Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Some years back, the town of Bolinao gained nationwide attention when an alleged imprint of the Virgin Mary’s image surfaced in the right flank of its ancient church’s facade. This “miracle” stirred the babaylan embedded within the Filipino psyche and thousands flocked to celebrate their faith, or just to satisfy their plain curiosity. I belonged to the latter group when we (i.e. Pare Amor of our Quezon Field Office and Merly from our Nueva Vizcaya Branch) made that “long cut” to attend a training in Subic via the Pangasinan-Zambales route from the Science City of Munoz in Nueva Ecija in lieu of the shorter Gapan-Olongapo Road. Of course, Masinloc’s church which has been declared as a national heritage site is along the way and Merly was finally able to visit the Hundred Islands national park during a brief stop in Alaminos.

Bolinao’s Church of Santiago was built by the Augustinian Recollects between 1749 and 1784. However, it was the Augustinians who started the evangelization of the Bolinao area from 1585 to 1587. The Dominicans took over from 1588 to 1599 before the mission was again handed to the Augustinians in 1600 until 1607. The Augustinian Recollects first administered the town from 1609 --- when they relocated the town to its present site due to threats from pirate raids --- until 1712 when it was again handed to the Dominicans who eventually returned Bolinao to the Augustinian Recollects.

The road to Bolinao is peppered with outstanding colonial churches built mostly by the Dominicans. One is the Church of Nuestra Senora de Lourdes in Salasa, Bugallon, Pangasinan. Salasa is the old name of Bugallon which means “floor joist” and was established as a mission by Fr. Antonio Perez (OP) at around 1714. From what is now Barangay Poloy, the town and the church was transferred to its present site in 1734. The church was built during the administration of Fr. Francisco Barroso (OP) from 1747 until 1748. Fr. Juan Terres (OP) had it repaired and renovated from 1874 until 1885. The town and the church were relocated to its present site after it was inundated by the rampaging Agno River. Legend has it that the image of San Andres refused to be moved while the church was being dismantled. So the church remained standing until today as a shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes whose image was donated by Dona Milagros Klar in 1935 who was said to have bee miraculously cured by it. Salasa has been renamed as Bugallon in honor of the revolutionary general Jose Torres Bugallon who was born there. A few kilometers away is the town of Labrador with its freshly painted but still poignantly colonial Church of San Isidro Labrador.

We also dropped by the Sual’s Church of San Pedro el Martir to show Amor and Merly the image of the town’s patron saint with what looks like a butcher’s knife sticking from its head. It was the Dominicans who established Sual and 2 of its missionary priests --- Fr. Gabriel Perez (OP) then later Fr. Juan Gutierrez (OP) --- supervised the construction of the first church and convent. These were probably built of light materials and a sturdier structure might have been built and finished in 1870 during the term of Fr. Pedro Villanova (OP). Fr. Felix Casas (OP) then later Fr. Eugenio Minguez (OP) supervised the building of a third church from 1883 until 1891. This was probably destroyed and a fourth structure --- the present one ---- was again constructed. This was destroyed in 1945 during World War II and has been restored.

We ended our visita iglesia along the Lingayen Gulf coastline in Agno where Pangasinan’s mighty river empties into the Luzon Sea.

PHOTOS (top to bottom):
1) Bolinao’s babaylan on wall.
2) Hundred Islands (L-R: Elias, Amor, Merly).
3) Bolinao church.
4) Labrador church
5) The Salasa Marian Shrine.
6) Sual’s San Pedro el Martir and 7) colonial church.
8) Agno’s Church of Santa Catalina de Alejandria

Thursday, January 25, 2007


In 1572, Juan de Salcedo, the 22-year old grandson of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, came to a place where the sea and the mountain collide. He found prosperous communities of traders and skilled craftsmen who, hundreds of years ago, came from another land far away through their boats looking for a new place to settle, perhaps escaping from a war in their homeland or fleeing from a plague or a curse. They came to the place where the sea and the mountain fight their eternal battle and called it sao mi daytoy or Samtoy meaning “our language”. Salcedo claimed the place in the name of his king through the guns of his Kastila soldiers, and renamed it Ylocos after the loocs that were carved by the clashing sea and mountain.

In 1578, the Kastilas formally established their claim on Ylocos when the first missionaries to the Philippines (i.e. the Augustinians) started building their mission house in what will be known as Villa Fernandina which is now the Heritage City of Vigan. The town became the Augustinian’s base in evangelizing Ylocos and eventually building the magnificent churches in what will become the Ilocos church belt along the Luzon Sea coastline from Bangui in the north to Balaoan in the south.

In 1818, Ilocos was divided into 2 separate provinces (i.e. Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur) with the demarcation line between the towns of Badoc and Sinait. Thirty-two years later, another Ilocano province was created from parts of Ilocos Sur (i.e. Bangar, Balaoan, Namacpacan) and Pangasinan (i.e. Bacnotan, San Juan, San Fernando, Bauang, Agoo, Naguilian, Aringay, Sto. Tomas). It was called La Union and further stretched the Ilocos church belt up to the Lingayen Gulf. With the creation of the Ilocos Region, the church belt further reached up to the Dominican domain of Pangasinan from San. Fabian until Agno in the Lingayen Gulf-Cape Bolinao corridor. This article will focus on the Ilocos Sur segment of this church belt.

CHURCH OF SAN JUAN BAUTISTA, SAN JUAN. The third town from the Ilocos Norte boundary after Sinait and Cabugao is San Juan which is formerly called as Lapo or Lapog. It was a young town compared to the other towns of Ilocos Sur, having been established only in 1895. But it’s ecclesiastical history goes way back having been founded by the Augustinians as a visita of Cabugao in 1711. The present church was built in 1799 but because of lack of funds, it remained unfinished until Fr. Gervasio Pizarro and Fr. Francisco Escobar who are both secular priests probably completed it in 1829. The church is already in a bad state when the convent was built. Both structures were damaged during World War II. In 1994, the bell tower fell down.

A National Heritage: Magnificent Woodworks

CHURCH OF SAN GUILLERMO EL HERMITANO, MAGSINGAL. Magsingal in Ilocano means wanderer. The Augustinians established it as a visita of Bantay in 1676. Fr. Alonso Cortes (OSA) initiated building the first church in 1692 that was probably finished by 1723. It was soon damaged by an earthquake and was said to have been burned during the rebellion of Diego Silang leaving only the bell tower and part of the walls. The stone school that now serves as a museum was probably built at the same time as the church was. The bell tower that can bee seen beside the museum today was probably started to be built in 1692 but was only finished by Fr. Pedro Berger (OSA) at around 1824 and 1829. Around the same time in 1827, a second church was built in a new site not far from the bell tower. This structure that is now the present church was probably the same one that was restored in 1848 and again in 1865 --- the year the convent was built --- by Fr. Jose Vasquez (OSA). The church features a magnificent Baroque retablo or main altar that was carved by Nepomuceno Tolentino, and an equally beautiful pulpit and choir loft that was made by Pablo Tamayo. The National Commission on Culture and Arts had declared the church as a national heritage site.

CHURCH OF STO. DOMINGO. STO. DOMINGO. Just after Magsingal is the town of Sto. Domingo that was established in 1742. On the same year, Fr. Jose Millan (OP) started building the church bell tower and probably the church itself. Diego Silang once served as a bell ringer in the church.

CHURCH OF SAN ILDEFONSO, SAN ILDEFONSO. San Ildefonso is formerly Bantay’s visita of Bantaoay that was established by the Augustinians in 1709. It became a pueblo in 1769 with Fr. Manuel Munoz (OSA) as the first vicar, and an independent parish only in 1875. The convent was the first parochial building to be built in 1803 probably through the initiation of Fr. Domingo Duquenay (OSA) and Fr. Antonio Castano Rodriguez (OSA). In 1821, Fr. Francisco Escobar and Fr. Juan Zugasti (OSA) probably initiated building the present church but was left only half finished. This shows that the building of the church and convent was apparently a joint project of the Augustinians and secular priests. It was recently renovated with the facade totally rebuilt. Today, only the sidewall of the old structure is visible.

CHURCH OF SANTA CATALINA (VIRGEN Y MARTIR), SANTA. Santa Catalina is probably the oldest town in the whole of Ilocandia having been established in 1576. Its name was later shortened to Santa to distinguish it from a nearby town with the same name (i.e. Sta. Catalina in the Vigan church loop). There are no records about the early parochial buildings until 1849 when a church was reported to have been built under the supervision of Fr. Pedro Torices (OSA) that was completed during the administration of Fr. Luis Lagar (OSA) in 1854. This was probably damaged and then rebuilt in 1863. Fr. Jose Rodriquez Prada (OSA) initiated restoration work on the church and had a new bell tower built in 1886. Fr. Rafael Redondo (OSA) --- who was later executed by Filipino revolutionaries --- had the convent built in 1875. These parochial buildings were reported to have been swept by the nearby river. The present church might have been built in 1914 under the supervision of Fr. Matias Bustamante.

CHURCH OF SAN ESTEBAN, SAN ESTEBAN. Just after the towns of Narvacan and Sta. Maria is San Esteban which the Augustinians founded as a visita in 1625. Fr. Alejandro Peyrona (OSA) probably initiated building a church in 1800. Fr. Damaso Vieytez continued its construction until 1848 and initiated the building of two magnificent bell towers with the assistance of Don Agustin Santiago and Don Domingo Sumabas. These bell towers must have been destroyed because it no longer exists. The church was probably damaged and rebuilt into the present structure in 1860.

CHURCH OF SANTIAGO APOSTOL, SANTIAGO. The Augustinians established Santiago as a mission in 1625. In 1823, a lighting reportedly burned an early church. It was rebuilt in 1829 perhaps by Fr. Manuel Foj (OSA) who also enlarged the convent. Fr. Juan Martin (OSA) repaired what is now the present church in 1883 after the 1880 earthquake damaged it. The church is situated on a hilltop and it is probable that its first builder was the same priest who initiated the construction of the San Esteban church.

CHURCH OF SAN JUAN DE SAHAGUN, CANDON. The Augustinians accepted Candon as a house in 1591. Fr. Pedro Bravo (OSA) initiated building one of the early churches in 1695. This was badly damaged during the 1707 earthquake and was rebuilt under the supervision of Fr. Jose Carbonel (OSA) until 1710, and by Fr. Diego del Castillo (OSA) until 1713. It is probable that the present church is the one rebuilt in 1829 that Fr. Gaspar Cano (OSA) have restored in 1865. Candon is the hometown of Isabelo Abaya --- hero of the Cry of Candon and one of the Ilocano Katipunan leaders.

CHURCH OF SANTA LUCIA, STA. LUCIA. Sta. Lucia was a former visita of Candon and the Augustinians established it either in 1586 or 1602. There are no records about early churches being built in Sta. Lucia. The building of the present church and convent probably started only in 1871 under the supervision of Fr. Juan Pascual Barreda (OP). It was completed in 1887 under the watch of Fr. Manuel Arguelles (OSA) and is said to be one of the most beautiful churches in Ilocos. Fr. Venusto Mata initiated major restoration work on the dome and ceiling in 1977. The top portion of the bell tower collapsed during the 1989 earthquake and has been reconstructed since then. The image of a dark skinned Sta. Lucia is enshrined in the church and is credited for performing miracles for people with eye ailments.

CHURCH OF SAN AGUSTIN, TAGUDIN. Tagudin was once called Tagurin and the Augustinians accepted it as house in 1586. It served as the base of the Augustinian missions among the Igorots. There are no records of the early churches and the construction of the present church started in 1796 under the supervision of Fr. Bartolome Gutierrez (OSA) and continued by Fr. Francisco Hernandez (OSA) until his death in 1821. Fr. Juan Sorolla (OSA) who also initiated the building of the convent finally finished the church in 1832. The same priest installed the sundials behind the church in 1841 and in front of the town hall in 1845 that today are tourist attractions of Tagudin. Fr. Mariano Ortiz (OSA) initiated restoration work on the church in 1880 and Fr. Geronimo Rubio (OSA) supervised the construction of the bell tower in 1881. Since then, the church has been faithfully restored several times and is among the best preserved in Ilocos Sur.

CHURCH OF SANTA CRUZ, STA. CRUZ. The last town of Ilocos Sur before La Union is Sta. Cruz that was established as a visita of Candon at around 1600. The church that was started to be constructed at around 1641 and might have been rebuilt at around 1710 by Fr. Jose Carbonel (OSA) and in 1776 by Fr. Nicolas de la Fuente (OSA). It was repaired by Fr. Juan Gallego (OSA) after being heavily damaged by the 1880 earthquake. Sta. Cruz was ceded to the Dominicans in 1891 in exchange for the missions of Bangued, Tayum, and Dolores in what is now the province of Abra. The parochial buildings were again repaired after being damaged in the 1989 earthquake.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Exactly 37 years ago, an 8-pound baby boy was born to Kid Buntal and Precy. The exact time was 9:35 of a fine Sunday morning in Auntie Angeling’s wooden house in Bambang. The baby was named after an Austrian classical music composer.

Precy was pregnant again after some months. She also started teaching at the Sabadista school in Almaguer so she agreed when Auntie Angeling volunteered to take care of her son. It was Auntie Angeling who gave Abet’s house name whom she also had christened at Bambang’s centuries old St. Catherine’s Church despite the Sabadista faith of the baby’s parents. Abet’s godparents are Jose Gudio, Gregorio Tolentino and Rose Tamayo whom Abet never met; Florencio Ranjo whose grandparents are one of the first settlers of Almaguer; and Lily Monje who owns a store across Amang Lakay’s house.

When Abet started calling Auntie Angeling as Mama and refused to come near his mother, Precy finally took home him home to Almaguer. There, Kid Buntal tried to win his son back by reciting poems for him. Abet must have liked it so much that to this day, poetry remains to be one of his passions.

Abet has no recollection of these episodes that were later narrated to him in bits. It took a while for him to put the pieces together and look back at the story of his life in a single frame. In his 37th year, Abet contemplated the memories of the days when Superman, the Star Rangers, and Flordeluna ruled; and the snatches of events that will remain with him forever.

Milieu: Sta. Ana, Manila
Probable Age: 3-4 years old

“They were waiting for a train to pass by when Abet saw what looked like a duck covered with blinking lights flying across the evening sky. He saw this again while hiding in the grilled window of the house in Sta. Ana after watching a scary TV movie where a monster bit a cowboy’s face. In the same window, he will wait for Lola Inay walking home every late afternoon in her familiar brown bestida".

Milieu: Sta. Ana, Manila
Probable Age: 3-4 years old

“It was a dark room full of people. Kid Buntal had a beer and ordered fried chicken for Abet. A girl in a short green dress that looked like a today’s girl scout uniform approached the jukebox. Suddenly, loud music played and she began dancing wildly. She took off her green dress and began moving around in her black tasseled two-piece underwear".

Milieu: Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya
Probable Age: 4-5 years old

“Kid Buntal took Abet to his work marking trees in the mountain town of Kasibu. They walked most of the time and when Abet got tired, Kid Buntal carried him on his back. There was a hanging bridge that Abet refused to cross so they waded across the stream. It was early noon when they arrived in Kid Buntal’s work place in a place called Sawmill".

Milieu: Solano, Nueva Vizcaya
Probable Age: 4-5 years old

“Kid Buntal and Precy always argue. In one such time, Kid Buntal chopped a wristwatch that he gave as a gift to Precy. Next is the black phonograph but he was stopped by the wailing protest of his 2 sons. Abet and his brother loved that music box that was named after a famous Japanese straggler. They were the first from Almaguer to own one, and Precy and Kid Buntal have to break their big Buddha alkansiya to buy it".

Milieu: Naguillian, Isabela
Age: 7 years old

“Abet went to watch a movie in a makeshift theater that is the lower part of a house covered with tattered plastic sacks with an orange toy slide projector that flashed colored still cartoon pictures on a white blanket. The entrance is 5 centavos per viewer. Abet was bitten by a dog that was tied near the makeshift theater so Precy brought him to a mannuma who gurgled half a bottle of marka demonyo before sucking the dog bite with a hollow cow’s horn. The dog eventually died so Abet was brought to Dr. Capuchino’s clinic where he endured daily back injections for 21 straight days".

Location: Almaguer South, Bambang, Nueva Vizcaya
Age: 8 years old

“Almaguer is not connected to the electric grid but this did not deter Precy and Kid Buntal from buying what is probably the first pridyider in the barrio. The refrigerator has a machine that produces cold when the kerosene-powered gas lamp at its bottom portion is lighted. Kid Buntal made lots of mostly violet colored and grape flavored ice candy that Abet and Eric will sell by walking to and from abagatan shouting “Ayyyyyyyyyysss kendi!”. Abet ate lots of it too until his tonsil became swollen that, according to a doctor, has developed into a rheumatic heart condition. He was confined for some time at St. Catherine’s Hospital where Kid Buntal lent him a watch. It’s too big for his wrist so Abet has to push it up to his armpit so it would fit".

Milieu: Mapandan, Pangasinan
Age: 9-10 years old

“On Saturdays, Abet will escape from the church service to read comics in the market, paying the rent from his church offering money. He is particularly fund of “The Cannibals” and “Devil Car” that were serialized in the Holiday Comics, “Sendong Paa” and “Pulot Boy” of Happy Comics, and the child-friendly Funny Comics. Afterwards, he will buy a plate of pancit that comes together with a free hot goto soup. This he will pour in the pansit which will be washed down with a warm bottle of Pop Cola".

Milieu: Paniqui, Tarlac
Age: 11 years old

“Normita is a chubby and cute fifth grader with long curly black hair. She lived in a bungalow some distance across the street from the school and beyond the sugarcane field. Abet liked her but she had her eyes on rich boy from another barrio. Abet is amazed on how Normita’s mother can sing the Sabbath songs without reading from the hymnals like most do. One day, Abet’s family had their picture taken in Normita’s house with a piano for a backdrop. It was their only photo of Carino".

Milieu: Almaguer South, Bambang, Nueva Vizcaya
Age: 12 years old

“It was near the end of summer vacation. The prospect of going to high school was very exciting for Abet and every night, he will open the old maleta where hand-me-downs from his cousins in Fort Magsaysay were stored --- bleached, washed, and ironed by Precy so they will look new when her son will wear them in NELA. Abet will rearrange the old clothes, the smell of naphthalene wafting from each refolding of a crease, and then close the old maleta again".

PHOTO (top to bottom)
1) 6-month old Abet.
2) 1-year old Abet.
3) Abet and Auntie Angeling.
4) Abet in Bambang at probably 3-4 years old.
5) Abet in Solano.
6) Abet and his brother Eric in the banauang in front of Amang Lakay’s house in Almaguer.
7) The only photo of the house in sonsona (background, partly hidden at the right). The small girl on the left will later reign as Miss Bambang.
8) Abet at the Jubilee Cross in Iguig, Cagayan a day after his 35th birthday.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Everybody who went through the required textbook Philippine history is familiar with Miguel Lopez de Legazpi (i.e. the “sword”) as the spearhead of the Spanish colonialists who first touched base with the Indios in 1565. But many are unaware that there was actually a co-leader of what became known as the “Legazpi Expedition”: Fr. Andres de Urdaneta (i.e. the “cross”) of the Order of St. Augustine who before becoming the first Philippine missionaries of the Roman Catholic Church along with 4 other Augustinian friars was a priest assigned in Mexico. It is also little known that it was Fr. Urdaneta who helped made the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade possible by discovering the North Equatorial Current that became its route for 200 years. Yes, there is more to Urdaneta than being a city of Pangasinan and a forgotten statue on the fringes of Intramuros. And there is more to the following religious orders who placed the country bajo la campana:

The Order of St. Augustine (OSA)

St. Augustine (354-430) was a bishop in North Africa and a church scholar whose order was established by Pope Alexander IV in 1256. As the first missionaries to the Philippines, the Augustinians were awarded with a prime mission located in the middle of ancient Manila where today stands San Agustin Church --- the only surviving church of old Intramuros and the oldest extant stone church in the Philippines which today is the Augustinian’s provincial headquarters. From there, they started their missions in Tondo, Malate, Navotas, Malabon, Kalookan, Pasig, Paranaque, Cainta and eventually established the towns of the Spanish-era provinces of Pampanga, Cebu, Batangas, Negros and Ilocos making them the all time tops in terms of the most number of missions administered. As such, they also built the most churches where 4 have been declared as UNESCO World Heritage Sites because of their cultural value.

The Order of the Friars Minor (OFM)

Fifteen Franciscan friars followed the Augustinians in the Philippines on 24 June 1578. They established their mission on the northeast side of Intramuros where they evangelized in Santa Ana de Sapa, Paco, Sampaloc, San Juan del Monte, San Francisco del Monte, and Pandacan. They were responsible for administering 207 towns/parishes in Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, Quezon Province, Isabela, Cavite, Batangas, Bataan, La Union, Ilocos Sur, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay, Albay, Sorsogon, Burias Island, Marinduque, Mindoro, Samar, and Leyte. In 1580, the Franciscan missionary Fr. Juan Clemente established a hospital for indigent patients that eventually became the San Juan de Dios Hospital. The Franciscans also opened the first leprosarium in the Far East in the 1600s which is now known as today’s San Lazaro Hospital. The Capuchins, a Franciscan branch, also started doing missionary work in the Philippines in 1890. St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) founded the Friars Minor in 1209.

One of the early churches built by the Franciscans at around 1590 is that of San Pedro Bautista in San Francisco del Monte in today’s Quezon City. This was razed by fire in 1593, rebuilt until around 1599, burned down again during the 1639 Chinese uprising, and rebuilt again probably between 1684 and 1699. Fr. Sebastian de Totanes (OFM) replaced this with a new church that was started to be built in 1739 which fell down during the 1824 earthquake, was immediately rebuilt by Fr. Vicente Ingles (OFM), and repaired in 1912. It is now the provincial headquarters of the Franciscans who moved there after the war. The remains of San Pedro Bautista and other Franciscan martyrs in Japan and the Far East were interred in the church. It has been extensively renovated in 1971 and only the fa├žade of the 1684-1699 structure which is now the main altar remained. Likewise, the Franciscan’s Capuchin branch also moved to Quezon City after the war where they built the present Lourdes church.

The Society of Jesus (SJ)

A soldier, St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), established the Compania de Jesus in 1534. The Jesuits came to the Philippines on 17 September 1581. They established their first mission in Ermita’s southern seaside before moving to the eastern wall of Intramuros. Among their missions are Santa Cruz, Quiapo and the Japanese ghetto of San Miguel. The Jesuits are renowned as educators, industrialists, and agriculturists. Their Hacienda de Mayhaligue in Manila is said to be where the plow-and-carabao was first used in the Philippines and new crops like cabbage, lettuce, corn, tomato, potato and other imports were tried. The Jesuits were expelled from the Philippines in 1778 by a decree of King Carlos III but were restored in 1859. The Jesuit’s fabled San Ignacio church was totally demolished during the war. They have since moved to Quezon City’s Loyola Heights in what is now Ateneo de Manila University.

The Order of Preachers (OP)

The Dominicans can be actually considered as cousins of the Augustinians whose rule was the basis of the order that was organized by St. Dominic (1170-1221) in 1215. The first 15 Dominican missionaries arrived in the Philippines via Cavite in 21 July 1587 before moving to the northern side of Intramuros where they established their mission of Sto. Domingo de Manila and ministered in the Parian district (i.e. Chinese enclaves) of Binondo. The Dominican Fr. Diego de Santa Maria established a school for orphan boys that became the Colegio de San Juan de Letran. Later in 1611, a boarding house for indigent students was also established that was the forerunner of the present day University of Santo Tomas.

Today’s Dominican provincial headquarters is the imposing Santo Domingo Church along Quezon Avenue in the city of the same name. It was built in 1954 but it traces its lineage to 1588 when the first Dominican church was built in Intramuros. This was destroyed in the earthquake of 1589 and replaced by Fr. Alonso Jimenez’s (OP) stone church in 1592 (where the La Virgen La Naval was enshrined a year later) which, in turn, was razed by fire in 1603. The church was rebuilt again in 1613, damaged by an earthquake in 1645, repaired but was finally destroyed during the earthquake of 1863. The last Intramuros-era building of neo-gothic design was built in 1867 under the supervision of Arch. Felix Roxas and was demolished by Japanese bombardment in 1941. The 1954 church was designed by Jose. Ma. Zaragoza and features the murals of Carlos “Botong” Francisco on St. Dominic and Antonio Llamas on the 4 evangelists, and the stained glasses of Galo Ocampo.

The Order of the Augustinian Recollects (OAR)

On May of 1606, 10 Recollect missionaries and 4 lay brothers arrived in Cebu. They then moved to Manila where they established their mission in Bagumbayan before moving to the eastern walls of Intramuros. Although the Recollects were credited with developing the Negros sugar industry, they are actually renowned for their evangelization of the jungle missions of Zambales, Tarlac, Mindoro, Palawan, and Mindanao. The Recollects were founded in 1589 as an offshoot of the Augustinian reform movement. They are also known as the Discalced Augustinians because they don’t wear shoes.

On 11 October 1992, Pope John Paul II canonized the Recollect Fr. Ezekiel Moreno as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church. Unknown to many, St. Ezekiel spent the first 14 years of his missionary life in the Philippines where he administered the faith in Calapan (Mindoro), in Palawan where he founded the towns of Aborlan and Inagawan, in Las Pinas, Sto. Tomas (Batangas), and Bacoor and Imus in Cavite before moving to South America. He died in 1906.

These missionary orders significantly contributed in the colonial government’s subjugation of the Indios by opening up unexplored areas through their missionary work and eventually establishing towns that eased the entry of colonial government administration. By 1595 when Manila was elevated as an archdiocese, the missionary orders were firmly entrenched as the ecclesiastical administrators of the Philippines through the Diocese of Nueva Segovia in the northern provinces of Ilocos and Cagayan, the Diocese of Nueva Caceres in Bikol, and the Diocese of Cebu in southern Philippines. These missionaries also facilitated the emergence of the Filipino book culture with the introduction of the printing press first in 1593 by Fr. Domingo de Nieva (OP) and Keng Yong who printed Fr. Juan de Plasencia’s* Doctrina Christiana which said to be the first book to be printed in the Philippines. The first movable type press was developed by Fr. Francisco Blancas (OP) and Juan de Vera which is the origin of the Imprenta de Santo Tomas where the first Filipino printer, Tomas Pinpin, learned his craft. The Augustinians also imported their press from Japan where the first Pampango books were printed. The Jesuits later had their own printing press in 1639 and the Franciscans in 1692.

At the twilight of the Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines, the friars were immortalized by Dr. Jose Rizal as the abusive Padre Damaso and they have been mostly viewed as such since then. In fairness to them, it was the friars who campaigned for the establishment of one of the only 3 colonial Real Audiencia or supreme courts in Manila (the 2 others were in Lima and Mexico) to temper colonial abuses on the Indios. And among the works of the great Fr. Juan de Plasencia is the Los Costumbres de los Tagalogs that was considered as the first civil code of the Philippines because all Spanish provincial governors then were required to read it so they may govern in a way that is familiar with the Indios.

*Fr. Juan de Plasencia was listed as an Augustinian by Nick Joaquin, and as a Franciscan by Fr. Jose Femilou Gutay (OFM).

SOURCES: Nick Joaquin’s “Manila, My Manila”, Fr. Jose Femilou Gutay’s “Brief History of the Franciscans (OFM) in the Philippines” in the OFM Archives Philippines, and Regalado Trota Jose’s “Simbahan:: Church in Colonial Philippines (1565-1898)”.

PHOTO CREDITS: The seals of the “cross-bearers” were taken from Regalado Trota Jose’s “Simbahan:: Church in Colonial Philippines (1565-1898)”, St. Ezekiel Moreno’s photo from Emmanuel Luis A. Romanillos’ “The Augustinian Recollects in the Philippines (Hagiography and History)”, and the illustration on early church building in Mariel N. Francisco and Fe Maria C. Arriola’s “The History of the Burgis”.

PHOTOS (top to bottom):
1) Augustinian seal.
2) Church building satirical caricature.
3) Franciscan seal.
4) Church of San Pedro Bautista.
5) Lourdes Church.
6) Jesuit seal.
7) Ruins of San Ignacio Church.
8) Dominican seal.
9) Santo Domingo Church.
10) Recollect seal.
11) St. Ezekiel Moreno.