Cebu · History of the Augustinians · Philippines

Why is the Sto. Niño image of San Nicholas Church brought to Basilica every fiesta?

A day before the feast of the Sto. Niño, a solemn foot procession is honoured in the name of the Holy Child. While the image is on procession, another image of Sto. Niño arrives at the Basilica that comes from San Nicholas Church (an Augustinian built church). He stays until the original image returns to his home church. Most devotees of the Sto. Niño do not know why another image of the Holy Child is to be placed at the Church. What do you think is the reason of this tradition? This tradition dates back to the time when the original image was awarded with a Spanish military rank of Excelentisimo Capitan de las Fuerzas Españolas en Filipinas.

However, to better understand this tradition let us visit the book of Rev. Fr. Pedro G. Galende, OSA, who wrote a detailed research on the tradition. The following text below is an excerpt of his book Santo Niño de Cebu, 1565-2015, 450 years of History, Culture and Devotion, which was published in 2016.

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The land use for construction

According to Gaspar de San Agustin, “the general donated to the Augustinians an ample piece of land for the construction of the first convent and the church where the image had been found.” Fr. Medina believes that the land “is one long block on each side [and] is the largest in the city and the most beautiful. The cloister is very spacious [with] plenty of rooms.” Although the natives were at first afraid to meet with Legazpi because they feared retribution for the death of Magellan, they finally warmed up to him and sked for pardon. But they were told that for their “fears [to] be appeased,” they needed to convince Rajah Tupas, their chieftain, to show up and sign a peace agreement.

They came back “filled with gifts” to win his friendship until Tupas finally appeared to become a Spanish subject along with his followers. The general began securing a foothold in the islands with the establishment of a city called the Most Holy Name of Jesus. He built a fort to protect the colonists from native attacks. It was shaped like a triangle, following the suggestion of Fr. Urdaneta, whose word on the matter was respected as he was “an old soldier with great experience.”

Upon the request of the Augustinians fathers, the site of the chosen for the church and the convent was where they had found the image of the Child Jesus. But the exact location became a controversial subject when Fr. Medina, later prior of the Santo Niño convent in cebu, claimed that the buildings did not stand on the exact site but rather close to it.”

But according to Dr. astrid Sala-Boza, “the other church” that Fr. Media was referring to is in fact the church that became the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. It was constructed in accordance with Legazpi’s order to establish a house of worship for the general population. This was not built on the site where the image was found but it served as the temporary home of the image in the beginning. On the day the image was found, it was taken in procession to this church.

According to Blair and Robertson, “the sites for the Spanish quarters and the (major) church were chosen. The site of the house where the sacred image was found was selected on the site of the Monastery of the Name of Jesus and (concomitantly) the Church (of the Santo Niño)… from the said house the Child Jesus was brought to the major Church in solemn procession with great devotion and rejoicing.” It was not until 1598 when Cebu’s first bishop, Bishop Agurto, officially founded the cathedral and assigned clerics there to minister to the Spaniards, leaving the Cebu natives under the administrator of the Santo Niño Convent.

Sala-Boza believes that “a correlation of these data with the documents cited by Rodriguez shows that the site of the present Basilica del Sto. Niño is indeed the site of the finding of the image.” She also concludes that “the probability of the first procession took place in what would have been the temporary church built on a site other than the site of the finding of the Holy Image, namely the church which was eventually to become the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. Who writes that “the icon was solemnly taken in procession to a church, which had been set up in a bower of branches with a covering of hay while the principal church was being constructed within which [the image] is being venerated today.” This account is confirmed by a notarized document chronicling the finding of the image, which is not questioned by noted historians such as Rodriguez, Esteban de Salazar, and others.

Sala-Boza clarifies the sequence of events that took place in the procession:

First, Juan de Camus brings the image from the burned house; second, he marks the site of the finding; third, the image is brought to Mateo del Saz at the flagship to show it to Legazpi; fourth, the image is taken in procession from the ship back to the house where it had been found; sixth, the temporary church 9chapel) was near the house where the image was found, the place in which the principal church of the Holy Name of Jesus was later constructed.” The procession thus started at the shore where the ships were anchored. The image was taken aboard every ship after its finding, and a temporary chapel was made in a bower of branches.

According to Medina’s account, the procession headed toward the Augustinian church with the statue. From the Augustinian convent, it proceeded to the major church where a mass was held. Definitely, the procession took place only after the official signing of the documents guaranteeing the return and the entrustment of the image to the Augustinians. After the mass the image was taken back to the Augustinian convent. Therefore, although the route of the first procession appears to have been from the shoreline to the site of the house where the image was found, it maybe deduced that early processions commemorating the finding brought the statue from the Augustinian Church to the Cathedral. The contemporary route established in the 1980s takes the Santo Niño from the Basilica to the cathedral, then to San Nicolas, possibly in keeping with a strong oral tradition (actually a counterfactual) on the finding of the image there. Sala-Boza’s work is considered a collection of historical, archeological, and geographical evidence which primarily establishes the already well-known legality and historicity of the location of the Santo Niño Church as the same site where the image was discovered; it is not in today’s Barangay San Nicolas. She also discusses another contemporary Santo Niño procession, which takes place on the third Sunday of January and ends with the transfer of the Santo Niño from San Nicolas to the Basilica of the Santo Niño, the counterfactual that the image was found in San Nicolas. With the growing renown of the miraculous icon, the Santo Niño was honoured with the ceremonial Spanish military rank Excelentisimo Capitan de las Fuerzas Españolas en Filipinas. As captain general, the basilica was his headquarters. During his feast day, the Santo Niño has always left the basilica in a procession, thus vacating his headquarters. Spanish military tradition required that a commanding general’s headquarters must never be left unguarded. Thus, the tradition of bringing our the Santo Niño de Cebu for the annual fiesta procession required the appointment of a teniente general, a rank lower than captain general, which was given to the Santo Niño of San Nicolas. Known as El Teniente, this image has the main duty of standing guard as second in command in the Basilica whenever the Santo Niño goes in a procession and on a few other occasions when it leaves the basilica under extraordinary circumstances.

One such event occurred when it was taken to Manila in 1965 for the closing ceremonies of the fourth centennial of the Christianization of the Philippines. This Spanish military tradition does not in any way imply that the was found in San Nicolas. Neither is it about the re-enactment of the first procession which brought the Santo Niño from what some people claim is the actual site of the finding of the image in San Nicolas. Rather, the visit by the icon from San Nicolas to the basilica on the feast of the Santo Niño is a sign that the Santo Niño icon, although not physically present at the basilica, remains in command on that day. Over the years that followed the convent would serve as the residence, infirmary, and retirement home of the priests. Only two Augustinians were assigned to the convent during the early years; a priest who served as prior and a professed brother. Adjacent to the convent was the Magellan’s Cross which the natives venerated with greatest devotion. This cross became a symbol of peace which eventually led to the amalgamation of Western and Eastern cultures as the Philippines evolved into the only catholic nation in Asia over four centuries. The Cebu City hall or ayuntamiento was among the most important foundations of the colony and its alcaldes mayors became the pillars of the community after the grant of a royal cedula by Philip II. By the time he settled in Cebu, Legazpi had travelled a distance of 2,060 leagues after taking possession of Guam and reaching Samar, Leyte, Camiguin, Mindanao, and Negros. He had also concluded a historic blood compact in Bohol, where today he is remembered with a bronze statue on the where it took place. The sangrarse (blood compact) was a native ritual that sealed a peace agreement. A few drops of blood were taken from each of the two principal participants usually from their arm or chest to mix with wine. By drinking this mixture, the signatories entered into a lasting pact of friendship.

Fr. Pedro G. Galende, OSA, Santo Niño de Cebu, 1565-2015, 450 years of History, Culture and Devotion, (Quezon City: Vibal Foundation, Inc., 2016), pg. 105-108


History of the Augustinians · Philippines

Province of Sto. Niño de Cebu-Philippines: Filipinization of the Augustinians in the Philippines


The first group of Augustinians, under the leadership of the Venerable Andres Urdaneta, came to the Philippines in 1565 from Spain through Mexico as the pioneers in theCatholic Church‘s task of evangelization in that part of the globe. Originally establishing themselves in Cebu, these missionaries soon expanded their apostolic activities to the neighboring towns and islands and later to almost all the other principal regions of the archipelago.

On March 7, 1575, the then Prior General of the Order, Fr. Tadeo de Perusa, decreed the creation of a new Augustinian Province in the Philippines under the title Santisimo Nombre de Jesus de FilipinasMost Holy Name of Jesus of the Philippines. During the Spanish colonial times in the Philippines, they founded almost three hundred towns and churches from 1565 to 1898.

At the turn of the twentieth century, the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus of the Philippines decided to shift its missionary activities to newer territories, such as Peru,Colombia, and Venezuela. As a logical consequence of this move, the seat of the Province was transferred from Manila to Madrid. The Augustinian presence in the country was then reduced to a minimum.

To compensate for this loss of manpower, the remaining Augustinians intensified the recruitment and formation of Filipino candidates. And as the number of the latter increased and their preparedness adequately established, the idea of creating a new Province came to be seriously considered.

Plans for the organization of such a Province began in 1974 when the Regional Assembly of the Philippine Augustinian Vicariate asked for the creation of a Vice-Province in the islands. Though the plan was not realized, it was again revived by a group of Filipino Augustinians at a meeting in the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño in Cebu on April 29, 1981. The plan this time was for the creation of a new Province. The move to create a new Province, which would be called the Province of Sto. Niño de Cebu-Philippines, was officially endorsed by the Regional Assembly of the Augustinian Vicariate of the Philippines at the closing of its sessions on August 19, 1981, in the Monastery of San Agustin, Intramuros, Manila, and by the Provincial Chapter of the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus of the Philippines, held in Valladolid, Spain on July 17, 1982. The proposal was overwhelmingly approved by the members of the 174th General Chapter held in Rome on September 15, 1983, and the new province was canonically established on December 25, 1983.


The province was officially formed on September 13, 1983, inside the Istituto Patristico Augustinianum in Rome during the 174th General Chapter of the Augustinian Order, where ninety-three delegates approved the creation of the first indigenous Augustinian province in Asia after over 400 years of control by Spanish religious leaders. The Province of Sto. Niño de Cebu gained autonomy from the mother province, theProvince of the Most Holy Name of Jesus of the Philippines, which is based in Spain.[2]

The first Prior Provincial was Rev. Fr. Eusebio B. Berdon, OSA, who later became an assistant Prior General of the Order in Rome. Initially, the Province had thirty-six friars and religious brothers and sixty-one aspirants, novices, postulants and theology students.[3]


Institutions, or houses, owned by the Province, include the following:


Augustinian Churches · Philippines

Repost: 10 Augustinian built heritage churches in the Philippines you should see

This year, 2015, marks the 450th year of the presence of the Augustinians in the Philippines, the 450th year of the finding of the image of the Sto. Nino in Cebu and the 50th anniversary of the Minor Basilica of Sto. Nino. This post, celebrates these milestones by honoring the pioneering Augustinian order thru the churches that they built. To simplify things, I based it on the four churches inscribed under the Baroque Churches of the Philippines, UNESCO World Heritage list and the rest, a selection of Augustinian built churches known for their outstanding architecture, and are declared National Cultural Treasures (NCT). Boljoon, other than a NCT, is also nominated in the Baroque Churches of the Philippines extensionlist. And of course, The Minor Basilica of Sto. Nino is an important shrine and is a declared National Historical Landmark. simbahan-san-agustin Continue readings…. ORIGINAL POST. ____________________________________ Source:

Augustinian Friars Profile · General History · Philippines

Augustinian Bishops in the Philippines

In the history of Augustinian presence in the Philippines since their arrival in 1565 together with Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, there had been 18 Augustinians who were appointed and served as bishops to the four major archdioceses in the Philippine islands – The Archdioceses of Manila (1579) Cebu (1595), Nueva Caceres (Bicol-1595), and Nueva Segovia (Ilocos-Cagayan – 1595). The first Augustinian bishop is Pedro de Agurto in the Diocese of Cebu and he is also the first Bishop of Cebu when it was made a dioceses in 1595. And, the last Augustinian bishop is Arsenio del Campo y Monasterio in the Diocese of Nueva Caceres from November 25, 1887 to July 20, 1903. Here is the list of the Augustinian bishops in the Philippines since 1595, 30 years after the Augustinians first arrived.

3 – Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia
4 – Archdiocese of Cebu
4 – Archdiocese of Manila
7 – Archdiocese of Nueva Caceres

1. 1917: Bishop Arsenio del Campo y Monasterio, O.E.S.A., Bishop emeritus of Nueva Caceres (Philippines)
(1887.11.25 – 1903.07.20)
Born: 1839.12.14 (Spain)
Ordained Priest: 1863
Consecrated Bishop: 1888.04.15
Died: 1917.07.10 († 77)
Bishop of Nueva Caceres (Philippines) (1887.11.25 – 1903.07.20)
Titular Bishop of Epiphania (1912.12.02 – 1917.07.10)

2. 1886: Bishop Casimiro Herrero Pérez, O.E.S.A., Bishop of Nueva Caceres (Philippines)
(1880.10.01 – 1886.11.12)
Born: 1824.05.04 (Spain)
Consecrated Bishop: 1881.02.06
Died: 1886.11.12 († 62)
Bishop of Nueva Caceres (Philippines) (1880.10.01 – 1886.11.12)

3. 1872: Bishop Juan José Aragonés, O.E.S.A., Bishop of Nueva Segovia (Philippines)
(1865.03.27 – 1872.08.14)
Born: 1816.08.21 (Spain)
Consecrated Bishop: 1865.10.01
Died: 1872.08.14 († 55)
Bishop of Nueva Segovia (Philippines) (1865.03.27 – 1872.08.14)

4. 1856: Bishop Vicente Barreiro y Pérez, O.E.S.A., Bishop of Nueva Segovia (Philippines)
(1846.01.19 – 1848.04.14)
Born: 1790.04.01 (Spain)
Ordained Priest: 1813
Consecrated Bishop: 1849.01.28
Died: 1856.05.17 († 66)
Bishop of Nueva Caceres (Philippines) (1846.01.19 – 1848.04.14)
Bishop of Nueva Segovia (Philippines) (1848.04.14 – 1856.05.17)

5. 1845: Archbishop José Seguí, O.E.S.A., Metropolitan Archbishop of Manila (Philippines)
(1830.07.05 – 1845.07.04)
Born: 1773.10.03 (Spain)
Consecrated Bishop: 1830.10.28
Died: 1845.07.04 († 71)
Titular Bishop of Hierocæsarea (1829.07.27 – 1830.07.05)
Metropolitan Archbishop of Manila (Philippines) (1830.07.05 – 1845.07.04)

6. 1840: Bishop Santos Gómez Marañón, O.E.S.A., Bishop of Cebu (Philippines)
(1829.09.28 – 1840.10.23)
Born: 1763.11.01 (Spain)
Consecrated Bishop: 1830.10.28
Died: 1840.10.23 († 76)
Bishop of Cebu (Philippines) (1829.09.28 – 1840.10.23)

7. 1829: Archbishop Hilarión Díez, O.E.S.A., Metropolitan Archbishop of Manila (Philippines)
(1826.07.03 – 1829.05.07)
Born: 1761.10.21 (Spain)
Consecrated Bishop: 1827.10.21
Died: 1829.05.07 († 67)
Metropolitan Archbishop of Manila (Philippines) (1826.07.03 – 1829.05.07)

8. 1803: Bishop Agustín Pedro Blaquier, O.E.S.A., Bishop of Nueva Segovia (Philippines)
(1801.07.20 – 1803.12.31)
Born: 1749.10.02 (Spain)
Consecrated Bishop: 1803.02.20
Died: 1803.12.31 († 54)
Bishop of Nueva Segovia (Philippines) (1801.07.20 – 1803.12.31)

9. 1796: Bishop Juan García Ruiz, O.E.S.A., Bishop of Nueva Caceres (Philippines)
(1784.06.26 – 1796.05.02)
Born: 1720.06.06 (Spain)
Consecrated Bishop: 1786.03.12
Died: 1796.05.02 († 75)
Bishop of Nueva Caceres (Philippines) (1784.06.26 – 1796.05.02)

10. 1728: Bishop Sebastián Foronda, O.E.S.A., Apostolic Administrator of Cebu (Philippines)
Born: 1672 (Spain)
Consecrated Bishop: 1723.11.30
Died: 1728.05.20 († 56)
Titular Bishop of Calydon (1722.03.02 – 1728.05.20)
Apostolic Administrator of Cebu (Philippines) (1722.03.02 – 1728.05.20)

11. 1645: Bishop Pedro Arce, O.E.S.A., Bishop of Cebu (Philippines)
(1612.09.17 – 1645.10.16)
Born: (Spain)
Consecrated Bishop: 1613
Died: 1645.10.16
Bishop of Cebu (Philippines) (1612.09.17 – 1645.10.16)

12. 1641: Archbishop Fernando Guerrero, O.E.S.A., Metropolitan Archbishop of Manila (Philippines)
(1634.01.09 – 1641.07.01)
Born: 1567 (Spain)
Consecrated Bishop: 1628
Died: 1641.07.01 († 74)
Bishop of Nueva Segovia (Philippines) (1627.05.17 – 1634.01.09)
Metropolitan Archbishop of Manila (Philippines) (1634.01.09 – 1641.07.01)

13. 1639: Bishop Francisco Zamudio y Abendano, O.E.S.A., Bishop of Nueva Caceres (Philippines)
(1628.07.10 – 1639)
Born: 1565
Died: 1639 († 74)
Bishop of Nueva Caceres (Philippines) (1628.07.10 – 1639)

14. 1629: Archbishop Miguel García Serrano, O.E.S.A., Metropolitan Archbishop of Manila (Philippines)
(1618.02.12 – 1629.06.14)
Born: 1569 (Spain)
Consecrated Bishop: 1617
Died: 1629.06.14 († 60)
Bishop of Nueva Segovia (Philippines) (1616.08.03 – 1618.02.12)
Metropolitan Archbishop of Manila (Philippines) (1618.02.12 – 1629.06.14)

15. 1623: Bishop Diego Guevara, O.E.S.A., Bishop of Nueva Caceres (Philippines)
(1616.08.03 – 1623)
Born: 1568 (Spain)
Died: 1623 († 55)
Bishop of Nueva Caceres (Philippines) (1616.08.03 – 1623)

16. 1608: Bishop Pedro de Agurto, O.E.S.A., Bishop of Cebu (Philippines)
(1595.08.30 – 1608.10.14)
Consecrated Bishop: 1596
Died: 1608.10.14
Bishop of Cebu (Philippines) (1595.08.30 – 1608.10.14)

17. 1602: Bishop Francisco Ortega, O.E.S.A., Bishop of Nueva Caceres (Philippines)
(1599.09.13 – 1602)
Born: (Spain)
Consecrated Bishop: 1600
Died: 1602
Bishop of Nueva Caceres (Philippines) (1599.09.13 – 1602)

18. 1646: Fr. Nicolas de Zaldivar y Zapata, O.E.S.A., Bishop of Nueva Caceres (Philippines)
(1644.05.02 – 1646)
Died: 1646
Bishop of Nueva Caceres (Philippines) (1644.05.02 – 1646)

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.

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

General History · History of the Augustinians · Pampanga · Philippines

Contributions of the Spanish Augustinians in the Philippines

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.

Arte de la Lengua (Capampangan Dictionary)

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.


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General History · History of the Augustinians · Iloilo · Philippines

The early Augustinians in Panay


Miag-ao Church, Iloilo

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.

Continue reading “The early Augustinians in Panay”

History of the Augustinians · Philippines

Earliest Philippine-born Augustinians

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.

Inside San Agustin Church, Intramuros, Manila

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.