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.
But some people will not agree Fray Diego died in that shipwreck. In fact, there is a group contending that the shipwreck marked a new stage in the missionary work of this Augustinian. I discovered this on Christmas eve of 2004 when I chanced upon a web forum where a plea for the canonization of Fray Diego was posted. I noted this discovery in an old AgustinongPinoy blog. After this discovery I talked to some of the friars about the cause of Fray Diego who has become a legendary figure in Catanduanes. The plea for his canonization runs thus:
We invite Agustinian (sic) priests to help us process the beatification of your brother Fray Diego de Herrera. I am sure he is a Saint because He is a martyr of his faith as testified by Goyena Del Prado in His book Ibalon.
A website has been created in honor of Fray Diego at Tripod where the owner has posted a request for the translation of a biography of the pioneer missionary written by the well-known Fr. Isacio Rodriguez, OSA of the Philippine Province.
The last time I wrote about Fray Diego was in January of 2005. Since then, I haven’t thought much about him until a recent search at Google led me to the Tripod website mentioned above. Perhaps a visit to Catanduanes after the rainy season would be fruitful. Mr. Langob mentions that the Shrine of the Holy Cross is also partly a memorial of Fray Diego de Herrera since it was he who brought the cross there. Besides, our community may be paying a visit to our community in Sorsogon. Perhaps a side-trip to Catanduanes would be opportune.
Now, how far is Gubat, Sorsogon from Catanduanes?
Author: Fr. Alberto Esmeralda, OSA