Thursday, June 19, 2008

Santa Filomena Almarines

This is a very interesting episode in Philippine history.

Filomena Almarines was supposed to have been a saintly woman who lived in the town of Binan, Laguna, in the early twentieth century. A vendor, Filomena was the daughter of a poor tenant farmer. Not much is known of hear early life except that she died in 1938, her father following suit some seven years later. Since most people were poor back then, many had to share the same graves when they died. This is still a very common phenomenon today; I've heard of families so poor who were all interred in the same nicho (niche); probably a bit of a shock to our middle class sensibilities, but ultimately a pragmatic move (it also saves the remaining members from paying the priest extra for his stipend). Anyway, as they were preparing to clear Filomena's niche, lo and behold, she was discovered to be incorrupt!

A local man, wizened and much respected by the townsfolk, discovered that there was water inside the niche. Perhaps he read this is a supernatural omen, but something drove him to wash his eyes with it; soon enough, the blind man began to see once more. In popular religious fashion, Filomena's mortal remains were exhibited in a glass coffin; some cautioned that the 'holy water', if holy indeed it were, could be a breeding ground for many, untold diseases; but still people flocked to Filomena. There were even reports that new quantities of water began to form inside the locked, glass coffin.

Eventually it was decided that the body was to be re-interred in the ground, but the parish priest refused, because the chosen site was formerly a grazing ground for beasts. Thus, the people sought the help of the Aglipayan priests (officially, the Iglesia Filipina Independiente) for the required blessings. Today it is said that the body of Filomena Almarines is still under the custody of the sons of Aglipay; there are rumors too that the body, when it was exhumed in the 1970s, had finally corrupted; but her eyes, it was said, remained clear as ever.

EDIT: I found the link to where I originally found this. Mr. Alex Castro has one of the most unique photos in his Flickr account, many of them of a religious background. I highly recommend going there to check out his stuff-- you won't be disappointed!


Pepe Alas said...

Good morning!

May I ask where did you get this information about Stª Filomena? Me and my friends visited her chapel in Biñáñ a couple of days ago and I even wrote a blogpost about it.

You may click here to see it, but I'm not sure if you'll understand.

Anyway, my friends and I are longing for the day that a serious investigation about this curious case be made. This is not just uncommon nor strange, but it bothers me that an incorruptible body of someone who used to be a prayerful Catholic is now being taken care of by those who aren't Catholics. Not that I'm complaining, really, but I do believe that it's about time for the Iglesia Filipina Independiente to come back to the loving arms of the true Church of God.

Best regards,

Pepe Alas

Archistrategos said...

Good evening Mr. Alas,

Unfortunately, the site where I found the aforementioned anecdote is no longer around. I found it in the photo archives of Mr. Alex Castro on Flickr, but it seems he has deleted the account, and with it, the pertinent information. However, he still blogs regularly at his Multiply and Blogspot sites. The links are:

Perhaps you can contact him through these channels. He also has other interesting galleries in his Multiply, including rariora from the early days of twentieth century Philippines. Truly fascinating stuff!

And a postscript of sorts; if I remember correctly, it was discovered that the water from Filomena's tomb had been contaminated, and was likely to have brought more diseases than miracles. I think it was this point that the Catholic clergy decided to declare it a hoax. At least, that is the version I know. I look forward to hearing more about your research as well, as this obscure little anecdote has surely piqued my curiosty. =)

P.P.S., I heard there's also an 'incorruptible' in Ilocos Norte. It was supposed to have been a child, who, while already dead for a decade, still showed little signs of decomposition.

Pepe Alas said...

OK. Thank you for the information. I'll check out those websites by Mr. Castro. =)