Augustinians have served continuously in the Philippines since the year 1565, and have made a great contribution to the history of that nation. They first reached the Philippines from Mexico. Andrés de Urdaneta and four other Augustinians landed at Cebú in the Philippines on 27 April 1565.
These other men were Diego de Herrera O.S.A., Martin de Rada O.S.A., Andrés de Aguirre O.S.A. and Pedro de Gamboa O.S.A. They immediately began a very successful apostolate. The first houses of the Augustinians were established at Cebú in 1565, and at Manila in 1571. The Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus in the Philippines was founded by the Prior General, Tadeo de Perusa O.S.A., on 7 March 1575 and centred on these four Augustinians in the expedition that under Spanish royal patronage had come from Mexico in April 1565.
They were then followed to the Philippines by a regular arrival of additional Augustinians on the Spanish galleons coming from Acapulco, Mexico. The Province was named after the Most Holy Name of Jesus in honour of the image of the Santo Niño that had been discovered at Cebú in 1565. These four Augustinians and those that followed them were charged with the evangelisation of the Philippines. One of them, Martin de Rada O.S.A., was the first Provincial, and has also been called the father of evangelisation in the Philippines. Up to 1578 the Augustinians were the only missionaries in the Islands. By the end of the 16th century they had established some 54 houses in six Islands: Cebu, Panay, Luzon, Mindoro, Masbate, and Leyte. Later, in 1594, some of those houses were handed over to other Orders. Since then, the Augustinians worked in the evangelization of the Filipinos in Ilocos, La Union, Tarlac, Pampanga, Bulacan, Metro Manila and Batangas in Luzon, in Panay Island and Southern Cebu. In the 18th century they began their missionary work among the people of the Mountain Province, Abra and Nueva Ec.
After being the first priests to serve in the Philippines, the Augustinians continued to be foremost in making the area Christian. They built hundreds of churches and towns, blending Spanish and local elements of culture into forms characteristically Filipino even to the present times. Augustinians also made an invaluable contribution to the material and cultural progress in the country. They helped revolutionize the cultivation of the agricultural products of the country and introduced from America and Asia; wheat, sugar, coffee, cocoa, tobacco, potatoes, tomatoes, and various fruits. They directed the building of churches, schools, roads, channels for irrigation and organized the towns. 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. 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 fifty 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. In 1776 the Philippines Province had twenty-eight 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. Over the centuries, an estimated 3,000 Augustinians were sent to the Philippines. Most of these Augustinians came from Spain, where especially in the beginning the Spanish Augustinian provinces allowed their members to transfer to the missionary Philippines Province if the foreign missions attracted them.
This new Province had initially been unusual in having no seminary of its own for its first 200 years, but had simply relied on volunteers coming to the Philippines from the Spanish Augustinian Provinces. Eventually it began directly recruiting young men in Spain on its own behalf, and conducted its own seminary at Valladolid, Spain. It is still functioning. In this way, and through direct recruitment of Spanish men to Augustinian Order by the Philippines Province, an estimated 2,900 friars went from Spain to the Philippines between 1569 and 1898. During that time also, the Philippines Province also opened houses in Spain, and these were taken to form a separate El Escorial Province in 1895. Still later, in 1926, a second Province, now popularly called the Espana Province (or the la Vid Province), was sectioned off. The closing of religious houses in Spain in 1835 did not affect the continued flow of priests to the colonies of Spain. This was because the formation houses in Spain for the foreign missions were allowed to continue. In the case of the Order of Saint Augustine, this saved the house (convento) in Valladolid, and later also the one at La Vid. Apparently there is historical foundation for the assertion that a report sent from the Philippines to Spain asked that such houses not be molested.
Photos (at right): Opened in 2009, the Sto. Nino Spirituality and Conference Centre, in Barangay Tolotolo of Consolacion town in the Province of Cebu. The reason given was that one priest working in the Philippines had the impact of one hundred soldiers in maintaining peace in the country, hence it was in the best interests of Spain not to unsettle the governance of the Philippines by stopping its supply of Spanish priests. The Order of Saint Augustine had pastoral care of 2,237,000 Filipinos in 1898 at the outset of the revolution that caused havoc for the Church and all religious orders in the Philippines. (Other statistics appeared above.) By no means, however, did they neglect the formation of indigenous clergy, for there were 700 Philippine secular priests when the revolution broke out in 1896.
Of all the religious orders in the Philippines, the credit for having established the greatest number of parishes goes to the Order of Saint Augustine. Its mission territory included the present-day provinces of (from north to south) Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Abra, Nueva Ecija, parts of Tarlac, Pampanga, Bulacan, Batangas, Aklan, Capiz, Antique, Iloilo, Cebu and Leyte. Some early missions such as those in Pangasinan, Laguna, Mindoro, Masbate, and Romblon were given across to other religious orders and to secular clergy in the course of time. As part of evangelization, the Augustinians built churches, parish houses, and schools. Necessity also led them to help in the construction of municipal buildings, watchtowers and fortifications. They also introduced industries to help their parishioners increase and diversify their source of income. Weaving was adapted for market demands in Ilocos, Batangas and Panay. Coffee was introduced and propagated in Batangas to such a successful degree that it made it one of the richest Philippine provinces in the nineteenth century.
As already mentioned, Augustinians began living in Intramuros in 1571. The monastery there was designated an Augustinian novitiate on 30 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.
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Two Photo Galleries
To view the two photo galleries of the Augustinians in the Philippines in this web site, select Philippines: Province of Cebú and Philippines: Vicariate of the Orient.