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Fr. Juan Severino Mallari: The first Filipino serial killer

by Kiko Cueto

LONG before Jack The Ripper brought terror to England, there was a Filipino who had the notoriety to be labeled as the first serial killer in the Philippines, way before the Whitechapel murderer spread fear in the hearts of London residents.

His name was Fr. Juan Severino Mallari. He is said to have killed 57 Filipinos. 

Let’s find out why as we open RepublicAsia’s cryptic files.

The first Filipino serial killer

Juan Severino Mallari, or Fr. Mallari, was born in 1785. He is said to be the first recorded Filipino serial killer in the Philippines.

He served as a Catholic priest during the colonial period in Magalang, Pampanga. 

As a parish priest, Fr. Mallari is known for making decorations, with reports stating that it included flowers, vines, and angels sitting or standing on top of clouds.

So what made Fr. Mallari kill 57 people in the area before he was discovered, arrested, imprisoned and eventually hanged in 1840?

In 1810, a series of murders was reported in Pampanga. Bodies drenched in blood suddenly were scattered one by one in the town of Magalang.

Both Filipinos and Spaniards were gripped with fear as they may be the ones next. Nobody knew why this was happening, and there were no clues or clear motives as to why it was being done.

With the colonial police force struggling to put the pieces together, more bodies piled up, with some even leading to think that the killings had been done by a monster or halimaw.

The reign of terror lasted for a decade with more than 50 deaths recorded during that time, with people tending to look even behind their backs over their fear that they might be the next victim.

People are often said to wear many masks in their lives. But who would’ve thought at that time that a priest, much less a Filipino priest, was wearing an evil mask.

Killing souls to save one soul?

Research showed that Fr. Mallari’s downward spiral started from his belief that his mother died because of being witchcraft or kulam

It was said that Fr. Mallari’s mother fell ill due to the dark incantations of a mangkukulam. They were known for casting sickness or death to people by merely using a wax idol and a pin. 

From this incident, Fr. Mallari was said to have had a belief that by killing the parishioners, he would be able to negate or dispel the black magic. 

As his belief and emotions of love for his mother became intertwined, it casted a different spell that ultimately blurred the lines between right and wrong.

It was then that he went on his killing spree.

RepublicAsia tried to research the illness of Fr. Mallari’s mother but none were found.

Nevertheless, Fr. Mallari’s dark belief led him into a killing spree, with an end aim of killing many souls to save one.

The end of the killing spree

But unlike his more famous counterpart Jack the Ripper who was never caught, Fr. Mallari was apprehended after he contracted an unknown illness in 1826.

An attending priest looked after Fr. Mallari found blood stains of his personal belongings as well as that of the victims.

He was imprisoned for 14 years. 

In 1840, Fr. Mallari was executed by hanging.

Fr. Mallari’s real problem

I would be the first to agree that this is a fascinating story. It even spawned a movie which starred Piolo Pascual.

Fr. Mallari was indeed a priest during the colonial era. Filipino priests were rare at that time and were highly respected.

But after his capture, Dr. Luciano Santiago vouched that the priest showed strong signs of mental illness, and that he should be sent to a mental health institution in the Philippines instead.

Mental illness or not, the killing spree was highly planned that even investigators at that time found it hard to solve as the bodies were scattered in different areas of the province.

But while it is true that many lives lost can never be brought back or replaced, Fr. Mallari needed help. 

For some Fr. Mallari was evil personified in a priest’s clothing. But for others, he was mentally ill and was a confused son who lost his mother.

In Wikipedia, he is still the only listed Filipino serial killer. And the fact that he is a man of God makes it even more bothering.

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