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Sunday, August 01, 2021
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Hofileña: American colonial government (1st of 3 Parts)

The Historian

THE period from 1901 to 1909 had resulted in continued cooperation of the Filipino upper class (illustrados) with American interests and the familiarization between the elite and the ruling power with the newly arrived American colonial forces. This situation, unfortunately, weakened the masses who nevertheless maintained their old cultures. During this period when the newly arrived Americans and the Philippine elite were adjusting to the political and cultural introductions of the new colonizers, the Negrenses, as with the rest of the Filipino people were challenged to adjust their lives from the Spanish colonial rule to the arrival of the American colonizers who replaced the Spanish culture with the new American cultural introductions. More particularly, the Negrenses were not only following the country adjust to the departure of the Spanish colonial occupation but also the new ways of the American colonizers. This nationwide adjustment process was a complicated reality for Filipinos for a number of major historic events. Apart from learning the new American culture including the English language, the Filipinos also had to understand the cultural complications of the so-called white Americans. This included not only the English language but also even religious aspects which would replace the departing Spanish customs.

The earliest evidence of the active participation of a Negrense clergy in the new religious movement was on October 1, 1902 when the constitution of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) or the Aglipayan Church was growing in Manila. The signatures of Negrense former Catholic priest, Lorenzo Paloma, appeared with seven other Aglipayan Bishops. Before his defection, Paloma was an ordinary catholic parish priest of Valladolid in Negros Occidental and like Paloma, the native clergy of Negros could only aspire to grow higher than assistant priest under the Spanish. Following his appointment as Aglipayan Bishop, Paloma was promoted as head of the Aglipayan Church in Negros with Francisco Infante, a nationalistic big haciendero and a good friend of Don Francisco Infante. Interestingly, Infante was a close friend of Bishop Gregorio Aglipay, the National IFI head. Together with other prominent planters such as the Muycos, Ykalinas and Presbiteros, the Aglipay church spread widely in southern Negros and the Negrenses were sympathizing with the demand of Filipinization of churches through the Aglipayan movement. This event prompted Roman Catholic parishes to argue that the only true church was the Roman Catholic.

However, the early years of the 1900s saw more support of Aglipayanism as a truly Filipino and indigenous church. By January 1903, there were more conversions to the Aglipayan church and the prevention of the return of the Catholic friars in the towns of Negros. This enthusiasm of many people for the Aglipay faith in Negros continued until the 1910s. Nevertheless, various writers noted that the intentions of the leaders of the Aglipayan movement were not only because they wanted to do away with the Catholic system but rather because the Aglipay church appealed to their nationalistic sentiments which were represented as the Filipino church independent of foreign domination.

Apart from the challenge of the Aglipay church, the American colonial officials carried out nationwide policies namely: the elimination of the church as a government institution; centralization of tax collections under a civil bureaucracy of native citizens rather than under the catholic Church under Spain; introduction of public education open to all and designed to teach the principles of democratic government; taxation for all regardless of political privilege; implementation of local governments with officials appointed by Americans; efficiency in government; improvements in public works and communication facilities; improvement in health and social welfare programs; expansion of the economy nationwide; guaranties for individual rights and liberties; establishment of a new land title system; and the introduction of other American political institutions and practices.


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