Tracing the Ancestry of Felix Manalo

I am a Mormon, digging up Catholic records, for an Iglesia ni Cristo leader. My hope is that this research will somehow draw hearts closer together, despite religious differences.

This year marks the centennial of the founding of the Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ). This home-grown religion has flourished from its humble beginnings in Santa Ana, Manila, to about 5,545 congregations worldwide in the span of a hundred years. Its founder and first Executive Minister Felix Y. Manalo is revered by the members as “the last messenger of God.” For such a prominent 20th-century figure, it is surprising that not much is known about the lineage that produced the great “Ka Felix”. This post summarizes my attempt on searching for Manalo’s ancestry, going further back in time than where most writings on his life start off from. I used mostly online resources, and microfilmed records provided by FamilySearch. Felix Manalo commemorative stampFelix Y. Manalo featured on a commemorative stamp. (source: m.philstar.com)

Parents
I began in Taguig, his birthplace. Felix was said to be born on May 10, 1886, in a sitio called Calzada in Tipas, Taguig. All accounts agree that he was born Felix Manalo Ysagun, son of Mariano Ysagun and Bonifacia Manalo. He carried the last name Manalo later on at about after the death of his beloved mother. A lot of years are missing in the church records of the Parish of St. Anne. They were probably damaged at the height of World War 2. The whole period of 1880 to June of 1886 which should contain his baptismal record, is missing from the registry. My assumption is that he was christened on May 18, which is the feast day of St. Felix, his most-likely namesake. It was a common practice in the early days (even towards the mid-1900s) to name babies after saints whose feast dates fall on the day of the child’s birth or christening. So, with the impossibility of verifying his parentage based on records, the next best option was to trace his only full sibling on record – Praxedes. This younger sister is said to be a year younger than Felix. I started searching from March of 1887 (10 months after Felix’s birth), and found Praxedes Ysagun’s baptismal record: Baptismal record of Praxedes Ysagun, daughter of Mariano Ysagun and Bonifacia Manalo, 1887

Herein are recorded the names of Mariano Ysagun and Bonifacia Manalo as parents. Note that the cabeza de baranggay (equivalent of the modern-day Baranggay Captain) at this time was Clemente Mozo, the same Clemente whom Bonifacia married after Mariano’s death. Note also that Praxedes was christened on July 23, and was dos dias nacida or two days old, meaning she was born on Jul 21, the feast day of St. Praxedes.

Grandparents
Typically, the grandparents are named in catholic baptismal records. This is not the case with Praxedes’ baptismal register though. It says ignoranse los abuelos which means “grandparents unknown.” I have not come across accounts that give the parents of Mariano and Bonifacia either, so I took this as a research challenge and opportunity to contribute to written history. I then started searching for Mariano and Bonifacia’s marriage record. Felix is said to be their eldest, and if he was born in 1886, his parents would most likely have been wed the year before (1885). Unfortunately, the marriage registers are also missing entries between May 1883 to Feb 1900. It is known that Bonifacia married a certain Clemente Mozo sometime after Mariano’s death, but again, we have no record of this marriage because of the missing years in the registers. Many blogs erroneously put the death of Mariano to be around the time of the Philippine Revolution (1896), and suggest that Mariano could be a Katipunero killed in battle. Fortuitously, my friend Todd Sales, who happened to be also researching Manalo’s genealogy, showed me a page from the padrones or taxation record of Taguig showing Clemente and Bonifacia already together in 1890. 

Todd also showed me an article by Joseph J. Kavanagh entitled The “Iglesia ni Cristo” (published in Philippine Studies vol. 3, no. 1 (1955): 19–42.) where it says that:

“Felix’s father died when he was only two or three years of age.”

This makes Kavanagh’s statement the more accurate account, as it is supported by this taxation record. With both of Bonifacia’s marriage records missing, and no abuelos recorded in her daughter Praxedes’ baptismal record, I went back to check whether I could chance on finding Mariano’s and Bonifacia’s birth records. Logically, one would search around 20 years back from the eldest child’s birthdate for the parents’ birth accounts. Sadly, the books are also missing the baptismal records of the 1860s. This is another major roadblock. At this point, I read through accounts again and found out that Bonifacia reportedly had five children with Don Clemente Mozo. So I commenced the search for baptismal records from May 1888 (10 months after Prexedes’ birth), hoping that one of the Mozo children’s files will give Bonifacia’s parents. With a quick scan through the microfilm number 1209189, I was able to find two of them: Baldomero (b. 1900) and Simeon (b. 1902).

Baptismal record of Baldomero Mozo, son of Clemente Mozo and Bonifacia Manalo, 1900.

Baptismal record of Simeon Mozo, son of Clemente Mozo and Bonifacia Manalo, 1902.

Kavanagh, who is the only source on my list to have checked the actual records in Taguig, said that Baldomero’s record is missing from the registry. This find proves otherwise. The two records provides an interesting discrepancy. Baldomero’s baptismal record indicates the abuelos maternos (maternal grandparents) as Andres Manalo and Maria Cruz, while Simeon’s gives Maria Santos as the grand mother’s name. The other siblings’ files would be good to check regarding this matter, and I’ll look for them at a later time. Regardless of that, this is one additional generation to Felix Manalo’s existing family tree.

Now going back to Mariano Ysagun. I could not find his birth record, and there is no mention of his parents in Praxedes’ baptismal register. His registro de matrimonio with Bonifacia is also nowhere to be found. This is where luck struck and with the following two records I found, I propose two hypotheses:

Hypotheses #1: The same Mariano Ysagun married Jacoba Pasco in 1861.

Marriage record of Mariano Ysagun to Jacoba Paseo (or Pasco), 1861

Here are a couple of points to consider: First is the age gap. If indeed this Mariano is the same as Bonifacia’s husband, he would have been in his early 40s in 1885 and Bonifacia was about 21. BUT, remember that Bonifacia married Clemente who was 18 years her senior. The age gap then should be a non-issue. Second: two Mariano Ysagun of Baranggay Calzada? Baranggays in those days were not as populated as they are now. Brgy. Calzada, where most of the Ysaguns apparently originated, lists around 150 tributarios (tax-payers, 18 years old and above) in the early 1890s. In my opinion, chances are slim that there was another Mariano Ysagun in Baranggay Calzada between 1861 and 1887. If this is so, this Mariano could be Mariano Sr., but that cannot be proven with the data found so far. This record indicates that Mariano is the son of Salvador Ysagun and Teresa Villanueva.

Hypothesis #2: The same Mariano Ysagun had an earlier marriage to Magdalena Maglipon, and fathered a child with her named Pedro in 1880.

Baptismal record of Pedro Ysagun, son of Mariano Ysagun and Magdalena Maglipon, 1880

This is again from the same hamlet along the coast of Laguna de Bay. Mariano may have been widowed, and married a certain Magdalena who gave birth to Pedro Ysagun on February 22, 1880. This record, however, does not provide any mention of the abuelos. I’ve noticed that rather consistently, the baptismal registers in the 1880s in this parish omit naming the abuelos. Ignoranse los abuelos was all over. A lazy scribe perhaps?

So, from the marriage record of Mariano and Jacoba, we now can add to Ka Felix’s paternal ancestry. It could go like this: Salvador > Mariano > Mariano > Felix, or it could also be Salvador > Mariano > Felix. By gut feel, I would hold on to the latter for now. Here is what I’ve come up thus far. I am continuously working out on this in collaboration with Todd Sales, author of the Filipino Genealogy Project blog. I have added only one generation, but it is great to know that we now can give credit to THE people whose loins produced the great Ka Felix, founder of the Iglesia ni Cristo, of which centennial is celebrated this year. To all my INC friends, happy centennial! To God be the Glory.

To be continued…

Forever Preserved: Genealogical Records after the Bohol Quake

Five days after the destructive quake that struck Bohol last October 15, there have been over 2,000 aftershocks and around 200 deaths reported. The numbers are still rising.

Not to discount the lives that have been damaged and lost, the most poignant images of this calamity are probably those of the centuries-old Catholic Churches that have been destroyed. Some were even levelled to the ground. These were the first imagery seen on the news, and they will forever be etched in history as reminders of this tragedy. In natural disasters like this, historical records (and in this context genealogical) are the other significant casualties.

Various Bohol Churches Photos after the Earthquake by @Amirkimpoy Twitpic

Loon Church: before and after. This church was levelled to the ground. (hoto by @LailRara Twitter)

As an advocate of records preservation, one of my first concerns were the records found in these churches. What of them at the face of this great catastrophe? Were they destroyed along with the structures they were housed in? Fortunately, A little recollection and a quick search on the catalog in FamilySearch erased my worries.

Years back during my stint at the Family History Support Center, I remember some friends who were preservation technicians for FamilySearch talking about their experiences in microfilming Bohol records. One specifically recalled working on records in Baclayon, the second-oldest of the churches in the island. The next thought that came was how far back were they able to microfilm. Here is what I found from the catalog search:

TOWN CHURCH RECORDS PRESERVED
Alburquerque 1869-1999
Antequera 1881-1983
Baclayon 1747-1999
Balilihan 1840-1980
Calape 1870-1983
Catigbian 1939-1975
Clarin 1922-1975
Corella 1881-1981
Cortes 1769-1990
Dauis 1752-1985
Dimiao 1827-1963
Garcia Hernandez 1858-1971
Loay 1812-1962
Loboc 1884-1995
Loon 1753-1967
Maribojoc 1767-1973
Panglao 1697-1992
Pilar 1872-1999
Sevilla 1901-1957
Tubigon 1852-1964
Valencia 1871-1966
Tagbilaran 1742-1970

As can be seen here, the Catholic churches of  Baclayon, Loon, Loboc and Dauis, that were initially reported as totally destroyed, have had their earliest extant records preserved. The project, which entailed the microfilming of records of genealogical value, has been on-going the the Philippines since the early 70s and started in Bohol in the 90s. This was a collaborative project of FamilySearch and the Diocese of Tagbilaran, through Bishop, Most Rev. Leopoldo S. Tumulak D.D.

Preserved?

When record custodians agree to have their collections preserved, FamilySearch captures images of each record (books, documents, etc.) and stores copies at the Granite Mountain Records Vault in Utah, U.S.A. The record owners are then provided with a copy of their records in microfilm format or digital copies stored in hard drives. They are also given unlimited access to their preserved records online, via FamilySearch’s website. These microfilmed and digitized records are protected from the elements, thus virtually preserving them “forever.” When calamities like floods, fire, and earthquakes strike and damage the original records, the record custodians can always request a copy of their collection from FamilySearch free of any cost.

An example of this scenario happened in Bacolor, Pampanga in 1991 when the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary parish church was half-buried in lahar after the Pinatubo eruption. All of their church records were completely ravaged by the flood, but fortunately, FamilySearch has microfilmed their records from 1680 up to 1962. They were given a copy of their records upon their request.

What of the records?

As of writing, the people of Bohol are still trying to pick themselves up from the fatal blow of this destructive  force of nature. People’s lives are more important and it is understandable that everyone is trying to make sure that the affected citizens are being attended to. But after all has been said and done, people will ask the question ‘what of our records?’ Reports are yet to come in as to what extent has this quake and the series of aftershocks that came with it (not to mention the rains that came after) has affected the genealogical records in the 48 towns of Bohol. But by merely looking at the photos of the fallen churches, one is inclined to conclude that the event might have had its toll on the fragile records as well. It is safe to say however, that the 22 churches that include the hard-hit towns of Baclayon, Loon, Loboc, and Dauis, can rebuild most of their records collection with the help of FamilySearch.

There is hope.

Thus we see here the great benefit of proper records preservation. The magnificent churches of Bohol that housed records for over 300 years have finally succumbed to the power of nature, and most probably along with the crumbled structures are gone the valuable records of our Catholic brothers and sisters. It will take time to rebuild the buildings, but 300 years of written history can now be easily restored (at least the data that are in them). It is my sincere hope that the rest of the towns in Bohol (and other towns in the country) who have not had their records preserved will still be able to salvage much of their records collections for future generations, and finally collaborate with FamilySearch to digitize what’s left of their documents.

To my Boholanon friends, fear not. Some, if not much of your genealogical history is intact. You may visit http://familysearch.org anytime to learn how to access them.