Augustinians began living in Intramuros in 1571. The monastery there was designated an Augustinian novitiate on 30th March 1575 (and still serves in that capacity once again).
In 1576, the first person to complete his one-year novitiate there was Juan de Penalosa O.S.A. in 1576.
As had happened similar novitiates in Goa and in Mexico City, the early entrants were Europeans. In Manila, the first Filipino to make Augustinian vows was Martin Lacandula in 1590.
The Book of Augustinian Professions at the Monastery of San Agustin, Intramuros lists that after 1641 (unfortunately the first book is missing) 250 native Filipinos joined the Order of Saint Augustine.
For example, in 1641 there were 160 Spaniards and 38 Filipinos in the Order in the Philippines.
In the history of the Philippines Province, special mention needs to be made of a number of Philippine-born Augustinians, most particularly the botanist Ignacio Mercado O.S.A. and the historian, Anselmo de San Prospero O.S.A.
One of the earliest Filipinos in the Order of Saint Augustine was Brother Marcelo de San Agustin O.S.A., who died in 1697. He was a descendant of one of the original owners of the land upon which was built the Church of San Agustin in Intramuros.
Father Benito de Mena Salazar O.S.A. was a mestizo from Vigan, Ilocos Sur. He evangelised the mountains of Ilocos Norte; he died in Bacarra in 1676.
Father Ignacio Mercado O.S.A., a mestizo (i.e., a person with one parent Spanish and the other Filipino) from Paranaque, Manila was a botanist. He propagated cocao in Bauan, Batangas, where he died in 1698.
The revolution of 1896 caused the Order of Saint Augustine its heaviest losses in the entire 19th century.
It swept away much of what the Order had previously done there.
In 1899, for instance, the Order of Saint Augustine was removed from 194 parishes and 100 mission stations, which were handed over to diocesan clergy.
About 240 members were deprived on their income from ministry (benefice), and 122 Augustinians were captives of the insurgents.
Within a few short years of 1898, the Philippines Province had only a tenth of the houses in the Philippines that it had possessed there before the revolution.
In the Philippines the Order retained only a few parishes, including their main foundations in Cebu and Manila and Iloilo (where the Colégio San Agustin began in 1904. It grew into the University of San Agustin of today). There were only thirty-eight Augustinians available for ministry in the Philippines.
Many of the Spanish priests of this province either returned to Spain or were deployed to Augustinian missions in Latin America. The work of the Order in Peru, Brazil, Argentinaand Colombia received great benefit from these men.
In addition to the 122 Augustinians who were captives, four hundred other Augustinians had for immediate refuge moved to San Agustin in Intramuros, Manila, to Macao, or to the Augustinian monasteries at Valladolid and La Vid in Spain.
In this way, 284 Augustinians departed from the Philippines.
Although in 1900 the Province had only 38 Augustinians in the Philippines, in total internationally it had 30 houses, 370 priests, 64 lay brothers and 152 candidates.
As well as assist Latin America, in the next seventeen years it opened as many as twenty houses and schools in Spain itself.
Another consequence of the above difficulties was the transfer of the headquarters of the Province from Manila to Madrid in 1901 when Fr Jose Lobo O.S.A. was Provincial.
In 1927 the Provincial Gaudencio Castrillo O.S.A. returned the Provincial residence to Manila, but it was again moved back to Spain in 1935, just one year before the Spanish Civil War.
Disaster struck the Province in the Philippines again in World War II, leaving in ruins from aerial bombing and artillery shells the two monasteries at Intramuros and Cebu, and the school in Iloilo.
Thirteen Augustinians in Manila were killed by the departing Japanese armed forces.
There was point in time when Fr Manuel Gloria O.S.A. was the only living Filipino-born Augustinian.
As already stated, during the Japanese occupation some Augustinian friars were killed, and the Order sent others back to Spain or to serve in South America. Augustinian parishes in the Philippines here were turned over to the diocesan clergy, except for one or two in Cebu and in Pampanga
In the Philippines in the early 1950s there was only one Filipino Augustinian and about fifteen Spanish Augustinians who were present in Manila, Cebu, Pampanga and Iloilo.
Five or six U.S. Augustinians came on loan after the War to help the Order run the University of San Agustin for a couple of years, while young friars from Spain of the Philippine Province were studying for their Master’s degrees in the U.S.A., or learning the English language in Australia. One of the American friars is the now candidate for beatification, John McKniff O.S.A., later a bishop in Cuba.
There was no official Augustinian policy to recruit Filipino vocations during that time, and among the present Filipino Augustinians in 2010, two of the eldest made their simple vows in 1951 and 1955 respectively. All the rest came afterwards. It is safe to say that serious recruitment of native vocations by the Order in the Philippines did not begin before the early 1950s.
By 1980 the Province had built itself up to 59 members in the Philippines, of whom 29 were Filipino by birth, eleven Spaniards who had become Filipinos by naturalization, three more in the process of naturalization, 14 Spaniards and two men from India.
The number of Spaniards was declining, as older men died or retired to Spain. There were, however, six local novices and 15 professed Filipino students preparing for priesthood.
Sometime ago, there was a blog article posted on the net by a history geek that caught my attention. The article, with matching pictures, is entitled “Sto. Niño de Arevalo of Iloilo: Miraculous, Historical But Uncelebrated.” As a Villahanon, I did not waste time to read the write up with more interest than simply browse over it like what I did when I chanced upon a similar article last January, month in which the Sto. Niño feast used to be celebrated. I was all the while thinking that the link I followed on the net would lead me to a substantial material about the history of our district which was once in a limelight of the glorious past.
After reading the article, I had more questions in my mind than answers. There were a lot of claims but few sources of facts. Most of the claims were based on a long standing tradition. There were no means of proving theirtruth because I cannot trace any written document which supports them. Thus, I crossed my fingers again hoping that someday I can see documents that can lead me to the primitive historical development of Arevalo.
Nevertheless, I realized that Arevalo was foundationally ministered also by the Augustinians in their early mission on these islands. So, it is a sure thing that the Augustinians had written something about the pueblo. I tried my best to painstakingly find chapters concerning Arevalo and, indeed, I found noteworthy albeit only bits of information about the town and the parish.
What I am going to share in this article is more of exploratory thinking and an attempt to join together fragments of history. There are no pretensions of completeness. Some of the sources which I found referred me to other probable sources but, unfortunately, they are either untranslated or unavailable in the library. Thus, this is just an attempt to describe a history which is more of a frame rather than a substantial research.
Arevalo was originally founded as an extension of the original Oton settlement by the third Governor General, Don Gonzalo Ronquillo de Peñalosa of the newly established Spanish colony on the Philippine Islands. Oton at that time was one of the earlier Spanish settlements after Cebu, the Villa Santo Niño. Notably, the establishement of the present day Panay Island led to the foundation of two important Spanish settlements: that of Pan-ay, Capiz and of Oton in the present day Iloilo. These places were consequentially founded because of food shortage and for safety reason since Portuguese attacks of Cebu settlement were rather frequent then. Initially visited by Mateo de Saz and Juan de la Isla in 1566, the Spaniards settled in these two places sometime between 1569 and 1570 after a series of Portuguese incursions.
However, Arevalo was not founded until 1581 as an extension of the Spanish settlement of Oton. The reason for its foundation is not really very clear except that it was to be an annex of the Oton Spanish settlement. The founder himself named it after the original Arevalo town in Spain. This was done to honor his hometown and place of birth in Castilla la Vieja.1 Arevalo then, perhaps is the first town in the Philippines to be named after a foreign place. Indeed, because of this, as Fr. Juan Fernandez, OSA ,would put it, Arevalo was considered a very privileged town. Peñaloza, in fact, named the town as La Villa Rica de Arevalo to demonstrate its richness, glory and privilege that captivated the heart of the Governor General. Writing to the King of Spain in 1581, Peñalosa informed the king that Arevalo had a fertile land and rich inhabitants. Perhaps the Governor awarded it with great accord and the privilege of becoming an independent town from Oton because of his high personal regard and as a memento of his distant native land in Spain.
Arevalo’s older site is not seemingly the present center of the poblacion where the parish church stands. According to Fr. Policarpo Hernandez, OSA, an Augustinian historian, Arevalo’s center was located in the present-day Brgy. Santa Cruz.2 This is in harmony with some claims in Arevalo. Santa Cruz’s foundation was earlier than that of Arevalo (indicating that it used to be the very center of the poblacion). Santa Cruz is also strategically located nearer Oton town and is supported by the claim of Fray San Agustin that it was “almost in front of the convent of Ogtong”3.
The glory of the old La Villa Rica de Arevalo was decorated by many significant decisions of the Spanish authorities. Arevalo, after its foundation, was made the residence of the alcaldia of Oton.4 Earlier, Panay Island was simply divided into two provinces: Oton and Panay. Oton at that time covered the whole of the present day Iloilo and Antique Provinces while Panay covered the present day Capiz and Aklan Provinces. Thus, Arevalo was privileged to be a town where the alcalde mayores or the provincial governors used to reside. Moreover, it was also the residence of a purveyor of Oton who bore the title of “Senior Justice.”5 By his orders, Ronquillo also transferred the residences of other Spanish officials residing in Oton. By this, Arevalo bore the prestige of and link to the history of Iloilo itself.
The Augustinians and the Decadence of Arevalo
Arevalo had its own independent parish since 1582. From its foundation, it was first annexed to Oton and probably, Fr. Mateo Mendoza, OSA, with his companion, Fr. Manuel Siquenza, OSA, took the shepherding on the first year from its foundation since, at that time, they were the Augustinians assigned to the place. In 1582, as the parish was established independently, the secular Don Diego Velasquez became its first parish priest. Then, the Augustinians took over the curacy in 1584 with Fr. Juan Montoya, OSA, as the first Augustinian the next parish priest of Arevalo.
The Augustinian mission in Arevalo was not that long and well-recorded unlike most of the parishes handled by Augustinians in the Province of Oton. Their mission of taking care of the souls was covered by much controversy between them and the Jesuits who arrived in the country in 1581 as part of the patronato real. All this started with the order of Governor General Hurtado de Curcuera requiring that the residents of La Villa had to be transferred to La Punta on February 2, 1637 when he passed by Arevalo on his way to Mindanao during his campaign against Sultan Kudarat.6 Initially, it was not obeyed by the local residents and by the Alcalde Mayor Don Andres Briones. The Governor General’s order could have been motivated by many existing reasons that time. First, for safety reason due to the frequent incursions of Dutch and Mindanao Muslims. La Punta (the present Port San Pedro in Iloilo City) at that time was a mere wooden fort built in 1602 upon the order of Pedro Bravo de Acuña.7 He also stationed two companies of soldiers there for defense. Second, Corcuera wanted also to move the Chinese populace residing in Pariancillo (the present day Molo) of Arevalo. He said that if the Chinese wanted to revolt against the government, they would have to face first the cannons of the fortress.8 When Corcuera reappeared in Arevalo after the Mindanao expedition, he reminded the people of his previous order. Don Dionisio Sarria, who was the new Alcalde then, followed the order and, one day, left Arevalo at the sound of trumpets followed by a demolition team.9 Arevalo was depopulated and, at the time of Gaspar de San Agustin’s testimony in the Conquistas, it was said to hold “nothing more than the name with very few Spaniards maintaining it, together with a column of stone.”10
What complicates the stability of the Augustinian presence in Arevalo was the abandonment of the place in 1587 because of the lack of friars to manage the curacy. However, Fr. Antonio Porras, OSA, ministered back Arevalo in 1607. Porras was noted for his efforts against the Dutch national Van Noort who attacked Arevalo in 1600.11 Yet, another problem was already brewing far north of Arevalo. In 1628, years before Corcuera’s order of vacating Arevalo, the Jesuits were asking for the curacy of the Cota of La Punta. Niño de Tavora was persuaded by their request and, thus, the curacy was given to them. But long before that, there were secular clerics who ministered to the soldiers of La Punta through the effort of General Alonso Fajardo. As claimed by Fr. Fernandez, OSA, the problem started with the claims of the Jesuits to minister La Punta as parish priests.12 Contrary to the Jesuit claims, Fr. Fernandez said that they could not minister as parish priests and put up a parish when they only preached “to a few people who were there.”13 The parish priests of Arevalo, apprehensive about the motive of the Jesuits, built a church in La Punta and understandably annexed it to Arevalo for its administration. Moreover, consequent to Corcuera’s order of vacating Arevalo, the population in La Punta began to increase in spite of the refusal of some Spaniards to settle there. For these reasons Arevalo began to suffer loss.
For awhile Arevalo’s curacy was handled by a secular Don Lazaro Vaqzuez who died with sadness over the fate of the once popular town. Again, it was annexed to Oton in 1647 following the last wave of migration of Spanish settlers to La Punta as ordered by Gov. Gen. Alonso Fajardo.14 During that the time, Fr. Juan Borja, OSA, parish priest of Oton and Arevalo, ceded to the Jesuits the whole curacy of the local church, from La Villa to La Punta – that is, from the “Salinas (saltwaters) of Arevalo to the end of La Punta.”15 Thus, the Jesuits handled the whole of Iloilo’s pastoral work while the Augustinians were concentrated in Oton. There is a mention that the Augustinians still maintained a monastery in Arevalo.16 But in 1653, “Arevalo was able to separate (from Ogtong) and, with the Royal decree, the residents gained back their rights to the palm trees, large vegetable gardens and lands.”17 It followed that the old Arevalo parish had freed itself from the jurisdiction of the Oton Parish. Don Gregorio Bruno, a secular, became the parish priest of Arevalo for twenty-five years. Don Bruno questioned the validity of the cession of Borja to the Jesuits and throughout his pastoral administration fought for Arevalo’s rights now that it had restored its autonomy from Oton. But, in the end, the senile priest towards the end of his administration, too weak to fight against the Jesuits, recognized the cession of Borja twenty-five years after the “Concordia agreement.” However, it was not the end of the dispute since Don Bruno’s successors, religious or secular clergy, did not accepted the “Concordia.” The Augustinians gave back Arevalo to the bishop because of the continuing lack of personnel from the Order in 1734. Fr. Domingo Concepcion, OSA, was the last noted parish priest of Arevalo until its turn over to the diocese. Again, Arevalo was annexed to Molo until 1826 when the Principales asked General Ricafort to grant the separation.18 The Augustinians wanted to return to Arevalo in 1859, but their request was protested by Bishop Jimeno – a motion which the Queen of Spain approved. From that time on, Arevalo was given to the secular clergy who administered its curacy.
The Augustinian Mission in Arevalo
There must be a lot of readings to do. What is presented in this short artcile does not present the whole picture. There were a lot of gaps and many explanations to seek out. Arevalo, for me, remains a mystery, yet it also bears a significan historical link to the birth of Iloilo City as we have it now. It was my task, as a Villahanon, to reveal whatever is yet concealed and to explain the glorious past of Arevalo and how it survived and came to be what it is at present.
The Augustinian presence in the town also has something more to say. The roughly 150 years of Arevalo under the Augustinian missions cannot be void and meaningless. It is foolish to say that Arevalo was simply a subject of jurisdictional dispute between the sons of Saint Augustine and of Saint Ignatius. The presence of an Augustinian monastery in Arevalo at some time before 1734 really meant something to the lives of Villahanons. Perhaps one testimony to this is the growing devotion of Santo Niño in Villa. It is the priceless gift of the Augustinians to Arevalo. Fr. Fernandez, OSA, noted that the titular of the parish at the time he was writing the Monografias was, indeed, the Santo Niño.19 The Augustinians have been taking of care and propagating the devotion since 1565 in Cebu and in Arevalo.
Unfortunately, Arevalo was one of the towns deeply devastated by the second Word War. The municipal hall had been razed down; the Church’s original structure was destroyed. What can be seen as remnants of the past today are the crown pillar of Arevalo, which was believed to be constructed in the 17th century; the 19th century parish rectory, and some houses of old around the plaza. These monuments are important keys, along with lost or burned parish documents, to the further reading of its history.
Arevalo was dear to the Augustinians of old. They called it as “patria de varios hombres celebres” (or “home of several renowned men”), as Fr. Fernandez, OSA, put it.20 Indeed, it had been close to their hearts not only for reasons of greatness. It was dear to them also because Arevalo was a symbol of the legacy of the conquerors to propagate Jesus Christ by serving its people to the best of their ability through mission and life witnessing. Ronquillo de Peñalosa must have been providentially right in founding La Villa Rica de Arevalo. fray ric anthony reyes, osa.
1 Gaspar de San Agustin, OSA, Conquistas de las Islas Filipinas, (Manila: San Agustin Museum, 2006), 611.
2 Policarpo Hernandez, OSA, Iloilo: The Most Noble City: History and Development 1566-1898, (Quezon City: New Day Publisher, 2008), 29.
3 Conquistas, 611.
4 Iloilo: Most Noble City, 27.
5 Conquistas, 851.
6 Iloilo: The Most Noble City, 30.
7 Fr. Juan Fernandez, OSA, Monografias de los Pueblos de Iloilo, (Iloilo: University of San Agustin Publishing House, 2006), 116.
8 Iloilo: The Most Noble City, 30.
9 Monografias, 124.
10 Conquistas, 63.
11 Morales Maza, The Augustinians in Panay, 137.
12 See Monografias, 116.
13 Monografias, 116.
14 Iloilo: The Most Noble City, 30.
15 Monografias, 117.
16 Sucesos de las Islas Filipinas (concluded). Antonio de Morga; Mexico, 1609, The Philippine Islands vol. XVI, 149
17 Monografias, 124.
18 Monografias, 124.
19 Monografias, 125.
20 Monografias, 125.
NOTE: This article was published in the “In Deum”, the San Agustin Center of Studies’ official journal magazine.
What brought the Augustinians to the Philippines? This brief and simple article is an attempt to demonstrate the arrival and to clarify the reasons why the Augustinians came to the country. (This article largely contains excerpts from the History of the Order of St. Augustine written by David Gutierrez.)
The period between about 1500 and 1750 brought a dramatic change in world history. During this time, Christianity became the first religion to spread around the world. Why did this happen? One reason was the energy unleashed by the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation. In particular, much Catholic missionary work grew out of the Counter-Reformation. Religious Orders were dedicated to making converts to Catholicism. The second major reason for the spread of Christianity was the Age of Exploration. By the 1500s, Europeans were travelling by sea to almost every part of the globe. Missionaries followed the European conquerors, traders, and colonists.
In the Order of St. Augustine in the 16th century, it was the Augustinian Province of Castile that aggressively moved and participated in the missionary activity of the Church.1 In the year 1527, when Juan Gallego was elected as Provincial of the said circumscription, he took the initiative to promote missionary activity. For this reason he was also known as the creator of the missionary ideal in the Order. Though he was tasked to lead the first Augustinian missionary to Mexico, he was not able to carry this out for he died in 1534.2
After some time of studies and application to obtain the necessary permission, seven religious men (Augustinians) were appointed to initiate this new endeavour. They were “all men of great intelligence and talent and almost all of recognized holiness.”3 They embarked at Seville on March 3, 1533 and arrived in Mexico on June 7 of the same year where they were welcomed as guests by the Dominicans for more than a month until they had their own house.
Preceded by the Franciscans and the Dominicans in mission, the Augustinians were not well treated by some in the beginning, and although defended by the first archbishop of Mexico and the Viceroy, they had to extend their efforts to regions not occupied by their Spanish co-laborers. Adding to their work of Christianizing, the missionaries committed themselves to an intense humanitarian and socio – cultural program from the beginning. Mexico served as a base of operations for missionaries in this century, and what have been mentioned about evangelizing, humanitarian and cultural work in Mexico also applies to the Augustinian missions in Latin America and the Philippines.
On first attempt on November 1, 1542, the Augustinians travelled from Mexico to the Philippine Islands. They stayed for a short time and did not establish any missions at that time.4
On September 24, 1559, King Philip of Spain wrote a letter to Andres de Urdaneta, a former captain in his father’s service and later an Augustinian friar, asking him to take part in the expedition which was to sail from Mexico “to discover the islands of the setting of the sun.” The King added: “according to the great knowledge which you say you have about the things of that land, and understanding as you do about navigation, and being a good cosmographer, it would be of great importance that you should set out in those aforesaid ships, to see what you may discover for your expedition and for the service of our Lord.” With this letter, the king sent another to the Provincial of the Augustinians in Mexico informing him of the content of the letter to Urdaneta. The king also expressed his wish that the Provincial send other Augustinians along with Urdaneta, that they might start Christianizing the islands that they would discover.5 Thus, the first five famous Augustinians joined the expedition and set sail for the Orient.6
They all arrived to the island of Cebu on April 27, 1565. On May 5, they began the construction of the first foundation which the missionaries dedicated to the Child Jesus, in honor of the statue of our Saviour which Pigaffeta, the historian of Magellan’s expedition, had given to the ruler of Cebu and his wife in 1521, and which the Augustinians found upon their arrival. As to date, the Augustinians have been in the Philippines for 470 years.
Jürgen Moltmann once said: “Historical awareness differentiates between the present past and the past present, and puts us in the position to discover the future in the past, to pick up past possibilities again to link them with the present future.”7 fr. ericson borre, osa.
1 Rano, Balbino, The Order of St. Augustine, 1975, 94.
2 Gutierrez, David, History of the Order of St. Augustine. Vol. II, (Pennsylvania: Augustinian Historical Institute, 1979), 207.
San Agustin Church originally known as “inglesia de San Pablo”, founded in 1571 is the oldest stone church (built in 1589) in the Philippines. It is a administered by the Order of Saint Agustine (Augustinian Friars). Since the time of its foundation, the devotion to Nuestra Senora dela Consolacion y Cirrea is celebrated every Saturday.In this Church – tomb of “El Adelentado Miguel Lopez de Legaspi” Founder of the City of Manila is located in the eastermost chapel of the transept. Terms for the American occupation of Manila was signed in the sacristy and First Plenary Council of the Philippines in 1953 was held in the Choirloft.
Father Fernando Lopez, Minglanilla’s first parish priest, is credited as the founder of the town in 1858. Nicolas Lopez, Miguel de Burgo and Jose Alonso worked together in the construction of the church and the cemetery. It roads and bridges were built by the same Fr. Lopez together with Fr. Magaz.
There were a number of capitanes whi headed the town during the Spanish era. The first capitan was Hilario Castañares. During the American regime when the town headsman was called president, the first to serve as such was Canuto Larrobis. The first to be elected municipal mayor was Gregorio de la Calzada.
Of all Cebu?s churches, it is the church in Boljoon which best gives one a sense of the Philippine colonial past. The church of Boljoon is the oldest remaining original stone church in Cebu and is relatively well-preserved. It was declared for conservation and restoration in 1998.