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Philippine Independent Church

Philippine Independent Church
Arms of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente: "Scripture, Charity, Knowledge, Liberty"
Abbreviation IFI, PIC
Classification Independent Catholic
Orientation Chalcedonian Trinitarianism
Polity Episcopal
Obispo Maximo Ephraim Fajutagana
Associations National Council of Churches in the Philippines
Christian Conference of Asia
World Council of Churches
Region Philippines
North America
Middle East
Northeast Asia
Headquarters National Cathedral of the Holy Child
Ermita, Manila
Founder Gregorio Aglipay, Isabelo de los Reyes
Origin 1902
Separated from Catholic Church in the Philippines
Members 6.4 million
Official website .ph.ifiwww

The Philippine Independent Church (Spanish: Iglesia Filipina Independiente; Latin: Libera Ecclesia Philippina; colloquially known as the Aglipayan Church) is an independent[1] Christian denomination in the form of a national church in the Philippines. Its schism from the Roman Catholic Church was proclaimed in 1902 by the members of the Unión Obrera Democrática 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]

Pope 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 in the United States (and through it the entire Anglican Communion).

Commonly held beliefs in the Aglipayan Church are the rejection of the exclusivity right to apostolic succession by the Petrine Papacy, the acceptance of priestly ordination of women, the free option of clerical celibacy, the tolerance to join Freemasonry groups, non-committal in belief regarding transubstantiation and Real Presence of the Eucharist, and the advocacy of contraception and same-sex civil rights among its members. Many saints canonised by Rome after the 1902 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.


  • Name 1
  • History 2
    • Philippine Revolution and Gregorio Aglipay 2.1
    • Present 2.2
  • Doctrine and practice 3
    • Priesthood 3.1
    • Saints 3.2
    • Worship and liturgy 3.3
    • Contraception 3.4
  • Organization 4
  • Notable churches 5
    • Cathedral of the Holy Child (National Cathedral) 5.1
    • María Clara Church 5.2
  • Seminaries 6
  • Churches in full communion 7
  • Notable members 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


The church's official name is "Iglesia Filipina Independiente", or in English the "Philippine Independent Church". The church or its members are referred to by the acronym IFI as well as by a variety of names in the various Philippine languages, such as Ilocano: Siwawaya nga Simbaan ti Filipinas; Tagalog: Malayang Simbahan ng Pilipinas; and Kinaray-a: Simbahan Hilway nga Pilipinhon.

The colloquial term Aglipayan Church, and the terms "Philippine Independent Catholic Church" "Filipinista Church" as well as "Rizalino Church", are also often interchangeably used.


President Emilio Aguinaldo and Obispo Máximo Gregorio Aglipay, with some Cabinet officials of the First Philippine Republic, December 1904.

Although many Spanish friars protested against atrocities committed on 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 an antagonist 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.

Philippine Revolution and Gregorio Aglipay

Gregorio Aglipay in his youth before excommunication. The clenched fist is one example of a Masonic hand sign.

Malolos Congress, the lone member coming from the religious sector though he represented Ilocos Norte. He was a guerilla leader of Ilocos Norte during the Philippine–American War with the rank of Lieutenant General. Following the Philippine-American War, Aglipay and De los Reyes 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, allowing them to marry. At that time, all of its clergy were former Catholic priests.

The church drew upon the Masons for concepts of theology and worship. It was supported by Miguel Morayta, the Grand Master of the Spanish Orient Lodge of Freemasonry in Madrid.[7] Aglipay was also a Mason.[8] 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.[7]

Later the newly independent Church reformed the Latin Tridentine liturgy, adopting the model of the Anglican vernacular reform found in the Book of Common Prayer. Mass 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 novena, Pagsisiyam sa Birhen sa Balintawak, 1925[9] and its English translation, Novenary of the Motherland (1926).[10]

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 formally joined other denominations including the Episcopal Church and the American Unitarians. The limiting growth was the decision of the American government, after the Spanish–American War, to return to the Catholic Church those parish buildings that had become Aglipayan during the Philippine Revolution or were seized by the nascent Philippine Independent Church.


Today, Aglipayans in the Philippines number at least 6 million members, with most from the northern part of Luzon, especially in the Ilocos Region. Congregations are also found throughout the Philippine diaspora in North America, Europe, Middle East 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.

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.

Doctrine and practice


The Church believes in ordination both of priests and bishops. Like many Anglican and Lutheran denominations and unlike the Catholic Church, the church ordains women. Since its establishment, the Church allows its priests to marry, rejecting mandatory clerical celibacy.


In September 1903, José Rizal was canonized by Aglipay due to the nature of his death, but 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.[11]

Presently, some Aglipayan churches in provincial districts remain loyal to the concept that José Rizal is an Aglipayan 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.

Worship and liturgy

The main liturgy on Sunday is the eucharist, which is said in the vernacular. The church is non-committal regarding transubstantiation and Real Presence in the Eucharist. Church members are taught that the Eucharistic species, i.e., the bread and wine, only remain as symbols during the Holy Mass and do not change into the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ.


Aglipayan bishops joined public demonstrations in support of the Reproductive Health Bill, a law advocating for contraception and sex education that the Catholic Church and several other Christian denominations objected to on moral grounds.


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 church is led by the Obispo Máximo or Supreme Bishop, similar to a presiding bishop in other denominations. The current Obispo Máximo is The Most Rev Ephraím Fajutagana y Servanez, who was elected on May 10, 2011.

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, and 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 churches

interior of the Cathedral of the Holy Child
The National Cathedral of the Holy Child, the see of the Obispo Máximo.
María Clara Parish church

Owing to its roots in the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines, the church buildings of the Philippine Independent Church do not differ significantly from Catholic church buildings. Some of its notable churches are listed here.

Cathedral of the Holy Child (National Cathedral)

The Cathedral of the Holy Child in Ermita, Manila is the National Cathedral of the Philippine Independent Church, and the seat of the Obispo Máximo. Designed by architect Carlos Arguelles, construction of the church began in 1964 and was inaugurated on May 8, 1969, on the occasion of the 109th birth anniversary of its first Obispo Máximo, Gregorio Aglipay.[12] The church is made largely of bare concrete and wood and has been noted for having a suspended block with sloping trapezoidal walls and textured with horizontal grooves all throughout, suspended with a triangular block.[13]

María Clara Church

The María Clara Church in Santa Cruz, City of Manila, was originally built as a wooden structure in 1923 before it was expanded and becoming concrete structure in the 1950s. When the original cathedral of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente in Tondo was destroyed during World War II, the María Clara Church became the temporary office of the Obispo Máximo before relocating in 1969 to the present Cathedral of the Holy Child.[12]

It was the also home parish of Obispo Máximo IV Isabelo de los Reyes, Jr., where he was ordained as a priest in 1923, and elected Supreme Bishop in 1946.


The Aglipay Central Theological Seminary (ACTS) in Urdaneta City, Pangasinan is the regional seminary of the church dedicated to serve the North-Central and South-Central Luzon Dioceses. ACTS offers a Bachelor of Theology and Divinity Programs 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 run by the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, but serves both that church and the Iglesia Filipina Independiente.

Churches in full communion

The church is in full communion with many similar churches, including Old Catholic Churches who are part of the Union of Utrecht, churches of the Anglican Communion, such as the Church of England, Episcopal Church in the Philippines and the Episcopal Church in the United States of America, and the Mar Thoma Syrian Church (or the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church or the Mar Thoma Church). The Aglipayan Church is not a member of the Union of Utrecht.

By virtue of its Lambeth Conferences. The IFI also has a concordat with the Church of Sweden.

Notable members

Felipe Buencamino
  • The Most Rev. Gregorio Aglipay y Labayan, Obispo Máximo I – first Supreme Bishop of the Filipino Church, Vicar General of the Revolutionary Government.
  • 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, together with other Caviteño revolutionary generals and officers, the IFI gained a sweeping stronghold in 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 Comisión 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.
  • Melchora Aquino – was a Filipina revolutionary who became known as Tandang Sora because of her age (84) when the 1896 Philippine Revolution broke out. 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; grandfather of Cesar Virata
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • Ferdinand Topacio – lawyer. Born in the IFI, but converted to Iglesia Ni Cristo.
  • Marian Rivera – model and actress, known for her roles in MariMar; Dyesebel; Darna; and Amaya. Also known as the Primetime Queen of GMA Network. Converted to Roman Catholicism on September 8, 2014 prior to her wedding to Primetime King of GMA Network, Dingdong Dantes on December 30, 2014
  • 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".
  • Andrea Rosal- Daughter of NPA spokesperson Gregorio "Ka Roger" Rosal

See also


  1. ^ The Philippine Independent Church does not subject its episcopal authority to the Bishop of Rome, or any Popes prior to First Vatican Council
  2. ^ Achutegui, Pedro S. de & Bernad, Miguel A. (1971) "The Religious Coup d'Etat 1898–1901: a documentary history", in Religious Revolution in the Philippines, Volume III. Manila: University Press (cited in Larkin, John A. "Review 74-- No Title", The Journal of Asian Studies, Nov 1972; 32,1. at Proquest (subscription)
  3. ^ History
  4. ^ Religion & Religions, Dominican House of Studies, Quezon City, Philippines, 2nd edition, 1982
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Pope Orders Sharp Action; Archbishop of Manila Instructed to Excommunicate Philippine National Church Promoters", New York Times, New York, NY: Dec 29, 1902. p.7
  7. ^ a b Revolutionary Clergy: The Filipino Clergy and the Nationalist Movement, 1850-1903Schumacher, John N., , p. 224, Ateneo de Manila U Press, ISBN 971-550-121-4, ISBN 978-971-550-121-7
  8. ^ 10,000 Famous Freemasons, Part OneDenslow, William R., , p. 7 (Kessinger Publishing, 2004) ISBN 1-4179-7578-4, ISBN 978-1-4179-7578-5
  9. ^ Aglipay, Gregorio, Pagsisiyam sa Birhen sa Balintawak, 1925
  10. ^ Novenary of the MotherlandAglipay, Gregorio, , 1926
  11. ^ Dennis Villegas (30 June 2011). Saint' Jose Rizal"'". Philippine Online Chronicles. 
  12. ^ a b "History". Iglesia Filipina Independiente National Cathedral. 
  13. ^ Lico, Gerard (2008). Arkitekturang Filipino. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press.  

External links

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