Church celebrated the first Centenary of the birth anniversary of Bishop Gregorio Aglipay, Churches around the world sent messages during the celebrations. During the occasion, the SCB and General Assembly unanimously voted on the proposal for the Church to enter into a concordat with PECUSA. The House of Bishops received the proposal and recommended that such concordat be entered. When the concordat relation was approved in 1961, a Joint Council was created to concretize the relations between the two churches.
Shortly after that historic concordat signing, similar Concordat of Full Communion was established by the IFI with the following: Province of the West Indies, September 1, 1962; Church of the Province of Central Africa, November 12, 1962; The Church of the Province of West Africa, 1962; The Church of the Province of East Africa, 1962; The Church of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon, January 18, 1963; The Nippon Sei Ko Kai, March 15, 1963; The Church of Ireland, third week of May, 1963; The Lusitanian Church, October 9, 1963; The Church of England, October 16, 1963; The Episcopal Church in Scotland, December 5, 1963; The Anglican Church of Canada, 1963; The Church of Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, 1963; Spanish Reformed Church, 1963; The Church of the Province of South Africa, February 17, 1964; The Church of the Province of New Zealand, April 29, 1964. Catholic Church of Austria; The Old Catholic Church of Czechoslovakia; The Old Catholic Church of Germany; The Old Catholic Church of Holland; The Old Catholic Church of Switzerland; The Polish National Catholic Church of America; The Old Catholic Church of Yugoslavia; The Episcopal Church of Brazil.
The PIC-PECUSA Joint Council formed a Student Work Program inside the UP campus, which eventually gave birth to the UP-Philippine Independent Church Student Association (UPPICSA). The UPPICSA played a crucial role in the radical transformation of the church youth organization into a socially conscious organization of students and young people by facilitating educational activities that sought to revive the nationalism of church youth.
While the young people of the Church were further organizing and consolidating their ranks, the national leadership continued to forge solidarity with the provinces of the Anglican Communion in Asia. On January 18, 1963, the Concordat between the IFI and the Churches of India, Burma, Pakistan and Sri Lanka was established. It was the first concordat of full communion established between and among Asian Churches. On the other hand, on October 8, 1963, the Convocation of Canterbury received the Report of the Commission appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to examine the Faith and Order of the IFI. The Convocation agreed to the establishment of Full Communion between the Church of England and the IFI on the basis of mutual acceptance. The IFI has been co-opted member of the CCEA from 1964 because of its Concordat relation with PECUSA. CCEA is mainly composed of the churches within the Anglican Communion in East Asia.
On November 7, 1963, the Inaugural Assembly and First General Convention of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines took place at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Mary and St. John, Quezon City. Bishop de los Reyes, Jr. was elected as the first Chairman of the Council.
On April 1964, the IFI established its first contact with the Orthodox Churches of the East. Bishop de los Reyes and Bishop Pasco, at the invitation of Bishop Arthur Michael Ramsey of Canterbury, attended the first meeting of the wider Episcopal Fellowship. On February 25, 1966, the Presiding Bishop of ECUSA, the Most Rev. John E. Hines, on behalf of the Domestic and Foreign Society of the PECUSA, transferred and conveyed to the IFI the possession of the 3,500 sq. m. residential lot at the corner of Taft Avenue, Manila.
On September 22, 1966, the Solemn Commemoration of the Fifth Anniversary of the Concordat of the IFI and ECUSA was held. On November 2, 1967, the Concordat of Full Communion between the Church of the Province of East Africa and the IFI was ratified.
In 1968, Bishop Soliman Ganno and Fr. Vic Esclamado represented the IFI in the fourth Regional Assembly of the East Asia Christian Conference (EACC) formerly called Asian Council Ecumenical Missions (ACEM). In 1963 when the IFI became a member of NCCP, it also became its regular member, beginning from the third EACC assembly in Bangkok. In 1973, EACC was renamed as Christian Conference in Asia (CCA) during the Fifth Regional Assembly in Singapore.
The IFI as she participated in the ecumenical life abroad has been overwhelmed with those successes. Unfortunately, however, her victories led the IFI to seemingly forget her revolutionary or nationalist heritage. The IFI even produced church leaders that propagated reactionary ideas though these “reactionary tendencies of the Church were not left unchallenged. In 1968, IFI students and some IFI seminarians at St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary who were drawn by the wave of the Second Propaganda Movement started to question the direction and orientation of the IFI. Some youth leaders from UPPICSA who were exposed to the World Council of Churches Youth Assembly in Uppsala, Sweden, paved the way for the young people to be engaged in the ecumenical youth movement. The UPPICSA and the IFI were caught in the vortex of political unrest against the much-hated US-Marcos dictatorship. The rising nationalist current and restlessness of the militant students and mentors swept the universities and colleges. Worker and peasant movements in the countryside have been mounting and intensifying. The revolutionary fervor has inevitably challenged the IFI to look back to its origin and define its present task amidst the escalating social upheavals.
Recognizing the Role of the Lay People
The organization of the lay sectors into a national level was also taken care of. First to be organized was the Women’s Auxiliary of the Philippine Independent Church. The first national convention of the women was held at St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary (SATS) on May 10-11, 1957. The first set of permanent officers was elected with Miss Ella Cabreza as the first President of the Women’s Auxiliary of the Philippine Independent Church.
Permission to become a national organization was granted to the men even earlier in June 18, 1956 by the Supreme Council of Bishops in its session held at the Pro-Cathedral Church in Paco, Manila. The first election of officers was held only on September 2, 1957 when the laymen delegates to the Church’s General Assembly of September 1 convened to elect the first set of national officers. Mr. Apolonio Pisig was elected President. Notions for an organization of the Youth surfaced later. In 1960, the Philippine Independent Church Regional Youth Movement was organized with Atty. Raymundo Beltran of Cavite as the first President. A national movement of the youth came into being only in 1969.
The intended purposes of the national organizations would be where the energies of the IFI were concentrated up to that year however. This was the construction of a National Cathedral to supplant the Cathedral in Tondo that was destroyed during the War. In 1957, it was made clear in the Constitution of the National Laymen’s Commission that one of its primary purposes would be the construction of a national cathedral. The fourth Obispo Maximo later deputized this body to take charge of such project. However, until 1960 nothing had been done and so another commission composed of multi-sectoral representatives was created with a Bishop as Chairman. Three years later, the Obispo Maximo took over the helm. It took another six agonizing years before this project was realized. The National Cathedral of the Holy Child of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente was consecrated during the celebration of the 109th Birthday of Bishop Gregorio Aglipay on May 8, 1969.
The fourth Obispo Maximo appealed for the next project which was the construction of the national offices. However, the members of the church especially the youth who on this year would organize themselves into a national movement, issued another call
Journeying with the People’s Continuing Struggle
I have said this again and again to brothers in the ministry and to friends, and I dare express it again: that the stirring spirit that gave birth to our Church is seen to be totally paled by time and circumstances if we forever hold our peace before the unfolding drama of the whole Filipino people. The IFI has a place under the sun only if she can recapture once again that spirit of an outer-oriented movement – a movement that wholeheartedly embraces the aspirations of the poor who make up the vast majority of our people. After all, she started with her twin sister, La Union Obrera Democratica, the fortress of the Filipino workingman. And to state proudly, the “wretched of the earth” were her pristine company. Fr. Jerry Aquino, Letter to the IFI from Prison, 1980
The Church and Youth Activism
The twilight years of the 1960s witnessed the spirited movements of church youth that resulted in the first ever National Youth Assembly in 1969. Bishop de los Reyes realized the potential of the youth and led the church into recognizing their rank as a dynamic sector in the decision making process of the church. Militancy characterized the assembly with the youth condemning the semi-feudal and semi-colonial conditions of the Philippine society, challenging the church to make clear its stand on this matter.
The assembly gave birth to the National Youth Movement of the PIC (NYV-PIC) and elected Ms. Carmencita Karagdag as its chairperson. NYV-PIC later changed its name to KILUSANG PAMBANSA NG KABATAAN ng Iglesia Filipina Independiente (KPK-IFI) to hold true to its nationalist character. This event signaled the consolidation of the youth sector and the national level geared towards reclaiming the nationalist heritage of the IFI. The youth since then unwrapped itself into becoming a more progressive and militant segment in the church, with the KPK-IFI playing the vanguard role in uniting the youth of the IFI, asserting their role in the church and promoting ecumenism among the young people of the various churches.
The KPK-IFI held their Second National Assembly on April 28 to May 1, 1972 at UP Los BaÃ±os, Laguna with the theme: “PIC Youth Face the Challenge of the 70’s”. The assembly denounced and opposed the unholy trinity of imperialism, bureaucrat capitalism, and feudalism, and issued a direct challenge to the conservative, opportunists and reactionary elements of the church on its open collaboration with the ruling regime. The same demanded reforms in the church and the restoration of the genuine teachings and history of the church.”
When the First Quarter Storm erupted, the KPK-IFI joined the student protestations on the streets. When Marcos declared Martial Law on September 21 1972, members of the KPK-IFI were included in those who were arrested and detained. The situation compelled the KPK-IFI to disappear as a sectoral organization, branded as subscribing to communist ideology. Nonetheless, the highly politically conscious members of the organization strove underground thus preserving a core group of militant leaders in the church who would resurface by the late 1970s.
In April 1976, a National Youth Consultation was held from at SATS. Seventy youth representatives from the thirty dioceses came to the consultation and expressed the need to restructure the National Youth Organization and adopt a National Constitution and By-laws. The consultation also came up with several recommendations addressed to the Supreme Council of Bishops expressing demands for concrete reforms in the church, the democratization of the church and deeper lay participation in the life of the IFI. The consultation also called for the creation of a National Youth Office and representation in the General Assembly of the church.
This clamor of the youth sector was realized when at the National Consultative Assembly held on October 21-24, 1976 at the National Cathedral; the youth of the Church was for the first time, formally represented.
The National Youth Assembly was held in April 1977 at the Parish of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, La Paz, Iloilo City. Mr. Fructuoso Sabug Jr. was elected president of the NYM. A Constitution and By-Laws of the National Youth Movement was also approved and adapted.
Reawakening of the Nationalist Heritage
When the young people of the church, especially the students began criticizing the complacency of church leaders in the late 1960s, Bishop de los Reyes made the prudent gesture of welcoming them as consistent to the nationalist tradition of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente. However sincere Bishop de los Reyes’ action maybe in recognizing the youth’s clamor, it certainly led to the consequent formation of the Kilusang Pambansa ng mga Kabataan ng Iglesia Filipina Independiente (KPK-IFI) in 1969 marking the reawakening of the revolutionary nationalism and re-politicization of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente.
Paradoxically, when martial law was imposed in 1972, barely a year after Bishop Macario Ga succeeded Bishop de los Reyes, the latter along with other leaders of the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, were fettered to collaborate with the status quo, critically or otherwise. Interestingly, and quite ironically, the attitude taken by the hierarchy did not permeate the whole Iglesia Filipina Independiente as the rank and file of the clergy along with a significant number of the laity rejected such position. The generation of young clergy and progressive youth of the church registered their opposition to the perfidy of supporting the anti-muslim and anti-communism crusade and new society ideology of Marcos, rightfully seeing them as demonstrations of unveiling state fascism
Bishop Ga continued to staunchly support Marcos while both the Roman Catholic and Protestant leaders were gradually and openly becoming critical of the despotic leader. The hierarchy willingly made the church a cultural apparatus for the moral justification of the strongman’s garnering of absolute political power. Eventually, the clergy, seriously disturbed by the hierarchy’s politicking, started to openly criticize its unapprised gesture of condoning the dictatorship. Irritations started to grow between the hierarchy and a number of bishops, and the progressive clergy and laity. The tension was increased when the latter mounted a criticism on the anomalous practices of some bishops and the hierarchy and with their crusade to clean up the church bureaucracy.
Albeit the suspicion of an antagonistic and an increasingly apprehensive hierarchy, the clergy organized themselves under the National Priest Organization in 1978 determined to work for the renewal of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and to recapture its legacy of revolutionary nationalism. Undoubtedly, the formation of the NPO increasingly sharpened the contrast between the conservative pro-martial law hierarchy and the progressive young priests, who were now labeled as subversives, and further widened the gulf that separated them.
The hierarchy anathematized its own clergy and laity that were involving themselves with peoples’ organization while the national leadership cast the pretension of having the whole of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente one with the Obispo Maximo in supporting President Marcos. Many priests and youth were put under military surveillance, while some others were arrested and incarcerated as political detainees. The incident that occurred in 1981, with Bishop Ga congratulating the constabulary unit that apprehended Fr. Jeremias Aquino while on his way to join the revolutionary movement in the Cordilleras, was an evidence of the heightening conflict between the two groups.
Collaborating with a number of sympathetic bishops and laity, these progressive priests rallying under the banner of the NPO, effected the election of Bishop Abdias de la Cruz as Obispo Maximo in the General Assembly in 1981. Bishop Ga thereupon filed a petition with the Securities and Exchange Commission in an attempt to nullify the election of Bishop de la Cruz. When the Court of Appeals executed the decision in favor of Bishop de la Cruz in 1987, Bishop Ga, with his followers of bishops and priests, thereafter formed the Iglesia Catolica Filipina Independiente (ICFI).
Bishop de la Cruz, cognizant of the organizational significance of the NPO in consolidating the rank and file of clergy from the various regions and in campaigning for church programs, established a close working relationship with its leaders. Consultations between bishops and priests were conducted and continuing theological education seminars were held enthusiastically to bring about relevant renewal in the church and recapturing its revolutionary nationalism.
Militancy in the Clergy Sector
In 1971 the Concerned Individuals for Renewal of Church Leadership (CIRCLE) was formed. Committed to resurrecting the Church from more than three decades of slumber, it initiated studies of liberation theology and provided a critical eye to what were transpiring in the Church. The potential of this organization to initiate a cultural struggle and theological battle within the Church can be seen in the influence they have exerted with the formulation and adoption of the Statement of Church Mission in 1976. Their struggle to organize into a national organization was given fulfillment in the 1977 Constitution and Canons.
In May 1978, sixty-seven priests organized themselves into the National Priest Organization, in an organizational convention held at St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary. When the NPO was organized it pursued a program on continuing theological education for the clergy. The organization became instrumental in the formation of the integrated national program of the church under Bishop de la Cruz in 1981.
Guided by a conscious attempt to recover the national and democratic heritage of the Church, the organization articulated the concept of Peoples’ Religious Nationalism. This period, characterized by militancy of the young generation of laity and clergy, made the Church increasingly conscious of her historic vocation of Pro Deo Et Patria.
When the NPO supported the candidacy of Bishop de la Cruz, the organization was confident that the excesses committed by his predecessor would never be repeated. However, relations between the national leadership and the organization started to tumble when the organization ventilated criticisms over the way the hierarchy was handling the faction.
Over the years, the NPO has become a distinct institution in comparison with the mandated sectors of the Church. It has asserted its influence in consolidating and uniting the clergy on critical matters, and has always provided strength to the national leadership in times of crisis.
The NPO can also claim credit in the development of the curriculum of the seminaries, the Aglipay Central Theological Seminary (ACTS) and St. Paul Theological Seminary (SPTS). Even at Saint Andrew’s Theological Seminary (SATS), the NPO was instrumental in the inclusion of the course on the history of the Church in the curriculum. It was through the consistent support of the organization on the ordination of women that made the SCB finally accept women to the ordained ministry.
Time and again, the NPO through its Governor-General and the Board of Governors issued statements related to national issues and support to the various sectors struggling for justice and peace. In 1991 the NPO, through its Governor General, Fr. Apolonio Ranche, released a statement of support for the hunger-striking teachers camping at the National Cathedral. In the statement, the organization admonished the Aquino government to reinstate the teachers and compensate their salaries and benefits. It has issued joint statement with the SCB, particularly on the issue of electoral process in the presidential election of 1992. By the late eighties however, all sectors had caught the revived nationalist fervor.
The National Consultative Assembly of 1976
From October 21-24, 1976, the National Consultative Assembly was held at the National Cathedral of the Holy Child. Bishops, priests and lay people were all represented in the consultation with the purpose of assessing the mission of the church, particularly in the light of the growing demand for greater participation of the laity in the governance and administration of the church. The assembly gave birth to two vital documents – the final draft of the 1977 Constitution and Canons (to be confirmed in the 1977 National Assembly), and the Statement on Church Mission.
The first General assembly under the 1977 Constitution and Canons was held on May 8, 1981 attended by 232 bishops, priests and lay people. The assembly overwhelmingly elected Bishop Abdias de la Cruz, the former Secretary General, as the sixth Obispo Maximo, against Bishop Macario Ga. The overwhelming victory of Bishop de la Cruz reflected the clamor of Aglipayans for change and paved the way for younger blood to take significant positions in the national leadership of the church.
On May 9, 1977 the General Assembly approved the new Constitution of the Church. The new constitution radically changed the structures of the Church and mandated the creation of a national organization of priests.
Bishop Ga filed a petition at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) a week later to restrain Bishop de la Cruz and other officers elected from performing their functions. The SEC denied Bishop Ga’s petition for a Writ of Preliminary Injunction the following May 30. Immediately, Bishop Ga filed a motion for reconsideration. On August 27 1985, the SEC handed down the decision declaring Bishop de la Cruz as the validly elected Supreme Bishop, Bishop Ga, with his bishops and priests, thereafter formed the Iglesia Catolica Filipina Independiente (ICFI).
While the legal battle was in the court of law, the paralegal battles took a violent form with the Central Office taken over by the camp of Bishop Ga. Only with the resolute action of Bishop Alberto Ramento, leading a group of seminarians, priests and lay people, to eject the former. The sympathizers of Bishop Ga followed suit by taking over some parishes, most violent were the taking over and retaking of the church in Pandacan, Manila, as well as in Bacoor, Cavite.
While these upheavals were occurring, the NPO provided support and counsel to the new church leadership, and kept vigil over the decisions and actions of the Obispo Maximo. However, when the NPO learned of the decision of the SCB to consecrate twelve priests to the episcopacy, the organization immediately registered its violent objection and refused to comply when asked by the Obispo Maximo to endorse those who were elected, fearing such would only complicate the situation. Hitherto began the indifference between the organization and the church leadership that would not be over for more than a decade.
Rediscovering the Revolutionary Heritage of the Church
A progressive and perceptive impulse for the Church to become a socially and politically relevant institution became evident in the election of Bishop Soliman Ganno as Obispo Maximo on May 8 1987. The Supreme Council of Bishops (SCB) published two consecutive pastoral letters in May of 1988 (Our Heritage, Our Response) and 1989 (Witnessing: Sharing in the Pilgrimage) respectively that contain an articulation and elucidation of the nationalist heritage of the Church. In the two pastoral letters, the Church also reiterated its advocacy to the people’s agenda, support to nationalist industrialization and genuine land reform, and boldly condemned foreign intervention in the political governance of the country.
It was during Bishop Ganno’s term that the Statement on Development was issued on July 30 1987. The statement laid down the agenda of the church for renewal on the various aspects of its organizational and institutional life. The statement likewise reflected the continuous and conscious effort of Aglipayans to recapture the church’s historical heritage by offering herself to witness for and in behalf of the people who were socially and politically marginalized by the system, and to work for the integral transformation of society’. However, Bishop Ganno did live come to witness the fruits of this labor as he passed away on May 26 1989 after two years of fruitful leadership. A Special General Assembly convened on June 22 and elected Bishop Tito Pasco, General Secretary of the Church, to serve the unfinished term of the late Bishop Ganno.
Bishop Pasco pursued the agenda set forth by his predecessor and initiated concrete programs towards self-reliance. He is the author of the Three-Year Vision Program that was aimed to enhance stewardship and education in the Church to achieve a self-reliance, self-governance and self-propagation status within three years. The Three-Year Vision of the Church was launched at the National Cathedral on October 6 1990.
An important document appeared in May 1990 entitled “Peace Building Mission of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente”, signed by the SCB. The document addressed the situation of violence in the country brought about by the inequitable sharing of economic wealth among the people, the fragmentation of the social system, military-political factionalism, and the proliferation of fundamentalist religious groups supporting the status quo. In here the church declared the opening of its institutions as sanctuaries of the people and peace zones, to negotiate peace talks among the warring parties in the country, and to provide help to those victimized by the situation of war.
The militancy of church leaders penetrated the sectoral organizations, especially the youth organization. Even the Kababaihan ng Pambansang Katedral – IFI issued a resolution n October 27 1991 asking the clergy to desist from conducting marriages of Filipinas with foreigners that are pre-arranged by travel or marriage agencies, when the issue of mail-order bride was exposed.
Bishop Pasco led the Church in launching the Centennial Decade Celebration at the Folk Arts Theater on August 3 1992 to mark the beginning of a ten-year celebration prior to the centennial anniversary of the Church on 2002. It was in the same occasion that the Decade Agenda was presented to the people of the IFI. The succeeding celebrations were held at in Ilocos Norte (1993), Cagayan de Oro (1994), Iloilo City (1995), Cavite City (1996), Rosales, Pangasinan, (1997), Oroquieta (1998), Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte (1999), and Dumaguete (2000). The 99th year anniversary celebration was celebrated in the local dioceses.
Late in 1991 the Supreme Council of Bishops issued a letter to the Aquino government and the NDF to renew the peace negotiations between them. The unrelenting call for peace was rewarded when peace negotiations began to take place under the Ramos government in 1998. The social importance of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente as an institution, is demonstrated when Bishop Ramento was recommended by the National Democratic Front to be a member of the monitoring committee on the observance of the CARHRIHL along with Bishop Roman Tiples, then NCCP General Secretary, and to constitute the third party depository of documents for the peace negotiations. A year later, Jose Maria Sison, Bishops Ramento and Tiples then jointly signed a Communique of Dialogue.
The national leadership of the Church has also played a significant role in negotiating for the safe release of prisoners of war held by the New Peoples Army. During the period of intensified armed offensives of the NPA against the military and paramilitary groups in 1997, Bishop Ramento and Bishop Tiples, along with other international organizations, facilitated the release of a number of prisoners of war.
When Estrada was elected president, the IFI immediately issued a statement “Calling the Estrada Administration to Resume the Formal Peace Negotiation” on February 27 1999. On April 26, 1999, the IFI issued a statement concerning her commitment to peace-building ministry entitled, “On Being Peace Maker.” However, the NDFP-GRP peace talks collapsed after the Estrada regime refused to carry out the CAR-HRIHL, imposed new conditions on the agreed principles of the negotiations and ratified the VFA.
Military encounters resumed and hostilities intensified between the AFP and NPA soon after Estrada suspended the peace talks. Between March and April 1999, the NPA released captured military elements, including a brigadier general of the Philippine Army, in Davao and Laguna provinces. Bishop Ramento, Bishop Roman Tiples, Bishop Calang and Bishop Millamena helped facilitate the releases of the prisoners of war in these provinces.
Again, on January 9 2000, Bishop Millamena left for Utrecht, The Netherlands with Senator Loren Legarda and Bishop Jesus Varela of the Roman Catholic Church, to appeal to the leadership of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) for the release of NPA captives Major Noel Buan and PNP Chief Inspector Abelardo Martin. On April 6 2001, Bishop Millamena, together with some clergy and staff of the Central Office joined with peace advocates in Mansalay, Oriental Mindoro to welcome the release of prisoner of war, Major Noel Buan.
When the Arroyo administration declared its willingness to resume the peace talks in January 2001, and released political detainees to display her sincerity, the Church acclaimed the resumption of the peace negotiations. On April 8 2001, a group of IFI members lead by Bishop Millamena, along with members of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines and other people’s organizations, welcomed the arrival of the NDF negotiating panel at the Philippines. Ten days later, a number of clergy and laity of the Church attended the Conference for Genuine and Lasting Peace, hosted by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and Catholic Bishops Conference in the Philippines (CBCP).
On April 27 Bishop Millamena joined with the GRP-NDFP Negotiating Panels in Oslo, Norway to mark the resumption of the Peace Talks.
The election of Bishop Ramento as Obispo Maximo in May 1993 corresponded with an increasing recognition of the Church of her prophetic role in the building of a just society. Though internal renewal remained to be a priority for the leadership of the Church, the context and conditions of society required an inevitable response.
Bishop Ramento was instrumental in facilitating the release of many prisoners of war held by the revolutionary movement. He represented the prophetic role of the Church as peacemaker when he was endorsed by the NDF as member of the monitoring committee on the peace process in 1998. A gradual yet definite and decisive steps were taken by the SCB to articulate the revolutionary heritage of the Church.
On the occasion of the 93rd Proclamation Anniversary the SCB issued a statement entitled “Remembering and Continuing the Unfinished Revolution”, which declared the struggle of the progressive movements in the country to be the continuation of the 1896 national democratic revolution. The theme for the 98th celebration, “Pagsamba at Pakikibaka: Ang Ating Buhay na Pamana”, unveiled the success of the endeavor began by the pre-martial law youth whose militancy set the clergy aflame for recapturing the revolutionary tradition of the Church.
The Church embarked on a theological articulation of her nationalist heritage. The SCB adopted the documents of Towards a Common Vision of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and the Statement on Aglipayan Spirituality in May 1998. These documents speak clearly of the historical heritage of the Church of being Pro Deo Et Patria. The Bishops-Priests Consultation the following October elaborated on the theological framework of the two documents and affirmed the national and democratic heritage in the manuscript of the Statement on Ministry.
The NPO, on their part, designed a curriculum for education to include courses on IFI Heritage and Aglipayan Spirituality in 1999. The courses, facilitated in the regional organizations, were met with appreciation of both bishops, priests and laity of the Church.
Recapturing the historical heritage of the Church was, however, proven to be precarious. In July 1999 Bishop Millamena, the newly elected Obispo Maximo, exposed the recruitment attempt on clergy by the military. In August 1999, Bishop Emer Foja testified that high-ranking military officers were persuading him to enroll himself and his clergy as enlisted reservists in the Philippine Army.
In advocating for the people’s struggle, many bishops and priests of the Church were placed under surveillance and harassment by the military. The Rev. Noel Dacuycuy and Rev. Emelyn Gasco-Dacuycuy were issued a warrant of arrest for the murder of Fr. Conrado Balweg of the CPLA, along with other twelve peasants on December 1999. Another lay church-worker, Lorna Rivera-Baba, was abducted by the military and detained for months on the accusation of being an NPA. There were even reports that a number of bishops and other priests were listed in the order of battle of the military in their counter-insurgency operations. These prompted the Executive Commission of the Church to condemn the Estrada government for the unprincipled conduct of the military in harassing the clergy in September 1999.
Saluting the Centenary of the Church
Bishop Tomas A. Millamena was elected as the Tenth Obispo Maximo in May 1999, and thus holds the apostolic staff to lead the people of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente in welcoming and celebrating the centenary of the Church. Upon assuming leadership in June 1999 he led the Executive Commission in approving and implementing the Three-Year Rolling Plan of the Church.
One of his major steps in ensuring a joyful celebration of the centennial is to assess how prepared is the Church in welcoming her centenary. Thus, to look into the resources of the Church, the IFI Lawyers League (IFILL) was organized on September 1999. The Bishops-Lawyers Consultation followed the creation of IFILL on February 2000.
Two highly important national consultations followed, the Consultation on the Centralization of Funds and Consultation on the Ministry of the Laity in February and May 2000, respectively. These consultations, attended by bishops, priests and laity, were aimed at ordering the organizational life of the Church in terms of making the most of the material, financial and human resources of the whole Church.
The Obispo Maximo conducted pastoral visits to the different dioceses and parishes to meet congregations and to campaign for the centennial of the Church. The Lakbay – Alay sa Bayan at Simbahan was conceived to encourage enthusiasm among the faithful.
The Central Office launched its landmark project for the centennial on May 8 2001. On the commemoration of the 141st birth anniversary of the first Obispo Maximo Gregorio L. Aglipay, Bishop Millamena led the groundbreaking ceremony for the building of the IFI Jubilee House at the National Cathedral Compound. Under the chairmanship of the General Secretary of the Church, Bishop Godofredo J. David, a IFI History Committee was also created tasked with writing the history of the Church to be incorporated in the Centennial Bible.
Preparations for the centenary, however, did not hinder the Church from asserting her prophetic role. When the people called for the ousting of Estrada for immorality and corruption, the Church joined the thousands of people daily marching the streets to demand his resignation. In December 2000, the Executive Commission issued a statement calling for the resignation of President Estrada. The bishops and prelates of the Church who met at Manila on January 16 2000 likewise issued a statement that declared President Estrada culpable.
When Arroyo was declared president four days later, Bishop Millamena sent a letter to her reminding her not to forget the true heroes of People Power II who are the basic masses. However, a year after, the SCB, in May 2001, declared that the government had made no substantial programs that addressed the situation of the basic masses.
In May 2001, on the eve of the national elections, Bishop Millamena offered the National Cathedral to host the campaign meeting of Bayan Muna, a political party of the national democratic movement.
Solidarity with the ecumenical group remained to be one of the priorities of the national leadership. Bishop Millamena was elected NCCP chairperson in November 1999. When Estrada disclosed the plan for the VFA, the Church joined the Peoples’ Movement Against VFA in 1999. Likewise, when Estrada declared his all-out war policy on the MILF, bishops and priests joined other churches in registering their protest by launching the Inter-Faith Solidarity for Justice and Peace – Mindanao in May 2000. Bishop Millamena was one of the conveners for the launching of the Ecumenical Jubilee Conference Network 2000 (EJCN) in July 2000.
In February 2, 2002, the centennial commemoration of the establishment of the Union Obrera Democratica was held at the National Cathedral. The Iglesia Filipina Independiente and the Kilusang Mayo Uno jointly spearheaded the affair and celebrated the one hundred years of trade unionism in the country. Attending the occasion were congregations from neighboring churches and dioceses of Manila, a number of clergy and representatives of the national sectoral organizations, and member organizations of the KMU all over the National Capital Region. The celebration demonstrated the burning fervor of the IFI to reclaim her historical relation with the working class and the masses that gave birth to her a hundred years ago. It manifested a reaffirmation of her ministry and mission of serving and advancing the welfare of those who live in the periphery of society; and also an assertion of her prophetic commitment to struggle against systems and structures that hinder the creative potentials of the people.
The Iglesia Filipina Independiente is celebrating her 100th proclamation anniversary on August 03, 2002. Despite the multifarious problems caused by internal and external factors or forces, the Iglesia Filipina Independiente has persevered in preserving her institutional life and in pursuing her mission in the country and elsewhere, ever faithful and true to her heritage as the church of the working class and, according to Teodoro Agoncillo, the only tangible result of the 1896 Philippine Revolution. She has never wavered from, nor abandoned, her pastoral and prophetic ministry even during the worst of times. Internal conflicts and limited resources have not dampened the zeal to undertake the best efforts in fulfilling her missionary tasks although many times her best efforts were not sufficient enough. Such tenacity to the calling and devotion to the tasks, notwithstanding the many obstacles along the way, has served as the strong and steady sail that enabled the Iglesia Filipina Independiente to survive in its journey toward its first centenary.
The Church is ever grateful to the continuous grace and guidance of God the Almighty and to the countless women and men who never hesitated “to cast their nets into the deep”, willingly walked the thorny path through times, and gladly shared their self through sufferings and sacrifices so that the IFI could attain its present stature. One hundred years of faithfulness to God and country through missionary work and service is an achievement and calls for a grand celebration indeed. A celebration that would further edify the IFI faithful through a fuller grasp and understanding of the Church’s history, heritage, beliefs, doctrines, and perspective. A celebration that would foster a better perception/understanding of what the Church is, the beliefs, values and ideals that she stands for, thereby fortifying the IFI’s role as a strong pillar of Philippine society. The grand celebration will also serve as the culminating event of a program launched by the Church a decade ago that brought the annual anniversary celebration to the various regions of the Philippines for ten years.
IFI History Committee, 2002
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