Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Papa Isio: “The Lion of Kanlaon”

Papa Isio was the leader of a religious-military sect who waged one of the longest rebellions against our foreign colonizers in Negros. Papa Isio was so popular with the peasantry that it took authorities 8 years to put down his uprising. From 1896 up to 1907, Papa Isio inspired so much fear among hacienderos that the American-led Commonwealth government had to deploy one infantry regiment in Negros island to go after his group.

Legend has it that Papa Isio, whose real name was Dionisio Sigobela, was an ordinary plantation worker who murdered his cruel Spanish haciendero in southern Negros. Fearing prosecution, he fled the hacienda and hid at Mount Kanlaon where he founded his own religion and eventually proclaimed himself “pope.” His brand of religion combined Christian themes with ancient Filipino religious practices (animism). He also espoused a fervent type of nationalism (he wanted to drive away all foreigners from the island) and a radical approach to land reform (he wanted to redistribute land to landless peasants). His political and religious ideologies became very popular among the masses and in no time, Papa Isio (or "Pope" Isio) had attracted a huge army of religious fanatics (the babaylanes) from among the disaffected hacienda workers in the island. It may have also helped that he distributed anting-antings (amulets) to his followers to protect them from bullets.

From his mountain stronghold in Mt. Kanlaon, Papa Isio and his band of babaylanes waged a "scorched earth" guerilla campaign in Negros, burning Spanish-owned sugarcane fields and raiding town centers. In what is now known as the Babaylanes Insurrection of Negros, Papa Isio’s uprising did much to weaken Spanish control of Negros and complemented the various Katipunan-led insurrections in Luzon at that time. By 1898, it became clear that the Spaniards cannot effectively govern their colony anymore.

In late October of 1898, Papa Isio forged an alliance with wealthy Filipino hacienderos to drive out the Spaniards from Negros. He gathered all his followers at the foot of Mt. Kanlaon and proceeded towards the provincial capital of Bacolod City. There they linked up with Filipino troops commanded by Aniceto Lacson and General Juan Araneta to lay siege to the Spanish troops in the city. On November 6, 1898, the Spanish provincial government formally surrendered and thereafter, on November 27, 1898, Filipino revolutionary leaders declared independence and formed the "Federal Republic of Negros." Aniceto Lacson was elected its first President and Papa Isio was bestowed the honorary title “Military Chief of La Castellana.”

But three months after declaring independence, the elite-dominated Federal Republic of Negros pledged their allegiance to America thus becoming the first province of the Philippines to do so. Upon learning this, Papa lsio withdrew his allegiance from the “Negros Republic” and resumed his guerilla warfare against a new and more powerful enemy; the American military forces. In the course of several months, the babaylanes again razed several haciendas and instigated peasant uprisings in several towns in Southern Negros . To protect their businesses, hacienderos decided to pool their resources to form an armed militia (or private army) and requested that a regiment of American infantry be dispatched to the island to catch the “bandits.”

Despite all these plus the P2,000 price on his head (which was quite a sum in those days), authorities could not capture the elusive peasant leader. It was only on August 6, 1907 when Papa Isio, now a sickly old man, surrendered to an American military officer. After a quick trial, he was given the death sentence which was later commuted to life imprisonment. Dionisio Sigobela, the "Lion of Kanlaon," died in New Bilibid Prison, Manila in 1911.

Today, you can find no monument anywhere in Negros honoring Papa Isio. The Bago City government recently created the Babaylan Festival which is held annually on February 19 but it is not about honoring Papa Isio. Present-day Negrenses cannot seem to decide whether he was a hero or a heel. Some people see him as a dangerous (or loony) cult leader who engaged in banditry and idolatry while others view him as a genuine patriot whose political beliefs were too advanced for his time. Historians also tend to belittle his contributions towards our nationhood. But whatever historians think of him, it is quite clear that Papa Isio’s radical ideas on religion and agrarian reform enjoyed immense popularity among the masses. On my part, I believe that Papa Isio should be given the honor that he deserves for espousing an alternative, more “nationalistic” vision of Negrense society. If his revolution had succeeded, he would have created a more egalitarian society in Negros wherein the chasm between rich and poor would not be too wide.
(Mt. Kanlaon is again active and spewing smoke according to news reports. Two other Philippine volcanoes are currently rumbling, Mt. Mayon in Albay and Mt. Bulusan in Sorsogon. Alert levels have been raised in these provinces.... read story.. )

16 comments:

Mj said...

Thanks for the information about Papa Isio. But I'm not happy with your comments. It’s absolutely 100% incomplete, something is missing in your research. Have you tried traveling from Bacolod to the southern Negros like going to Sipalay? Tried stopping by at Isio, Cauayan, Negros Occidental. Have you tried to find out why “ISIO” is Isio and what does it implies. I'm a native of Isio, Cauayan, Negros Occidental (proud to be one) and Isio came from the brave & courageous Papa Isio. And for how many years, his statue is currently right in the center of the barangay proper where all could see especially those who traveled to the south. The purpose? it's where anyone could ever stare & remember the “HEROISM” he did in the region. At the moment, it's not that much fabulous or magnificient like what you've seen in the monument of Jose Rizal in Luneta since Isio is still currently paving it's way to development but somehow the thought and appreciation of Papa Isio is still in the heart of Isionon. FYI lang kay basi wala ka pa ya kabalo.

Mj said...

Thanks for the information about Papa Isio. But I'm not happy with your comments. It’s absolutely 100% incomplete, something is missing in your research. Have you tried traveling from Bacolod to the southern Negros like going to Sipalay? Tried stopping by at Isio, Cauayan, Negros Occidental. Have you tried to find out why “ISIO” is Isio and what does it implies. I'm a native of Isio, Cauayan, Negros Occidental (proud to be one) and Isio came from the brave & courageous Papa Isio. And for how many years, his statue is currently right in the center of the barangay proper where all could see especially those who traveled to the south. The purpose? it's where anyone could ever stare & remember the “HEROISM” he did in the region. At the moment, it's not that much fabulous or magnificient like what you've seen in the monument of Jose Rizal in Luneta since Isio is still currently paving it's way to development but somehow the thought and appreciation of Papa Isio is still in the heart of Isionon. FYI lang kay basi wala ka pa ya kabalo kay taga Iloilo ka man ayhan.

Mj said...

My suggestion before you make any statement and publish it do some more research. OK and that's PR.. that good COMMUNICATION!!!

Mj said...

Thanks for the information about Papa Isio. But I'm not happy with your comments. It’s absolutely 100% incomplete, something is missing in your research. Have you tried traveling from Bacolod to the southern Negros like going to Sipalay? Tried stopping by at Isio, Cauayan, Negros Occidental. Have you tried to find out why “ISIO” is Isio and what does it implies. I'm a native of Isio, Cauayan, Negros Occidental (proud to be one) and Isio came from the brave & courageous Papa Isio. And for how many years, his statue is currently right in the center of the barangay proper where all could see especially those who traveled to the south. The purpose? it's where anyone could ever stare & remember the “HEROISM” he did in the region. At the moment, it's not that much fabulous or magnificient like what you've seen in the monument of Jose Rizal in Luneta since Isio is still currently paving it's way to development but somehow the thought and appreciation of Papa Isio is still in the heart of Isionon. FYI lang kay basi wala ka pa ya kabalo

Mj said...

Thanks for the information about Papa Isio. But I'm not happy with your comments. It’s absolutely 100% incomplete, something is missing in your research. Have you tried traveling from Bacolod to the southern Negros like going to Sipalay? Tried stopping by at Isio, Cauayan, Negros Occidental. Have you tried to find out why “ISIO” is Isio and what does it implies. I'm a native of Isio, Cauayan, Negros Occidental (proud to be one) and Isio came from the brave & courageous Papa Isio. And for how many years, his statue is currently right in the center of the barangay proper where all could see especially those who traveled to the south. The purpose? it's where anyone could ever stare & remember the “HEROISM” he did in the region. At the moment, it's not that much fabulous or magnificient like what you've seen in the monument of Jose Rizal in Luneta since Isio is still currently paving it's way to development but somehow the thought and appreciation of Papa Isio is still in the heart of Isionon. FYI lang kay basi wala ka pa ya kabalo

Mj said...

My suggestion before you make any statement and publish it do some more research. OK and that's PR.. that good COMMUNICATION!!!

Mj said...

My suggestion before you make any statement and publish it do some more research. OK and that's PR.. that good COMMUNICATION!!!

pink_flip said...

TO MJ: Maybe the author'a purpose is not to belittle Papa Isio. Yes, his heroism is acknowledged by naming after him a town in Negros. But I am also a Negrense and I am aware of the sad fact that Papa Isio had not been given the same recognition as what has been given to Lacson and Araneta. Ask those who are in high school or elementary if they know about Lacson or Araneta? Most of them would probabaly anwer yes, they did know them because their teachers told them so. But try asking them if they know about a certain Babaylan named Papa Isio? Do you think they know them? In fact, if technically asked about who is more heroic, it would be Papa Isio. He didn't shift sides to protect his selfish economic interest just like what the local elites did. He still continue to fight for the independence and protection of the whole province of Negros and might as well wanted to preserve the rich Babaylan and indigenous culture the province had even before the advent of the coming of the Spaniards. Just read carefully the article. Maybe just you misunderstood what the author is trying to imply.
TO THE AUTHOR: Anyway, nice artik. I'm a student of history and I'm quite aware of the ignorance on the part of the Negrense on the indigenous yet rich culture of the past. They did not give high regards to Papa Isio because he is a Babaylan - stereotyped as "pinaglumaan" and "indi mapatihan". But really, little did they know about Papa Isio. Its maybe high time that they woild be aware of his great heroism. Teach his heroism in schools and he might as well get the honor he deserves. XD

Anonymous said...

ISIO was called ISIO because according to the novel My Sad Republic by Eric Gamalinda, this character's real name was Dionisio Macagbuela. Isio was just a nickname.Try reading the novel.

Anonymous said...

You Anonymous don't be so pakialamero okay!!.. there's no such person as Dionisio Macagbuela..where the heck did you get that name..it doesn't even exist in the writings of your so called Eric Gamalinda...besides he was born and Manila.. you think he knows best than that person born in Isio?...pity of those people who just based writings on facts alone without researching the actual place and the people that live and have lived there for years..

Anonymous said...

Anonymous again FOR YOUR INFORMATION!!! "Dionisio"Papa Isio"Sigobeyla of Cauayan,Negros Occ.
After the surrender of Gen. Aniceto Lacson to U.S. forces in Bacolod; "Papa Isio", a babaylan declared himself the head of the Revolutionary Government of Negros. He fought the American troops for about eight more years until his capture in 1907...See these links also Anonymous all confirmed that it was Dionisio Seguela/Sigobeyla " Papa Isio" and NOT Dionisio Macabuela WHATSOEVER!!!MATUTU KANG MAG RESEARCH ANO DI UNG MGA NOVEL PINAGTTYAGAAN MO "KATHANG ISIP NAMAN"... http://ilonggonation.blogspot.com/2007_09_01_archive.html, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papa_Isio, http://www.exploreiloilo.com/a-chronology-the-ilonggo-nation-part-2.html, http://dictionary.sensagent.com/Papa%20Isio/en-en/

Anonymous said...

as what Iloilo City boy mentioned that "you cannot find Papa Isio's monument anywhere in Negros" is such a big lie and lack of basis making his research incomplete and not credible. For you to do write-ups about anything like persons, places etc. better go to a place as the subject of your research to find and discover more.MJ's comments were right. Papa Isio's monument stands right in the heart of Brgy. Isio, visible for motorists going north and south. Like MJ, I am also a native, born and raised in such beloved place ISIO making us proud of the place where Papa ISIO lies.......

Anonymous said...

The monument does exist and papa isio is from cauayan. My mom even told me before that her family descended from papa isio. My mom's family name is Ababao.

Anonymous said...

The last time I checked, the monument of papa Isio is still standing on the heart of our Brgy, Brgy. Isio. And also the last time I checked is that Brgy. Isio is still part of Negros. Just want to clarify things.

anonymous said...

Im from Bacolod, my family name is Guotana but my mom is Ababao and is from Cauayan, she also told me that our family are descendants of Papa Isio. We recently held an Ababao Family reunion last July of 2013 in Eco Park Bacolod. Proud to have Papa Isio's blood run through my veins.

gary gaylan said...

I was in college then, University of Negros Occidental -Recoletos, my father was a known sculptor in Bacolod City, the then Barangay Captain of Brgy. Isio, Cauayan town named Hon. Brgy. Captain Lacson, sorry I forgot his first name was the one who ordered for the statue of Papa Iso, I helped in crafting up to the the installation of the Heroe's statue where it stands now. I have done some research with the help of UNO-R librarian, Mrs. Ananoria, so as to figure out how the unsung Hero looks, It was done in the 1990's, I also forgot the exact date.