Augustinian Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus of the Philippines

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Historical background

The Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus of the Philippines of the religious Order of St. Augustine was officially formed on December 31, 1575 as an offshoot of the establishment of the first permanent Spanish settlements in the Philippines by Adelantado Miguel López de Legazpi. In 1565 Legazpi arrived in the Philippines at the head of an expedition sent by Viceroy Luis de Velasco of New Spain to discover islands west of the Moluccas upon the orders of the Spanish monarch. Enlisted to guide the perilous voyage was the famed navigator Andrés de Urdaneta (b. 1498 - d. June 3, Mexico, 1568), an Augustinian friar.

Although a veteran of previous voyages across the Pacific, Father Urdaneta was reluctant to take part in the expedition, let alone command it. When he declined the offer to lead, the responsibility fell upon the shoulders of Legazpi. At age 51 and in poor health, Father Urdaneta considered himself retired as a navigator especially after having earlier turned his back on the world by joining the Augustinian Order in Mexico.

But when King Philip II of Spain ordered the viceroy to "prepare a fleet of discovery" of the western islands near the Moluccas and wrote Father Urdaneta a letter asking him to guide the voyage, he felt compelled to obey for "the glory of God and the expansion of our faith." The Spanish Crown between 1525 and 1542 had sent several expeditions to strengthen its claim on the Moluccas, but none of these voyages had found a feasible return route across the Pacific to Mexico. Having ascended to the Spanish throne, Philip ll ordered his men to concentrate their efforts on the Philippines, a move that was also meant to avoid further conflict with the Portuguese, the main Spanish rival in this frenetic period of the Age of Discovery.

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 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 led 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.

Formation of a new province

To provide a steady source of missionaries to the Philippines following the founding of the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus of the Philippines, a seminary was created in Valladolid, Spain. Under the leadership of Father Alfonso Gutierez, 24 Spanish Augustinians in 1575 landed in the islands and, with the guidance of both Fathers Herrera and Rada, worked very successfully, at first as itinerant preachers. Their missionary zeal played a pivotal role in the evolution of the archipelago into today's only Catholic nation in Asia. In Manila, the Augustinians had been given a piece of land within the walled city of Intramuros to build a church and a monastery. Father Herrera became the Province's first prior provincial.

San Agustín Church and Monastery is closely tied to the history of the Philippines for it was here where the Augustinians had planned and carried out the evangelization of the country and had first introduced Western ideas to the natives while serving as a vanguard of resistance against the state. Father Rada denounced abuses committed by Spanish authorities against the local population and reported these to Philip ll. His vigorous advocacy for justice has earned him a place in history as the "Defender of the Natives." A key document in this matter was his Parescer del Provincial fray Martín de Rada, agostino, sobre las coasa de estas tierass ("About the abuses committed against the natives in the collection of tributes"), dated at Manila, 21 June 1575.

The missionaries of the Province have given the world valuable descriptive works on Asian countries and their peoples especially in the early days of Western presence in what was then the inscrutable East. Included in this key Augustinian contribution are Father Cipriano Navarro's important work on The Inhabitants of the Philippines and a monumental work in six volumes by Father Manuel Blanco titled Flora de Filipinas (Madrid, 1877--). Both works are priceless contributions to literature and learning. World-renowned botanist Father Blanco had built a botanical garden for his plant experiments in Intramuros that became the basis for his internationally-acclaimed book.

Fathers Ignacio Mercado, Antonio Llanos, Andrés Naves, and Celestino Fernandez are also worthy of mention as well as Fathers Angelo Perez and Cecilio Guemes who published in 1905 a work in four volumes titled La Imprenta de Manila.

Among the contemporary members of the Province carrying this tradition of excellence are the leading Catholic poet Gilbert Luis R. Centina III, historian Fathers Policarpo F. Hernández and Pedro G. Galende, whose coffetable book Angels in Stone documents all the churches built by the Augustinians throughout the Philippines over the centuries, and artist Father Blas Sierra de la Calle. The latter is the curator of Museo Oriental de Valladolid of the Royal College of the Augustinian Fathers in that city. The museum is said to hold the most extensive collection of Asian art and artifacts in Spain.

Economic, social and cultural labors in Asia and beyond

What remains of the botanical garden of Father Blanco as photographed by Robby Dela Vega in 2004.

Since 1565 to the present, more than 3,000 Augustinian missionaries have dedicated themselves to apostolic, social, and cultural labor in the Philippines, China and Japan. The Augustinian missions in the Philippines have provided missionaries for the East since their first establishment. In 1603 some of them entered Japan, where several were martyred, and in 1653 others reached China, where in 1701 the Order had six missionary stations. Father Rada was one of those who visited China, and he reported extensively on his findings and impressions about the country. He is considered to be the first ambassador of the Philippines to China during colonial times.

Before the Philippine Revolution of 1898, the Augustinians administered over 400 hundred schools and churches in the islands. In 1904 they established the University of San Agustin in Iloilo City that eventually emerged as the largest Augustinian educational institution in the world in terms of student population and the only Augustinian university in the Asia-Pacific region. They have also served as the custodians of the Santo Niño Shrine in Cebu City, which houses the centuries-old image of the Child Jesus recovered by Legazpi's men in 1565, within Asia's only basilica -- the Basilica del Santo Niño de Cebu, now under the care of the all-Filipino Augustinian Province of Santo Niño of Cebu that separated from the mother province in 1984.

The Province in 1968 reestablished Augustinian presence on the Indian subcontinent, which passing Augustinian missionaries first reached by way of Goa in 1542. Incidentally, these four men -- Fathers Jeronimo de Santisteban, Nicolas de Alvarado, Sebestian Reina (or de Trasierra), and Alfonso de Alvarado -- once they had returned to Spain, became the first four priests and members of a religious order to have sailed entirely around the world.

From its houses in Spain and its missions in the Philippines, the Province in the past had deployed missionaries to Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela. At present, it is actively involved in training and sending missionaries to Tanzania. In the United States, its friars run the Holy Rosary Parish-East Harlem in Manhattan under the Archdiocese of New York. Based in Madrid, the current prior provincial is Very Rev. Fr. Carlos F. Moran,OSA who replaced in July 2006 Very Rev. Fr. Luis F. Rodriguez de Lucas,OSA.


  • Parroquia San Roque, Av. Maresme 139-141, Badalona, Spain 08913. Telephone: (93) 387.3148 Fax: (93) 399.3951
  • Convento de San José, Iparraguirre 24 48009, Bilbao, Bizkaia, Spain. Telephone: (94) 424.1199 Fax: (94) 424.5559
  • Colegio Andrés de Urdaneta, Lauroeta Etorbidea 6 48180 Loiu, Bizkaia, Spain. Telephone: (94) 453.3308 Fax: (94) 471.0248
  • Casa Provincial Andrés de Urdaneta, Manuel Uribe 1 28033 Madrid, Spain. Telephone: (91) 300.0646 Fax: (91) 759.7436
  • Capellania MM. Agustinas, Santa Teresa, 7 Apdo. 24447407 Medina Del Campo, Valladolid, Spain. Telephone: (98) 380.3454
  • Parroquia Nra. Sra. de Consolación, Calle Pintor Miró, 3 28933 Mostoles, Madrid, Spain. Telephone: (91) 226.8720 Fax: (91)226.8730
  • Convento Nra. Sra. del Carmen, Paseo del Puerto, 14 48990 Neguri, Vizcaya, Spain. Telephone: (94) 491.0740 Fax: (94) 460.0096
  • Holy Rosary Parish, 444 East 119th Street, New York, NY 10035 U.S.A. Telephone: (212) 534.0740 Fax: (212) 534.7572
  • Comunidad PP. Agustinos, Plaza Concejil, 1 38400 Puerto de la Cruz 38 00 51 Par, Tenerife, Spain. Telephone: (92) 238.4602
  • Comunidad PP. Agustinos, Plaza Santo Domingo, 6 24200 Valencia de Don Juan, Leon, Spain. Telephone: (98) 775.2429 Fax: (98) 752.022
  • Real Colegio de Agustinos Filipinos, Paseo Filipinos, 7 47007 Valladolid, Spain 30 68 00. Telephone: (98) 330.6900 Fax: (98)397.896
  • Comunidad de formación, Paseo Filipinos, 7 47007 Valladolid 30 06 21 Spain. Telephone: (98) 330.8389 Fax: (98) 397.896
  • Colegio San Agustín, Avenida de las Torres, 79-89 50008 Zaragoza 22 48 43 Spain. Telephone: Tel. (97) 622.4844 Fax: (97) 622.6876


  • de la Calle, Blas Sierra, OSA. "Friars' Museum Showcases Finest Far Eastern Art Collection in Spain". The Augustinian Journal of Cultural Excellence, 2004, p. 9.
  • Hernandez, Policarpio F., OSA. "A Church Built for the Ages Fuses Two Alien Cultures," The Augustinian Journal of Cultural Excellence, 2004, pp. 45-55.

Other sources

See also

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Original Source

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