THE DEMANDS of the Negros and Panay Filipino clergy for the appointment of native priests only was known as the Filipinism movement that actually began at the middle of the 19th century. The campaign led to the execution of the three priests, popularly known as the Gomburza (Gomez, Burgos and Zamora). The cause was part of the Philippine revolution of 1898 where Fr. Gregorio Aglipay was appointed the Military Vicar.
They fought against race discrimination. Their demands, known as the Memorial, were expressions of hurt feelings that they were treated as second class priests who could not rise above the Spanish men of the cloth. Reports by several government officials complain that development was stagnant in areas under the administration of the natives. This is a paradox because in the first place a native, an Indio was not given as much leeway as a Spaniard. His race tied his hands. Secondly they were not given a chance to prove their worth.
The Ecclesiastical Governor of Jaro rejected the demands “on doctrinal grounds” saying there is only one true Church and only the Pope had the authority to grant what they wanted. The Negros and Panay clergy ignored the response and raised their petition to a new Papal Delegate, Msgr. Juan Baptista Guidi but at the same time assailed the Apostolic Constitution of Pope Leo XIII, Quae mari sinico related to the Philippines. The phrase comes from the first words, “about the China Sea”. The Constitution allowed foreign bishops and clergy, including Spaniards, to hold parochial and ecclesiastical office in the country.
Despite the negative response, their emissary made them believe that the new Papal Delegate was sympathetic to their cause. On the other hand, several Spanish priests were allowed by Bishop Andres Ferrero to return to their parishes although most decided to leave the country.
When IsabeIo de los Reyes proclaimed the establishment of the IFI on August 3, 1902, tensions rose in the Diocese of Jaro and on July 3, 1903, the native clergy issued a manifesto “El Clerico Desconoce la Autoridad del Vaticano en Punto y Disciplina.” They moved half way, however. While they did not recognize the authority of the Vatican on certain matters and discipline, they still recognized the Pope as head of the Church. Aglipay had not yet accepted the post as Obispo Maximo.
Significantly, while they were negotiating with the Vatican the leaders had already assumed prominent positions in the schismatic IFI whose constitution they signed.
Fr. Narcio Hijalda of Ilog was appointed Bishop of Antique, while Fr. Santiago Pamplona and Fr. Lorenzo Paloma of Valladolid became the Ecclesiastical Governor of Panay and Negros, respectively. Thus, while still appealing to Rome through their July Manifesto, they had actually already taken new positions against the Church. Descalzo, in fact, was elected member of the IFI Supreme Council of Bishops. Their actions excommunicated them.
Several years ago, while I was at the cemetery of Valladolid where my maternal relatives (Palacios) have a mausoleum, I spotted the tomb of Bishop Paloma. It was untended and in a state of decay. I suggested to then Valladolid Mayor Ricardo Presbitero to urge the IFI in that town to exhume Paloma’s remains and give him a better place inside the IFI church. He now lies there in dignity.
I had done similarly before in 1974 when I saw the ground level tomb of General Juan Araneta in Bago cemetery, also untended. I suggested to Bago Mayor Manuel Torres to give the hero his rightful place. I proposed that his bones, like that of Jose Rizal in Luneta, be entombed in his monument. It is there now. We had an elaborate, colorful military burial, complete with a caisson carrying his remains.
The action of the clergy that revolted against Rome led to schism but they rode on wheels of popularity as the nationalist church. They continued to possess their parishes and even took over parishes without a Catholic pastor. When Aglipay visited Negros in 1904, the wealthy and the poor gave him a hero’s welcome. He celebrated Mass in churches the IFI confiscated but was denied entry by native Catholic priest loyal to the Catholic faith.
Negros and Panay became the mainstays of the IFI where a third of IFI national followers were. But this changed. We shall continue on October 20.