Monday, September 04, 2006

THREE MEN, TWO CHURCHES, ONE TOWN

Batac prides itself as a “Home of Great Leaders” and rightly so. In my opinion, the greatest and most famous of these leaders will be: Ferdinand E. Marcos, the 8th president of the Philippine Republic; Fr. Gregorio Aglipay, Vicar General of the Filipino Revolutionary Army during the revolution against Spain and co-founder (with fellow Ilocano and labor leader Isabelo Reyes) of the Iglesia Filipinana Independiente or the Aglipayan Church; and Gen. Artemio “Vibora” Ricarte, the revolutionary who never surrendered to the Americans and later exiled for refusing to take the oath of allegiance to the United States.

Bataque was a former encomienda of Don Gaspar Perez. It was also called as Bacal meaning “battle” in memory of an encounter between its native residents and the forces of Juan de Salcedo. Its first parochial buildings were destroyed or damaged several times either by fire or natural calamities before Fr. Pedro Careaga (OSA) initiated rebuilding the church (dedicated to San Agustin) in 1691. The church again suffered damages several times most notably in 1900 when American forces burned the town of Batac in retaliation for the frequent attacks of Father Aglipay’s guerillas, during the 1931 earthquake when the bell tower totally collapsed, and during World War II when it was razed by Filipino guerillas to flush out the Japanese soldiers holed inside. The church, especially the façade, had been renovated several times since then.


Batac’s catholic church symbolizes the matrix where Father Aglipay carved a new Indio church. Most Indio priests in the Ilocos region defected to Aglipayanism and the religion quickly spread among the Ilocanos. It is just a stone throw away where Father Aglipay’s new church was built right in front of the Marcos house. It was said that Father Aglipay planted an anting-anting in the back of the young Marcos who was his godchild. The bones of Father Aglipay was once displayed in a metal casket at a basement near the altar. When I went back with a group of friends from Nueva Ecija, his remains have been moved in a more solemn place at the altar. I think heroes like him should be treated more than a curio and rejoiced when a mausoleum cum museum was finally built near the Aglipayan church for Father Aglipay’s remains and relics as a fitting tribute to his legacy. I also applauded when a museum and a park was finally built for Vibora who died in the mountains of Kiangan, Ifugao during the Japanese retreat and buried in an unmarked grave that was never found. He was accused as a collaborator but his only intent is to finally drive away the American colonizers. In my last trip to Batac, I brought Bulan to Vibora’s museum to show him the statue of the general who never surrendered.


Aglipayan is said to be the Ilocano’s religion and Amang Lakay and Inang Baket are no exceptions. They know the pasyon by heart and can sing it even when sleeping, which is usually the case when the pasyon reaches late night and early morning. If it won’t rain for a month, they will join the lualos in the fields of Almaguer, all of them laying prostate face to the ground with their arms spread in the shape of the cross while the balmy smoke of arutang filled the air. The lualo will continue until the rain comes. They also join the annual processions of Almaguer’s patron saint --- the Nuestra de Senora de Lourdes. The procession will start in the middle part of Almaguer (what is now Manong Flor Arellano’s house) then towards abagatan where the patron would be brought to bless the dacquel nga carayan then back to amianan where it will bless the bassit nga carayan before being brought back to the church. Today, this ritual has been forgotten and the great and deadly flood of 2005 is perhaps the Babaylan’s (i.e. the patron saint) way of reminding our generation.

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