Today in Philippine History, May 5, 1860, Gregorio Aglipay was born in Batac, Ilocos Norte

Tuesday April 09, 2013 ()

   Bishop Gregorio Aglipay
   (Bishop Gregorio Aglipay)

On May 5, 1860, Gregorio Aglipay, the forefront in the creation of an independent church called the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and a nationalist former Roman Catholic priest, was born in Batac, Ilocos Norte to Pedro Aglipay Cruz and Victorina Labayan Hilario.

Orphaned at a young age, Gregorio grew up in the care of relatives. As a worker in the tobacco fields, he learned about the social condition under the colonial masters. He was only fourteen when he was arrested and brought to the gobernadorcillo for failing to meet the required quota of tobacco. Because of this, he developed a deep resentment against the Spanish authorities.

Gregorio started his early education in his hometown. In 1876, he moved to Manila and studied in the school of Julian Carpio with the financial help of his uncle Francisco del Amor that kept him through until he finished his Bachelor of Arts degree in San Juan de Letran. He proceeded to study Law at the University of Santo Tomas only to leave it unfinished for the priesthood. He entered the seminary in Vigan in 1883. On December 21, 1889, he was ordained priest of the Roman Catholic Church and celebrated his first mass in January the following year. He served as coadjutor of various parishes: Indang, Cavite; San Antonio, Nueva Ecija; Bocaue, Bulacan; San Pablo, Laguna; and Victoria, Tarlac. It was while he was serving as coadjutor in San Pablo, Laguna when the revolution in 1896 broke out.

Today in Philippine History, May 5, 1860,  Gregorio Aglipay was born in Batac, Ilocos Norte

One with nationalist sentiments, he sympathized with the cause of the revolution. His sympathy was turned into actually giving aid to the revolutionists in Victoria, Tarlac where he was assigned as assistant of the Spanish cura parroco in late 1896. The following year, with the escalating revolution, the Spanish priest ordered the arrest and execution of many Filipino men whom he accused of being involved with the revolution but because of Aglipay’s intervention by appealing to the Cura and vouching their innocence, their lives were spared.

Aglipay finally joined the revolutionist in 1898. He represented Ilocos Norte, his home province, in the convention in Malolos on September 15 that year and was one of the signatories of the Malolos Constitution. On October 20, Aglipay was appointed vicario general castrence (military vicar general) of the revolutionary government. In this capacity, Aglipay pursued the dreams of the secular priests like Jose Burgos in Filipinizing the church. He visited abandoned parishes left by the Spanish friars and gathered about sixteen former seminarians and have them ordained by Father Jose Heria Campomanes, who was then prisoner of the on-going revolution.

Although a nationalist and member of the revolutionary government, he did not allow the bitter cause of the war to stand between humanitarian reasons. He interceded for the lives of Jesuit Fathers Antonio Rosell and Felix Mir, who were held prisoners by the revolutionaries. He freed from humiliation a Spanish friar in Laoag who as a prisoner was asked to cut grass in public.

On November 15, 1898, Bishop Campomanes appointed Aglipay to takeover the diocese of Nueva Segovia, which he had been administering. With the hope of using Aglipay as link between the Filipinos and the church, Bishop Nozaleda approved the appointment but things did not work as he expected because Aglipay was determined to Filipinize the church. He had issued manifestoes urging the Filipino clergy to unite and take control of the Church, an act that the Spanish Roman Catholic Church interpreted as rebellion. Consequently, these manifestos were used as evidences in excommunicating Aglipay from the Church under the decree dated April 20, 1899 of the Ecclesiastical Court.

Isabelo de los Reyes   
(Isabelo de los Reyes)   
The independence of the Clergy was a consuming passion for Aglipay. He worked with Isabelo de Los Reyes, a nationalist labor leader, in persuading the Vatican to recognize their cause to no avail. Because of this, Aglipay formed a new church, the Philippine Independent Church or Iglesia Filipina Independiente, on August 3, 1902. During the Church launching, Isabelo de los Reyes named Aglipay as its Supreme Bishop. This finally sealed Aglipay’s separation with the Roman Catholic Church. On October 1, 1902, the first constitution of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente was approved, signed, and promulgated in Sibakong, Manila. Twenty-Six days after the signing of the constitution, Supreme Bishop Aglipay celebrated his first mass.

Bishop Aglipay, however, had not left the cause of the 1896 Revolution. During the Filipino-American War, he fought actively with his guerrilla unit against the Americans. Realizing the futility of fighting the well-equipped American soldiers, he surrendered to Colonel MacCaskey in Laoag and resumed his leadership in the Church.

A nationalist, Aglipay tried to transform his leadership in the political arena. He ran for president in the 1935 election under the Republican Party but lost to Manuel L. Quezon.

On March 12, 1939, Aglipay married Pilar Jamias from Sarrat, Ilocos Norte.

On September 1, 1940, Bishop Aglipay died in Manila of cerebral hemorrhage and was buried in his hometown in Batac, Ilocos Norte.

References: (All via the National Historical Commission of the Philippines)

  1. Agoncillo, Teodoro A. History of the Filipino People 8th ed. Quezon City: Garotech, 1990.
  2. Cornejo, Miguel. Commonwealth Directory of the Philippines. Pasay City, 1939. Fonacier, Tomas S. Gregorio Aglipay Y Labayan: A Short Biography. Manila: McCullough Printing Co., 1954.
  3. Zaide, Gregorio F. Great Filipinos in History. Manila: Verde Bookstore, 1970.


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