Iglesia Filipina Independiente celebrates 114 years

 On Saturday, August 13, over 100 people gathered at St. James, Fremont, for a Pontifical High Mass as a part of the third diocesan convention of the Dicoese of the Western United States and Western Canada. The convention’s theme was “Journeying with indigenous people’s right to self-determination.”

The Most Rev. Ephraim S. Fajutagana D.D., Obispo Máximo XII was the principal celebrant for the Mass. He was assisted by the Rt. Rev. Raul Tobias, bishop-in-charge of the local diocese, and the Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, bishop of California. The Iglesia Filipina Independiente has been in full communion with The Episcopal Church since 1961. The full-communion concordat was renewed in 2006

The service took place at St. James, Fremont, because a local IFI congregation regularly worships at St. James. The service followed, basically, the Book of Common Prayer, with some additions per IFI tradition. Obisipo Maximo Fajutagana preached at the service. Much of the music was in Tagalog.

Just before the sermon, Bishop Andrus said, “It is an honor to be in presence of convention; it’s an honor to have you here. Lori [Walton, rector, St. James] is always happy to have you,” and especially greeted the bishops present. 

He said, “Especially it is a joy to be in solidarity with your church: it is such a generous and courageous way of being Christian. Theme of convention is one of most meaningful and important stances you can take. The Diocese of California has little indigenous ministry because our forebears drove them away. Indigenous ministries for many in The Episcoapl Church means American Indians, but many indigenous people — from around the world — have made home in the US because they were driven from their own homes and are displaced people.” He also shared greetings from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.

Obispo Maximo Fajutagana’s sermon emphasized that many in the history of the IFI paid for its independence with their live and blood, which he compared to the paying by Jesus for the salvation of humanity. He reminded those gathered that the founders of the IFI ought to stop country from being slaves to and prisoners of colonial church and government. The church and government of colonization suppressed people who gathered — workers, clergy, and students to declare church independence on August 3, 1902.

Fajutagana said, “History is important because it helps us understand the present, including the answers we offer for present problems. Knowing our own history or of our culture it helps know who we are while molding the future. Being familiar with past events means to learn from past mistakes and successes. Ongoing socioeconomic issues continue to oppress the Philippines. The noble intention of celebrating IFI represents sacred calling as a chosen people to commemorate liberation from bondage, exploitation, and degradation. With a hard earned freedom by our forebears let us not be persuaded by other traditions that sell their birthright.”

According to Fajutagana, IFI bishops may be considered enemies of the state. Wikipedia says that Alberto Ramento, Obispo Maximo IX “was stabbed to death in his house in the early morning. Prior to his death, Ramento had been actively involved in various organizations and movements advocating human rights, social justice especially for the working class, civil liberties, and genuine peace. 

Fajutanga said that the church journeys with indigenous peoples to their rights to self determination. His message was this: “Without roots there is no growth. People will not look forward to posterity without looking at ancestry.” He challenged those under his care to reconsider their interactions with indigenous peoples. 

After the service, many, many photos were taken of various groups from all orders of ministry. A cultural program and dinner followed. Before the night was over, Bishop Marc and the Rev. Leonard Oakes, vicar, Holy Child and St. Martin, Daly City sang “Country roads” together. 

More photos are available on Facebook.