His refusal sent through a telegram was sharp and biting and revealed a staunch and almost saintly loyalty to the Catholic church, "Prefiero ser lampazero a ser la cabeza de su jerarquia cismatica." (I prefer to be a floor sweeper than the head of your schismatic church.8)
Fr. Vicente Ramirez, parish priest of Lagonoy, accepted Aglipay's offer and like all other priests who defected to the new sect, refused to vacate his church building. Barlin brought the case to court and contested Aglipay's stand that the churches belong to the government of the United States and invoking Taft's Peaceable Possession Proclamation claimed that since they are in peaceable possession, the church buildings now belong to them. The
in 1904 decided in favor of Barlin based on Article VIII of the Treaty of Paris that expressly exempted church property from the sale of the Philippines to the United States. In 1906. on appeal, this decision was upheld by the Supreme Court and all Aglipayan priests were ordered to leave all the catholic churches they had been occupying all over the Philippines. This decision immortalized Barlin in the Philippines and perhaps even international jurisprudence as it invokes the treaty of two powerful Governments regarding ownership of the properties of the Roman Catholic Church.
In 1905, upon the sudden death of Msgr. Jean Guidi, Rome appointed Msgr. Ambrose Aguis as papal delegate. While all the other Bishoprics in the Philippines were occupied by foreign Bishops, Msgr. Aguis recognizing a man of proven capacity, completely competent and clearly virtuous, recommended a Filipino to be the Bishop of Caceres. In a secret consistory in the Vatican on December 15. 1905. Barlin became the
First Filipino Bishop
. The first of his race, non-Creole and native born, Indio and Filipino rose to the third and highest rank of the priesthood.9 Behind him lay 350 years of Spanish Catholicism in the Philippines and 200 years after the first Bicolano priest was ordained.10 The closest the native clergy got to Episcopal appointments were the appointments of Philippine-born Spanish Creoles. He was the first Philippine Bishop to be appointed without the favor of the King of Spain through the despised Patronato Real that created problems time and time again for the Philippine Church. Nor was he an appointment by the American government which introduced and from the start of their regime practiced the doctrine of the separation of the Church and State. He was the first Philippine bishop to be recommended by a foreign Papal delegate, the first from this country, to be proclaimed by a Vatican consistory and the first to be appointed directly by the Head of the Roman Catholic Church.
His proclamation was greeted with rejoicing in the Philippines and carried the public attention until his consecration half a year later. His Episcopal ordination in Manila was a
carrying with it great historical significance. On his shoulders was placed the grave responsibility of fighting for the hope of the long neglected native clergyman. His success or failure in this unprecedented responsibility lay the judgment of the church hierarchy on the quality and mettle of the Filipino as a bishop.
History has judged Bishop Barlin favorably because in less than 20 years after he became bishop other Filipino Bishops followed and the initial: Americanization" plan by the Taft-Rampolla Agreement was replaced by the "Filipinization" of the Philippine church long before the American regime ended.
In October 16, 1907, as the only Filipino bishop at that time, Bishop Barlin was given honor to deliver the invocation at the inaugural session of the First Philippine Assembly. An American writer described the event as follows:
"It was Father Barlin who made the invocation at the opening of the First Philippine Assembly in 1907 --- a little incident in world history the full significance one hardly grasps. In a setting of Oriental Fanaticism, where life is held at naught, where man has no right that may not lose overnight, where his liberty, his home, his family are his, only as long as they are not wanted by another more powerful than he, there had come into existence an island people with Christian ideals, in whose land our own America had laid the foundation of democracy. Here, in 1907, the Bicol bishop, Father Jorge Barlin, gave the opening invocation at the first Oriental assembly of the people, by the people, and for the people".
8In Abellas Annals, Barlin appears to have been offered the Bishopric of the whole Eglesia Independiente Filipina. In Schumacher's Revolutionary Clergy, what was offered was the Bishopric of Sorsogon" which went instead to Fr. Vicente Ramirez of Lagonoy, the only Bicolano priest to defect to the Fl. While Abella is edifying, I can't help but to accept Schumacher's information as more factual and likely considering the personalities and events of the period.
9All his grandparents paternal and maternal are natives of Baao, Camarines Sur
His Birth Certificate, listed him as Jorge Imperial Alfonso. When the decree by Governor General Claveria of 1849 doing away with the unrestrained adoption of popular saints' names among the natives reached Baao. The native population was asked to choose from a list of surnames. For Baao all the surnames started with the letter B and his family chose "Barlin"
10The first Bicolano priest was Bachiller Don Gregoria Cabalquinto of Camarines Norte, ordained 1706. Santiago. L.P.R. The Hidden Light: The First Filipino Priests. 1987.