The Jesuits in the Philippines

San Ignacio Church after the Jesuits returned to the Philippines in 1859. The interiors was said to be one of the richest. It was destroyed by the Americans during WWII and is now in ruins.

San Ignacio Church after the Jesuits returned to the Philippines in 1859. The interior was said to be one of the richest in Intramuros. It was destroyed by the Americans during WWII and is now in ruins.

The Jesuits were members of the Compaña de Jesus or Society of Jesus and was founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola in 1534. They are known champions of education and the counter reformation.

The first Jesuits arrived in the Philippines in 1581, the third religious congregration to come after the Augustinians and the Franciscans. Leading the group was Antonio Sedeño, the superior of the group who is credited with introducing stone cutting and brick making in the country, and two others. A fourth one died during the voyage from Mexico. They accompanied the first Bishop of Manila, Domingo de Salazar, a Dominican and landed somewhere in Camarines and journeyed all the way to Manila.

In 1591, the missions of Taytay and Antipolo were established and the first Jesuit school in the Philippines was opened by Pedro Chirino in Tigbauan, Iloilo. With the additional Jesuit reinforcements, the evangelization of Samar and Leyte was started. A mission house was also established in Cebu. In 1601, the College of San Jose was established in Manila and in 1605, the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus was established.

Bosoboso Church in Antipolo City.

Bosoboso Church in Antipolo City.

In the 17th century, additional areas of evangelization were opened. The Jesuits started missions in Bohol, Silang, Indang and Maragondon in Cavite; Marinduque, the east coast of Mindoro and Mindanao. In the latter, they handled the western part while the eastern section was handled by the Augustinian Recollects.

The ruined church of the Jesuits after the explusion in 1768

The ruined church of the Jesuits in Intramuros after the expulsion of 1768. The area is now occupied by a university.

One of the most significant event for the congregation is the suppression and expulsion of the order, first in Portugal, then in Spain (including all her colonies) and eventually the world, in the middle of the 18th century. In 1767, the Spanish King Chales III expelled the society. The order reached the Philippines in 1768. All the Jesuits were arrested and deported to Spain and later sent to the Papal States. Their missions were handed over to the remaining religious orders in the Philippines, except for the Dominicans:

  • Leyte and Samar were turned over to the Augustinians and later entrusted to the Franciscans in the 19th century
  • Mindanao and the Visayas missions (Bohol, Cebu, Panay, Negros) were turned over to the Augustinian Recollects.
  • those in the Tagalog provinces were turned over to the Seculars.
Caraga Church in Davao Oriental is the oldest stone church in Mindanao

Caraga Church in Davao Oriental is the oldest stone church in Mindanao

It was only in 1852, in one of the short-lived restoration of the order in Spain, that the Jesuits were asked by the Spanish Queen Isabela II  to return to the Philippines and resume the evangelization of Mindanao and Sulu. In 1859, the six priests and four brothers arrived in Manila. With their return, the Augustinian Recollects were told to hand over all their missions in Mindanao to the Jesuits.

Jasaan Church in Misamis Oriental

Jasaan Church in Misamis Oriental

Except for a few parishes like Jimenez, all were given to the Jesuits. As compensation, parishes from the Seculars were handed over to the Recollects and, as they say, this apparent persecution of the Seculars eventually led to the Cavite Mutiny of 1872 and then to the anti-Spanish revolution of 1898.

The seal of the Jesuits from the pulpit of Maragondon Church in Cavite

The seal of the Jesuits from the pulpit of Maragondon Church in Cavite

The Jesuits’ seal consists of the monogram of Jesus: IHS, abbreviated  form of the Greek spelling. It is surmounted by a cross at the middle with three nails under it.

There are few existing churches built by the Jesuits and most of these are in Mindanao since after their arrival, they didn’t take back their confiscated properties and areas of evangelization (except for Mindanao). Most have been renovated by the other religious orders that took over after the expulsion. The Augustinian Recollects added several porticoes to the existing churches in Bohol.

As for the Jesuit built churches in Bohol, Leyte and Samar, which bore the brunt of the Muslim slave raids, most of the edifices here were fortress-churches that not only served as houses of God but also as refuge in times of danger.

The oldest stone church in Mindanao is found in Caraga, Davao Oriental was built by Fr. Pablo Pastells. The one in Jasaan, Misamis Oriental is still standing and it’s architecture is said to be based on the mother church, the San Ignacio in Intramuros. The latter is the only ruin left after the Americans bombarded the walled city.

The Jesuit House of 1730 in the Parian District of Cebu City

The Jesuit House of 1730 in the Parian District of Cebu City might be the oldest in the country. Date medallion is found inside one of the rooms of the house.

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20 Comments

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  12. Nice. Just a little comment: Jesuits are not friars like the Franciscans and Dominicans, so they don’t use the title “Fray”.

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