Fr. Mariano Gomes and priestly families in Philippine history

The Freeman

Today is Fr. Mariano Gomes de los Angeles’s 224th birth anniversary, the GOM in the GOMBURZA of our history executed by the Spaniards for alleged involvement in the Cavite Mutiny of 1872. Fr. Mariano's insistence on changing his last name from Gomez to Gomes, officially because he shared the same first and last names with two other priests in the Cavite area, but more to localize his name and indicate he was fluent in Tagalog, probably added to the Spanish authorities' suspicions. He also fought for equal rights for indio priests against the abuses of Spanish friars. His racial classification was mestizo, though some would call him "tornatra", a mixture of Spanish, Chinese, and indio, so for all intents and purposes still a mestizo or mixed race. His attitude towards the indigenous priest was predominant among the mestizos at that time, but unfortunately for Padre Gomes, these sentiments led to his untimely death.

One former client wanted me to trace the connection between their family and Padre Gomes, claiming descent from him. I informed her that while priestly liaisons were common before, her claim to be Fr. Mariano's descendant remains apocryphal unless a.) We find documentation that connects her family with the priest, b.) If we find enough circumstantial but relevant oral histories supporting her claim, or c.) If we can genetically connect them to Fr. Gomes. I know many Filipino families claim descent, and most of the time quite proudly, from Spanish friars, and many Filipino family trees are adorned with priestly entanglements. But again, these remain claims without clear documentation of these priestly descents. Throughout history, however, we have examples of families that could prove priestly ancestry.

In Cebu Province alone, many families can be directly traced to priests. A sampling of these includes the Madarangs, whose ancestor is Fr. Enrique Magas, a Barcelonan priest assigned to South Cebu who later gifted his child with a signed photo of himself as a keepsake (and which was shown to this author by Fr. Magas's granddaughter many years ago). Many politicians from Argao, Cebu, including some branches of the Ceballos, Villareal, Lucero, and Galeos families, can be traced to padres Francisco Espina, Pedro Hernandez, Jose Rodriguez, and Bartolome del Carmen, all Augustinian priests. President Manuel L. Quezon's grandfather was Padre José Urbina de Esparragosa whose dalliance with Brigida Molina produced Dolores, Manuel's mother; Padre Jose also had a relationship with Zeneida, Brigida’s sister, whose daughter Aurora married Manuel, who was her first cousin. There is enough oral history in the Quezon Province to support this priestly ancestry of President Quezon.

Perhaps the most interesting priestly dalliance was that of Granadan friar Francisco Miguel Lopez Silgado and Concepcion Talentin Crisostomo from Leyte. Older members of the Lopez Family claim that Francisco also had children with Concepcion's sister, Mariquita; Francisco had three kids with Concepcion and six with Mariquita. But since Mariquita died young, her children were raised by Concepcion, making them believe that they were Concepcion's children.

Regardless of who their mother was, all nine children were children of Fr. Francisco Lopez. What's more daring, Fr. Lopez gave his last name to all his children which his descendants continue to carry today. He could be the only Spanish friar in Philippine history who not only publicly and legally acknowledged his children, but also passed on his last name to them. Some of his more prominent descendants include former First Lady Imelda R. Marcos and her three children, including President Bongbong Marcos; Speaker Martin Romualdez and all the Romualdezes descended from Trinidad Lopez and Daniel Romualdez; actor Ian Lopez Veneracion, and former Cebu Port Authority commissioner Mike Acebedo Lopez.

A generation or two ago many families with proven or alleged priestly ancestries were not keen on divulging these priestly entanglements. But today, families tend to be more accepting, and sometimes even proud, to admit being priestly descendants. Who knows how the future will judge these priestly dalliances?

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