Cebu · Sto.Niño Image

“Hubo” Ritual at the end of the Sinulog Festival

Sto. Nino Image without dressA few days after the feast of the Sto. Niño de Cebu every Third Sunday of January, the so-called “Hubo” (a Cebuano term meaning “naked”) ritual takes place during the early morning celebration of the Holy Mass, marking the end of the Sinulog Festival in Cebu. Seen from the outside, it appears as a simple rite of undressing, bathing and redressing the image of the Holy Child. The icon is stripped of its elaborate festive garments, washed, and dressed with a simpler garb.

Perhaps for many devotees flocking to the city of Cebu for the Sinulog Festivel, Hubo is only a symbolic re-enactment of something which takes place in their home every single day: a mother or a father or some adult bathing a child either at the start of the day so as to prepare  him/her for the day’s activities or at the end of it to wash away all the dirt that the child’s body has accumulated throughout the day. And we surmise and muse on thinking that the Sto. Niño image must have accumulated a similar amount of dirt during the almost two-week long celebration in his honor and, thus, needs such a washing up!

Continue reading ““Hubo” Ritual at the end of the Sinulog Festival”

Cebu · General History · History of the Augustinians · Philippines


Santo Niño and the Dawn of Christian Faith in the Philippines


450th Official Logo
450th Official Logo

        The Santo Niño icon of Cebu is historically recognized as the oldest religious relic in the Philippines. Itsorigin is traced from the celebrated voyage of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 which accidentally “discovered” and claimed the islands for the Spanish Monarchy. The historic arrival was purely uncalculated for the fleet did not intend to sail directly to the Philippines. The land of the spices, particularly the highly-contested Moluccas, was the expedition’s targetdestination. The armada reached the islands after it was driven away by strong winds from the original routewhich eventually brought them to the island of Cebu. The preliminary encounters that followed forged conditional alliancesand the accompanying ceremonials took place including the introduction of the Christian faith. Initial attempt to evangelize the indigenous people of Cebu was accomplished with the hasty acceptance of the Christian faith by King Humabon and his subjects numbering around 800. The Santo Niño image was given to Queen Juana upon her ardent wish to have it in place of her local deities. The baptized indigenous people did not flourish in their practice of faith mainly due to the untimely demise of Magellan (including the chaplain Fr. Pedro Valderrama) and the eventual return of the surviving contingent to Spain. Also attributable to the absence of deeper instruction, the baptismal rite was misconstrued by the locals as a customary ritual of friendship rather than a spiritual initiation. After the interruption of forty-four (44) years, the Legazpi-Urdaneta Expedition arrived in Cebu. On April 28, 1565, the dramatic yet providential discovery (pagkakaplag) of the same wooden image in a partially scorched hut started the distinctive Christian heritage of the Philippines. The Augustinians who accompanied the journey commenced the systematic evangelization and Christianization of the islands. The subsequent foundation of the Church and Convent of the Augustinians rose on the actual site where the statuette was found. It became the central house of the Augustinians, the mother church in the Philippine Islands. The establishment of organic settlements and mission areas followed instantaneously and the pioneering evangelization gradually prospered in geographical reach and ecclesial organization despite the scarcity of missionaries. Additional religious orders were commissioned to the Philippines in successive intervals: Franciscans (1578), Jesuits (1581), Dominicans (1587), and Augustinian Recollects (1606). Their ground-breaking missionary endeavours contributed to the Philippine identity as a predominantly Christian nation.

         The first Church and Convent dedicated to Santo Niño developed into a principalhouse of the Augustinian friars mainly in the spiritual and missionary formation, and the promotion of the devotion to the Holy Child – theadored patron, protector and inspiration. As a consequence, the Santo Niño Church grew in popularity throughout the islands both in magnificence and significance as the cradle of Philippine Christianity, and the perpetual sanctuary of the Santo Niño of Cebu. In recognition of the historical, religious and cultural importance of the Santo Niño Church and the sacred relic it keeps, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) petitioned Pope Paul VI in 1964 to confer on the Santo Niño Church the title “Basilica Minore” in time for the Fourth Centennial of the Christianization of the Philippines in 1965.The Santo Niño icon was also canonically crowned by the Papal LegateIldebrando Cardinal Antoniutti – a solemn gesture of singular honor reserved to the beloved Santo Niño. In its entirety, the Fourth Centennial Celebration overwhelmingly succeeded in engaging the entire nation, thus renewing “The Philippines for Christ” in faith, commitment and enthusiasm to live out the Gospel message.

General History · Philippines

Augustinians: first Catholic missionaries in the Philippines

If the greatest missionary work of the Augustinian Order has been displayed in the Philippines, it is because they were the first Catholic missionaries there.

Father Andres de Urdaneta and four other Augustinians — Fathers Martín de Rada (b. 1533 – d. 1578), Diego de Herrera, Pedro de Gamboa and Andrés de Aguirre — started a successful apostolate in Cebú as soon as they landed in 1565.

Legazpi founded the first Spanish settlement there in a spot where his men had stumbled upon a statue of the Child Jesus in a burnt hut after a skirmish with the native inhabitants to impose Spanish sovereignty. He named the place Villa del Santísimo Nombre de Jésus in honor of the Holy Child. The Spaniards considered it miraculous to have found the statue, a gift from Ferdinand Magellan to the wife of the chieftain of Cebu after her conversion to Catholicism in 1521. Father Urdaneta returned to Mexico and decided to stay after being dissuaded by his family and friends.

Meanwhile, hardships brought about by lack of food, harsh living conditions and probing attacks mounted by the Portuguese from the Moluccas forced Legazpi to set sail for Panay island, where he replenished his supplies and planned for a definitive voyage to Luzon that would eventually lead to over 300 years of Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines with the establishment of Manila on June 24, 1571 as the capital of the new Spanish colony.

Augustinian Friars Profile

Fray Lorenzo de Leon, OSA

Lorenzo de Leon was a native of Granada, and entered the Augustinian Order in Mexico where he made profession in 1578. Four years later, he entered the Philippine mission, and spent twelve years as minister in Indian villages in Luzon. He was then advanced to various high offices in his order among them that of provincial (1596). He was a religious of exceptional abilities, and the general of the order, as  a recognition of his great endowments in virtue and knowledge, appointed him master and president of provincial chapters. After his second election as provincial (1605) he was at the intermediate congregation deposed from his dignity by the fathers definitors. Accepting this rude blow with humility and Christian resignation, he withdraw to the convent of San Pablo del los Montes where he spent the following year in prayer and pious works. Returning to Mexico in 1606, he died in that city in 1623. This account is condensed from Perez’s Catalogo, p. 29.

Augustinian Friars Profile

Fray Juan de Medina, OSA

Fray Juan de Medina was born at Sevilla, and entered the Augustinian convent of that city. On reaching the Philippines he was assigned to the Bisayan group, and was known to those natives by the name of the “apostle of Panay.” A zealous worker, he was wont on feast days to preach to his flock in three languages – Bisayan, Chinese, and Spanish. He was minister at Laglag in 1613, at Mambusao in 1615, at Dumangas in 1618, at Panay in 1619, and at Passi in 1623; prior of the convent at Cebu in 1626; and definitor in 1629. After twenty years of missionary labors, being soul-tormented, he asked and secured reluctant permission to return to Spain; but the exigencies of the weather prevented the ship from making its voyage. Three years later he obtained permission to make some voyage, but died at sea (1635). Diaz, in his Conquistas, says that Medina composed many things in aid of his missionary work; but only the present history and four volumes of manuscript sermons in the Panayana language are known with certainty. See Perez’s Catalogo, pp. 83-85; and Pardo de Tavera’s Biblioteca Filipina, p. 255.

General History · History of the Augustinians

Links of the History of the Augustinians in the Philippines

Below is a list of links that will redirect you to the voluminous work of Blair, Emma Helen, ed.. Specifically this is dedicated to the history of the Augustinians in the Philippines. But page you’re about to scan is in pdf format.


Title: The Philippine Islands, 1493-1803; explorations by early navigators, descriptions of the islands and their peoples, their history and records of the Catholic missions, as related in contemporaneous books and manuscripts, showing the political, economic, commericial and religious conditions of those islands from their earliest relations with European nations to the beginning of the nineteenth century; [Vol. 1, no. 24]
Author: Blair, Emma Helen, ed. d.1911.

List of all pages | Add to bookbag

Volume II: 1521-1569

Volume XIII: 1604-1605


Volume XXIII: 1629-1630

Volume XXIV: 1630-1634

Volume XXVIII: 1637-1638

Volume XXIX: 1638-1640

Volume XXXIV: 1519-1522; 1280-1605

Volume XXXVII: 1669-1676

Volume XXXVIII: 1674-1683

Volume XLII: 1670-1700

Volume XLVIII: 1751-1765

Augustinian Churches · History of the Augustinians

Augustinian Parishes and Missions, 1760


 Tondo – Tondo, Passig, Taguiig, Parañaque, Malate, Tambobong,

Bulacan – Bulacan, Guiguinto, Bigaa, Angat, Baliuag, Quingua, Calumpit, Hagonoy, Paombong, Malolos

Balayan – Taal, Bauang, Batangas, Lipa, Tiyauong, San Pablo, Tanauan

Pampanga – Macabebe, Minalin, Sesmoan, Lubao, Uaua, Betis, Santa Rita y Porac, Bacolor, San Fernando, Mexico, Pinpin, Arayat, Magalang, Tarlac, San Jose, Tayug, Santor, Gapang, San Miguel, Candava, Apalit


Pangasinan – Agoo, Aringay, Bauang, Balanac, Bacnotan,


Ylocos – Namacpacan, Bangar, Candong, Narbacan, Santa Catharina, Bantay, Magsingal, Cabugao, Sinait, Badoc, Pauay, Batac, San Nicolas, Ylauag, Sarrat, Dingras, Bacarra, Bangui,


Zebu – San Nicolas, Argao, Bolohon, Opon, Cabcar

Yloylo – Oton, Alimodian, Maasign, Matagub, Tigbauan, Guimbal, Miagiao, Antique, Sibalon, Bugason, Xaro, Dumangas, Anilao, Camando, Cabatuan, Pototan, Laglag, Lambunao, Passi, Ygbarras,

Panay – Panay, Capis, Dumalag, Dumarao


Missions of various nations belonging to the province of Pampanga




New Christians of both sexes


Mission of Magalang y Tarlac




Mission of Tayug




Visita of Lupao




Mission of Santor









Missions of Igorrots and Tingyans belonging to the province of Ylocos




New Christians of Both sexes


Village of Santiago




Village of San Agustin de Bana




Territory of Batac




Territory of Narbacan




Territory of Candon




Territory of Bangar




Territory of Namacpacan




Territory of Agoo




Territory of Iringay




Territory of Bauan




Territory Magsingal




Territory of Bacarra





Total Summary of the classes included in this table reduced to persons

(notice is given that in the total of tributes it must be understood that each single whole tribute means two persons; and thus it will be noted in the figures. The total is as set forth below.)


Tributes                                               156,230

Exempt                                                 24,633

Young men                                          21,926

Young women                                      32,958

Escolapios                                           52,047

Young children                                    82,424

Spaniards, men and women                266

Missions of these islands                    1,693

Mission of China                                  1,480

Total                                                   373,663


I, Master Fray Pedro Velasco, provincial of this province of Santisimo Nombre de Jesus of Philipinas of the Order of the Hermits of our father St. Augustine, certify that the lists of villages and souls contained in this table and which are administered by the religious of this said province, are set forth truly; and in order that his may be suitable evident, I have affixed my signature in this convent of Tondo, on April sixteenth, one thousand seven hundred and sixty (1760).

Fray Pedro Velasco, Provincial of St. Augustine


Augustinian Friars Profile · Fray Diego de Hererra

Part 2: Fray Diego de Herrera, OSA

This should have been a follow-up article on the Diego de Herrera Case that I posted at AgustinongPinoy.  But since the site is still inaccessible after three days, I am posting this here.
Fr. J. celebrated his birthday today in our convent at San Pedro, Laguna. A lot of guests came, representing several friars’ communities in Laguna and Manila.  Among these were the novitiate community of San Agustin Intramuros Manila, headed by Fr. P. who is also one of the more published Augustinian friars working in the Philippines today.

Some weeks ago,  I discovered a forum post at Catanduanes.Net  where a certain Mr. Langub (or Langob) was asking the Augustinians to help them work for the process of Diego de Herrera for the sainthood.  Fray Diego de Herrera was one of the five Augustinian friars who accompanied Miguel Lopez de Legazpi to the Philippines in 1565.   I was interested to know whether the friars of the Vicariate of the Orient are acquainted with the case.  Sure enough Fr. P. told me that they have known about the case since 1973.  He does not know however how it  has progressed since the Bishop of Catanduanes at that time — Bishop Molina — who has documented the case for Diego de Herrera had died.  He also mentioned that  Fr. A, now assigned as Master of Students at Intramuros, was tasked to follow up the case.

This news from Fr. P. was refreshing since it was only some weeks ago that I learned about the case for Diego de Herrera, and from a layman, too.  Since my student days, I have wondered whether the first five missionaries to the Philippines were saintly; it would be a pity if they were not, since the fruit of their work is something that the Filipino Church is now enjoying.  I of course know that Martin de Rada , the superior of the group, and Urdaneta , the navigator of Miguel de Legazpi, had the reputation of being saintly.  But Diego de Herrera?  Compared to the two previous friars I mention, he is virtually unknown, except for a few letters he wrote to the King of Spain for more missionaries to the Philippines!

Mr. Langob contends in his article posting that Diego de Herrera was a martyr, and he is regarded as such by their local Church.  Fr. P however tells me a funny story that was told him, in turn, by the late Bishop Molina.  It is said that  in Catanduanes, there was a chief whose wife had difficulties giving birth.  They were about to  perform a Caesarean operation on the  pregnant woman when Fray Diego intervened and told them not to go on with it.  The chief agreed, but then he said that if the woman died, Diego de Herrera will die with her.  To cut the long story short, the woman did die.  And so Fray Diego de Herrera was also put to death by the chief.
Was Fray Diego de Herrera a martyr for the faith?  I, too would like to know.

Augustinian Friars Profile · Fray Diego de Hererra

Part 1: Fray Diego de Herrera, OSA

Fray Diego de Herrera  was already a missionary in Mexico when he was called to accompany four other Augustinian friars with the Adelantado Legazpi on their way to the Philippines.  He could have been the first archbishop of Manila if not for his ship being wrecked in an island off the coast of Bicol.  According to a biography by Fr. Rodolfo Arreza, OSA (“The Beginning of the Augustinian Order in the Philippines:  A Bio of Fr. Diego de Herrera” in Augustinian Legacy, January 2002, pp. 18–24), the first prior of the first Augustinian community of Cebu perished with ten other friars newly recruited for mission work in the islands.


Continue reading “Part 1: Fray Diego de Herrera, OSA”

General History · History of the Augustinians · Philippines

Augustinians in the Philippines: A Different Look at Philippine History and the Frayles

This article appeared in the author’s website In the purpose of collating articles about the Augustinians in the Philippines, this article is re-posted in good faith. No copyright infringement is intended for the duplication of this article. 


When I was studying Philippine History in high school, I was given the impression that the last hundred years of Spanish regime in the Philippines was characterized by the corruption of Spanish officials and the immorality of the friars. The image of Padre Damaso man handling the brothers Crispin and Basilio and Padre Salvi’s lust for Maria Clara as narrated in Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere is still deeply embedded in my memory. And there was no other textbook in Philippine history that would gainsay the narrations of Gregorio Zaide. The anti-Spanish sentiments which were still alive until the time of Corazon Aquino (remember the much maligned “blue ladies” of Malacañang) is a memorial to the influence of Zaide’s history. But there is a lot to what I learned in high school that will have to change. For the first time, I’ve seen a publication from 1899, written by a Catholic American journalist that challenges the views presented by Zaide in his Philippine History.

The article appears in a volume of Catholic World dated June 1899, scanned and submitted for viewing through a web browser at this address. It is written by Bryan J. Clinch who came to the Philippines during the same year of his article’s publication.

What is so significant about the article is that he compares the situation of the Catholic Church at the time to conditions in France, and the situation of the Christianization of Philippines to that of Hawaii which was evangelized by Protestants. Apart from these, the article contains “snapshots” of the Philippines around the time when Dewey had entered the ports of Manila, Aguinaldo’s revolutionaries had created their damage among the friars and four hundred friars were awaiting their fate in the jails of the capital.

If you have studied the history of the Philippines from Rizal’s death in 1898 to the coming of the Americans, you may have wondered: what was the Philippines like? what were the sentiments of the indios towards the allegedly corrupt and immoral Fray Botod’s of their times? The article of Bryan Clinch may bring up surprises. It was written to correct misconceptions about the way Spain has been running the Philippines and as a reaction to an article about the Philippines that appeared in the New York Herald. I will be presenting here some excerpts.

I am an Augustinian friar and so I am interested in the kind of work that the friars did in the islands during the period delineated in the article. Clinch shows in this section of his article that misconceptions circulated about the priests working in the islands are mainly due to anti-Spanish sentiments. He describes to us how many priests were there working not only in the Philippines, but also in the Ladrones and Carolines at the time and then centers on the kind of work provided by the allegedly lazy friars

The “swarms of lazy friars” that form a picturesque if rather unkindly feature of so many pen pictures of the Philippines are even more mythical than the exorbitant fees collected by them. We have already mentioned the reason why so many are found at the present moment in Manila, but the official records of both the religious orders and the government, published long before Dewey entered Manila Bay, show that in no Catholic country is the number of priests so small, compared with the population as in the Philippines. The priests are fewer than in almost any diocese in the United States compared with its Catholic population. In 1896 the whole clergy of the islands numbered nineteen hundred and eighty-eight priests between all the orders and the seculars combined. The secular clergy amounted to seven hundred and seventy-three, of whom about one-half were of the native races. These had charge of a population of over eleven hundred thousand. The archdiocese of New York last year had five hundred and ninety-seven priests for less than a million of Cathoics, St. Louis three hundred and eighty-eight for two hundred and twelve thousand and Chicago, four hundred and fifty-nine for over half a million. The secular priests of the Philippines are almost exactly in the same proportion to the population as are the priests in Chicago, which certainly is not the happy hunting ground of swarms of idle clergymen.

After this description of how small the number of the priests working in the Philippines really was in comparison to the number of the population, he then describes the kind of work they do

The whole number in the Philippines, Carolines and Ladrones was only twelve hundred and fifteen, including Jesuit and Dominican professors in the colleges, those in charge of the Manila observatory, and the missionaries among the Mohammedans of Mindanao and the heathens of the Carolines. The latter occupied a hundred and five of the hundred and sixty-seven Jesuits and the otehr sixty-two being in Manila in the usual scholastic work of their order. Two hundred and thirty-three Dominicans supplied the religious needs of three quarters of a million Catholics. That the task was not a nominal one is shown by the registration during the year of forty-one thousand baptisms, eight thousand marriages, and twenty-nine thousand interments with the funeral rites of the church. The Jesuits and Benedictines, besides their literary work, attended to the parish needs of nearly two hundred thousand Christians.

The Franciscans properly so-called had two hundred and forty priests in the Philippines and this two hundred forty attended to a population of over eleven hundred thousand. The Recollects had three hundred and twenty-one priests for a million and a quarter of Catholics. The task of the Augustinians was the greatest of all. Three hundred and twenty-seven priests, including the superiors and the general administrative force in Manila, attended to the religious wants of two million three hundred and forty-five thousand Catholics. In the year they baptized a hundred and fifteen thousand children, buried with due rites fifty-one thousand Catholics and blessed sixteen thousand seven hundred marriages. Add to this the celebration of Mass and other public church offices for over two million Catholics, the preaching, teaching, hearing of confessions required by them, and all the other details of a Catholic parish priest, and let any discerning man say whether it was a work that left any chance for lazy self-indulgence. (p. 300)

One may ask: if the friars were these industrious and generous in their work, why the bad sentiments towards them? But were the friars really hated? Clinch gives us the report of some exiled Augustinians who passed by San Francisco. One would think that these would be embittered, but the tone of the report given is quite different.

As to the disposition of the natives of the country towards their pastors, we were assured by all the exiled Augustinians who passed through San Francisco this year that it was one of sincere attachment. Two of them, when arrested by the revolutionary emissaries in their residences, had been delivered by their parishioners, and another assured us that in nine different pueblos he had witnessed the general grief of nearly the whole population on the arrest of their spiritual guides. As he told the story, the arrest and murder of so many priests (there were over fifty put to death and more than four hundred are now captives) was the work of small revolutionary parties, backed by the power of the revolutionary government set up by the Manila Meztizos. In a way the course of events was not unlike that of the early days of the French Revolution under Jacobin rule. The capital dominated the provinces more by fear than by sympathy. The Philippine country folk are wholly unused to arms or violence. A missioner assured us that before the revolution the number of murders committed in the island of Panay, with a population of over half a million, hardly averaged one in the year. In Manila among the Chinese Mestizos it was worse, but even there the amount of public crimes was much less than in most American cities. It is easy to understand how among such a population a few armed bands, claiming to be backed by the army of Aguinaldo and the American fleet were able to pillage and slay at will. In many cases the jails were empties and the released convicts, maddened with drink, atrociously maltreated and murdered priests and religious; but these were not acts of the population at large. (p. 302)

The author also compares the kind of treatment that the Catholics in the Philippines received to that of the Hawaiians who were evangelized by Protestants. He does this within the context of an analysis of population growth in the Philippines. He says that in other countries, natives who underwent the same process as the Philippines were depopulated. He writes

In order to understand the significance of these figures (the rate of population growth in the Philippines — my note), it should be noted that nearly all the islands of the Pacific, inhabited a hundred years ago by races allied to the native of the Philippines, have been almost depopulated since the appearance of European civilization. Hawaii which received its introduction to civilization under the guidance of American ministers, as the Philippines received it from the much-maligned friars, is a striking example. When Messrs. Bingham and Thurston were entrusted with the destiny of the Hawaiian natives by the widow of Kamehameha I, their first care was to take a census of the people. It gave over a hundred and forty thousand. Sixty years of Protestant civilization and teaching had reduced the number to thirty-eight thousand, with only a couple of thousand American civilizers to take their place. In 1750, the population of the Philippines was given at nine hundred and four thousand exclusive of infants under seven. In 1896 a detailed census gave the number at nearly seven millions who had grown up under the instruction of the Spanish friars and in the Catholic morality taught by them. The Protestant missionary colony in sixty years had, by its own statement, possessed itself of nearly all the land and wealth of Hawaii and it ended its mission by rising in arms and seizing the government on that very plea. At the present moment over four hundred friars in the Philippines are lying in prison in tropical jails, liable at any moment to the death which has already come to more than fifty at the hands of fierce mobs, for the sole reason that these friars are natives of Spain. Yet writers in the American press do not blush to talk of the greed and laziness and immorality of the Spanish friars, even as a Hawaiian missionary in Honolulu reviled the memory of heroic Father Damien, and hinted at personal immorality as the reason of his death in the Molokai leper settlement.

One might, after reading the above excerpts think that the article was written by an American Catholic defending other Catholics. But it does put into a different perspective the years surrounding the events of the Philippine Revolution and its aftermath, and challenges the kind of one-sided historical education we have and continue to receive.

I also would like to add that Filipino-based Fundamentalists have begun to use the Noli Me Tangere to draw half-cooked Filipino Catholics into their version of the Christian religion, thereby extending — for the purposes of increased revenue for their churches — the miseducation of the Filipino. Read the article from 1899, and judge for yourselves.

Author: Fr. Alberto Esmeralda, OSA