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Stª Filomena Almarínez, the incorruptible of Biñán

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Filomena Almarínez (1913-1938)

Although foreign-sounding first names such as Anne, Sam, and Angel have been the vogue these past few years, the practice of naming Filipinos after Spanish-named saints still pervades up to modern times. For instance, my real name José Mario was taken from two saints: St. Joseph, the foster-father of Our Lord and Savior, and his bride, the Blessed Mother of Christ Jesus.

In Biñán, La Laguna, we came across a curious case of an incorruptible “saint” who is not yet recognized by the Catholic authorities. Her name is Filomena Almarínez, obviously named after a canonized Greek princess who was martyred sometime in the 4th century: Saint Philomena.


St. Philomena, patron saint of impossible cases.

To Catholics, Saint Philomena (English translation of the Spanish Stª Filomena) is also a curious case. Christians started venerating her in the early 19th century when her remains were discovered in the Catacombs of Priscilla (in Via Salaria, Rome, Italy). There is not much information known about her aside from a Latin inscription found at her tomb: Filumena which means “daughter of light”. She is also known to be the patron saint of children.

I first became acquainted with this saint more than a decade ago. One of my cousins, Amador II L. Alas, or Josh, was stricken with the deadly cancer Burkitt’s lymphoma. After several months of battling the fatal disease, Josh’s doctors here in the Philippines have given up hope on him. But not us, of course.

I can’t remember anymore if it was my grandmother or one of my aunties’ who distributed St. Philomena novena prayercards among family members. I got one and kept it inside my wallet, praying the novena from time to time for the quick recovery of my cousin. Eventually, he was brought to a famous medical facility in the US and there he was miraculously healed.

Doubting Thomases would be quick to retort: it’s science who healed your cousin, Pepe. Not totally true. The wise logic and argumentation of the Doctors of the Church have proven time and again that science is dead without faith (but that’s for another blogpost).

Today, as you look at my cousin’s photo below, who would’ve known that he was a victim of Burkitt’s lymphoma many years ago? (and who would’ve even known that he’d grow up to be as handsome as me?)


But after that cancer incident, I’ve completely forgotten about St. Philomena (I can’t even remember where my prayercard is anymore). Until last week when I read in Facebook that my comrades Arnaldo Arnáiz and Levi Soledad are talking about a possible Biñán “field work”. They’re talking about visiting some beata there. I sent them a message saying that I’ll join them although I don’t know exactly what they’re up to.

Initially, I thought that we’re going to visit only a relic or some preserved body part of a saint. I was surprised to hear from Arnaldo that we’re going to visit St. Philomena. Upon hearing of the familiar name, it started to register into my mind the events of long ago, about my cousin, his cancer, and the prayercard (I just couldn’t forget the picture of the young saint with the arrows). So I thought that one of her relics was in Biñán. I misunderstood Arnaldo: he was referring to a totally different person, another Philomena, an incorruptible who is yet to be recognized by the Catholic Church.

We went to Biñán on a rainy Wednesday afternoon (4 November 2009). We were on a rendezvous with Levi, a Biñán native, inside Pavilion Mall. On the way, Arnaldo explained to me what little information he had about this “unrecognized saint”.

Upon meeting with Levi (whose slick red car we used), we drove towards the place where Stª Filomena was interred: Biñán’s public cemetery, popularly known as the St. Filomena Cemetery (nicknamed after her).

Stª Filomena’s incorruptible remains are housed inside a well-maintained chapel named after her. We got to talk to a lady called Nanay Deneng who has been taking care of the chapel for years (later on, she told us that we were so lucky to have arrived at a very opportune time — the chapel is rarely open nowadays). From her we got to know a lot about this mysterious Filipina whose lifeless body refuses to rot…

Filomena was born on 6 July 1913 in Barrio San Antonio Biñán (then spelled as Viñáng) to poor farmers. Unlike many female saints, she wasn’t a nun nor was she a member of any religious organization. She was just an ordinary citizen. But stories today say that she was a very prayerful lady during her lifetime.

One day, on 13 August 1938, she suddenly died of unknown causes. She was only 25, very young. Stories say that she died of emotional stress and heartache because her parents were against her lover.

Nine years later, in 1947, her father followed her to the grave. And when the people dug her coffin so that her father’s remains could rejoin hers (a common practice a long time ago), they were shocked to discover that her mortal remains didn’t rot!

She was discovered to be incorruptible!

Too bad Stª Filomena’s incorruptible body is no longer available for public viewing. It used to be in the past. But a couple of years ago, it was buried in a tomb inside the chapel, and that tomb was what we saw when we went there. Sayang talagá. And Nanay Demeng doesn’t know the exact reason as to why it was decided to bury the “uncanonized saint” altogether. So the only thing we saw, aside from the chapel and the glass coffin which used to house her incorruptible body, were photos of her when she was still alive and during the time that her incorruptible body was still available for everyone to see. (Go to ALAS FILIPINAS for more photos and info… but written in the Spanish language)

It was –to borrow from today’s youth– creepy! In books and on Cable TV, particularly a National Geographic documentary on incorruptible saints, I’ve encountered cases about the incorruptible beatos y beatas of the Catholic Church. But this is the first time that I saw a photograph of an incorruptible whose eyes didn’t decompose! And, surprisingly, the eyes of Stª Filomena in the said photograph are partly open! Everything seems to be intact: the cornea, the sclera, the iris, the pupil!

When a person dies, the eyes are supposed to be one of the first parts of a human body to decompose since it is composed mainly of aqueous components and proteins (collagen). But this is not the case with those of Stª Filomena!

I am not an authority to speak out as to why such a phenomena happens. Even that National Geographic episode on incorruptible saints wasn’t able to give a firm conclusion. But what struck me more is that why the Catholic Church still doesn’t recognize this “saint”. According to Nanay Demeng, –and Nanay Rosa who later joined us that afternoon– it could be the fact the Stª Filomena is now under the auspices of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, the schismatic group dating back to the revolution of 1896.

The members of this group are more popularly known as Aglipayans or Aglipayanos because its first bishop was Gregorio Aglípay. When the ilustrados (composed mostly of Freemasons) staged a revolt against Spain, they chose Fr. Aglípay to head the schismatic church. The leaders of the revolution still considered the Iglesia Filipina Independiente as Catholic. The only thing is that they refused to recognize the authority of the Vatican for the simple reason that the Holy See is connected with Spain and the much hated friars. The founding of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente is actually a part of the Filipinos’ rebellion against Madre España.

But just like what Levi whispered to me in the chapel, the Aglipayans are still Catholics. But darn, Spain is no longer here. So is there still any other valid reason why they refuse to reunite with the Vatican?

The curious case of Stª Filomena, the saint who is not yet a saint, should not be taken lightly. People have been talking about miracles attributed to her intercession. Not to mention her apparitions. To avoid a possible cult-like behavior from the ignorant, both the local Catholic authorities and leaders of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente should work hand in hand to once and for all come up with a conclusion as to whether or not Filomena Almarínez’s sainthood is valid or not.

In parting, let me share to you our photo below taken inside the venerated chapel:


Inside the mysterious Stª Filomena Chapel (left to right: Levi, Arnaldo, Nanay Deneng, and The Fantabulous).

The original Stª Filomena of Greece, by the way, is also known as the “Daughter of Light”. That’s why it freaked me out a little bit to see those eye-like lights from two small windows right above us, very open like the eyes of Stª Filomena de Biñán!

Other peculiarities: Both Filomenas (the one from Corfu, Greece and the one from Biñán, La Laguna) died at a very early age. And what’s more shocking is that both died almost at the same date: St. Philomena of Greece died on August 10; ours died on the 13th of that month!

Are these coincidences?

And one more thing: how does one perceive light?

Through the eyes, of course…

Related links:
Santa Filomena Almarines
Visiting Biñan’s “Santa Filomena”


17 responses »

  1. Enjoyed the read – thanks for posting. High time for the Catholic church & IFI to get their act together if they want to survive for another century. Just read that the Catholic church is now accepting Church of England clergy back to its fold so I guess there’s no issue allowing IFI’s back :-)Cheers:-)


  2. there no enough proof for the catholic church to accept “sta.” Filomena as a saint. there should be more investigation towards this case…


  3. Error Mr Alas, “Filomena” does not mean “daughter of light” but …how it’s said in english “Ruiseñor”?..Nightingale, that’s it (Thank you english dictionary! )


    • It is not an error. I understand that Filomena is not a Spanish word. Otherwise, I would have understood it. Filomena is derived from its Latin equivalent which means “daughter of light”.


      • Pepe, I studied latin at the high school, “philomena” means “Ruiseñor” in spanish.
        Even in spanish “filomena” means also ruiseñor, you can verify that at the RAE online dictionary:


        • There is not much information known about her aside from a Latin inscription found at her tomb: Filumena which means “daughter of light”.

          That is what I wrote. It’s as clear as the bright blue sky, Roberto. The name of the saint in question, Philomena, was not taken from Spanish. She was a martyred Greek princess who lived in the 4th century. The Spanish language was not yet in existence during her time, especially in the places where she had trod. The Latin name Filumena is different from the Spanish filomena. I think this confusion that you’re having has something to do with what linguists call as “false friends”.

          Again, the original name Philomena originated from Latin. The inscription on the original loculus tiles where this Greek princess was buried is Filumena. The word filia is Latin for “daughter”. The word lumena is Latin for “light”, “lamp”, or “lantern”. It could also mean “light of day”, “the eye”, “clearness”, “understanding”, etc., depending on the context. Philomena means “Daughter of Light” in Latin (not in Spanish).

          I thought you said you studied Latin. How come you don’t know this?


          • I think we are having some kind of misunderstanding [it can’t be other way writing in English 😉 ]

            Lets forget our knowledge of spanish for 1 minute….
            Philomena is a latin word, your bibliography says it means ( in pure latin) : “Daughter of Light”, mine “nightingale”.

            For example an example of mine:

            Of course in latin words might have also two meanings, and we both can be right 🙂

            Anyway the root “daughter”(or son) starts with “f” in latin but not “ph” (unless it was a loanword from a different language…many latin words are loanwords from greek that starts with “ph”).

            An in latin although “lumen” does exists ( Do your remember the catholic encyclica “Lumen gentium” “Light of the people”) it was more common ( at least on the texts I read, “lux” to mean “Light”).

            Let’s take the time machine to discover who is right.

            Enjoy and take care!!!


            • Hello again,

              No, there is no need for a time machine. Again, my contention is as clear as the bright blue sky: St. Philomena’s name was derived from the Latin Filumena which means “daughter of light”. And during that time (and I want you to focus really hard on this), the Spanish language was not yet in existence.

              Philomena is just an anglicized version of Filomena/Filumena, just like how they anglicized the name of my country (from “Filipinas” to “Philippines”). Later on, the name Philomena has been translated into various languages, including Spanish. And in Spanish, it is translated as “Filomena”.

              Today, there is indeed a Spanish word filomena which is synonymous to ruiseñor. I am fully aware of that. But that Spanish word has nothing to do with the Latin filumena/filomena, from which the saint’s name was derived.

              It’s clear as the bright blue sky.

              I hope that this time it would sink in. If not, then I fervently hope for that time machine you’re talking about. But no, I ain’t coming with you. There’s no need for me to verify what is already known as 100% fact by historians, linguists, and scholars.

              Best regards.


              • Hi Pepe,
                Thank you very much for posting about Sta. Filomena of Binan, Laguna in Philippines. Yearly, I always visited her chapel in t he cemetery. I have a lot of miracles thru her intercession in my family. We have a group in Guam, California and Las Vegas that honoring her although she’s not yet canonized. We love Sta. Filomena in Binan. She’s a great saint and instrument of God.


  4. Hi Mr. Pepe Alas,

    Im a devotee of the TRUE ST. PHILOMENA, V.M. who was martired at the very tender age of 13, for courageously refusing the proposal of Emperor Diocletian, to be his wife inspite of all the power and wealth being to be the empress of the roman empire.

    I hope and pray that you will not be misled tru your discovery of this maiden of Biñan, who died a broken hearted at the age of 25 ( it is also believe that she actually committed suicide). Even though her body was dicovered incurrupt, still it is not the very fundamental basis for the Church to recognize and open her cult to sainthood. ( as you said her body not is kept away from the eyes of the public, maybe becoz its exposure to the natural atmosphere makes it deteriorates.)

    What im asking you now is to continue your devotion to St. Philomena The Virgin-Martyr, who is the true saint of the church who miracously dispense the grace of God tru her powerful intercession.

    Come August, and preparations in her honor for the August fiesta is now ats its peak. and hopefully you will join us to give thanks for the favor you recieved the cure of your cousin.

    I attached our website that you may read the story of St. Philomena and other literatures regarding devotions to her. and their you could see photos of past celebrations.

    Nonoy M.



  5. imelda v capistrano

    when my son took his Nursing Board Exam 2 years ago, it was my first time to hear of St. Philomena and made a nine-day novena asking for the success of my sons board exam. it was granted and to this day, i make it a point to thank St. Philomena everyday for her assistance and intercession.Unfortunately I can find a copy of the nine-day novena for i was given only a photocopy and tried badly to get a copy as far as Cebu City but to this date cant find one. St.Philomena really answered all my prayers!!!


  6. Angelito E. Magsico

    The author of this article should have made a deeper and further investigation on what he has written so as not to mislead the readers. Sta. Filomena of Binan, Laguna is not officially recognized by the Iglesia Filipina Independiente as saint. Padre Gomez, Burgos and Zamora and our National hero Dr. Jose Rizal are the ones officially proclaimed and recognized by this Filipino Church as Filipino MARTYRS! -Rev. Fr. Angel E. Magsico Parish Priest of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente J.Gonzales St., Poblacion, Binan, Laguna.


    • Hello Mr. Magsico,

      This is Pepe, the author of this article/blogpost. The people who told me that this “saint” is affiliated with the Iglesia Filipina Independiente are my colleagues Arnaldo, Levi (who is married to a member of your group), and the chapel’s caretaker herself, Nanay Demeng. And didn’t I mention her in this blogpost? Here it is again in case you missed it:

      According to Nanay Demeng, –and Nanay Rosa who later joined us that afternoon– it could be the fact the Stª Filomena is now under the auspices of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, the schismatic group dating back to the revolution of 1896.

      I trusted the information I received from these people more than my wits since they (particularly Levi and the old ladies) know more about this “saint” and her alleged affiliation to your group. And Nanay Demeng has been the chapel’s caretaker for years. Now, since you claim that this is misinformation, I believe that you —as the parish priest of the IFI in that area— should take action and talk to the caretaker herself (Nanay Demeng) to avoid misinformation in the future.



  7. Pepe, I hope you find a time to talk to the hipag of Sta. Filomean. Our group call her as Lola Ina. I wish I can come back soon, and ask her the life story of Sta. Filomena. I hope you don’t mind, please share it to me any findings you may have and email me at I really love Sta. Filomena of Binan, she’s a great saints, miraculous, and always interedes for us and answer our prayer request. VIVA STA. FILOMENA.



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