Heidi M. Pascual*
Publisher & Editor
* 2006 Journalist of the Year for the State
of Wisconsin (U.S.-SBA)
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Woman Power
The Ordination of a Woman Priest in
The Philippines
By Heidi M. Pascual

I was so emotionally touched that tears rolled down my face. I didn’t care whether my make-up was eroding and my eye
shadow was blurring my vision. All I felt was elation and extreme happiness and pride! I was witnessing the ordination of a
woman priest here in The Philippines! It was such an empowering moment that I thought I had to share with my readers.
The priest-to-be then, whose hands were tied as part of the ritual, was so young-looking, very slim and petite. She came
into the church, accompanied by a musical band in a parade that started from her home. The parade featured two major
flags in front, proudly carried by young men in white: the Philippine Flag and the Church’s Flag. The church is called Iglesia
Filipina Independiente (IFI, or Philippine Independent Church) in the beautiful town of Pagsanjan, Laguna Province. It was
June 24, the feast of St. John the Baptist.

This church was founded in 1902 by a small group of local activists who abhorred the mistreatment of Filipinos by the
Spanish regime, particularly the friars, and the execution of José Rizal, who wrote novels about Spanish atrocities in The
Philippines. Its first national bishop was a former Catholic priest, Gregorio Aglipay; thus, the church was also called
“Aglipayan Church.” The Iglesia Filipina Independiente carries to this day the reputation of being an activist and outspoken
organization that strongly supports justice and liberal ideas.

Most rituals in this independent church follow those in the Roman Catholic Church; however, some of the major differences
in beliefs and practices include the free option of clerical celibacy, the advocacy of contraception, same-sex civil rights, and
the acceptance of priestly ordination of women.

Rev. Anna Marie-Aldon Ranojo Diaz is the 39th woman priest ordained by the IFI, and the first in my home province of
Laguna. I had the honor of witnessing her ordination, despite my being a Roman Catholic. As a young child, I used to be a
member of IFI, the same church in which my parents got married. I was converted into Catholicism when my mother left IFI
to join the Cursillo Movement of the Catholic Church. Truth to tell, I felt I was back home when I entered the IFI Church and
saw Rev. Anna being ordained.

Present in the altar were the IFI bishop and all-male priests who were waiting for Rev. Anna to come forward. When the
bishop removed the white rope tied to her wrists, the bespectacled “little” priest-to-be was ready to accept the challenges of
priesthood. She answered all questions confidently as if her path has been paved for her by the Lord, and that this was her
destiny. When she got down on her stomach in a cross-like position, I truly felt her complete surrender to the Lord and to
whatever challenges she would face. The bishop actually never doubted the new priest’s capability and sincerity. He
praised her determination as well as her outstanding scholastic record in the seminary. Rev. Anna graduated cum laude.

The audience included all-male seminarians from various provinces, particularly from Rev. Anna’s alma mater in the Ilocos
Region, and their applause was heart-warming and inspirational. It was an open acceptance of a woman as one like them,
an equal, who when given the opportunity and encouragement, would lead the church as well as, if not better than, a man.
Before the second half of the mass was said, the bishop and the priests in the altar surrounded Rev. Anna and laid their
hands on her head and shoulders, as a symbol of support as they prayed for her success in her new vocation.

With an elevated foot support, Rev. Anna looked taller than her natural height in the altar. She took over from the bishop and
continued officiating the second half of the mass. Rev. Anna’s voice was powerful enough and able to keep her audience in
awe. I just couldn’t help my tears. This moment was one of those few in my life when my spirit is truly high, and happiness
and pride seem to soar up there.

I even asked myself, “Am I ready to go back to IFI?”