The Augustinians wrote grammars and dictionaries in Tagalong, Capampangan, Ilocano, Hiligaynon and Cebuano as well as doctrinal and devotional books about history, where they recorded the life and traditions of the Filipinos at the arrival of the Spaniards, books about flora and medicinal plants of the land.
As part of their social involvement with the people, the Augustinians established the Hospital de Lazaro for lepers in 1814 and the Casa de Asilo in 1860 persons with cholera in the town of Laoag, Ilocos Norte and another Hospital Candaba, Pampanga in 1605.
By 1600 this Philippines Province had 50 houses on six Philippine islands. It also established the Hospicio de Santo Tomas de Villanueva in Mexico, where the Philippines-bound Augustinians from Spain awaited a ship across the Pacific to the Philippines.
By 1776 the Philippines Province had 28 houses, mainly in the Philippines, and 165 missionary sub-centres called doctrinas.
In 1882 there was a great epidemic of cholera in Manila and environs and many people died living many children orphaned. Augustinians built an orphanage in the district of San Marcelino, Manila to give shelter and education to those children. Later the orphaned girls were housed in Mandaluyong under the Augustinians Sisters and the boys, first in the Guadalupe Monastery Makati and in 1890 at Malabon in those days part of Bulacan where Schools of Arts and Trades was established (destroyed in 1899).
According to a report published in March 1898, the Province had under its care 2,377,743 Filipinos, 234 parishes and missions, 22 regions or missionary districts, and a total of 618 Augustinian priests, brothers, novices and professed. Members of the Order had founded over 300 towns and built over 300 churches in the Philippines.
UNESCO has inscribed four Philippines churches built in the late 16th Century as World Heritage Sites. These are located in District of Intramuros, City of Manila, Santa Maria, Province of Ilocos Sur,San Agustin, Paoay, Province of Ilocos and Miag-ao, Province of Iloilo.They are culturally significant for their unique architectural style which is the Chinese and Philippine craftsmen interpretation of this European architectural style.
This group of churches established a style of building and design that was adapted to the physical conditions in the Philippines and had an important influence on later church architecture in the region. The four churches are outstanding examples of the Philippine interpretation of the Baroque style, and represent the fusion of European church design and construction with local materials and decorative motifs to form a new church-building tradition.
The Church of the Immaculate Conception of San Agustín was the first church built on the island of Luzon in 1571, immediately after the Spanish conquest of Manila. A site within the district of Intramuros was assigned to the Augustinian Order, the first to evangelize in the Philippines. In 1587 the impermanent earliest building in wood and palm fronds was replaced by a stone church and monastery in stone, the latter becoming the Augustinian mother house in the Philippines. It was the only structure in Intramuros to survive the liberation of Manila in 1945. Miag-ao became an independent parish in 1731, when a simple church and convento were built. However, destruction of the town by Muslim pirates in 1741 and 1754 led to the town being rebuilt in a more secure location. The new church, constructed in 1787-97, was built as a fortress, to withstand further incursions. It was, however, damaged severely by fire during the revolution against Spain in 1898 and in the Second World War. Two bell towers were added in 1854, but the northern one cracked in the 1880 earthquake and had to be demolished. In the interior of the church the wall paintings date from the 19th century, but they overlie the original tempera murals. As a result the church was richly endowed, with a fine retablo, pulpit, lectern and choir-stalls. Of special interest is the series of crypto-collateral chapels lining both sides of the nave. The walls separating them act as buttresses. The stone barrel vault, dome, and arched vestibule are all unique in the Philippines. A monastery complex was formerly linked to the church by a series of cloisters, arcades, courtyards and gardens, but all except one building were destroyed in 1945.
The Spanish colonizers in the late 16th century not only brought their culture with them but also the seeds of the Catholic faith. The missionaries who went with the expeditions of the would-be Spanish colonizers were the Augustinian friars. They accomplished many significant firsts in the history of the Philippines. It was an Augustinian who officiated the first Catholic mass in Limasawa (Mazua). It was also an Augustinian who baptized the first native converts of Catholicism upon their arrival in Cebu. It was, furthermore, the Augustinians who built the Santo Niño Church in Cebu. It was they who fanned out from Cebu to the other islands of the archipelago, including Panay.
Th Augustinian missionaries, Fr. Martin de Rada and Father Diego de Herrera, laid the foundation of Catholicism in Panay in 1569. These two servants of God went with the Spanish expedition to the islands to look for a safer place due to the danger of the Dutch attacking them in Cebu. Upon their arrival in Panay, the two missionaries took in the whole island as their religious mission. Despite the initial suspicion and indifference of the Panayanons, gradually the two priests were able to stay long in Panay due to the demand for their presence in the other parts of the archipelago.
Areas Covered: Philippines (Luzon and Visayas Region)
Period Covered: 1565-1898
Author: Galande, Pedro
Year Published: 1987
Book Title: Angels in Stone: Architecture of Augustinian Churches in the Philippines
Publisher: Metro Manila/ GA, Formoso Publishing
Page Total: 526
Illustration Total: 788 photos
1 floor plan
ISBN: 971 857 5006
The book is a documentation of Augustinian churches in the Philippines that were built during the Spanish colonial period. It provides historical accounts and detailed descriptions of different Augustinian churches in Luzon and the Visayas. It contains black and white photos of the interior and exterior of the documented churches.
This is a one-page description of what the book is about: a documentation of architecture and construction of churches and convents in the Luzon and Visayas regions of the Philippines by pioneering Augustinian friars during the Spanish colonial period. It identifies three aspects of Spanish colonization: culture and development, dual motivation of the colonization policy, and the distinctive colonial architecture and town-planning model which leaves a rich cultural and historical heritage.
The preface opens up with commentaries on how some historical areas of the Philippines have been neglected including the development of Philippine architecture. It follows past accounts of the Augustinians in the Philippines. The author justified the choice of Augustinian churches for study by pointing out their existence in original forms despite some restorations. Part of the preface is about the construction of the Augustinian churches and convents. It described religious architecture in the Philippines as “Filipino” in style. The preface also gives a general overview of the characteristics of the church. The succeeding pages provide detailed narratives of different towns and Augustinian churches listed below. Included are the history, location, and foundation of the towns, construction and style of the church and convent. The lists are divided into geographical areas, which are also briefly described.
Metro Manila: San Agustin (Intramuros), Monastery of Guadalupe, Tondo, Malabon (Tambobong), “Ermita” of Mandaluyong, Navotas, Malate, Parañaque, Pasig, Beaterio de Pasig, Pateros, Taguig
Laguna: San Pablo de los Montes
Batangas: Batangas City, San Jose, Ibaan, Cuenca, Lipa, Tanauan, Talisay, Bauan, Taal, Sanctuary of Caysasay, Lemery
Bulacan: Calumpit, Bulacan (town), Guiguinto, Malolos, Santa Isabel, Barasoain, Paombong, Hagonoy, Pulillan, Baliwag, Angat, Bustos, Plaridel (Quingua), Bigaa (Balagtas), San Rafael, San Miguel de Mayumo
Pampanga: Lubao, Betis, Macabebe, Candaba, Bacolor, Mexico, Arayat, Guagua, Sexmoan, Porac, Apalit, Magalang, Minalin, Santa Rita, San Fernando, Santa Ana, San Simon, Angeles, San Luis, Floridablanca, Masantol
Tarlac: Tarlac, Concepcion, Victoria
Nueva Ecija: Gapan, Cabiao, San Antonio, Cabanatuan, Peñaranda
La Union: Agoo, Aringay, Bauang, San Fernando, San Juan, Bacnotan, Naguilian, Luna (Namacpacan), Balaoan, Bangar Ilocos Sur: Tagudin, Santa Cruz, Santa Lucia, Candon, Santiago, San Esteban, Santa Maria, Narvacan, Santa, Bantay, San Ildefonso, Magsingal, San Juan, Cabugao, Sinait Abra: Bangued, Pidigan, La Paz
The city is flooded with people. Souvenirs such as t-shirts, bags, and necklaces are just among the many things one can buy on the sides of the main streets of the city. A few days from now, Surigao will celebrate its feast in honor of St. Nicholas of Tolentine. But, amidst all these festivities who is this saint whom the city is celebrating?
It was more than seven centuries ago in 1245 when St. Nicholas was born in the village of Sant’ Angelo in Pontano, Italy to Compagnone da Guarutti and Amata da Guidani. His parents considered his birth a gift through the intercession of St. Nicholas of Bari and so he was named after him. Brought up with a Christian education, Nicholas grew up as a pious young boy. A great historian of the Augustinian order, Jordan of Saxony has this to say about the piety of the young Nicholas. “At the age of seven he began to fast on three days of the week, thus imitating his most devoted patron Nicholas who right from the time he left his mother’s breast used to abstain on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The fact that he was a child did not bother him, for he practiced the abstinence proper to an old man beyond what was normal at his age.” Molded by his family to a life of virtue, it is no wonder that Nicholas grew and became a man of compassion and charity.
Even as a young man, Nicholas decided to continue living his life of holiness with the Augustinians after he was greatly moved by the preaching of the Augustinian Fr. Reginaldo di Monterrubbiano, prior of the community in Sant’ Angelo. He professed his religious vows at the age of sixteen years old in 1261, a few years after the foundation of a new order, that of the Hermits of St. Augustine. At the outset of his religious life, Nicholas was an outstanding religious. He practiced his religious life intensely even beyond the requirements of the order. Jordan of Saxony narrates, “The saintly Brother Nicholas of Tolentino performed many works beyond the strict call of duty in addition to the common abstinences and fasts of the Order. For thirty years he never ate meat, eggs, fish or any rich food, and neither when in health nor in sickness was he found to have eaten milk dishes or fruit.” Nicholas was very faithful and observant of his rigid prayer and intense work of penance that at times his superiors would impose limitations on him. A story was told about a roasted partridge placed beside him, but Nicholas refused to taste it. However, his prior ordered him to put out his hand and taste it. By virtue of obedience he lifted his eyes to heaven, made the sign of the cross and put his hand on the partridge. The roasted partridge came back to life and flew away. Every time we see a partridge on the icons and statues of St. Nicholas, we are reminded of this story. Due to the severity of his fasts and unrestricted diet, Nicholas suffered frequent bodily pains, “chief among which were pains in his joints, stomach cramps, headaches, and a clouding of his vision…” One time Nicholas was so weak that the glorious Virgin and Saint Augustine appeared to him in a vision and the virgin advised him to get some fresh bread, dip it in water and eat to regain his health. After following what the virgin said, Nicholas regained his health and followed this practice in his apostolate to the sick. From this miracle started the custom of blessing and distributing of the “Bread of St. Nicholas” which is still practiced by Augustinians in many places today.
Alongside with his strict observance of poverty and fasting, he finished all his studies perhaps at Tolentino and had pastoral and conventual experiences in various convents. And after finishing his requirements, the Franciscan saint Benvenuto from Osimo ordained Nicholas in Cingoli probably in 1273 (or 1274 or 1271). After serving briefly in Cingoli and other houses of his order, he went to Tolentino and remained there for the rest of his life. Amidst the decline of morality and religion in the developing city of Tolentino, Nicholas remained an authentic witness of Christ. He engaged in daily preaching and reached out to the poor and the sick. Jordan of Saxony tells us about the great brotherly love of St. Nicholas: “To the sorrowful he was joy, to the afflicted, comfort, to the divided peace, to those who toiled, refreshment; to the poor relief; to the captives and the sick, a powerful remedy.” Edified by the holiness of Nicholas, many people went to the monastery of Tolentino to seek his counsel, listen to his preaching and ask his intercession. It is believed that the holiness of Nicholas can even win souls from purgatory. In his work, Life of the Brethren, Jordan writes about the story of a brother in purgatory who asked the prayers of Nicholas. “Once however he was appointed to say the conventual mass for the week, and on Sunday night as he was resting in bed a soul called to him, with a loud and wretched moan: Brother Nicholas, man of God, look at me.” Nicholas did not recognize him and asked the soul to identify himself.
I am the soul of Brother Peregrine of Auxime, he said, ‘whom you knew as your servant when alive. Now however I am being tortured in these flames to which God in his mercy has consigned me not for the eternal punishment which I deserved but for a temporal punishment. Therefore I humbly beseech you to celebrate mass today for the dead, that I may be rescued from these flames.
All the days of the week Nicholas celebrated mass and prayed fervently for the dead in Purgatory. After seven days, the same brother appeared to him and thanked him for his intercession. With the prayers of Nicholas, Brother Peregrine and the multitude of souls in Purgatory are now in heaven. This long standing aspect of devotion toward this friar led Pope Leo XIII in 1884 to proclaim St. Nicholas as the “Patron Saint of the Souls in Purgatory.”
Nicholas gave his spirit to his Creator on the 10th of September. Just as he did miracles during his life time, multiple miracles and wonders were performed through his merits. In 1446, Pope Eugene IV canonized Nicholas, the first saint after the Grand Union of the Order of St. Augustine in 1256.
Through the centuries, the devotion to this saint spread far across the continents. It was during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that Augustinians and Augustinian Recollects brought this priceless devotion to the Philippines. So far there are forty-one parishes and four cathedrals dedicated to the patronage of St. Nicholas of Tolentine. It is interesting to know that the cathedral in Surigao is the oldest Cathedral dedicated to this saint. As we celebrate his feast, may we also emulate his great love for God and others in our love and concern to the people around us.
Viva Senor San Nicolas de Tolentino!
 Jordan of Saxony, The Life of the Brethren, (Villanova: Augustinian Press, 1993), 383.
 Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, The 2006-2007 Catholic Directory of the Philippines (Quezon City: Claretian Publications, 2006.)
 There are four cathedrals in the Philippines dedicated to the patronage of St. Nicholas of Tolentine. They are the cathedrals in Mati, Davao Oriental (1984); Tandag, Surigao del Sur (1978); Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija (1963) and Surigao City, Surigao del Norte (1939).
Fr. Williener Jack Luna, OSA is an Augustinian priest from the Province of Sto. Niño de Cebu – Philippines. At the time of this post, he is assigned in Australia to help the Australian Augustinians in their various missions.