In its formation program for men wishing to join the Order of St Augustine, the Cebú Province maintains two formation houses in Metro Manila at Quezon City and Viejho Guadalupe, and a novitiate at Mohon in Cebu.
In 2008 construction began of the Sto. Nino Retreat House and Spirituality Center in Barangay Tolotolo of Consolacion town in the Province of Cebu. It is built on five hectares of land – about thirteen acres - on an elevated sloping and terrain, with views to the sea. The architectural master plan for the entire site is reproduced below.
In the architectural sketch (top image), all three main structures shown are part of the retreat centre. The two lower images show the completed building in 2009. The bigger building on the right contains the main assembly hall. Its upper floor of which is convertible into a big assembly area of over a hundred people, and into smaller conference rooms. The lower floor contains the refectory and kitchen, and the basement has various utility rooms. At the left is the chapel building. Its upper floor houses the chapel proper, while the lower floor features smaller conference rooms and counselling rooms. Beyond the chapel to the top-left edge of the architectural drawing is shown three small buildings, two of which are dormitories for single or double occupancy, and one building is intended for group occupancy.
The Sto. Nino Retreat House and Spirtuality Center was built in response to a great need of the Cebu Province to have its own place for spiritual renewal and reflective solitude in order to serve the needs of the members of the Province and the people in their ministries. The Sto. Nino Retreat House and Spirtuality Center became fully operational in 2010.
Irish Augustinians in the Philippines
Augustinians from the Hispanic culture (e.g., of Spain and Mexico) comprised the great majority of Augustinians coming to minister in the Philippines, but a number of Irish-born Augustinians were also involved. The earliest-known Irish Augustinian volunteer for the Philippines mission was Augustine de Burgo or Burke. Born in 1651, most likely in the west of Ireland, he entered the novitiate of the Castile Province in Spain during 1667, made his profession twelve months later, and was ordained priest in 1674 or thereabouts. In the meantime, another Irishman had finished his novitiate in Spain and was professed in l673. His first name was Thady and, instead of retaining his family name, he chose to be known as Thady of St Mary. He and Augustine volunteered to go together on the thirty-seventh mission of the Castile Province to the Philippines in 1683. The two of them sailed with the other members of the mission for Manila, where they arrived by 18th September 1679. Granted affiliation to the Province of the Philippines, Augustine was assigned to Bisaya, an area comprising the central isles of the Philippines. Thady was assigned to minister to the Tatgals in Luzon. He died there in 1687, and Augustine died in 1693 at San Pablo, Manila.
The next Irish Augustinian missionary to the Philippines was James Higgins, clearly a friar of exceptional character. He was born in Dublin in 1653, entered the Order there in 1670, and became a priest there in 1678. A few years later he was in Spain, and was accepted on the thirty-ninth mission of the Castile Province to the Philippines. Finally reaching Manila, he was affiliated to the Province of the Philippines on 29th August 1684. Higgins became a seventeenth-century precursor of Father Damien (now Saint Damien) of Molokai (Hawaii), asking to be assigned to the leper colony of Bisayas. There he remained for six years, administering the sacraments to the victims of the dreadful disease and performing humanitarian work that included the most menial tasks beyond the capacity of the victims of the disease. He was tireless in comforting and encouraging the lepers to bear their heavy cross with patience. In 1690 Higgins was transferred, doubtless for his own safety, to work in Guimbal, and was at Tigbaoang two years later. Worn out by his labours he was brought back to Manila where he died at the age of forty-four years on 7th July 1697. It is not surprising that he was regarded as a saint. When his grave was opened a year after his death, his body was found to be incorrupt, the skin "fresh and beautiful.”
Much later another Irish Augustinian missionary to the Philippines was also venerated as a saint. Called Santulon by the Filipinos, he was Luke Murphy from Wexford. He completed his novitiate at Burgos, Spain in 1729 at the age of twenty-six. Ten years later he was a member of the fiftieth mission destined for Manila. On the way he hardly gave promise of the holiness with which he was later credited in the Philippines. The ship carrying him and his companions made a stop in Mexico. While there, Murphy and another friar deserted the ship. They soon changed their minds, and Luke Murphy and his associate arrived in Manila on another boat on 4th October 1740. He died eight years later at Candon on 23rd June 1748. The reputation for sanctity which he acquired during those years at his mission long outlived him.
Photos (above): Picture 1: Minor Basilica of the Sto. Niño, Cebú. Picture 2: A young priest at St Augustine Center of Studies, Quezon City, Metro Manila. Picture 3: St Augustine Center of Studies (SACS), Quezon City.
Province of Cebú, founded in 1984.
As explained in detail on the previous pages, the Augustinian Province of the Holy Name of Jesus in the Philippines was founded in 1575. It was based in Manila until after 1898, when its headquarters moved to Madrid (although returning to Manila for the brief period of 1927-1935). As previously explained, the Philippines revolution in 1896 and its aftermath caused 284 Spanish-born Augustinians to leave the Philippines, leaving only thirty-eight Augustinians in the country by 1900, but the number of Augustinians in the Philippines then increased.
In 1974 the Augustinian Vicariate of the Philippines (i.e., the administrative unit in the Province of the Holy Name of Jesus, based in Madrid) asked that the Vicariate be elevated to the status of a Vice-Province. By 1980 the Vicariate had built itself up to 59 members in the Philippines, of whom 29 were Filipino by birth, eleven Spaniards who had become Filipinos by naturalization, three more in the process of naturalization, 14 Spaniards and two men from India. Although the idea of 1974 had faded, it was revived by a group of Filipino Augustinians who met in Cebú on 29 April 1981. With the encouraging support of their superiors, this led to the asking for a new Philippines-based Augustinian Province. It was believed that the creation of a new and separate Province would not only inject additional life in the spirit of Filipino Augustinians but also be a sign of the solid growth of the Augustinian spirit and ideals in the Philippine native soil and in the Filipino heart.
The proposal was officially endorsed at a regional assembly of the Philippines Vicariate on 19th August 1981. After approval by an Augustinian General Chapter, the new Province of the Holy Child Jesus of Cebú was officially inaugurated at a ceremony in Cebú on the feast of the Santo Niño, 15th January 1984.
Photos (at right): Student Augustinians at worship at Guadalupe Viejo church in Metro Manila.
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.