October is the month where every year we are more “at one with the spiritual realm” and are more coerced than any other month of the year to believe that ghosts, ghouls, and everything of the sort is true. But if you live in the urban Philippines, that belief in the supernatural is easily dismissed by elders with the statement “matakot ka sa buhay, wag sa patay.” in the first installment of our weekly, Pinoy October Crimetime, we unravel the true horrors of known and recorded Pinoy true crime.

The Catholic church has been a pillar of our country since the Spanish colonization. A refuge to many patrons of the religion, priests are the closest most of them could get to the Lord. As such, priests have always been given the utmost regard in our society, especially in the Spanish Era. 

Today, we go back to that time and explore what we know about the Philippines’ first-ever documented civilian serial killer– a priest by the name of Fr. Juan Severino Mallari or Padre Severino.

Fr. Juan Severino Mallari was a parish priest assigned to the municipality of Magalang, Pampanga where he served from 1816 to 1826. This comes years after competing with other priests to preside over a specific parish across the country since his ordination in 1809 where he was met with rejection after rejection until he took the helm in Magalang.

Originally from Macabebe, Pampanga, Fr. Severino Mallari took up theological studies at the Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas. He would, later on, be ordained in 1809 and compete with other priests to preside over a specific parish where he was met with rejection after rejection.

That was until he was granted the helm at the municipality of Magalang, Pampanga where he served from 1816 to 1826. There, he was quick to assimilate with the residents who were reportedly equally quick to warm up to him, granted that he was the first Filipino to preside over the parish.

No one could have thought that the parish priest who’s also the second Filipino to have mastered calligraphy, would spell disaster for the region.

Padre Mallari’s calligraphy work

Over the 10-year period when he held the position of the parish priest, a total of 57 murders were recorded to mysteriously happen in the large but sleepy town on different and scattered occasions. With no clear suspect or central motive obvious to the townspeople and the gwardya sibil, all cases remained unsolved.

Until it was.

On one faithful day in 1826, the parish priest had fallen ill to an unknown disease. An attending priest was sent to take care of the sickly reverend who had just casually stumbled upon the bloodied weapons and belongings of the disappeared townspeople.

Fr. Mallari was then captured and imprisoned like any regular prisoner. Tried for 14 years to decide which punishment the parish priest would receive but in the end, he was placed on death row and in 1840 was hanged for his crimes.

This adds to his string of historical firsts attributed to the priest. He was considered the first Filipino priest to be hanged as this occurred decades before Gomburza’s execution.

Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of accounts on his brief biography, what we know today primarily came from psychiatrist turned historian Dr. Luciano P.R. Santiago in his book The Kapampangan Pioneers of the Catholic Church.

According to Dr. Santiago, the disturbed priest, had a complicated relationship with his mother throughout his life. Fr. Mallari’s mother was also found to be the primary motive for all his killings.

In defense of his killings, Fr. Mallari pleaded that he only killed that many people because he believes his mother has been “bewitched” or “nakulam” and the killings were a way of redeeming her soul, according to Dr. Santiago.

That being said, even though he was a murderer, Dr. Santiago claims that Fr. Mallari was a “victim of injustice.” This is because the Spanish were pioneers of mental health and at that time, the Hospicio de San Juan, the Philippines’ first mental institution, was already in operation for 15 years. According to Dr. Santiago, he should have been taken there instead of in prison because numerous psychological tests determined the priest mentally ill.

Even years later, Spaniards would not treat Fr. Mallari’s case as an example of murderous psychosis, but as an example of the “indios’ natural tendency to believe all the ghost stories they were so fond of telling”

What do you think should have happened to Padre Severino?

Want to hear more Pinoy True Crime stories? Watch out for a new grisly tale of true terror and mystery every week of October only here on uDOu.

Related: Pinoy October Crimetime: The Bacolod Massacre

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