Woman Power
The ordination of a woman priest in the
Philippines
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 control my tears. This
moment was one of those few in my life when my spirit was truly high, and
happiness and pride seemed to soar up there.

I even asked myself, “Am I ready to go back to IFI?”
The parade that 'fetched" the priest-to-be from her
residence to the IFI Church in Pagsanjan, Laguna
featured prominently the Philippine flag.
(Photos by Ma.
Luisa Natividad)
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 eyeshadows were 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 (left photo), 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 seminarians 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 Jose Rizal, who wrote novels about Spanish atrocities in
the Philippines. (Rizal had been proclaimed the country's national
hero.) IFI's first national bishop was a former Catholic priest, Gregorio
Aglipay; thus, the church was also called “Aglipayan Church.” The
Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) 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 followed 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 at 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
Author, center, with two of her friends who have been members
of IFI since childhood