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TS 6 IFI Theology: Lesson #01 - Page 1 of 7

The Emergence of IFI Theology: Key issues that gave rise to the establishment of the IFI as the eventual foundation of its emerging theology. Introduction The formation of the IFI is associated with the birth of the independent Filipino nation and coupled with a unique understanding of God (theology), which seeks to give the voice of the struggling poor Filipino people, determined as it is, to struggle against injustices and oppressions towards the establishment of the Reign of God. Though indigenous to the Philippines, it is occasionally acknowledged as a Catholic and a Protestant Church. It is a catholic church as it seeks to maintain the characteristic doctrines of historic Catholicism. It is also a protestant church as it concerns to remove distortions of faith emphasising some insights of the reformation or an upheaval against Roman Catholicism in the Philippines. However, this should not be construed as if it had direct relation to the religious reformation and even the liberation theology in Europe. But it should be understood as the result or the product of Filipino peoples cry and struggle for freedom and liberty against foreign and feudal oppressions. While it is taking shape, criticisms against this Filipino church and its emerging theology have appeared. The most belligerent ones were voiced by the powers of this worldattacks, defamation and persecution. However, new criticisms (although a lingering old ones with new acuities) are no longer centred on its identitywhether or not it is an orthodox. Now the focus is on its relevance: whether it contributes any to theology and to the liberation of the Filipino people. However, the most fruitful thing about the IFI Theology, more than its concrete content, is its manner of conceiving the theological task as reflection of praxis and the goal of the theological endeavour in terms of the establishment of the Kingdom of God. It therefore merits the study of what the IFI Theology has offered and can continue to offer to the persisting struggle of the Filipino people for justice, freedom and liberation in the era of globalisation. Especially worthy of attention is its distinctive understanding of church mission in which the IFI has embodied and expressed its theology. This is popularly known as the IFIs nationalist heritage. It finds the correlation of the Christian faith and the patriotism of the Filipino peoples in the struggle for a just, humane and free nation towards the Kingdom of God.

IFI in History: A Revolutionary Church Some historians have not given the IFI due appreciation of its place in the history and struggle of the Filipino people. Thus this section attempts to describe the historical formation of the IFI and its relationship to the nationalist struggles of the Filipino people for national liberation and democracy. As such, it first traces the historical captivity of the Christian faith to the politics of colonialism. Then it seeks to elucidate how the Christian faith and the church became part of the overall struggle of the Filipino people for national emancipation from colonial and feudal oppressions. And finally, it will situate the place of the IFI in the overall struggle of the Filipino people for life, justice and peace. 1. The Historical Captivity of the Christian Faith The conditions for the missions of the church at the dawn of the modern times were hastened by the progress of navigation and the emergence of commercial capitalism. There is no doubt that the church at that time was exceedingly zealous to bring salvation to the entire world in obedience to the

TS 6 IFI Theology: Lesson #01 - Page 2 of 7 Great Commission (Matthew 28). But the gospel always comes to people in cultural robes. 1 It means that colonialism and evangelisation were intertwined; in fact, they were interdependent. This was a result of the magisterial commissioning of the Roman Pontiff, known as the papal bulls. Unfortunately, the appalling consequences of these were the colonial conquest of non-Western world and the union of the Church and State. Henceforward, the Christian faith became colonial machinery and served to legitimise colonialism in the guise of Christianisation. Thus when Christianity reached the Philippines in the 16th century, it was part of the Spanish colonial cogs of domination. As a beneficiary of colonial plunder, the church promoted colonialism. The Christian faith became largely an instrument of oppression. The Spanish assault against the natives was justified on Christian grounds as liberation from enemy religions. And the enforcement of the Western culture was warranted by the concept that only the Western culture was compatible to Christianity. One could conclude that the form of Christianity and the form of society introduced by the Spaniards was a colonial and feudal society whose fragrance was religion. This national oppression resulted in numerous revolts and subsequent movements for religious and political reforms. But the failure of the Filipino people to complete the revolution against Spanish colonialism resulted to the direct rule of United States. The Manifest Destiny of the then US President William McKinley became a disguise to colonize the Philippines. Unsurprisingly, American Protestantism came not only as a new breed of Christianity but also as a part of the US machination of domination. In fact, it came behind the army of Rear Admiral George Dewey. The Filipino masses resisted the American aggression but because of the superior firearms of the American forces, the Filipino-American war caused indescribable sufferings to the Filipino people. As such, the top leadership of the revolutionaries surrendered to the United States in April 1901. But when most of the original members of the First Philippine Republic surrendered, the Filipino Committees in Hong Kong and Europe met in London on 20 September 1901 and created a government in exile to carry on the work of independence.2 Basically, the fledging Filipino state was crushed. Thus the struggle for national liberation and democracy entered into a different form that precipitated the formation of the IFI. 2. The IFI Proclamation: An Appraisal Some historians were operating from much too narrow a basis in explaining the history of the IFI. They could not see that the formation of the IFI was intertwined to the economic and socio-political struggle of the Filipino masses. However, there were two prominent figures that were instrumental in the IFI formation, namely: (1) Bishop Gregorio Apo Lakay Labayan Aglipay; and (2) Don Isabelo Don Belong Florentino de los Reyes, Sr. Through a vibrant understanding of the participation of these two men, Apo Lakay and Don Belong, in the revolution, the concealed history of the Filipino independent church will be unveiled. The earliest record of the religious revolutionary career of Aglipay suggests that he was the 3 founder and leader of the Liwanag Branch of the Katipunan in Victoria, Tarlac on March 1897. No other earlier records could give details when Aglipay joined the Katipunan. But no doubt, he had spent his whole career in the shadow of the Philippine revolution. He himself had admitted his familiarity and long friendship with the leaders of the revolutionary forces. 4 His appointment as military chaplain made him to work openly to propagate the revolutionary cause in northern Luzon. Meanwhile, the Manila Archbishop
1 David J. Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books, 2001), 291 and 298. 2 Sister Mary Dorita Clifford, B.V.M., Iglesia Filipina Independiente: The Revolutionary Church in Studies in Philippine Church History, edited by Gerald H. Anderson (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1969), 232. 3 Jose Villarta, Resene historia del Pueblo de Victoria, Provincia de Tarlac, 24 April 1940. 4 An interview with Aglipay published in El Pueblo, 28 September 1902.

TS 6 IFI Theology: Lesson #01 - Page 3 of 7 Bernardino Nozaleda sent Aglipay to look after the conditions of the Spanish prisoners in Cagayan. 5 Hence, Aglipay had a dual task: an emissary of the church and, at the same time, a concurrent revolutionary cadre for the Ilocano provinces. After the proclamation of independence from Spain, Aglipay became the Military Vicar General on 20 October 1898, making him the ecclesiastical superior of the Filipino clergy under the revolutionary government. Immediately, he issued a Manifesto on 21 October 1898 and called on the Filipino clergy to unite and consolidate the church. He made it clear that it was not a revolt against the Catholic Church but in order to defend the spotless purity of the catholic religion. Subsequently, a Spanish bishop Jos Hevia Campomanes, a prisoner and incapacitated from performing his office, appointed Aglipay on 15 November 1898 as the Ecclesiastical Governor of the Diocese of Nueva Segovia. This appointment was recognised by the Revolutionary Government and was also concurred in by Archbishop Nozaleda. 6 But when the Filipino-American war ensued, Nozaleda was apparently pressured by US authorities to get rid of the church that sustained the revolution. Thus he charged Aglipay of usurpation of 7 ecclesiastical jurisdiction on 29 April 1899. However, the campaign for church independence was sustained. However, the intensifying Filipino-American War halted the development of the religious movement. On November 1899 Aglipay returned to Ilocos and headed a guerrilla unit with the rank of a general fighting against the Americans. But the military career of Aglipay ended on 30 April 1901 when he surrendered to the American forces under Colonel MacCaskey in Laoag City. 8 Simultaneously, a radical reformist Isabelo de los Reyes, Sr. returned from Rome and endeavoured to unleash the anti-American sentiment of the people. Upon his arrival, he founded the first labour union in the Philippines, called Union Obrera Democratica (UOD). Significantly, the union became the sound foundation for political and religious movements. It must be understood as part of the strategy to carry out the instruction of the government in exile in continuing the struggle for emancipation. On 15 November 1901, Aglipay and de los Reyes met Protestant missionaries in the office of the American Bible Society to discuss the setting up of independent Filipino church. However, this cooperation did not prosper because of the radical changes proposed by the missionaries. Instead, on 8 May 1902, the native clergy from different towns of the Philippines met in Kullabeng and decided a complete separation from Rome. On 3 August 1902, de los Reyes met the union leaders at the Centro de Bellas Artes. He delivered a strong anti-friar speech and prepared the establishment of a Filipino Church completely independent from Rome. Thus a Filipino independent church was born, commonly known as Iglesia Filipina Independiente. Conclusively, the patriotism and resistance of the Filipino people throughout Spanish colonialism and early American imperialism were not only expressed for the political and economic liberations of the Filipino people but also for religious emancipation and fundamental reforms. In the course of the struggle for liberation, the Filipino masses gradually appropriated Christian symbols and forms in their resistance to the oppressive and exploitative features of foreign control. Thus the struggle for economic and sociopolitical liberation was also entwined to the struggle for religious reform, which became the impetus for the establishment of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI).

Teodoro A. Agoncillo, Introduction to Filipino History (Quezon City: R. P. Garcia Publishing Co. Inc.,

1974), 172. La Republica Filipina, 15 December 1898; see also, El Pueblo, 28 September 1902. The letter of President Roosevelt to Bishop Hedrick of Cebu in 1905 is very revealing: Of course, you know that if the Filipinos were given independence, the Aglipayan movement (IFI) and all that implies would assume irresistible impetus in the Islands, and that you and all that you champion would be swept off the Islands. 8 William Henry Scott, Ilocano Responses to American Aggression 1900-1901 (Quezon City, Philippines: New Day Publishers, 1986), 176-77.
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Certainly, the IFI is a living tangible result of the struggle of the Filipino people for a just, humane and free nation. Thus the IFI is a movement of the Filipino people for total human liberation inspired by Filipino nationalism. It is nationalism aspiring for national emancipation from both foreign and local oppressions and domination. Historically, the IFI was born out of the struggle of the Filipino masses for national liberation and democracy. Theologically, it is acclaimed as a movement of the people of God in the Philippines towards total and integral salvation.

II. IFI Radical Critiques of Philippine Society The radical critiques to foreign and feudal oppressions preconditioned the involvement of the IFI in the quest for a just and humane society. These were translated into principles and religious beliefs that permeated into its integral mission and ministry. Nonetheless, it stressed its concern for liberty and human freedom rooted in the teachings of Jesus on social justice. 1. Societal Critiques and Alternative Vision The abject poverty rooted in foreign domination and bureaucratic corruptions unleashed the unfeigned commitment of the IFI to national liberation and democracy. It was described in the Manifesto issued on 22 October 1898, to liberate our people from foreign domination which, irrespective of what they [colonisers and bureaucrats] say, have governed us like serfs, that is, as slaves. The IFI did not merely actively participate in the liberation movement but also offered an alternative vision of a society rooted in its conviction of the teachings of Jesus. Aglipay emphasised that the Sermon on the Mount the Jesus breathes the palpable essence of social justice with which Jesus desired to relieve the insufferable misery of the masses and to level all social classes by universal love. 9 What is stressed here is the turning of the world upside down: the triumph of the poor and the perversity of the rich. The church also avows therefore that it cannot deviate from the wisdom of social justice. It acclaims as its supreme aspiration. It also asserts that the Kingdom of God would come with the triumph of the poor with the abolition of private property and [the institution of] the common ownership of goods.10 Thus this alternative vision of society is also a critique of the church that became a supermarket of sacraments. It is like the Hebrew prophets that emphasised the encounter with God through neighbourly relationship guided with justice. The prophets give priority to social justice in historical action over the ceremonial purity. And for them, devotion to the Lord is closely linked with justice in society (cp. Amos 5:21-24). In undertaking the transformation of the church in this manner, it will demonstrate that religion is no longer an opiate of the people, but it serves for the liberation of the poor, the needy, and the afflicted. Furthermore, it is a reaction to the experience of the Filipino people during the Spanish colonialism and even during the early American aggression, when there was an over emphasis of the God-ward religiosity contrary to the teaching of Jesus and the prophets for social justice. This is the kind of faith and religiosity condemned by the Hebrew prophets. First Isaiah denounces the religious superficiality of Judah (cf. Isa. 1:10-17). The penitential practice of Israel is attacked because it consists only of religious rites and not of concrete transforming action. It is worship not preoccupied by social justice. Likewise, the Christian church in its first centuries was vividly conscious also of the connection of worship and commitment. In the very words of Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople, in a homily around 400 A.D.,


Ibid., 6. DRC, Second Part, Chapter I, Section 1.

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Do you want to honour Christs body? Then do not honour Him here in the Church with silken garment while neglecting Him outside where He is cold and naked Of what is it to weigh down Christs table with golden cups, when he himself is dying of hunger? First fill Him when he is hungry; then use the means you have left to adore His table. (Homily 50 in Mt. Ev., 3-4; PG 58, 508ff). In such manner, the early adherents of the Filipino independent church tried to interpret the Christian message into a community life. As such, it not only regarded that service to the poor and the needy as an essential aspect of the faith, but also even tried to exemplify it in their community life. In totality, its alternative vision is of a society inextricably intertwined with the attainment of national liberation and democracy and the establishment of just, humane and free nation. Out of this alternative vision of society, the understanding of the IFI on the relation of church to society could be surmised. 2. Church and Society In particular, the IFI stressed an excessive criticism of Philippine society, which had been shaped for the interest of foreign colonisers and the local ruling class, that the causes of the negative attitude of the people to social problems during the period of colonialism. These were: the mythical understanding of salvation is a deviation from authentic Christianity; negative individual spirituality centres on selfedification and hinders the development of social ethics for peoples emancipation from oppression; and there was a disregard of the common good and welfare of the entire humanity. In other words, it was a critical analysis of a faith that, though it expressed both the community and individual aspect of faith, only encouraged personal responsibility and not community life. Thus, it emphasised social justice and acclaimed nationalism as an act of confessing the faith. Aglipay fiercely asserted, There is no merit in applauding the masses for their tenacious and frenzied fanaticism, of which he claims, The colossal errors which the conscience of the majority of the Filipino continues to be enchained.11 It was a religious fanaticism exemplified by prayers and concern merely for the deliverance of the soul, while neglecting the life on earth that resulted in their dehumanisation and oppression perpetrated by the friars. Because of this kind of religiosity, there are excesses which, far from leading us to God, clearly alienate us from him. In other words, it was a religiosity that reduces God to almost complete oblivion, i.e., an enormous blasphemy. 12 This testifies that it was impossible to separate the religious realm from the politico-economic realm. Indeed the economic and socio-political realms were able to shroud themselves in religious realm. There must be no confusions of the Christian faith and nationalism. In the words of Jesus: Give to Caesar what is Caesars and to God what is Gods implies the central truth of Christianity concerning the distinction between politics and religion. In fact, the forebears of this church advocated it. In an interview by the Herald Magazine in 23 September 1933, Aglipay asserts the participation of the church in politics. The illustrious bishop had no pretensions at all. He asserted it this way: I believe that the Church should take part in politics, for it is part of our national life and any political changes that take place here (in politics) are unlikely to affect the affairs of the Church. Thus, the church is obliged to support and even to participate in a nationalistic movement that works towards the realisation of the reign of justice and peace.

11 12

Ibid., 8. DRC, Chap. II, 3.

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In like manner, the participation of the church in the struggle of the Filipino people for liberation was understood as an act of confessing the faith in the midst of social injustices. Though patriotism is a tangible expression of professing the faith, liberation from socio-political and economic enslavement is merely a way out in order to obtain the gift of salvation. This is to say that as a Christian, it is indispensable for one to participate directly in the affairs of society as a witness of God and in obedient service in this world. This participation is a significant witness of the incarnation and the sacrament of salvation amidst of social injustices. It other words, the church has the responsibility to preach salvation. For the church not to speak against the oppressive systems and policies that enslave the people is an abdication of the churchs prophetic ministry. As Aglipay emphasised in his interview, beneath the religious robes of the IFI clergy, like other Filipinos, cannot remain indifferent to the independence movement. 13 3. Religious Liberty and Human Freedom Anyone who is engaged in a nationalist movement or any movement whatsoever that aspires to social transformation is also entangled in an argument about humanity. The question of liberty and freedom is very much related to the notion of a person. Religious liberty is more than the legal exercise of religious faith in society. Similarly, human freedom is more than the formal concept of the free from approach. For there are many factors that limit religious liberty and human freedom which are not only confined to external factors but also determined by factors within a human person, concerning of his or her being. The Epistola VI explains the nature of a person with all its rights and liberty. It is a perfect and admirable creation of God (Genesis 1:31). It describes a free humanity. This freedom is not only a dimension of its subjectivity to God. But it is a liberating praxisa power that transforms the world in accordance to Gods purposes. It stresses that man (humanity) was born with all rights, i.e., right to life, liberty and property. Thus religious liberty and human freedom are not only legally permitted by the laws of the land, but in actuality are even beyond the economic, political, cultural and religious systems of society. It is more than of being free from all restrictions. It is the wholeness of a person, its total life. 4. Revolutionary Processes and Social Transformation It is surprising to some for a church to talk about revolutionary process and social transformation. It is more surprising then that a church did not only talk but also participated in the revolution. Aglipay explained in the Manifesto of 22 October 1898 that the revolution waged by the Filipino people was to redeem the country from slavery. It was the last recourse of the Filipino people in order to achieve freedom from exploitation for all the legal and peaceful means were already exhausted and the retaliatory acts of the friars for church and social reforms were disastrous. Likewise, in the Manifesto Al Pueblo y Clero Filipinos on 19 August 1899, Aglipay challenged the patriotism of the Filipino people and the clergy for direct participation in the war of independence. In like manner, the Epistola II of 2 September 1902 states, Neither the leaf of a tree nor a single bird falls to the earth without the will of the heavenly Father (Mt. 10.29). Revolutions, therefore, are perfectly providential, and despite them causing us momentary disasters, they ultimately bring the 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


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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. One could present a couple of reasons why a revolutionary process is permissible in social transformation. As to why the IFIs peculiar concern for justice and human dignity was so intense, one could reflect on the following reasons: first, colonialism increasingly displays demonic features and, secondly, the misuse of faith support colonialism is not only sin but also a heresy. In other words, sin engendered the socioeconomic and political colonial system, a demon-possessed system and social structure. Therefore colonialism was not merely a social or political sin but also blasphemous and idolatrous. Thus the revolutionary struggle waged by the Filipinos was an attempt to transform the blasphemous and idolatrous colonial system. It was to establish an independent and democratic Philippines in accordance to Gods purpose.#