Augustinian Recollects in the Philippines until 1898
The Augustinian Recollects were a part of the Augustinian Order who followed a more austere rule and were only recognized as a separate order in 1912. The first contingent, consisting of 13 Recollects (one died at sea), arrived in Cebu in 1606 before proceeding to Manila where they established their convent in Bagumbayan (now the Luneta). Eventually, this convent was demolished twice, first in 1642 because it was conisdered a threat to the walled city and second, during the British invasion of 1762. They were the last of the five orders consisting of the Augustinians, the Jesuits, Franciscans and the Dominicans to arrive in the country.
In 1622, Pope Gregory XV declares the Recollects a congregration and the Philippines formed one of four separate provinces under the patronage of St. Nicholas of Tolentino.
The first four religious orders were already asisgned their own evangelical fields that the Recollects were left with the often remote and inaccessible missions. In 1607, they took charge of Bataan, Zambales and western Pangasinan which were previously abandonded by the Augustinians and the Dominicans. In 1622, Bishop Pedro de Arce of Cebu requested and they started to evangelize parts of Mindanao and a year later, Palawan. In 1635, they exchanged their small mission in Negros with the islands of Romblon and in 1679, as an indemnification for giving back Zambales to the Dominicans, the Archbishop of Manila gave them Mindoro. The Recollects also took charge of Masbate in 1687.
Life in the missions was quite difficult due to the hostility of the natives, especially in the Zambales areas. The moro slave raiding problem in the remaining evangelical fields often made life harder that much blood was shed. In the 17th century, 20 religious died at the hands of these marauders. Even one provincial was captured and ransomed in Zamboanga during his yearly visit. But this difficulties also resulted in the molding of illustrious soldier-priests who took it upon themselves to protect their communities from these raiders.
The expulsion of the Jesuits in all Spanish dominions in 1767 (King Charles III’s order arrived in the Philippines a year later) resulted in the turn over of the Mindanao and Bohol missions to the Recollects.
The 19th century saw furher expansion of the missions. They got back Zambales as well as established their presence in Siquijor (1836). Their taking charge of Negros starting in 1848 was credited in developing the island’s economic success. They also made headway into areas near Manila which they have always wanted with the establishment of Las Pinas and Imus in Cavite. Further, with the distrust of the government with the Seculars, gave two parishes, Cavite Viejo (Kawit, 1851) and Silang (1853). They founded the town of Carmona (1856).
The return of the Jesuits to the Philippines in 1859 was one of the significant developments in this century for the Recollects. Their mission in Mindanao was in peril of being taken from them as it was decreed that the Jesuits, upon their return, will take charge of the spiritual administration of the island. Bishop Santos Maranon of Cebu in fact wrote the Queen of Spain in 1857 regarding his concerns and doubts with the efforts and resources of the Recollects to handle the then big plans for Mindanao. While there was no explicit mention of a full take over of the Jesuits, wherein it’s possible that a coadministration by both religious can be arranged as what happened before the Jesuit expulsion, what eventually came out was another.
Because of this perceived injustice, subsequent moves to repeal the decree proved insufficient. However, this prompted the government to indemnify, again, with the transfer of secular held parishes, around 20, in Manila, Rizal (especially the wealthy Antipolo parish) and Cavite as well as retaining their Misamis parishes. In 1872, the Cavite Mutiny saw the secular priests Frs. Gomez, Burgos and Zamora charged with sedition for voicing out persecution of the secular clergy.
The histories of the Augustinian Recollects, the Jesuits and the Seculars are very much intertwined and the political upheavals of the 19th century played a big role in the emerging nationalism in the Philippines culminating in the Philippine Revolution of 1898.