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Catholicism in the Philippines during the Spanish Colonial Period 1521-1898

(The following is a post by Hong Ta-Moore, Southeast Asia reference librarian, Asian Division.)

Southeast Asia is home to eleven countries, nearly 700 million people, and a rich variety of religious traditions. The Philippines, for example, is one of two Southeast Asian countries with a majority Christian population (the other being East Timor). According to the 2000 CIA World Factbook estimates, some 90% of the country’s 104 million people identify themselves as Christian, the majority of whom are Catholic.

Prior to the arrival of Catholic missionaries and explorers from Spain, Islam had been introduced in the Philippines in the late 14th century through trade with merchants from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Middle East. It was only later in the 16th century that the voyages of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521) first brought Catholicism to the archipelago, originally named St. Lazarus’ Islands by Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos (1500? – 1544), but later changed to the present name in honor of Philip II of Spain who reigned from 1556-1598. Commissioned by King of Spain, Magellan arrived on Homonhon Island on March 17, 1521, claiming lands in the name of Spain after months navigating through what is now known as the Strait of Magellan at the southern part of Chile and Argentina. At Homonhon, Magellan and his crew made first contact with the inhabitants who offered the foreign visitors provisions to help them regain their strength. This seemed to replenish their desire to push westward to the original destination of their Homeric voyage to the Spice Islands, an Indonesian archipelago in the Banda Sea where cloves, nutmeg, and cloves originated.

Portrait of Ferdinand Magellan, 1581 [Date created: 1810]. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Magellan’s route around the world [Date created: ca. 1544]. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress. Image 14 of page view.

Detail of Strait of Magellan. [Date created: ca. 1544]. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress. Image of 14 of page view.

On Easter Sunday in March 1521, Magellan arrived at Limasawa, an island west of Homonhon Island, where Magellan’s missionaries conducted the first mass on Philippine soil. Participating in the mass were two ruling brothers: Rajah Colambu, ruler of Limasawa, and Rajah Siagu, ruler of Butuan in Northern Mindanao. Both rajahs kissed the cross and prayed with the crew, making them the first Filipinos to encounter Christianity. Afterwards, Magellan and his crew decided to sail to Cebu to convert more Filipinos to Catholicism. The first recorded conversion in the Philippines took place on this island on Sunday, April 14, 1521 when the King and Queen of Cebu and their subjects embraced the Catholic faith during the Sunday mass. On that day alone, according to one account, Magellan’s priests baptized up to eight hundred Cebuanos.

Within twenty-five years of the first conversion on Cebu, about a quarter of a million Filipinos—half of the entire population of the archipelago at the time—converted to Christianity. The rapid rate of baptism was aided by books on catechism published by monastic presses, such as the “Doctrina Christiana,” (Christian Doctrine) which was published in Tagalog and Spanish in xylography type in 1593. Over time, religious works were also published in other Filipino languages, such as “Pagduao sa santisimo sacramento sa altar, cag sa mahal na Virgen” (Visit of the Sacred Sacrament in the altar of the blessed Virgin of San Alfonso Maria de Ligorio) (1886) in Hiligaynon pictured below.

“Doctrina Christiana, en lengua española y tagala …” (Christian Doctrine in Spanish and Tagalog corrected by the Religious of the orders. Printed with permission in San Gabriel of the order of Santo Domingo.) Manila, 1593. Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection, Rare Book/Special Collections Reading Room, Library of Congress. Image 5 of page view.

“Casaysayan nang pasiong mahal ni Jesucristong Pan︢g︣inoon natin : na sucat ipag alab nang puso nang sino man babasa.” (The story of the Holy Passion of Jesus Christ, Our Lord, which will inflame the heart of anyone who reads it.) Manila : Reimprenso en la Imprenta de Santo Tomás, 1854. Southeast Asian rare books collection, Asian Division, Library of Congress.

Saint Alfonso Maria de Liguori. “Pagduao sa santisimo sacramento sa altar, cag sa mahal na Virgen.” (Visit of the Sacred Sacrament in the altar of the blessed Virgin of San Alfonso Maria de Ligorio.) Manila, Imp. y lit. de M. Perez, hijo, 1886. Southeast Asian rare books collection, Asian Division, Library of Congress.

However, religion was not the only topic of early printed works in the Philippines between the 1600s and 1800s. The monastic presses also published grammar books to help priests learn the native languages in order to minister more effectively. These included works like “Arte y reglas de la lengua tagala” (Art and rules of the Tagalog language) and “Arte de la lengua bicol para la enseñanza de este idioma…” (Art of the bikol language for the teaching of this language …).

Francisco de San José, fray. “Arte y reglas de la lengua tagala” (Art and rules of the Tagalog language.) En el partido de Bataan : Por Thomas Pinpin Tagalo, 1610. Rare Book/Special Collections Reading Room, Library of Congress.

Andres de San Agustín. “Arte de la lengua bicol para la enseñanza de este idioma…” (Art of the bikol language for the teaching of this language …) Manila, Tip. de Ramirez y Giraudier, á cargo de C. Miralles, 1879. Southeast Asian rare books collection, Asian Division, Library of Congress.

In the view of some historians, the actions of the Church and Spanish colonial authorities during the Spanish colonial period (1521-1898) led to tensions and social upheavals in the Philippines. While some Filipino clergy as well as the Catholic lay population expressed discontent regarding the lack of access to proper religious training, for the Filipino clergy, the lack of religious training also meant the lack of opportunities to rise to positions of power within the Church and subsequently effect changes in their country. However, the Spanish authorities and Catholic officials feared that more education would lead to Filipino independence and loss of the Church’s control over the populace and revenue for the Church and the Spanish Crown. This was the Church’s modus operandi well into the latter half of the 1800s, at which time Filipino intellectuals and clergy grew increasingly critical of Spanish priests and authorities. One such intellectual was José Rizal who wrote the novels “Noli me tángere” (1902 ed.) (Don’t Touch Me) and “El filibusterismo” (Filibustering) (1908 ed.) to highlight the corruption and hypocrisy of the Spanish clergy. His anti-Spanish activism led to his execution in 1896 by the Spanish colonial government, which in turn made him a national hero.

José Rizal. “Noli me tangere” (Don’t Touch Me). Barcelona, Casa editorial Maucci; [etc.] 1902. Southeast Asia Cage, Asian Division, Library of Congress.

José Rizal. “El filibusterismo” (Filibustering). Barcelona : Impr. de Henrich y ca, 1908. Southeast Asian rare books collection, Asian Division, Library of Congress. Rizal’s work is also known as “The Reign of Greed” in English.

The Library of Congress has many books on Catholicism in the Philippines, both in English and in many Filipino languages. Those that are in Tagalog or one of the languages in the Philippines are part of the Southeast Asian collection, which is accessible in the Asian Reading Room. For items in the Southeast Asian rare books collection, appointments are required and can be made via the Asian Division’s Ask-a-Librarian page.

38 Comments

  1. John Dillon
    July 10, 2018 at 6:19 pm

    A very interesting piece. Thank you.

    Two suggestions for improvement:

    1) In the second sentence of the second paragraph, FOR “It was only later in the 16th century that the voyages of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521)..” READ ” It was only in the earlier 16th century that the voyages of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521)…”

    2) In the caption for “Doctrina Christiana, en lengua española y tagala …” FOR 1503 READ 1593 (the date shown on the title page reproduced here).

  2. Hong Ta-Moore
    July 12, 2018 at 3:42 pm

    Thank you very much for your input and interest in the 4 Corners Blog. The blog contains a wealth of wonderful information about the Library unique collections from … four corners of the world.

    The 1503 date was indeed a typo. Thank you for the alert. It will be corrected shortly.

    As for the sentence “It was only later in the 16th century that the voyages of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521)…,” we used “later” to compare the historical introduction of two religions to the Philippines: Islam was first (late 14th century); Christianity was later than that (i.e., with Magellan in the 1520s, otherwise generally referred to as the 16th century). Your input was valid because the date of Magellan’s arrival in the Philippines was 1521.

    Thank you for your suggestions. I encourage you to check the 4 Corners Blog often for new blogs.

    Regards,

    Hong Ta-Moore (Mr.)
    Reference Librarian
    Southeast Asia Collection
    Asian Division
    Library of Congress
    Washington, DC 20540

  3. Lucia Wolf
    January 30, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    Hong, I am still dumbfounded on the breadth of Catholic missions around the world and especially in Asia. I learn more about Asian cultures by reading the blogs written by insightful and knowledgeable colleagues like you. The effects of Catholic missions has not always been very positive. Nonetheless, as you suggest, the spread of Christianity may have also spurred some self-awareness and quite possibly some instances of self-determination, at least by reaction. I find Rizal’s novel “Noli me tangere” especially compelling and will read it, in English or Italian, obviously. I found an Italian translation published in 2003!

  4. Syahirah
    April 20, 2019 at 5:28 am

    Hi, thank you for this article.
    I’m doing some research of history of Catholicism in the Philippines – may I ask the source for the statement “Within twenty-five years of the first conversion on Cebu, about a quarter of a million Filipinos—half of the entire population of the archipelago at the time—converted to Christianity.” please? Would be grateful for the source as I’d like to get more details on this.

    Thank you.

  5. Jonathan Loar
    April 23, 2019 at 10:30 am

    Hi Syahirah! Thanks for your question, and thank you for submitting it through the Asian Division’s Ask-a-Librarian. Our Southeast Asia reference staff will reply to you soon. All the best, Jonathan Loar (South Asia reference librarian, Asian Division)

  6. Hong Ta-Moore
    April 23, 2019 at 11:12 am

    Syahirah: The original source of this figure came from the book called: Historia general sacro-profana, política y natural de las islas del Poniente (//lccn.loc.gov/01008394).

    The statistics can also be found in “The Philippine islands, 1493-1803 : explorations by early navigators, descriptions …” (//lccn.loc.gov/03006936), vol 33, pages 150-160. Also in “Catholicism in the Philippines” (//lccn.loc.gov/49042317), page 35.

    Good luck.

  7. Prof Prem raj Pushpakaran
    April 29, 2019 at 7:27 am

    Prof Prem raj Pushpakaran writes — 2020 marks the 500th year of discovery of strait of Magellan sea route!!!

  8. Stephen Nguyen
    July 18, 2019 at 11:54 am

    I am a Vietnamese Catholic priest and living in Vietnam, teaching Church history.
    There have been many Spanish missioners coming to Vietnam from the Philippines. The Catholic Church in Vietnam is grateful for these missionaries and grateful to the Philippines.
    Where can I read or can buy “Catholicism in the Philippines during the Spanish Colonial Period 1521-1898” ?
    Thank you!

  9. Hong Ta-Moore
    July 22, 2019 at 1:39 pm

    Dear Mr. Stephen Nguyen:

    Thank you for your comment about the blog on the Philippines. The central idea of the blog is to inform researchers about materials on Catholicism in the Philippines available at the Library of Congress, particularly in the Asian Division. The title of the blog is about this topic; it is not a title of any book.

    If you are interested in learning more about any books mentioned in the blog, please send your inquiry to the Asian Division Inquiry form at: //www.loc.gov/rr/askalib/ask-asian.html A librarian will respond to you directly.

    Again, thank you for your comment. Please visit our blog often for new and interesting blogs on the Asian Division collections. Also, please help us spread the news about our website to your students and colleagues in Vietnam.

    Hong Ta-Moore

  10. Red
    May 4, 2020 at 11:38 am

    Is your blog or article limited only on how Catholic religion arrived in the Philippine archipelago? Can I request your good office sir, to please make an article that narrates and exposes the wrong doings of the priests and Spanish Authority which led to social upheaval and heroism of Jose Rizal which made him to become national hero of Philippines. So that the whole world may know how the Spanish authorities and the Catholic priests took advantage the ignorance and illiteracy of our ancestors by using Christianity (Catholism) as a tool or covering for their real intentions. Thanks in advance

  11. Joshua Kueh
    May 8, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    Thank you for your interest in this blog post, and for your suggestion. While the post does not focus on “wrong doings” of priests and Spanish authorities, it does bring up the impact of the Catholic Church and Spanish colonial agents on Philippine society by mentioning the lack of opportunities to rise to positions of power within colonial society.

    The post also aims to highlight some of the many resources available at the Library of Congress for further study on Catholicism and colonialism in the Philippines, including the power relationships between indigenous populations and colonial agents. If you have additional questions about resources for these topics, please feel free to reach out via email to the Asian Division’s reference staff through Ask a Librarian, //www.loc.gov/rr/askalib/ask-asian.html.

    Joshua Kueh

  12. Alyssa
    September 13, 2020 at 4:01 am

    Hi,
    Can I ask how did ferdinand magellan introduced christianity to the natives?

  13. Joshua Kueh
    September 21, 2020 at 12:43 pm

    Thank you for your interest in the blog and your question. Much of what we know about Magellan’s role in introducing Christianity to the inhabitants of what became the Philippines comes from Antonio Pigafetta’s account (https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.$b591363&view=1up&seq=323).

    Pigafetta was a member of Magellan’s crew (a supernumerary, to be precise) and wrote an account of the journey. Passages in Pigafetta’s account that touch on the introduction of Christianity in the Philippines point to a larger political context of inter-group rivalries. It seems that the implications of accepting Christianity had in part to do with forging alliances to gain advantage in this competitive environment.

    In addition to this context, there was also the attraction of Catholic rites and worship. Pigafetta says local people (at least on the island of Cebu) seemed pleased to see the “divine service” in which Magellan and his men participated.

    Looking once again at Pigafetta’s account, there is a passage that mentions how Magellan exhorted a sick member of the elite—a chief’s grandson—to accept Christianity and so be healed. When the sick person got well, it seems this was attributed to his acceptance of Christianity (at least in Pigafetta’s eyes). Perhaps Christianity was seen as an alternative source of spiritual power that could be accessed by local inhabitants.

    Finally, study of Pigafetta’s account makes mention of local figures of spiritual authority (women in the main). Christianity presented a challenge to their worldview.

    While Magellan’s attempts to convert the indigenous populations he encountered could very well have been a so-called first meeting with Christianity, one should also bear in mind that the Portuguese were already active in the region before Magellan’s arrival, and hence knowledge of Christianity might not have been totally foreign to those Magellan met.

    I hope this helps. If you have further questions you can reach us through, Ask-a-Librarian.

  14. Arabela Arcinue
    September 25, 2020 at 4:46 am

    Hello! Do you have info on the history of the Protestant religion in Lingayen, Pangasinan, Philippines?

    Thank you

  15. Joshua Kueh
    September 30, 2020 at 12:24 pm

    Thank you for your query. The Library of Congress has holdings on Protestantism in the Philippines that might be relevant to your question.

    Please contact Asian Division reference staff through Ask a Librarian for further details: //ask.loc.gov/asia/.

  16. Wendir
    October 8, 2020 at 12:29 am

    Hi can i ask why butuan claim the first catholic mass? While the first catholic mass happened in Limasawa

  17. Joshua Kueh
    October 14, 2020 at 5:15 pm

    Thank you for your query. The Butuan vs Limasawa controversy is rooted in a dispute over the location of “Mazaua,” the place which Antonio Pigafetta writes was where the first Catholic mass in the Philippines took place on Easter Sunday of 1521. Pigafetta was an eye witness to this mass, being a member of Magellan’s crew.

    The Butuan claim rests upon a long historiographical tradition dating back to the 17th century that asserts that the first Catholic mass in the Philippines took place at Butuan. In the 19th century, a monument was erected to mark Butuan as the site of the historical occasion. Taken together, the historiography and the physical marker gave credence to the Butuan claim. It should be noted that recently, a six-person National Historical Commission of the Philippines panel headed by Dr. Resil Mojares has recommended that the Limasawa claim be affirmed as opposed to the Butuan claim. This decision was based on a study of Antonio Pigafetta’s eyewitness account, articles by Trinidad Pardo de Tavera and Pablo Pastells, SJ, and also on retracing the route of the Magellan-Elcano voyage : For more information about Southeast Asian or other Asian materials, please contact Asian Division reference staff using this link: //ask.loc.gov/asia/.

  18. johnra rock
    March 14, 2021 at 8:51 pm

    wow
    ]

  19. johnra rock
    March 14, 2021 at 8:52 pm

    first Catholic mass in the Philippines took place at Butuan. In the 19th century, a monument was erected to mark Butuan as the site of the historical occasion. Taken together, the historiography and the physical marker gave credence to the Butuan claim. It should be noted that recently, a six-person National Historical Commission of the Philippines panel headed by Dr. Resil Mojares has recommended that the Limasawa claim be affirmed as opposed to the Butuan claim. This decision was based on a study of Antonio Pigafetta’s eyewitness account, articles by Trinidad Pardo de Tavera and Pablo Pastells, SJ, and also on retracing the route of the Magellan-Elcano voyage : For more information about Southeast Asian or other Asian materials, please contact Asian Division reference staff using this link: //ask.loc.gov/asia/.

    johnra rock
    March 14, 2021 at 8:51 pm Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    wow
    ]

    Add a Comment
    This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user’s privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy. “Doctrina Christiana, en lengua española y tagala …” (Christian Doctrine in Spanish and Tagalog corrected by the Religious of the orders. Printed with permission in San Gabriel of the order of Santo Domingo.) Manila, 1593. Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection, Rare Book/Special Collections Reading Room, Library of Congress. Image 5 of page view.

  20. Antonio Maria Rosales, OFM.
    April 8, 2021 at 10:07 pm

    Peace. Sincere thanks to Anchi Ho for writing this article and to Hong Ta-Moore of the Southeast Asia reference librarian, Asian Division for publishing it in his blog. It is rather unfortunate that the history of the Church in the Philippines has been given a sweeping negative judgment in the last paragraph of this article, based mostly on the novels of Rizal that used a literary genre based on history but presenting it in a negative, one-sided and even sarcastic way. This year we are celebrating the 5th Centenary of the Coming of Christianity with the first baptisms in 1521, but the colonization and evangelization of the archipelago started in 1565, 44 years later. There are articles and books being prepared to present the hard work of the missionaries in the early decades when they established schools, hospitals, infrastructures like roads, bridges, irrigation, etc., as well as churches, preserved the native languages, helped the natives in agriculture, etc., etc. I wish your sources would visit the rich archives of the first religious Orders (Augustinians, Franciscans, Jesuits, Dominicans and others), and discover a very different picture. My best to your work and many blessings this Easter.

    • Anchi Hoh
      April 15, 2021 at 10:23 am

      Thanks for your comments and interest in the 4 Corners of the World blog. To clarify, the author of this post is Hong Ta-Moore. Please continue to follow us and feel free to contact us for reference assistance through Ask A Librarian.

  21. Joshua Kueh
    April 15, 2021 at 9:44 am

    Sources certainly do shape interpretations of history. The narrative put forward in this blog post on Catholicism in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period—like any other interpretation—is open for debate. Thank you for engaging in this conversation by contributing your perspective on the work the Church has done in the Philippines.

    For more information about Southeast Asian or other Asian materials, please contact Asian Division reference staff using this link: //ask.loc.gov/asia/.

  22. Nenuca
    May 2, 2021 at 10:30 pm

    Maria Clara de los Santos was Father Damaso’s daughter with Pia Alba (wife of Capitan Tiago). The infertile Capitan Tiago adopted Maria Clara after Pia Alba died while giving birth to Maria Clara.

  23. Ryan Wolfson-Ford
    May 4, 2021 at 8:48 am

    Thanks for your comment. If you have any further questions about the Library’s Philippines collection please submit a question using the Ask-A-Library service. For more information, please see the Southeast Asian collection research guide​ (//guides.loc.gov/southeast-asian-collection).

  24. Joy Lamberto
    October 13, 2021 at 11:58 pm

    Can i read your opinion about spaniard religion being introduce in Philippines is it worth accepting or it is just a mis interpretation? How it affects Filipino’s now?

  25. Joshua Kueh
    October 18, 2021 at 4:32 pm

    Thank you for your query. The introduction of Catholicism in the Philippines had a significant impact on local societies and cultures. How one understands these impacts depends very much on one’s interpretation of the historical record, and personal values, among other things. To learn more about historical sources for the study of Catholicism and its introduction in the Philippines, please contact Asian Division reference staff using this link: //ask.loc.gov/asia/.

  26. Bon dimdam
    November 1, 2021 at 1:18 am

    Want to know the six catholic congregation who went here in the philippines.?

  27. Joshua Kueh
    November 3, 2021 at 9:44 am

    Thank you for your query. To learn more about historical sources for the study of Catholicism in the Philippines, please contact Asian Division reference staff using this link: //ask.loc.gov/asia/.

  28. Jeri Mae
    November 10, 2021 at 4:08 am

    Hi!
    Can I ask, Is the first voyage around the world successful in Christianizing the filipino natives?

  29. Joshua Kueh
    November 10, 2021 at 11:00 am

    Thank you for your query. While the historical record on the expedition headed by Magellan that circumnavigated the globe (1519-1522) suggests that attempts to convert the local population on islands that are now part of the Philippines met with some success (if success is measured by outward signs of acceptance of Catholicism), it is probably hard to attribute the eventual spread of Catholicism in the Philippines to just the efforts of members of the Magellan expedition. The introduction of Catholicism and the conversion of local populations of the Philippines took place over a number of years, and had to take onboard local contexts.

    If you are interested in learning more about how local interests shaped interactions with Magellan and conversion to Catholicism, please see the following blogs:

    “Negotiating Empire, Part I: From Magellan to the Founding of Manila, 16th-18th Centuries” (//blogs.loc.gov/international-collections/2021/10/negotiating-empire-part-i-from-magellan-to-the-founding-of-manila-16th-18th-centuries/)

    “Negotiating Empire, Part II: Translation in the Philippines under Spanish Rule, 16th-19th centuries” (//blogs.loc.gov/international-collections/2021/11/negotiating-empire-part-ii-translation-in-the-philippines-under-spanish-rule-16th-19th-centuries/).

    To learn more about historical sources for the study of Catholicism in the Philippines, please contact Asian Division reference staff using this link: //ask.loc.gov/asia/.

  30. Unknown
    November 18, 2021 at 8:26 am

    Hi I just wanna known How does the Spanish missionaries spread Christianity in the Philippines?
    In what way they spread it?

  31. Joshua Kueh
    November 24, 2021 at 9:46 am

    Thank you for your questions on how Spanish missionaries spread Christianity in the Philippines. To my knowledge, religious orders (Augustinians, Franciscans, Jesuits, Dominicans), made up not only of Spaniards but also Catholic priests from other parts of the Spanish empire and the larger Catholic world, played a big part in spreading Catholicism in the Philippines. They started missions, hospitals, schools, colleges, and printing presses as part of their efforts to engage local populations. They also worked closely with local populations and their leaders. Given the relatively small number of priests in the Philippines in the 16th-18th centuries, especially outside centers of power like Manila, Catholicism was interpreted and spread by local intermediaries. To learn more about how local interests shaped conversion to Catholicism, please see the following blogs:

    “Negotiating Empire, Part I: From Magellan to the Founding of Manila, 16th-18th Centuries” (//blogs.loc.gov/international-collections/2021/10/negotiating-empire-part-i-from-magellan-to-the-founding-of-manila-16th-18th-centuries/)

    “Negotiating Empire, Part II: Translation in the Philippines under Spanish Rule, 16th-19th centuries” (//blogs.loc.gov/international-collections/2021/11/negotiating-empire-part-ii-translation-in-the-philippines-under-spanish-rule-16th-19th-centuries/).

    To learn more about historical sources for the study of Catholicism in the Philippines, please contact Asian Division reference staff using this link: //ask.loc.gov/asia/.

  32. Florante More
    December 10, 2021 at 4:17 am

    I am a local historian> I am interested to know if Doctrina Christiana was translated into Cebuano? When? Is there an existing copy? Thank much.

  33. Joshua Kueh
    December 23, 2021 at 8:47 am

    Thank you for your query. The copy of the Doctrina Christiana (1593) at the Library of Congress in the Spanish and Tagalog languages was published by the Dominican Order and is often attributed to the Franciscan friar Juan de Plasencia. There is another version of the work in Chinese compiled by the Dominicans who were ministering to the Chinese in Manila, and printed by Keng Yong, a Chinese printer in the Parián of Manila (a district set aside for commerce with and residence of the Chinese in the city). This version is undated and can be found in the Vatican Library. A third Doctrina Christiana in Chinese was written by the Dominican friar Juan Cobo and printed in 1593. While all three of these early printed works from the Philippines expound on Christian doctrine or teachings of Christianity, they differ from each other not only in language but in presentation and approach. A closer comparison of the three works is needed to draw out the connections between the texts. As such, the word “translation” needs to be applied carefully so as not to give the impression that the three works were renditions in different languages of the same content.

    With this context in mind, we can say that there are versions of the Doctrina Christiana in Cebuano, but these texts are not necessarily all translated from a master text that had previously been rendered into different languages. It would perhaps be helpful to think of books in Philippine languages with “Doctrina Christiana” in the title as works that draw on understandings of Christian doctrine by such thinkers as St. Augustine, and Fray Luis de Granada.

    With regard to tracing the history of texts on Christian doctrine in Cebuano, I would suggest consulting Alonso de Méntrida’s (1559-1637) work, “Catecismo de la doctrina christiana en lengua bisaya” published in 1630. A 19th-century edition of this work is available online at the Biblioteca Digital del Patrimonio Iberoamericano.

    As far Library of Congress holdings go, there is a Cebuano Doctrina Christiana in the Library’s collections: //lccn.loc.gov/84669692.
    To learn more about historical sources for the study of Catholicism in the Philippines, please contact Asian Division reference staff using this link: //ask.loc.gov/asia/.

  34. Jean Tabil
    February 10, 2022 at 5:49 pm

    In your readings, have you encountered if what was used by the spaniards during worship ceremonies as substitute to things from nature. Since filipinos worship things from nature,what was used by the Spaniards to susbtitute those?

  35. Joshua Kueh
    February 16, 2022 at 9:06 am

    Thank you for your query. There are several texts written by missionaries in the Philippines during the period of Spanish rule, such as Pedro Chirino’s Relación de las islas Filipinas (//lccn.loc.gov/12003111)
    published in 1604 and Francisco Colín’s Labor evangélica (//lccn.loc.gov/03022071) published in 1663, that describe indigenous rituals of worship and belief, of which there was some variety (not uniform). Among other things, these writers make reference to veneration of animals such as the cayman, as well as spirits of plants and places. While missionary writings provide glimpses of indigenous belief systems and worship of spirits related to nature, I have not come across mention of a strategy to substitute “things from nature” during Catholic ceremonies of worship. Instead, missionaries—who came from different orders and had different levels of theological training—sought to introduce Catholic doctrine and rituals, as well as their own understandings of Catholicism. For recommendations on holdings at the Library of Congress related to Catholicism and indigenous beliefs in the Philippines, please contact Southeast Asian reference staff using the Library’s Ask-a-Librarian service: //ask.loc.gov/asia/.

  36. Rhea
    March 14, 2022 at 1:55 am

    I have a question, the Spaniards came to the Philippines bringing their three objects:
    First chief aim: propagation of Catholic Christianity
    Second aim: Desire for gold/European wealth
    Third aim: Spain’s ambition to be the greatest empire in the world.

    ARE THERE goals were achieved during their more than 300 years rule in the country?

  37. Joshua Kueh
    March 17, 2022 at 11:22 am

    Thank you for your comment and query. In considering an answer, it might be good to think about the “when” and “where” of the question. For example, were Spanish agents successful in propagating Catholicism in the first 50 years of their rule as opposed to the next 50 or 100 years? Were missionary efforts effective in Manila and the surrounding areas as opposed to Mindanao? One might also examine the three aims you listed. For instance, was it Spain’s ambition to be the greatest empire in the world, and if so when and how did the Philippines fit into Spain’s conception of empire? Did Spanish rulers harbor the same ambitions during the reign of Philip II in the late 1500s as opposed to the late 19th century when Spain had lost most of its colonies in the Americas? I suspect that applying an historical approach to your question will paint a more complicated picture about Spanish aims, and whether they were achieved.

    The following blogs might be of interest to you:

    • Negotiating Empire, Part I: From Magellan to the Founding of Manila, 16th-18th Centuries

    //blogs.loc.gov/international-collections/2021/10/negotiating-empire-part-i-from-magellan-to-the-founding-of-manila-16th-18th-centuries/

    • Negotiating Empire, Part II: Translation in the Philippines under Spanish Rule, 16th-19th centuries

    //blogs.loc.gov/international-collections/2021/11/negotiating-empire-part-ii-translation-in-the-philippines-under-spanish-rule-16th-19th-centuries/

    For recommendations on holdings at the Library of Congress related to Spanish aims in the Philippines, please contact Southeast Asian reference staff using the Library’s Ask-a-Librarian service: //ask.loc.gov/asia/.

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