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Discerning the synodality path for Filipinos, Part 8

One of the most important tasks the Philippine clergy can do; and this is truly a key element, is to reach out to the president of the republic and ask him to write a letter to Pope Francis asking for an apology to the Filipino people for the conquest of the Philippines as an offshoot of the conquest of Mexico.

The conquest of Mexico carried the imprimatur of Pope Alexander VI and it is an established fact that when the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes landed on the coast of Mexico, he had with him the decree blessed by the Catholic Pope that authorized Spain and Portugal to colonize the Americas and its Native peoples as subjects.

The act was legitimized when the Council of Castile in Spain followed up the papal edict with the Requerimiento, a document that declared their divinely ordained right to take possession of the territories of the New World and to subjugate, exploit, and kill the native inhabitants. By extension, this was carried out in the Philippines on behalf of Spain’s King Philip II, as the acquired territory was administered as part of New Spain.

Thus, it carries a lot of weight for the Philippines to demand such an apology for the monstrosities of the Catholic Church and state agents who acted as one in the Philippines during the colonial period. More specifically and among others, the execution of Dr. Jose Rizal, the garroting of the three patriotic priests known for their acronym as GOMBURZA, restoration of Fr. Gregorio Aglipay as a Catholic priest who was excommunicated for his push for Filipinization of the Philippine Catholic Church.

The Pope’s apology will pave the way for healing and restoration of the dignity of the Filipino people. More importantly, it will pave the way for new heroes and saints to emerge to help Filipinos find their lost bearings. By canonizing GOMBURZA and Aglipay will introduce potent examples of love of God and country that Filipinos can truly emulate in place of the images forced upon the faithful.

Yes, we have two missionary Filipino saints, Lorenzo Ruiz and Pedro Calunsod, however, their deeds were in furtherance of the colonial expansions and missionary work overseas. Filipinos need more saintly heroes of their own. The GOMBURZA priests were denied their rightful place in the Philippine Catholic Church simply because they posed a threat to the friars who detested having Indios hold ecclesiastical jurisdictions. Thus, hampering the progress of a true Filipino faith and devotion.

Aglipay was a natural revolutionary known for his patriotic fervor and inciting rebellion among Philippine clergy. He also aided the Katipunan revolutionaries. When the Americans took over the island, Aglipay fought for the freedom to exercise their own religious freedoms but was overcome by events when the Americans took over. He would become an active member of the Partido Komunista Pilipinas (PKP), the original Communist Party of the Philippines.

Aglipay would later establish his own church, the Malayang Simbahan ng Pilipinas (Philippine Independent Church) and became its Supreme Bishop. Aglipay did not believe in the Trinitarian God and was therefore found heretical. The idea of God as a duality or trinity is heretical in Judaism. The Torah rules out a trinitarian God in Deuteronomy (6:4): "Hear Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one." Yet, the Jews were the chosen ones and were delivered to their promised land.

The apology tour should also include the Philippine bishops who by their own omission and perhaps arrogance, have lost sight of their real purpose, to help guide the Filipinos to the promised land. Much like the more recent examples of Catholic revolutionary priests Conrado Balweg and Bruno Ortega who joined the New People’s Army (NPA) because of “The Church’s poor response to injustices against his fellow tribals.”

Their main issue was land grabbing in the Cordillera Mountains that affected their ancestral lands of over 200,000 hectares. This was their promised land. According to Balweg and Ortega, the military was seen as an enemy of the people because it helped the government and private corporations denude forests, dislocate villages and disrupt lives.

The Book of Joshua contains detailed accounts of political and military battles, and more than half of the book is devoted to listing the allotment of land to each of the twelve tribes. It was a classic land reform/distribution where each was entitled to a piece of land. Even today, Israel continues to expand its resettlement of Jews into Palestine territories like Joshua was still in charge.

In the Philippine setting, peasant and labor movements have had similar aspirations as the people of Israel and many have lost their lives, shed their bloods towards such noble goals but were hijacked by the rich and the elites. When will this struggle end? I hope the Philippine Catholic Church will not wait for the Second Coming to help affect an equitable land distribution.

As previously mentioned, the Church can advocate for a similar type of democratic government that Joshua started to bind the twelve tribes with a covenant to be loyal to God. Through federalism (or bangsa), the government can declare that the Bicol Region belongs to Bicolanos, autonomous and represented in the Parliament. Same goes with other Bangsa like the Bangsamoro, Bangsa Cordillera, and so on.

By having its own federal state, each can pursue their own aspirations without much interference from Imperial Manila. The lands are already there yet still possessed by rich people who throw every monkey wrench possible to prevent their lands from being subjected to land reform. Perhaps, the Book of Judges will serve as another reminder of the parallelism between the fate of these cultures.

After Joshua’s death, the tribes of Israel continued their conquest of the southern regions of Canaan (think Mindanao), but were not fully successful. Generations pass, and the younger Israelites turn away from God, intermarrying with the Canaanites and worshipping the local deities. God threatens to abandon Israel because of the disobedience of the youth, but he selects a series of judges, or rulers, to act as temporary leaders for the people.

The stories narrated in the Book of Judges suggest a gradual and disjointed occupation of the promised land and were filled with extreme violence and sacrificial offerings. Such is the story of the Philippines with its violent past and abundant sacrificial lambs in the altar of colonial rule, economic greed, globalization, environmental pillage and destruction.

The Philippine clergy can rise to the occasion and be temporary judges to aid the leader of the land. They don’t have to have the power of Samson but just have the loyalty to their vows to deliver the Filipino people to the promised land. Many judges rose to prominence to guide a wayward youth and the Israelites who defied Joshua’s admonition to throw away their worshipped idols. Pope Francis calls love of money, corporate greed as idolatry. To be continued


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