Isabelo de los Reyes Marker
Along the well-trodden tourist path of Calle Crisologo of the Heritage Village of Vigan stands the ancestral home of Isabelo de los Reyes, one of Vigan’s most prominent sons. He was the prime mover of the Philippine labor movement, a prolific literary figure, politician and co-founder of the Philippine Independent Church.
In 1902, he formed the Union de Impresores de Filipinas and the Union Obrera Democratica (UOD), which is the first labor federation in the country. De los Reyes and his followers celebrated the Philippine’s first organized demonstration on May 1 in Tondo, Manila’s Plaza Moriones. UOD’s fight for the rights of Filipino workers landed De los Reyes in jail. He was marked as a subversive by the Americans. However, his sacrifices were not for naught as May 1’s Labor Day was legislated a national holiday in 1908.
Don Belong as he was fondly called also made his mark in literature, much like his mother, poetess Leona Florentino whose poems and satire gained for her international exposure in Madrid’s 1887 Exposición General de Filipinas and Paris’ 1889 Exposición Internationale. Due to her works, she was acknowledged in the 1889 Enciclopédie Internationale de Oeuvres des Femmes, which was edited by French writer Andiz Wolska.
Don Belong’s literary contributions included the creation of the El Folklore Filipinas, Historia de Ilocos, Independencia y Revolution, La Expedecion de Li-Mahong contra Filipinas en 1574, Las Islas Visayas en la Epoca de la Conquista, Los Holandeses en Filipinas, Prehistoria de Filipinas and Triuntos del Rosario. He was a journalist for the El Comersio, El Diario de Manila, La Oceania Espanol, La Opinion and La Revisita. To top that, he was also the founder of the country’s first newspaper in the local dialect, El Ilocano. His life also included a foray in politics, winning a seat in the senate in 1922 and actually beating his town mate Elpidio Quirino, who later on became the country’s President.
His next endeavor after leaving politics was as significant as all the others he undertook. He turned his attention to the spiritual formation of the country founding the Aglipay Church or the Iglesia Filipina Independiente with Gregorio Aglipay. As honorary bishop he wrote the Aglipayan calendar, Biblia Filipina, catechism of the Aglipay Church, Mass book, prayers and the Scientific and Modern Genesis.
Every May 1, a wreath is placed at the foot of the marker placed in front of his ancestral home, the Leona Florentino House, near his mother’s statue in Plaza Florentino. Biguenos believe that a more fitting memorial should be erected in the future to ensure that Filipinos all over the country know and never forget his exemplary contributions. Don Belong died on Oct. 10, 1938 at the ripe age of 74, leaving behind 15 of his children. Having been widowed many times, he was married thrice and had 27 children. His lived a full life indeed.