Thursday, September 10, 2015

230. Santo Stories: VIRGEN DE BALINTAWAK of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente

VIRGEN DE BALINTAWAK of the Philippine Independent Church as it appeared in the early 1900s. The carver is unknown. Source: Sunburst Magazine, 1978.

One of the most unusual religious images ever to emerge from the years of the Philippine revolution is the so-called Virgen de Balintawak. It is an image that was based on a dream that allegedly saved several heroes of the Revolution, and which was recounted by the militant writer, Aurelio Tolentino. It was said that when Bonifacio, wife Gregoria, Jacinto and other katipuneros sought refuge for the night in the house of Tandang Sora in Balintawak, one of them had a dream. It was a vision of a Mother with Western features, curiously attired in a balintawak dress, sinamay blouse and butterfly sleeves, next to his bolo-wielding Child, in red short pants and Katipunero hat, shouting “Kalayaan!” (Liberty!).

 The Mother figure then whispered a warning to the dreamer,”Mag-ingat kayo!”(Be careful!). The shaken katipunero woke up and narrated his strange dream which they took as a serious warning. They cancelled their plan to return to Manila and decided to stay put in Balintawak. Shortly, the group learned that Spanish soldiers had raided the Diario de Manila and found incriminating evidence that led to the discovery of the Katipunan.

Bishop Gregorio Aglipay, the rebel priest of the Catholic Church and a member of the Malolos Congress. Founder of the Iglesia Filipina Indepndiente, which proclaimed its independence from the Spanish hierarchy, in 1902.

To mark this miraculous moment, the first Obispo Maximo of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Philippine Independent Church), Bishop Gregorio L. Aglipay (b.1860/d.1940), caused an image to be carved following the description of the katipunero’s dream. The Mother and Child image were housed in the old Aglipayan cathedral along Azcarraga St,, (now Recto) around 1905, but which was razed to the ground during the American retaking of Manila in 1945.

The old Aglipayan Cathedral in 1905, where the Virgen de Balintawak was first enshrined. It was burn during the battle of Manila in 1945.

A 1925 novena ,“Pagsisiyam ng Birhen sa Balintawak”, was also printed for the Aglipayan faithful—whose rituals and practices, like the veneration of images, closely copied those of the Roman Catholic Church. According to the obispo, the Mother of Balintawak is a symbol of the Philippines , and the child katipunero represents Filipinos who aspire for liberty. The figures serve as reminders of the great sacrifices reminds us of the tremendous sacrifices of the liberators of our Country and of our sacred and inescapable duty to follow them, also making all possible sacrifices of Rizal, Mabini, Bonifacio, and other heroes, whom Aglipay recognized as teachers, prophets and evangelists. 

Virgen de Balintawak today. There was a time when the PIC stopped dressing the images in Filipiniana costumes, but that has since resumed.

The Virgen de Balintawak is an example of how Filipinos have successfully indigenized the Catholic faith to make it an ownable religion, at a time in our history when Filipinos became an oppressed people of God.


  1. Interesting read. As a Roman Catholic in the Visayas region, I'm familiar with the image of the Virgen sa Baranggay, who is also dressed in a similar costume. I wonder- is it possible that this image of the Aglipays influenced the Roman Catholic one?

    By the way, does anyone know what happened to the original image?

  2. The Virgen sa Barangay was conceived under different circumstances in the 1950s.Which original image are you referring to?

  3. Hello! I would like to ask if the church was built intentionally for the IFI or was it a former Catholic church given to IFI?