The Biliran Religious Revolt from 1765 t0 1774 was probably the most successful native revolt against the Spanish regime in the Philippines. It seemed to have been the Asian equivalent of the Jesuit-inspired experiment in commune society among the Guarani Indians in South America during the same period. Yet it had not been included in our history textbooks, which had enumerated instead all the failed revolts of our ancestors.
Led by Padre Gaspar de Guevara, a Samar-born Catholic priest who broke away from the institutional church, and which enjoyed the tacit tolerance of the Spanish alcalde-mayor (governor) for the islands of Leyte and Samar (then comprising a single province), the decade-long Biliran Religious Revolt introduced a commune-style society that would be replicated by the Dios-Dios Movement in Leyte and Samar in the 1880s, during the Revolution that ousted the Spaniards from this region, and later during the Pulahan Wars against the Americans. This native model of commune living, which is invoked by millenarian movements during dangerous time, is still being practiced by modern-day sects which heritage could be traced to Padre Gaspar’s influence.
This paper describes the Biliran Religious Revolt and reconstructs its possible origins, its activities as can be inferred from documents and extant place names, and its impact on the entire Leyte-Samar region at the time.