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The Philippine Independent Church, (officially the or the IFI, also known as the Philippine Independent Catholic Church or the Ilocano: Siwayawaya a Simbaan nga ti Filipinas (sometimes also known as ), is a Christian denomination of the Catholic tradition in the form of a national church. The church was founded by the members of the first federation of labor unions in the country, the Union Obrera Democratica (UOD) in 1902. Isabelo de los Reyes was the founder of the church and suggested that Gregorio Aglipay be the head of the church. It is also known as the Aglipayan Church after its first obispo maximo, Gregorio Aglipay.

Unsurprisingly, all the founding members of the church were excommunicated by the Catholic Church during its establishment in 1902.

Since 1960 it has been in full communion with the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (and through it with the entire Anglican Communion) and, since 1965, with the Old Catholic Union of Utrecht Association of Churches. Today the Philippine Independent Church or Aglipayan Church is the second largest Christian denomination in the Philippines after the Roman Catholic Church. The bulk of the Aglipayans come from the northern part of the island of Luzon, especially in the Ilocandia region, home of the first supreme bishop. Now the church is divided into 10 dioceses including he Diocese of the United States and Canada. However, due to a lack of priests, many parishes in the USA are priestless.

The current Obispo Maximo is the Most Reverend Godofredo J. David, (112th bishop) who has his central office in the capital of the country, Manila, at the (National Cathedral of the Holy Child in Taft Ave, Manila). His line of episcopal succession goes back from the first Obispo Maximo Gregorio Aglipay.

The Philippine Independent Church is considered the most tangible product of the 1898 Revolution against Spain.

Rise of nationalism

At the end of the 19th century, Filipinomarker nationalism emerged, preceding the struggles of other colonized countries in Asia such as Indiamarker and French Indochina, and the fight for independence gave way to revolution. Latin American countries at this time were also breaking away from Spainmarker. With the execution of prominent ethnic Filipino clergy such as Fr. José Burgos at the hands of the Spanish royal authorities, church reforms became a facet of the Philippine independence movement.

Colonial church

Whereas many Spanish friars protested abuses by the Spanish government and military, other friars were committing many abuses. Many Filipinos were enraged when Spanish friars blocked the ascent of the Filipino clergy in the Catholic Church hierarchy. Vast lands were claimed as friars' estates from landless farmers. There were also widely known cases of sexual abuse of women by priests. Anak ni Padre Dámaso (Child of Father Dámaso, alluding to a character in one of Rizal's novels) has become a cliché or stereotype to refer to an illegitimate child, especially that of a priest. The death of Fr. José Burgos, Fr. Zamora, and Fr. Gomez is said to have indirectly ignited the Philippine revolution and had a profound effect on Dr. José Rizal.

Gregorio Aglipay

Gregorio Aglipay was an activist Catholic priest from Ilocos Nortemarker who, despite his intercession and defense of some of the Spanish Catholic clergy from liberal-nationalist Filipino revolutionaries, was excommunicated by the Vatican for inciting rebellion within the Filipino clergy. During the brief interlude between independence from the Spanish and the subsequent reoccupation by the Americansmarker, Isabelo de los Reyes (also known as Don Belong) and Aglipay reformed the Filipino Catholic clergy into the Philippine Independent Church, officially established in 1902. The new church absolutely rejected the spiritual authority of the Pope (then Pope Leo XIII) and abolished the celibacy requirement from its clergy, allowing marriage among its priests, who were all former Catholic priests.

The church drew concepts of theology and worship from the Masonic Code and much of its support and inspiration from Miguel Morayta, the grand master of the Spanish Orient Lodge of Freemasonry in Madrid. Aglipay was also a Mason. The case with Morayta and other non-Filipino laymen who pushed Aglipay toward schism was merely motivation by hatred toward the friars and/or the Catholic Church rather than any kind of nationalism.

Later on, the new independent Church reformed the traditional Catholic Latin Tridentine liturgy drastically after the model of the Anglican vernacular reform. The Eucharist has been said in Spanish (sometimes: Portuguese) for already more than one hundred years in the IFI.

Factionalism and current state

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.

Today, the Philippine Independent Church is affiliated with the Old Catholics and the Anglican Communion. Aglipayans number around 3 million, mostly in the Ilocos Region. They constitute about 1% of the total population of the Philippines, while 83% of the population are members of the Catholic Church.

Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Philippine Independent Church), an independent church, has Concordat relationships with the Anglican provinces and the Old Catholic Church. Its members are currently spread throughout the Philippines, the United States and Canada. The spiritual head is called Obispo Maximo (Supreme Bishop). His Eminence Godofredo J. David, is the incumbent and the 11th Obispo Maximo.

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

In 2002 Aglipayan bishops registered their objection to the presence of U.S. Special Forces troops in the Philippines.

Notable Aglipayans


List of Obispos Maximos from 1902 to 2006

  1. The Most Rev. Gregorio Aglipay y Labayan- First Obispo Maximo from 1902-1940
  2. The Most Rev. Santiago Antonio Fonacier y Suguitan- from 1940-1946
  3. The Most Rev. Gerardo Bayaca y Medina- 1946
  4. The Most Rev. Isabelo de los Reyes, Jr.y Lopez- from 1946-1971
  5. The Most Rev. Macario Ga y Vilches- from 1971-1981
  6. The Most Rev. Abdias dela Cruz y Rebantad- from 1981-1987
  7. The Most Rev. Soliman Ganno y Flores- from 1987-1989
  8. The Most Rev. Tito Pasco y Esquillo- from 1989-1993
  9. The Most Rev. Alberto Ramento y Baldovino- from 1993-1999
  10. The Most Rev. Tomas Millamena y Amabran- from 1999-2005
  11. The Most Rev. Godofredo David y Juico- from 2005-present

List of Dioceses

Under the Obispo Maximo

  • Cavitemarker - The Right Reverend Peter Ojascastro
  • LUISA - under Obispo Maximo
  • MAQUEBACA - The Right Reverend Ruel Arevalo
  • Masbate- under Obispo Maximo
  • Negros Occidentalmarker - Under Obispo Maximo
  • Palawanmarker - under Obispo Maximo
  • Santiago Citymarker - under Obispo Maximo
  • Tarlacmarker - under Obispo Maximo

Under Other Bishops

National Cathedral and specially assigned clergy under OM The Most Rev. Godofredo J. David

Churches in full communion

Old Catholics

Reformed Churches

  • Marthoma Malankara Syrian Church of Malabar

Anglican Communion

  • Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA)
  • Church of the Province of West Indies
  • Church of the Province of Central Africa
  • Church of the Province of West Africa
  • Church of the Province of East Africa
  • Church of India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon (today Church of North India)
  • Church of South India
  • Nippon Sei Ko Kai
  • Church of Ireland
  • Lusitanian Church

  • Church of England
  • Episcopal Church in Scotland
  • Anglican Church of Canada (ACC)
  • Anglican Church of Australia
  • Church of Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi
  • Spanish Episcopal Reformed Church
  • Church of the Province of South Africa
  • Church of the Province of New Zealand
  • Church of Melanesia (COM)
  • Episcopal Church of Brazil
  • Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP)

IFI, by virtue of its concordat relations with the Anglican Churches, is given the privilege to send delegates to the Council of Churches of East Asia (CCEA) as organized by the Anglican Provinces in East Asia in 1962. Since 1964, the IFI Bishops have also been regular members of the international Anglican gathering, the Lambeth Conference.

Other Concordat Churches worldwide

  • Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sweden


  1. 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. "Pope Orders Sharp Action; Archbishop of Manila Instructed to Excommunicate Philippine National Church Promoters". New York Times. New York, N.Y.: Dec 29, 1902. pg. 7
  4. Schumacher, John N., Revolutionary Clergy: The Filipino Clergy and the Nationalist Movement, 1850-1903 p.224 Ateneo de Manila U Press, ISBN 9715501214, 9789715501217
  5. Denslow, William R., 10,000 Famous Freemasons, Part One, p.7 (Kessinger Publishing, 2004) ISBN 1417975784, 9781417975785
  6. Schumacher, John N., Revolutionary Clergy: The Filipino Clergy and the Nationalist Movement, 1850-1903 p.224 Ateneo de Manila U Press, ISBN 9715501214, 9789715501217
  7. "Clerics object to US troops." BusinessWorld. Manila: Feb 14, 2002. pg. 1
Struggle for Freedom: The Philippine Independent Church. Lewis Bliss Whittemore. Greenwich, CT: SPCK, 1961.

External links

  • IFI Home – Official website of Iglesia Filipina Independiente

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