By FR. DIONITO CABILLAS
In September 2019, the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) Obispado Maximo (Central Office & National Cathedral) personnel and staff made a Pilgrimage to the shrines dedicated to its first Obispo Maximo, Gregorio Aglipay. The landmarks are in the town center of Batac and Kullabeng, Pinili, both in Ilocos Norte. On February 5, 2020, the same group with a few other members from the IFI National Cathedral revisited the shrine and learned some additional information.
There are two landmarks related to OM Gregorio Aglipay in Batac. One is the Gregorio Aglipay National Shrine, which is also the IFI Diocesan Cathedral of the Diocese of Batac. It is here that we can find the remains of OM Aglipay mounted at the back of the Altar of the Church. The other one is a few meters away from the cathedral, in Brgy. Aglipay, where we can find the supposed Mausoleum of OM Aglipay. The local government of Batac constructed the structure.
The Mausoleum informs the public that OM Aglipay is not only a “property” of the IFI but also the “son and one of the great heroes of Batac. At the town hall, we can even read an inscription on the top of a wall, which states, “Batac is the home of Great Heroes: Artemio Ricarte, Gregorio Aglipay, and Ferdinand Marcos.”
Transferring the remains of OM Aglipay at the Mausoleum is a big issue and a big deal for the IFI. The reason is, in the town of Batac, four Churches are claiming its root to the life and teachings of OM Aglipay.
Of course, the first is the IFI, which has a “beautiful and impressive” church building aside from the Roman Catholic Church. The other “Aglipayan churches” regarded the IFI as “the Church of the elites” and “an Episcopalian Church” by its concordat relation with the Episcopal Church. This accusation goes back to the years when there was a “legal battle” between the group led by Obispo Maximo Isabelo de los Reyes, Jr., and the group led by the former Obispo Maximo Santiago Fonacier. The conflict, which led to their separation, occurred during the later part of the 1940s and early 1950s.
The next Church is the Aglipay Memorial Church, also known as the Independent Church of Filipino Christians (ICFC). It also claims to be the “original” Church established by OM Aglipay. The Church is just at the back of the IFI diocesan cathedral. Unfortunately, in 2019, this Church was divided into two groups. It is now registered under the name Independent Church-Aglipayan Association.
Meanwhile, the other Church is the Aglipayan Reformed Church. A former mayor of the town established it and housed in one of the barangays of Batac. The Aglipayan Reformed Church and the Independent Church-Aglipayan Association tend to cooperate against the IFI, especially on the claims of the properties in Batac.
The other group established a makeshift Church in front of the Aglipay Mausoleum in Brgy. Aglipay. It continues to use the name Aglipay Memorial Church and ICFC.
With this situation, no one can blame the IFI leadership for keeping the remains of OM Aglipay at the diocesan cathedral.
The Aglipay Shrine in Pinili
The Aglipay Shrine at Pinili, Ilocos Norte, is a historical place related to the guerilla activities of OM Aglipay in that Filipino-American War from 1899 to 1901. The shrine is located at formerly Brgy. Kullabeng, now Brgy. Aglipay. The place is the home of a wartime comrade of OM Aglipay, Captain Ignacio Lafradez, who hosted the birthday celebration of OM Aglipay on May 8, 1902.
In that meeting, which some of IFI members called the Kullabeng Assembly, many of the participants were the wartime comrades of OM Aglipay. They, together with the Aglipay and the Ilocano clergy, declared to establish a new Church, separate from Rome with the slogan, “An independent church in an independent Philippines.” (Willian Henry Scott, 1960).
The Kullabeng Shrine of OM Aglipay was established to commemorate the founding of the town Pinili which OM Aglipay gave its name, which means “chosen.” On January 1, 2020, the Municipality of Pinili had celebrated its centenary.
Pinili is located in the mountainous areas of Ilocos Norte along with Badoc, Nueva Era, Marcos, Vintar, and La Paz, Abra. This was the headquarters of the guerilla forces led by a guerilla padre, General Gregorio Aglipay, against the Americans.
Dr. Troy Alexander G. Miano, in “Aglipay Markers” (October 3, 2019), talked about the markers of Aglipay Shrine at Pinlii. He is from Cabatuan, Isabela, who narrated that as “Part of the immersion tour package of the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (ATOP) 20th National Convention is Batac City,” he visited the Aglipay Shrine at Pinili. Here is the excerpt:
“There are three official markers in the Aglipay Shrine. The first was issued by the Local Government of Pinili, Ilocos Norte, upon the inauguration of the shrine on November 29, 1997. The stainless marker situated at the left side of the entrance to the monument enumerates the municipal officials headed by Mayor Samuel S. Pagdilao and national and provincial officials, namely: President Fidel V. Ramos, Senator Heherson T. Alvarez, Congressman Simeon M. Valdez, and Governor Rodolfo C. Fariñas. The shrine lot was donated by the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Rev. Fr. Leonardo Cuaresma & Rev. Fr. Felino Raña, Jr.), Independent Church of Filipino Christians (Rev. Fr. Erwin Abella), Mrs. Elizabeth M. Peralta, Mr. & Mrs. Jesus C. Blanco, Miss Jesusa P. Cabie, Mrs. Trifina P. Peralta and Mr. & Mrs. Buenaventura L. Raña. The shrine was a collaborated project led by Senator Heherson T. Alvarez and the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA) headed by General Manager Eduardo T. Joaquin.
The National Historical Institute (NHI) issued the second marker in 1998 located on the right side of the entrance of the shrine. The marker reads:
Kul-labeng Historical Site Pinili, Ilocos Norte. Formerly a barrio of Badoc, Kul-labeng used to serve as the refuge of Monsignor Gregorio Aglipay, revolutionary leader and Vicar General Castrence of the Filipino revolutionary government. This barrio was the scene of encounters between Filipino revolutionary forces and the Americans during the Filipino-American War, including one which resulted in the routing of 50 American soldiers and the death of an American captain.
After the war, the barrio was the frequent meeting place of Monsignor Gregorio Aglipay and other Filipino priests. It was here where he and other priests met and made a decision to separate from the authority of the Roman Catholic Church on May 8, 1902.
The third marker, made of bronze and located within the premises of the shrine at the left-wing reads:
The Senator from Isabela province, Heherson Turingan Alvarez, whose roots hails from Ilocos Norte commissioned Abdulmari Toym de Leon Imao, Jr. to make the sculpture of Apo Aglipay. Standing tall in traditional religious vestment, Aglipay holds a flagpole with the Philippine flag.
At the base is the official marker in bronze which reads:
Gregorio L. Aglipay. Archbishop Gregorio Aglipay, soldier, religious reformer, and patriot, was born, May 8, 1860. Son of Pedro Aglipay and Victoria Labayan. Ordained Catholic priest, 1889; first military chaplain of the Philippine Revolution, 1896; member of the Malolos Congress and Vicar General of the revolution, 1898; and founder of the Philippine Independent Church, 1902. Died, September 1, 1940.” # nordis.net