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 façade 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.