Aglipayan Church

Philippine Independent Church
Iglesia Filipina Independiente
Aglipayan Church
Filipinista Church
File:Logo ifi white.jpg
Arms of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente: "Scripture, Charity, Knowledge, Liberty"
Primate Ephraim Fajutagana y Servanez, Obispo Máximo XII
Polity Episcopal
Headquarters National Cathedral of the Holy Child,
1500 Taft Avenue
Ermita, Manila
Territory Philippines
North America
Middle East
Northeast Asia
Members unknown
Anglicanism Portal

The Philippine Independent Church (officially Spanish: Iglesia Filipina Independiente, IFI; Latin: Libera Ecclesia Philippina; colloquially known as the Aglipayan Church) is a Christian Protestant[1] denomination in the form of a national church in the Philippines. Its schism from the Catholic Church was proclaimed in 1902 by the members of the Union Obrera Democratica Filipina due to the alleged mistreatment of Filipinos by Spanish priests and the execution of nationalist José Rizal under Spanish colonial rule.

Isabelo de los Reyes was one of the initiators of the separation, and suggested that former Catholic priest Gregorio Aglipay[2][3] be the head of the church. It is also known as the "Aglipayan Church" after its first Supreme Bishop, Gregorio Aglipay, who also later became a Freemason in May 1918.[4][5]

The Catholic Church under the pontificate of Leo XIII instructed the Archbishop of Manila, Bernardino Nozaleda y Villa, O.P. to excommunicate those who initiated the schism.[6] Since 1960, the church has been in full communion with the Episcopal Church (United States) (and through it with the entire Anglican Communion).[7]

Commonly shared beliefs in the Aglipayan Church are the rejection of the Apostolic Succession solely to the Petrine Papacy, the acceptance of priestly ordination of women, the free option of clerical celibacy, the tolerance to join Freemasonic groups, the non-committal in the belief regarding transubstantiation and Real Presence[8] of the Eucharist, and the advocacy of contraception[9] and same-sex civil rights among its members. Many saints canonised by Rome after the schism are also not officially recognised by the Aglipayan church and its members.

The current Obispo Máximo is The Most Rev Ephraim Fajutagana, whose central office is located at the National Cathedral of the Holy Child on Taft Avenue, Ermita, Manila.


The church's official name is "Iglesia Filipina Independiente", in English, "Philippine Independent Church". Members of the church variously call different types of terms, namely its acronym as IFI, or in various Philippine languages, such as Ilocano: Siwawayawaya nga Simbaan ti Filipinas; Tagalog: Malayang Simbahan ng Pilipinas; and Kinaray-a: Simbahan Hilway nga Pilipinhon. The colloquial term Aglipayan Church, along with the names and also the "Philippine Independent Catholic Church" "Filipinista Church" as well as "Rizalino Church", are also often interchangeably used.


Colonial church

Although many Spanish friars protested atrocities against indigenous Filipinos by the Spanish colonial government and military, clergymen were often themselves guilty of abuse. Some blocked the ascent of native Filipinos in the Catholic hierarchy, and claimed vast estates from landless farmers. Cases of sexual abuse of women were widely known, and priests were known to sire illegitimate children. Anák ni Padre Dámaso (child of Father Dámaso), alluding to a character in one of José Rizal's novels, became a cliché or stereotype to refer to an illegitimate child, especially that of a priest. The executions of priests Mariano Gómez, José Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora (collectively known as the Gomburza) at the hands of Spanish authorities is said to have had a deep effect on Rizal and subsequently the 1896 Philippine Revolution.

Gregorio Aglipay

Gregorio Aglipay was an activist Roman Catholic priest from Ilocos Norte who would later be excommunicated by then Archbishop of Manila Bernardino Nozaleda y Villa for fomenting schism with the Bishop of Rome. During the brief interlude between independence from the Spanish and occupation by the United States, Isabelo de los Reyes (also known as Don Belong) and Aglipay acted to reform the Filipino Catholic clergy. They founded the Philippine Independent Church in 1902. The new church rejected the spiritual authority of the Pope (then Pope Leo XIII) and abolished the celibacy requirement for priests, who were then allowed to marry. All of its clergy were former Catholic priests.

The church drew upon the Masonic Code for concepts of theology and worship. It was supported by Miguel Morayta, the Grand Master of the Spanish Orient Lodge of Freemasonry in Madrid.[10] Aglipay was also a Mason.[11] The historian John N. Schumacher contends that Morayta and other non-Filipino laymen who pushed Aglipay toward schism from the Catholic Church were motivated more by resentment of friars' activities in the Philippines than nationalism.[10]

Later the newly independent Church reformed the Latin Tridentine liturgy, adopting the model of Anglican vernacular reform. The Eucharist has been said in Spanish (and sometimes Portuguese) since the earliest days of the Church.

Visiting other churches while traveling abroad, Aglipay developed his theology, coming to reject the divinity of Jesus and the concept of the Trinity and becoming theologically Unitarian. Other Church officials refused to accept this revised theology. Aglipay's unitarian and progressive theological ideas were evident in his novenary, Pagsisiyam sa Birhen sa Balintawak, 1925[12] and its English translation, Novenary of the Motherland (1926).[13]


At the end of the 19th century, Filipino nationalism emerged, preceding the struggles of other colonies in Asia, such as India and French Indochina. Spain's last remaining colonies in the Americas, Cuba and Puerto Rico, were fighting for secession at the same time. After the execution of prominent native-born clergy such as the Gomburza at the hands of the Spanish royal authorities, Church reforms became a facet of the Philippine independence movement.


Winning large numbers of adherents in its early years because of its nationalist roots, Aglipayan numbers decreased due to factionalism and doctrinal disagreements. Some factions, tending towards more radical cryptoprotestant reforms, formally joined other denominations including the Episcopal Church and the American Unitarians. The definitive growth limiting factor was the decision of the American government, after the Spanish-American War, to award the seized Catholic church buildings of the nascent Philippine Independent Church — the majority of which had become Aglipayan during the revolutionary period — to the Roman Catholic Church.

Present day

Today, the Philippine Independent Church has concordat relationships with the Old Catholics and the Anglican Communion. Aglipayans in the Philippines number around six million members, with most from the northern part of Luzon (especially in the Ilocos Region); congregations are also found in North America, Europe and Asia. The church is the second-largest single Christian denomination in the country after the Roman Catholic Church (some 80.2% of the population), comprising about 2.6% of the total population of the Philippines.

The spiritual head of the church is called Obispo Máximo (Supreme Bishop); the incumbent is Ephraim S. Fajutagana, Obispo Máximo XII.

Most of the members of the church, like the founders Aglipay and de los Reyes, are political activists, often involved in progressive groups and advocating nationalism, anti-imperialism, democracy, as well as opposing extrajudicial killings. They have often been victims of forced disappearances and been branded as leftist by the government for being aligned with progressive groups, specifically after Obispo Máximo IX Alberto Ramento was killed for being an anti-government critic.

Councils and sectoral organizations

The Supreme Council of Bishops (SCB) consists of all serving and retired bishops. Its main tasks include maintaining and defining doctrinal orthodoxy, the adoption and prescription of liturgy, and the overall pastoral and moral guidance to the faithful. There are also regional episcopal conferences:

  • North Central Luzon Bishops Conference
  • South Central Luzon Bishops Conference
  • Visayas Bishops Conference
  • Mindanao Bishops Conference

The Council of Priests (COP) is the group of delegates to the General Assembly that are entirely priests. It elects a Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson and a Secretary that have each terms of three years. The Council of Priests promotes the welfare of the clergy and represents their concerns to the General Assembly.

The National Lay Council is composed of the men, women and youth delegates of every diocese represented in the General Assembly. It works to promote and enhance the participation of the laity in the governance and general affairs of the Church. There are also several sectoral groups, such as the Women of the Philippine Independent Church (WOPIC), Youth of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (YIFI), and Laymen of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (LIFI).

Notable Aglipayans/Filipinistas

  • Most Rev. Gregorio Aglipay y Labayan, Obispo Máximo I – first Supreme Bishop of the Filipino Church, Vicar General of the Revolutionary Government. Convener of the Filipino Ecclesiastical Council (Paniqui Assembly), in response to Mabini's manifesto urging the Filipino clergies to organize a Filipino National Church. Member of the Malolos Congress, the lone member coming from the religious sector though he represented his province Ilocos Norte. Guerilla Leader of Ilocos Norte during the Philippine–American War with the rank of Lt. General.
  • Don Isabelo de los Reyes – also known as Don Belong, Reyes was a prominent Filipino politician, writer, translator of the first Filipino-language Bible and labour activist in the 19th and 20th centuries. The founder of the IFI, he is often called the "Father of Filipino Socialism" for his writings and activism with labour unions.
  • General Emilio Aguinaldo – First President of the Philippines. With his influence, inspiration and strong support and together with other Caviteño revolutionary generals and officers, the IFI gained a sweeping stronghold in the entire Cavite. His brother, Gen. Baldomero Aguinaldo was the president of Comite de Caballeros of the Filipino Church in Kawit; while his youngest sister Felicidád; his wife Hilaria del Rosario; and his mother Sra. Trinidád Famy were officers of the Comision de Damas (Women's Commission) of the Church.
  • Apolinario Mabini – a Filipino political philosopher and revolutionary who wrote a constitutional plan for the First Philippine Republic, and served as its first Prime Minister in 1899. Often called "the Sublime Paralytic" and "the Brains of the Revolution, Mabini is the de facto first Prime Minister of the Philippines
  • Melchora Aquino – was a Filipina revolutionary who became known as Tandang Sora because of her age when the 1896 Philippine Revolution broke out (she was already 84). She gained the titles "Grand Woman of the Revolution" and "Mother of Balintawak" for her contributions to the independence movement. She was among the Church's most prominent and devoted followers in Caloocan
  • Gen. Baldomero Aguinaldo – a revolutionary general and brother of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo; elected President of the Comite de Caballeros of the IFI in Kawit
  • Lope K. Santos – Nationalist and playwright from Pandacan, Manila. Introduced the now-obsolete Abakada Tagalog spelling reform in 1940.
  • Aurelio Tolentino – Prominent Pampango writer, dramatist, and one of the founders of Katipunan. The foremost advocate of the establishment of the Filipino Church in Pampanga
  • Vicente Sotto – dramatist, writer, journalist, foremost anti-friar, the fiery Publisher-Editor of Ang Suga and El Pueblo; and the prominent founder of the Filipino Church in Cebu. (He was the grandfather of Sen. Vicente "Tito" Sotto III and Actor Vic Sotto)
  • Mariano Marcos – was a lawyer and a politician from Ilocos Norte, Philippines. A Congressman from 1925 to 1931. He is best known for being the father of former president Ferdinand Marcos.
  • Felipe Buencamino Sr. – co-writer of the Constitution of the Philippine Republic at Malolos, Filipino composer. A co-founder of the IFI.
  • Most Rev. Santiago Antonio Fonacier y Suguitan, Obispo Máximo II – second Supreme Bishop. A writer known for translating Noli Me Tángere and El Filibusterismo into Ilocano.
  • Most Rev Soliman Ganno y Flores, Obispo Máximo VII – eighth Supreme Bishop. Successfully solicited funds to build the Cathedral of the Holy Child and became its first Dean. Installed as Obispo Máximo in 1987, but died in office in 1989 of heart failure at the Cathedral altar.
  • Most Rev. Alberto Ramento y Baldovino, Obispo Máximo IX – ninth Supreme Bishop. Assassinated in 2007 for being a government critic and an active campaigner against Human Rights violations in the Philippines.
  • Atty. José Garvida Flores – Patriot, prolific Ilokano writer and playwright from Bangui, Ilocos Norte. Composed "Filipinas Nadayag a Filipinas", which is sung during services of the IFI.
  • Cesar Virata – the fourth Prime Minister of the Philippines from 1981 to 1986 under the Interim Batasang Pambansa and the Regular Batasang Pambansa. One of the Philippines' business leaders and leading technocrats, he served as Finance Minister from 1970 during the Marcos regime and also through election became Prime Minister in 1981. He concurrently was Finance Minister throughout the 80's. He is the grandnephew of the first Philippine President, Emilio Aguinaldo.
  • Rep. Crispin S. Beltran – the "Grand Old Man of Philippine Labour". was a Filipino politician and labour leader. A staunch critic of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, his imprisonment in 2006 and 2007 on disputed charges of rebellion and sedition drew international attention. As a member of 13th Congress of the Philippines with the Anakpawis or the 'Toiling Masses Partylist' and former chair of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) (a militant and progressive labour movement), he was a major figure in contemporary Filipino history. Died when he fell while repairing the roof of his house.
  • Bayani Fernando – former chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.
  • Calixto Zaldivar – former representative, Lone District of Antique (1934–1935), former Governor of Antique (1951–1955) and former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court (1964–1974). Former president of the National Lay Organization of the IFI.
  • Enrique A. Zaldivar – son of Justice Zaldivar. Former Governor of Antique, and former Ambassador to Brunei.
  • Salvacion Z. Perez – former Governor of Antique, daughter of Justice Zaldivar.
  • Gedeon G. Quijano – former Governor of Misamis Occidental. Son of IFI Bishop Juan P. Quijano.
  • President Ferdinand Marcos – tenth President of the Philippines. Born in the IFI, but converted to Roman Catholicism.
  • Marian Rivera – commercial model and actress, known for her roles in MariMar; Dyesebel; Darna; and Amaya, the first historical epic drama in the Philippine television. Also known as the Primetime Queen of GMA Network.
  • Emmeline Yan Aglipay – Representative, DIWA party-list
  • Eduardo Firmalo – incumbent Governor of Romblon
  • Deo Macalma – DZRH broadcaster, Mayor of Star City.
  • Gardeopatra G. Quijano – WOPIC President (1975–1977).
  • Ladislao Bonus - was a composer, conductor, contrabass player, and teacher in Pandacan, Manila. Considered as "Father of the Filipino opera".

Obispos Máximos

Main article: Supreme Bishop

The church is led by the Obispo Máximo or Supreme Bishop, similar to a presiding bishop in other denominations. The current Obispos Máximos is the Most Rev Ephraím Fajutagana y Servanez and was elected on May 10, 2011, at Bayview Park Hotel, Manila.


In September 1903, José Rizal was canonised by Aglipay due to the nature of his death, however his sainthood was rescinded in the 1950s due to a nationwide controversy over Rizal having alleged rejected his earlier secularism and apostate views against the Catholic Church. Though possibly true, the recantation is also alleged to have been coerced by Jesuits forcing him to avoid religious condemnation, or even a hoax devised by Catholic authorities.[14]

Presently, some Aglipayan churches in provincial districts remain loyal to the concept that José Rizal is an Agliyapan saint, as evidenced by the nomenclature Rizalino Church or Rizalinos adopted by some members. It is also notable that Rizal is currently not proposed for canonisation by the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines, yet remains a popular patriot and historical figure amongst predominantly Catholic Filipinos.


For a list of bishops and dioceses, see List of dioceses of the Philippine Independent Church.

The Philippine Independent Church is currently the second-largest Christian denomination in the Philippines after the Roman Catholic Church. Most members of the Church are from the northern part of Luzon, especially in the Ilocos Region where Obispo Máximo Aglipay was born. The Church has 40 dioceses, including the Diocese of the Eastern and Western United States and Canada. However, due to a lack of priests, many parishes in the United States must depend on lay leaders.


  • The Aglipay Central Theological Seminary (ACTS) in Urdaneta City, Pangasinan iss the regional seminary of the church dedicated to serve the North-Central and South-Central Luzon Dioceses. ACTS offers a Bachelor of Theology Program for those who aspire to enter the ordained ministry in the Church. It is a four-year study program with a curriculum focused on biblical, theological, historical and pastoral studies with reference to parish management and development and wider cultural and social context.
  • St. Paul's Theological Seminary (SPTS) is the regional seminary of the church dedicated to serve the Visayas and Mindanao Dioceses.
  • St. Andrew's Theological Seminary (SATS) is an ecumenical center of theological education, training and formation run by the Episcopal Church in the Philippines and serving both that church and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente.

Churches in full communion

Old Catholics

Reformed Churches

Anglican Communion

By virtue of its concordat relations with the Anglican churches, the Philippine Independent Church is given the privilege to send delegates to the Council of Churches of East Asia (CCEA) as organised by the Anglican Provinces in East Asia in 1962. Since 1964, IFI bishops have also been regular participants of the Lambeth Conference.

Other concordat churches


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.