The Philippine Independent Church In History
The Republic of the Philippines occupies a unique place in history as an Oriental nation, so westernized that neither its own people not its visitors recall that it is an Oriental nation. Equally unique is it place in Church History as the only Oriental Christian nation, that is, a country whose congressmen, officials and public leaders are predominantly professing Christians. But even more significant historically is another unique featured of the Philippines – its possession of a Catholic church separated from Rome and seeking reform 450 years after Reformation. This church is the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Philippine Independent Church), and its existence gives pause for thought to any historian who sees God as a God of History both able and willing to direct the course of all human events.
The Roman Catholic Church has a long and generally noble history in the Philippines; for centuries it maintained an enlightened attitude toward a native population helpless in the face of exploitation by civil officials. It has left the modern Filipino with a vigorous folk devotion in the villages and a vigorous intellectual life in the capitals. Yet, human nature being what it is – i.e., sinful – , the Spanish colonial system which identified Church and State put into the hands of the religious a tempting power which bore within it the seeds of abuse and corruption. By the 19th century the Spanish friars enjoyed such a suffocating monopoly on farmland that they became the main target of that revolutionary literature which finally united the Filipinos in armed rebellion in 1896.
Within the Church itself there were demands fro reform, and Filipino clergy agitated against both the arbitrary power of the foreign friars and what we would nowadays call racial discrimination – e.g., native clergy always occupied second-rate positions and were never elevated to Episcopal rank. Three Filipino priests who were executed on trumped-up charges in 1872 for having taken a too actively anti-friar stand on the centuries-old question of turning the parishes over to secular clergy served as martyrs in the revolutionary cause. The charge was also leveled against the friars that their educational system doomed the Filipino people to a superstitious kind of folk Catholicism. It was therefore inevitable that when hostilities finally broke out, the Church would be inextricably involved.
After fighting began, the leading patriot priest – Victor Heiser remembered him as part of the “brains” of the Revolution – was Father Gregorio Aglipay of Ilocos Norte. He was appointed Vicar General of the Revolutionary Army by General Emilio Aguinaldo when Dewey’s arrival in Manila Bay revived that state mated Filipino-Spanish hostilities, and three weeks later Spanish Bishop Jose Hevia Campomanes, a prisoner of the Filipino forces, named him Ecclesiastical Governor of Nueva Segovia, a huge archiepiscopal see covering all of Northern Luzon. In this important positions, Aglipay was able to make immediately clear his attention of reforming the Church and directing it into full support of the nationalist movement.
Aglipay acted on the reputation which the Church had for being wealthy at the expense of the Filipino people by issuing circular after circular directing the clergy to give financial support to the revolutionary government. He ordered them to make contributions and to float loans, warning that if the independent movement failed, the friars were sure to come into possession of the church properties again – a prophecy all too soon to be fulfilled. He directed that incense should only be used in solemn masses, “in conformity with the Roman decrees,” and tried to stop the parading about of holy image for the soliciting of alms. He inveighed against preachers who were “trite and dreary” by comparing them to “those friars unhappy memory who, not knowing the language of the region, pushed themselves composed desultory, with horrible pronunciation and atrocious grammar.”
In February 1899, Filipino nationalists, disabused of the hope that American forces would give them their freedom, look up arms against the new invaders; two months later Aglipay was excommunicated on the technicality that he had exercised ecclesiastical jurisdiction before his official appointment. In October he called a meeting of patriot priests in Paniqui where they established a provisional council to take charge of ecclesiastical affairs until such time as a settlement of Spanish abuses could be made directly with Rome, and then joined the guerilla forces. The revolutionary government at Malolos meanwhile tried to open negotiations on this same issue, and in 1901 appointed a commission of Filipino resident in Spain to petition the papal nuncio there to present their grievances to the Pope. The outcome of this meeting Aglipay himself later described as “an unjust insult inflicted by the Roman Pope on the whole Filipino people when the delegates of Aguinaldo’s independent government petitioned that the orders of the Council of Trent be complied with, by which the bishops of the Philippines would be natives, and he answered that the Pope would never agree to it even if we beheaded the imprisoned friars which we held in our power because Filipinos were not capable of episcopacy.”
The same day, the Filipino delegates announced their withdrawal from the Roman Church in the Spanish press, and the issue of nationalism and Church reform were more strongly indentified than ever. In the Philippines, the slogan was soon heard, “An independent church in an independent Philippines.” The double-headed aspect of this independentist movement was resolved the following year with dramatic suddenness. In May nationalist ambitions were at least temporarily quashed by American military might, and in August one of the irate delegates to the Spanish papal nuncio broached the matter of religious independence before a meeting of the first Filipino labor union, “I am fed up with the arrogant attitude of the Vatican towards all demands from our people fro justice towards the Filipino clergy,” he cried. “I solemnly and without any reservations declare that today we definitely secede from the Church of Rome and renounce allegiance to the Vatican and, relying on God’s aid, proclaim ourselves members of a Christian, Catholic, Independent Church, to be ruled and administered by Filipinos!” Those present then proceeded to elect seventeen “bishops” and Gregorio Aglipay as “Supreme Bishop: (Obispo Maximo). Thus was the Iglesia Filipina Independiente finally and officially born.
The fiery founder of the Philippine Independent Church was Don Isabelo de los Reyes journalist, labor organizer and free-thinker, and a member of the Imperial & Royal Geographic Society of Vienna; he was the son of the great Ilocana poetess Leona Florentino and father of the present Supreme Bishop of the Philippine Independent Church. It was natural that the new church should turn to Aglipay fro leadership. But this great Filipino churchman was priest as well as patriot, and could not immediately accept sp irregular an ecclesiastical appointment. He went into retreat for a time in a Jesuit convent, during which the Independent Catholics in the Ilocos appointed another chief, who resigned as soon as Aglipay accepted. The choice must have been an expensive one for the conscience of a Catholic priest, but it must also have been inevitable that he accept the logical outcome of his own leadership over the preceding years. The new “bishop” therefore approached the Old Catholic in Europe and the Episcopalians in the United States with the hope of receiving consecration at the hands of an historically valid episcopacy.
The summer of 1902 was hardly an auspicious time for an independentist church to find favor with the Americans in the Philippines. The last of that armed resistance which had cost over 4,000 American lives and three hundred million dollars had only been put down three months before, and the ban on independence political parties was not to be lifted until 1905. It had been less than three years since the Vicar General of the Philippine Army and Ecclesiastical Governor of Nueva Segovia, costumed as a revolutionary general, had ordered his priests to wear military uniforms and urged his people to shed their last drop of blood before submitting to the slavery of the insolent North American.” The Churchman in November described the situation with dignified restraint as follows:
Father Aglipay, an excommunicated native priest, celebrated mass on October 27, in defiance of Roman authority, and in an address on that occasion definitely renounced it by saying the New Church would maintain practically all the religious forms of the Roman Church. Aguinaldo sent a letter saying he was too ill to attend, but approved the movement, which is supposed to have the sympathy of katipunan secret society and of native organizations. It is that Aglipay will have associated with his fourteen junior “bishops” a large lay council. In some quarters in Manila it is thought that the new movement will seriously disturb the present political situation.
Aglipay continued his fruitless negotiation with Catholic non-Roman churches for two years, but meanwhile began to turn his attention toward Unitarianism, from which quarter came friendship and encouragement. This was especially true in the case of Governor-General William H. Taft, who was appointed Honorary President of the Independent Church before he left for the States in 1903. Aglipay continued to preside over a church that celebrated masses, venerated saints and church buildings to the Holy Trinity, but he made public profession of his Unitarianism for the next forty years. Both he and Don Isabelo set their hands to publications which made this position clear, literary oddities that seem to have had no influence either inside or outside the independent Church. A glance at these works reveals the intellectual path which these late-Vatican reformers trod. Disgusted with a church that tolerated an abjectly superstitious folk religion (Don Isabelo had said in his founding speech, “Our adoration shall ever be given to God alone and not to any of His creatures.”), they moved from denial of those miracles recorded in Scripture. Finally, caught up in the contemporary intellectualism which hailed a promising science as the arbiter of all truth, they reached a near-pagan deism expressed by Aglipay when he received the Degree of a Doctor of Divinity in Chicago as follows:
When in 1902 we separated ourselves from the Pope for his injustices to the Filipino clergy, begging humbly for guidance to build a Church worthy of Him and of the progress of the day, we did not make off with all dogmas and ancient traditions, for they were obviously the capricious creations of the infantile intelligence when man had just acquired the use of his reasons; and with the help of God we delve into the broad fields of Astronomy to seek the origin of the Universe instead of believing the absurd legends of the Bible.
It is of course impossible that those millions who rallied behind the patriot priest in the heat of the Revolution could or did follow these flights into the rarefied atmosphere of the International Association for Liberal Christianity & Religious Freedom. Up until the present time, these multitudes have maintained that pan-Latin piety which expresses itself in private prayers in public places. Even Don Isabelo himself has left a reputation behind in his staunchly Romanist hometown of Vigan for having spent pious hours on his knees in the cathedral, free-thinker and modernist though he was. It is hard to find an independent layman today who knows what the first Obispo Maximo’s Unitarianism meant, and Roman Catholics who had their children christened by an Aglipayan priest in the absence of a Roman can’t remember whether they were baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity or not. Indeed, there is a certain quaintness in the descriptions of the Aglipayan churches in 1939 by the President of the American Unitarian Association, assuring his readers that the clouds of incense and brocaded vestments which all but obscured the “Biblia y Ciencia, Amor y Libertad” inscribed on the altars were but empty, pretty ceremonials.
Although the original issue of the Filipino demands was acceptance of native bishops – Don Isabelo was enough of a student of church history to remark,” as has happened in other countries in times past – other areas of reform were also taken up. Both the founder of the Independent Church and its first Supreme Bishop expressed their intention of modeling the national church on Anglican precedent, and from the beginning their priests were permitted to marry. This was a fairly obvious reform for the Philippines, for Juan de la Cruz (the Filipino “John Doe”) maintains an often impertinent asceticism about sacerdotal celibacy. The Mayor of a certain municipality once boasted of his four wives before a gathering of the Knights of Columbus with the comment that this was less hypocritical than the practice of the padres, and street gossip calls it “common knowledge” that the late President Manuel Quezon was the son of a Spanish friar.
An obvious area of reform was the use of the vernacular in public worship, but this was reduced to comparative insignificance by a number of other circumstances. Neither Aglipay nor Don Isabelo were Tagalogs, whose dialect was to become the “national” language of the Republic, but Spanish-speakers in a Spanish-oriented culture. Spanish thus became one of the first “vernacular” to be used, and remains to this day a language of prestige expected of people like archbishops and supreme court justices. Moreover, the few prayer books and catechisms that were published by the Church were generally edited by Don Isabelo and Aglipay during their Unitarian days. All of this meant little to the average worshipper, however, for he generally occupied himself with telling his beads or private prayers while the mass was mumbled in the sanctuary or, at best, celebrated as a dialogue between priest and choir. It is possible today to speak with Aglipayan laymen who don’t know what language is spoken at the altar of their own parish church.
The financial corruptness to which all totalitarian organizations are prone was another concern of independiente reform, although neither English-style establishment nor American-style capitalism was available as a solution. In the Philippines, as in other Oriental nations, people who enjoy steady salaries constitute a select minority, and priests have traditionally found it necessary to collect “stole fees” for individual services. Aglipayan clergy sought to avoid abusing this practice by serving the poor free and by asking reasonable sums at all times; examples can be cited in which a coffin at the door of a Roman church for want of the demanded fee was taken across the street to an independent church where the funeral was conducted at half-price.
Evangelical or liturgical reform was not an early concern of the new church, and as time went on its major Evangel became an appeal to the patriotism of its supreme bishop and attacks on that Roman policy began to place missionaries from half the nations of Europe and the Americans under the jurisdiction of native bishops and archbishops, this Gospel of nationalism began to lose its force. Yet even today – a day which finds a Filipino Cardinal enthroned in Manila – it frequently serves as the text of an independiente sermon which offers vague historic generalities as a apologia, pours invective upon the other church, and speaks little of the Love of a Lord who created all mankind.
When three million Filipinos joined Aglipay in his revolt against the Roman Church, they retained possession of the buildings in which they had been worshipping. Under the American regime, however, a court settlement handed all such properties back to Rome, completely dispossessing the independientes and throwing them upon their sources for the construction of makeshift churches. The Rev. George C. Harris; who has been a guest I Aglipayan homes and preached in their churches in their own language, has suggested that to appreciate their position we might picture what the Anglican Church would have been like in the 17th century had the Spanish Armada successfully landed in England and turned all church properties back to the Roman Church. One needs to add to this picture of an Anglican Church without a Cranmer or Merbecke or Hooker, without any colleges or universities, without even a printing press. The new Filipino church could not hope to reproduce those magnificent Spanish cathedrals that had been constructed over the centuries out of the sweat of the people; Zaide’s standard text on the social history of the Philippines comments, “It has no beautiful churches to impress the imagination of the people, and no rich benefactors to endow its activities.”
Being the “poor Filipino’s church” put the independientes at a stifling disadvantage in a predominantly Roman land where the traditional church boasted a well-organized vitality, some of the greatest educational institutions in the country, and an impressive roster of scholars of many nationalities. Communications are still so poor in the sprawling independent Church that it cannot state its own numbers accurately, and Jesuit writers have ridiculed the fact that its officers have issued mutually contradictory membership figures. There were and are no church-operated colleges for youth to attend, and those who enroll in the great Roman schools tend to apostasy. The most debilitating effect of independiente poverty, however, was its inability to provide itself with a well-trained clergy, and native roman priests with a decade of philosophical and theological study behind them or advanced training in Italy or Spain amused themselves by comparing notes in Aglipayan competitors who knew no doctrine or who mumbled Latin phrases without knowing what they meant. Indeed, the Independent Church and its friends have often resorted to pointing out that the Apostles were working men as an apologetic.
The Independent Church has by and large been spared overt persecution by the dominant Church both because of an American-introduced concept of free speech and freedom of religion, and because the Roman Church has itself pursued a new policy since the removal of the Spanish friars early in the American period. But as a kind of poor relative in the Philippine religious scene, the independent padre at public affairs often sits in the pit while his Roman, o Protestante, opposite number pronounces the invocation from the platform. Potentially more devastating, however, is the Roman tactic of conducting scholarly research on Aglipayanism itself; a number of preists, and at least one archbishop, have presented theses on the subject, and two Jesuit scholars are presently publishing a two-volume work characterized by exhaustive scholarship, careful documentation, and a graceful style.
In the face of these difficulties, the young church’s mere survival – let alone retention of two million members over this half century – remarkably. A Roman author has recently predicted that there will be no Philippine Independent Church in another ten years. It is an unlikely prophecy. An historian would take a long hard look at an institution with such staying power. And “staying power” has been the major characteristic of this church, for while it has enjoyed no great glories or prestige, it has been an omnipresent part of the Philippine national scene. For forty years its white-maned Obispo Maximo was one of the grand figures out of the Revolutionary past, a confidant of Aguinaldo, and one of the people’s candidates in the first presidential election. When he died, the President of the Philippine laved the hands of his successor in the installation ceremony. Moreover, there are few areas – notably the province Independent Church is financially competent and politically influential.
Nationalism was the vitality that held the Philippine Independent Church together through its many trials and setbacks. Religiously, the average Aglipayan lost nothing and gained little: he gave up worship in the beautiful churches of his forefathers, but he continued to hear a generally unreformed mass, and he enjoyed the intensified fellowship o a minority church and a clergy less susceptible to corruption than is a wealthier body. But only recourse to the political vitality of nationalism explains how these Catholic laymen and priests continued to rally behind an apparent Unitarian. Aglipay had managed to insert his modernist views inoffensively into the 1902 Doctrine and Constitutional Rules, e.g. Catholic faith was to be accepted in all that “did not contradict the Word of God, the natural law and the judgment of reason,” and the human conscience was to be emancipated from “error and unscientific scruples contrary to natural law.” Still he felt apologetic before attending the Convention of Unitarians of America in 1931, and wrote: “When we proclaimed the Philippine Independent Church we were confronted by seemingly insurmountable obstacle – the state of blind Catholic faith sustained with incontestable power by Catholic agencies in the government and in the courts, and for that reason we could not openly proclaim the true principles of our Church.’
There was always a small hard core of zealous leaders in the Independent Church, including urbane caballeros of whom Swiss Bishop Herzorg would not have written, as he did of the Obispo Maximo in 1904. “I understand perfectly that Señor Aglipay is not a Christian gentleman who had the advantage of being born into a good Oxford family.” From this group came those churchmen who, after Aglipay had dies and World War II totally discredited the modernistic illusions of the few Unitarianist members, turned their hopes back to that historic Christianity from which they had been cut off for 45 years. At the time of their church’s founding, and American journal had commented, “A national Filipino Church might indeed be theoretically and improvement of a church united with Rome, but practically it might attain level only a little higher that the Church of Abyssinia.” Whether or not the new leaders ever read that remark, they could look about them and see the danger, so as soon as the War was over, their Supreme Bishop approached the Episcopal missionary bishop in the Philippines on the subject of valid historic consecration, presenting documents signed by the Supreme Council of Bishops attesting the Trinitarian orthodoxy of their faith.
A new day dawned for the Philippine Independent Church with the laying-on of hands in 1948 by three American bishops of the Episcopal Church on the Obispo Maximo and two other Filipino bishops. Not only was the young church brought back into contact with historic Christianity, but the Episcopal seminary in Manila opened its doors to Independent candidates and undertook the training of the future clergy of the indigenous Filipino church. Graduates already ordained have demonstrated an inclination to preach the Lord of Love rather than Nationalism, but they will not quickly be able to change the worship habits of two million Christians. The Philippines is a land which venerates age and seniority, and these new priests will be junior to half a thousand older clergy for some years to come.
One of the brightest spots in this new dawn is the leadership of the Independent Church’s Supreme Bishop, Mons. Isabelo de los Reyes, jr., son of the founder and a intimate associate of the first Supreme Bishop. A cultured and sagacious Christian statesman, he is remembered by his grade school classmates as a brilliant pugnacious student who was usually head of his class or, as the Jesuit had it, “Emperor” of the “Carthaginians.” He is a man who brings patience and understanding to the problem of clarifying the doctrinal vagaries of several million churchmen, for he has experienced a deep spiritual pilgrimage himself. Imbibing the heady intellectualism of his father and his senior bishop, he accompanied Aglipay on his 1931 visit to the Unitarian churches in the United States, and once wrote of the Holy Spirit. “This belief is another hangover from gross paganism, a remnant of the belief in a Fire God and in the Babylonian goddess Semiramis whose symbol was the dove.”
Being the head of the minority church and having to bear criticism of his own theological changes of heart has done nothing to turn the edge of the Obispo Maximo’s personal courage. As a guest preacher of the United Churches in the Philippines whose parent bodies had been frankly proselytizing American missions, he recently said, “The early American missionaries. Far from joining hands with Filipino reformers, concentrated themselves in planting little colonies of their particular denominations and discouraged if not actively opposed all movements for religious or political self-determination.” Presiding over a church which is a part of the historic Catholic Church, a member of the World Council of Churches, the East Asia Christian Conference, and a supporter of the Philippine Bible Society, Bishop de los Reyes writes on stationery headed “Iglesia Filipina Independiente”, but at a dedication service of a Protestant Bishop called his church “a National Protestant and Apostolic.”
Now that its candidates for holy orders are provided for in St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary and its scholars are hard at work on a prayer book and liturgy, the needs of the Philippine Independent Church have been expressed by its Supreme Bishop as schools, a college and printing press. The Philippines is a nation so interested in academic attainment that the major newspapers carry a daily educational page, and the Roman Church has traditionally been the supporter of the finest schools and most scholarly publications. The Independent Church will have a hard time either setting its own house in order or exerting a reforming influence upon Philippine Christianity generally if its members are not able to compete in this field. Yet these educational needs are but symptomatic of the Church’s larger need – the need to be brought back, not simply into the Apostolic succession, but into the quickening ferment of the intellectual and spiritual mainstream of worldwide Apostolic Christianity.
This need of the Philippine Independent Church for communion nad fellowship with historic Christendom is certainly one of the most vital Christian challenges of the twentieth century. It was such a vision of Mission that the Rt. Rev. Norman Binsted made that appeal which his earlier predecessor, Charles Henry Brent, would not for the bestowal of valid orders upon this independent wayward church. Those who know Bishop Binsted best believe that he was motivated solely by a sense of granting a Grace freely given, unimpeded by any conditions or bargaining or strings attached. Sooner or later, all reformed Christians who process membership in a Body whose parts are committed in holy stewardship one to other will be called upon to reject or embrace the same missionary vision.
If 1902 was an inauspicious year for considering an “independent” church in the Philippines, 1906 ought not to be. Bishop Rajah Manikam has pointed out that one half of all the people in the world live in a triangle described by Jerusalem, Tokyo and Colombo, and it is not a Christian half. Christianity today is showing a gradual awareness of the arrogant folly of having attached such vital significance to the history and welfare of a mere fraction of the world’s past and present population. As what Occidental historians have called “the sleeping giant in Asia” struggles to its feet and into the arms of Baal, Western Christianity may well tremble before the God of All History in the realization that those they have treated as mere factors in a post-Malthusian formula are in fact their brothers, creatures all of a common Creator. Against this background, may not the Grand Historian in His omniscience be recording the preparation of a fertile seedbed off the coast of Southeast Asia whence a hybrid Reformation will send forth its branches into the most barren corners of a pagan hemisphere and provide fruit for a hungering mankind that could never feed itself.
24 August 1960
Sagada, Mountain Province
William Henry Scott
William Henry Scott was born on 10 July 1921, in Detroit, Michigan, where he was christened Henry King Ahrens. His family, of Dutch-Lutheran descent, soon returned to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where Scott spent his boyhood. In 1936, Scott won a three-year scholarship to the Episcopalian-affiliated Cranbrook School in Michigan USA, where he excelled academically and became interested in pursuing a career as an archeologist. In 1939, after graduating, he changed his name to William Henry Scott. In 1942, Scott joined the US Navy, serving throughout World War II until 1946. He was recalled to service in the navy for eighteen months during the Korean War. In 1946, Scott joined the Episcopal Church mission in China. He taught and studied in Shanghai, Yangchow and Beijing until 1949. With the general expulsion of foreigners from China in 1949, he followed some of his teachers to Yale University where he enrolled, graduating in 1951 with a BA in Chinese language and literature. Immediately upon graduation he was recalled to active duty and served in the navy for eighteen months during the Korean War. In 1953 he was appointed lay missionary in the Protestant Epsicopal Church in the United States of America. Although he wanted to teach in Japan until he could return to China, he accepted an available post as teacher of English and history in the Philippines, and was assigned to St Mary’s School in Sagada, Mountain Province, Philippines. After preparatory studies in the United States, he reached Sagada in January 1954.
In the Philippines
The Episcopal Church became well established in the Cordillera mountain region of Northern Luzon during the US colonial period, and it was here that Scott settled. He spent much of the remainder of his life in the Kankana-ey town of Sagada. Known to his friends as “Scotty”, he became a focus for pilgrimage by numerous foreign and Filipino academics, entertaining them in his book-lined study while he puffed away on his trademark cigar.
Soon after Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972, Scott was arrested as a subversive and placed in military detention. Several of the boys Scott had taught and sponsored over the years he had lived in Sagada belonged to the anti-Marcos opposition, and Scott was alleged to be a communist sympathiser. As an American citizen Scott could have easily left the Philippines, but he declined, and so faced deportation proceedings. Marcos’ outward commitment to legal formalities resulted in Scott being put on trial for subversion. In court, “resoundingly supported and defended by friends, students, and colleagues, and by Scott’s own brilliant testimony”, he was exonerated with the court dismissing the charges in 1973.
Scott was given “a memorable and triumphant welcome back in Sagada” following his acquittal. He continued to be critical of the Marcos regime. The high level of esteem in which he was held protected him from further prosecution, although his situation remained precarious until the lifting of martial law. He criticized US colonial rule and continuing US involvement in Philippine politics after independence, especially US support for Marcos. In this he pursued a similar line to the Filipino nationalist historian Renato Constantino.
Writer and lecturer
Scott observed the Igorot people of the Cordillera region had preserved elements of pre-colonial culture to a greater degree, and over a wider area, than could be found elsewhere in the Philippines. He saw the resistance of Igorots to attempts by the Marcos government to develop projects in the region as a model for resistance elsewhere in the country. He did not support the view that the Igorot people are intrinsically different to other Filipinos, or the view that the Cordillera should become an ethnic preserve.
Scott was scathing of views that divide Filipinos into ethnic groups, describing Henry Otley Beyer‘s wave migration theory as representing settlement by ‘wave after better wave’ until the last wave which was ‘so advanced that it could appreciate the benefits of submitting to American rule’. Views like these resonated with the progressive nationalist opposition to Marcos.
Scott held a Bachelor’s degree from Yale University, a Masters from Columbia University and a PhD from the University of Santo Tomas. Scott’s dissertation was published by the University of Santo Tomas Press as Prehispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History in 1968. A revised and expanded second edition was published in 1984. He debunked the Kalantiaw legend in this book. Datu Kalantiaw was the main character in a historical fabrication written in 1913 by Jose E. Marco. Through a series of failures by scholars to critically assess Marco’s representation, the invented legend was adopted as actual history.  As a result of Scott’s work, Kalantiaw is no longer a part of the standard history texts in the Philippines.
Scott’s first well known academic work is The Discovery of the Igorots. This is a history of the Cordillera mountain region over several centuries of Spanish contact, constructed from contemporary Spanish sources. Scott argues that the difficulties the Spaniards encountered extending their rule in the face of local resistance resulted in the inhabitants of the region being classified as a ‘savage’ race separate to the more tractable lowland Filipinos. Scott adopted a similar approach in Cracks in the Parchment Curtain  in which he tries to glean a picture of pre-colonial Philippine society from early Spanish sources. This project was criticized by the Asianist Benedict Anderson who argued that this yielded a vision of Philippine society filtered through ‘late medieval’ Spanish understanding. Scott was aware of this limitation, but argued Spanish records provided glimpses of Filipino society and native reaction to colonial dominion, often incidental to the intention of the Spanish chronicler, which were the cracks in the Spanish parchment curtain.
In 1994, the Ateneo de Manila University posthumously gave Scott the Tanglaw ng Lahi Award for a lifetime “spent in teaching not only in the classroom, but also the outside world by means of the broad reaches of his contacts and communication, and most of all through his hundreds of published scholarly articles and inspirationals which continue to disseminate and teach honest Philippine history to succeeding generations of Filipinos.”
One of Scott’s last full scale books was Ilocano Responses to American Aggression. The foreword was written by Joma Sison, the head of the Philippine Communist Party. The EDSA revolution, which coincided with the publication of the book, obscured the fact that the foreword had been written while Sison was in jail.
Harold C Conklin’s Biographical Note and Bibliography  lists 243 extant written works by Scott from 1945 until those posthumously published in 1994.
Scott died unexpectedly on 4 October 1993, aged 72, in St Luke’s Hospital, Quezon City, following what was considered to have been a routine gall bladder operation. He was buried in the cemetery of Saint Mary the Virgin, Sagada, Mountain Province on 10 October 1993.