March 2005

By Perry Diaz

Hilario Camino Moncado (middle) in Berlin (1931)

At the Philippine Constitutional Convention in 1934, a tall and handsome young man presented his credentials as the elected representative from the province of Cebu.  No big deal, he was just one of several hundred delegates. However, what intrigued his fellow delegates was his claim that he had power to heal the sick. To restrain the boastful pretender from making any embarrassing display of his imagined prowess, his peers appointed him as the “Official Time Keeper” and seated him next to a large clock.  He took his assignment seriously and attended every session.  He made sure nobody exceeded his allotted time.  His role kept him so busy that he did not even have the time to participate in the debates.

Hilario Camino Moncado was born in 1898 at the height of the Philippine Independence movement.  A gifted person, he graduated at the age of nine at the India College of Mystery and Psychics.  In 1914, when he was 15 years old, Moncado went to Hawaii and joined the growing number of Filipino migrant workers in the sugar and pineapple fields of Hawaii.  He didn’t stay too long in Hawaii and moved to the US mainland in the early 1920’s.  By 1925, Moncado had built a large number of followers and he organized them into the Filipino Federation of America (FFA), a mutual-aid organization.  Under the leadership of the charismatic Moncado, FFA evolved into a messianic movement.  He had followers in the Philippines, mainly in Cebu, and the US.

Moncado published a newspaper and used it to inform Filipinos of events in the US and the Philippines.  He loved to write.  In 1927, he authored “Divinity of Woman, Her Superiority Over Man.”

From his “office” in his mansion on Arlington Avenue at 25th Street in West Adams, the “Master” — as Moncado was referred to by his followers — ruled his domain.  His followers, known as “Moncadistas,” believed that he was a prophet with supernatural powers.  He traveled widely visiting his followers in the Philippines and in the US.  As a result, he got himself elected to the Philippine Commonwealth’s Constitutional Convention in 1934.   At the convention, the “Master” became the “Official Time Keeper,” a role that he relished because he had control over the use of their time to speak.

In the mid-1930’s, Moncado organized the Filipino Crusaders World Army and appointed himself as Commander “X,” the Supreme Commander in Chief with the rank of a Five-Star General.  He claimed that he had 2,500,000 members.  When World War II started, he organized the Philippine-American Guerillas.

At the end of World War II, for some strange reasons, Five-Star General Moncado was accused of spying for the Japanese.  During the investigation, he kept a low profile and spent most of his time in Rosarito, Mexico. Within a short period of time, the Philippine government acquitted him.

Moncado did not waste any time and went back to the Philippines to participate in the April 1946 presidential election.  He ran under a third party called Partido Modernista against Manuel Roxas of the Liberal Wing of the Nacionalista Party and Sergio Osmena of the Nacionalista Party.   He lost garnering only 8,538 votes representing .3% of the total votes.

After his short stints in military warfare and politics, he turned his attention to golf.  An avid golfer, Moncado claimed that he had a low golf handicap.  In 1951, he wrote a book entitled “360-Degree Power Swing.”  Complete with illustrations and photographs, the book is a primer on his newly developed swinging style.  To make a perpetual statement, he had erected at the back of his mansion a statue of himself teeing off.

In 1956, Hilario Camino Moncado passed away at a relatively young age.  However, during his lifetime he had touched the lives of tens of thousands of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans and left a legacy to his followers that have been kept alive by those who believed in him.  To his followers, he was a prophet with the power to heal.  He was leader that they would follow without hesitation.  He was their teacher.   He was the source of their spiritual strength.  He was their hope.  To his detractors, Moncado was a charlatan, a cunning confidence man, who extracted money from his submissive followers.

In 1990, I was invited by the Filipino Federation of America as one of the guest speakers at their annual gathering in Stockton, California.  The highlight of their annual event is a golf tournament.  Members from all over the US, mostly California, would come and pay homage to their Supreme President, Hilario Moncado.

Prior to my speech, I browsed through the souvenir program and got to know more about the Supreme President.  Looking at some of his pictures, I could see that the “Master” really had an electrifying charisma.  When I spoke I made the mistake of addressing the current head of FFA as “President.”   I sensed the shock that resounded — silently and eerily — around the room.  After my speech, I asked the person next to me if there was something wrong.  He said in a nice diplomatic way that, yes, I did make a faux pas.  He explained that Moncado is the perpetual Supreme President and that the current head of the organization is just the “Acting President.”  Yes, for Hilario Moncado, there is life after death and his followers perpetuate that belief.

In Lanao Del Sur in Mindanao, there is a place called Moncado Colony located in the town of Cadingilan.  The village was named in honor of Moncado.  Monuments of Moncado as well as monuments of wild animals are found on the site, a lasting memory to one man who was a hero to those whose lives he touched and a charlatan to his detractors.