The Augustinian Recollects in the Philippines: From Birth to Bohol


The Philippines, “discovered” by Ferdinand Magellan for Spain in 1521, was officially incorporated to the Spanish Empire under King Philip II in 1565.  The King ordered an expedition, under the command of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, to the Philippines to conquer it.  The expedition left Mexico in 1564 and reached Cebu on February 13, 1565. With Legazpi were the first group of Augustinian Friars.  Hence, the evangelization of the Philippines accompanied her conquest.  The mission field in the archipelago was vast.  More missionaries were needed.  With authorization from Spanish crown, other religious orders were mandated to come to the Philippines:  the Franciscans (1578), the Jesuits (1581), and the Dominicans (1587).  In 1594 a royal decree of King Philip II ordered the assigning of the missionary orders in the Philippines to specific regions and provinces.  His representative, Governor-General Luis Pérez Dasmariñas, implemented this decree. The divisions of the archipelago among the above-mentioned religious missionary orders ushered a systematic evangelization of the Philippines.  However, lack of personnel continued to plague the vast Philippine mission responsibilities.


The Augustinian Recollects

The Augustinian Recollect chroniclers and historians declare the Philippines as the privileged endeavor of the Order’s apostolate.  In fact, the Philippine missions have been one of the main apostolic fields of the Order.  The question arises:  Why did the Augustinian Recollects come to the Philippines?  It is difficult to give a simple answer to this question. However, the following chronology of events will lead to some clarifications:

1590,1594 and


Within two to six years, respectively, after the foundation of the Augustinian Recollection (1588), the Philippines as a possibility had already appeared in the spiritual horizon among the early Augustinian Recollects.

Fr. Mateo de Mendoza, OSA, and Fr. Francisco de Ortega, OSA, the Prior of San Agustín in Manila, in their memorials, petitioned the King of Spain to send some Augustinian Recollects to the country to contribute to the revival of apostolic zeal of the missionaries;

However, lack of personnel, juridical structure still in the making, and struggling interior organization of the Recollection impeded the sending of  friars-missionaries to the archipelago,

King Philip II, although interested in sending the Recollects to the Philippines, died on September 13, 1598.

1603-1604 The Augustinian Recollects repeatedly petitioned King Philip III, through the Council of the Indies, for a royal permit so they could go to the Philippines and other mission countries.
December 23, 1604


King Philip III finally gave his approval and royal license to the Augustinian Recollects to go to the Philippines but with conditions: that the missionaries that would be sent by the superior should be men of “letters and age” [learned and mature]      (Bullarium I, 246-247).


April 1605 The second provincial chapter of the Augustinian Recollects was held in Madrid.

The provincial chapter approved the missionary enterprise to the Philippines “with unanimous consent” among the chapter participants who considered such apostolate as “Great Service to God”  (Crónicas I, 397-399).

July 12, 1605 A fourteen-member expedition (10 priests and 4 lay brothers) headed by  Fr. Fray Juan de San Geronimo boarded the ship “Santa María del Juncal” left Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain,  and arrived in Veracruz, Mexico on September 17.  From Veracruz they had to make the in-land travel to Mexico City and to the port of Acapulco where a galleon would bring them to the Philippines.
May 1606 The Augustinian Recollect missionaries left Acapulco on February 22.  The trip would last for more than ninety days. They made a stop-over in Guam for provisions. While crossing the Pacific Ocean, Fr. Fray Andrés de San Nicolás died. The Augustinian Recollects arrived in Cebu in May.   After a short rest they proceeded to Manila.

The thirteen Augustinian Recollect pioneers, upon their arrival in Intramuros, were temporarily sheltered in a small house until they found better accommodations in Santo Domingo (Dominicans) and in San Agustín (Augustinians).  Later the Augustinian Recollect friars were able to buy a bigger house in Bagumbayan (the present Luneta Park) with the money they obtained through mendicancy.

The first preoccupation of the thirteen Augustinian Recollect pioneers upon their arrival in Manila was to organize a common life as prescribed by the “Forma de Vivir.” Their new convent in Bagumbayan gave the missionaries renewed inner strength as they strictly observed their conventual and contemplative life but never excluding the apostolate.  Their small church also served the spiritual needs of the people living in Bagumbayan.  This modus vivendiwas a preparation for their first mission assignment in Mariveles (Bataan-Zambales) in September 1606.


The Augustinian Recollects Missions in the Philippines (1606-1768)

The official Augustinian Recollect historian, Rev. Fr. Ángel Martínez Cuesta, OAR described the early Philippine Recollect missions as follows:  (a) they were given the most remote areas to evangelize; (b) their missions were bereft of government support and assistance, (c) their visitasor mission bases were isolated from each other; and (d), their mission centers were often highly exposed to frequent Muslim incursions.

1606 September

Three Augustinian Recollects began their mission work in Mariveles, Bataan; other Recollects came and began evangelizing Zambales. From 1606 to 1618 Bagac, Subic, Iba, Masinloc, Casborran, Sigayan, Agno… etc. were established.


Eight Augustinian Recollects entered eastern Mindanao: 2 stayed in Tandag; 3 proceeded to Butuan and from there they reached Cagayan and Linao.


Four Augustinian Recollects disembarked in Cuyo Island in Palawan; other islands were evangelized – Agutaya, Dumaran, Linapacan; in 1627 Taytay was separated from the mission of Linapacan; Taytay was the first town founded in northern Palawan.


Romblon, Banton, Tablas, Sibuyan and other smaller islands were Christianized by the Augustinian Recollects.


The Augustinian Recollects received from the Franciscans the missions of Casiguran, Baler and Binagunan located in present Aurora and Quezon Provinces.


Seven Augustinian Recollects took over Mindoro from the secular clergy and founded other mission centers.


Three Augustinian Recollects took pastoral charge of the islands of Masbate, Burias and Ticao.


In Central Luzon the Augustinian Recollects took charge of Mabalacat, Pampanga and Bamban.


The Augustinians (OSA) ceded to the Augustinian Recollects the parish of Cotcot and its barrio of Najalin in Cebu. Between 1752 and 1755 the Recollects founded Danao, Cebu.


The Augustinian Recollects took the pastoral care of Mambusao (Alkan) and Batan (Capiz) in Panay.

In 1767, King Charles III of Spain issued a Royal Decree ordering that all Jesuits were to be expelled from the Spanish colonies. The royal order arrived in the Philippines in 1768. As a result all Jesuit missions were turned over to other religious orders or to the secular clergy.  Bohol was entrusted to the Augustinian Recollects.

1768: Nine Augustinian Recollects were designated by the colonial government to take over nine former Jesuit missions in the island – Jagna, Loay, Loboc, Baclayon, Dauis, Tagbilaran, Maribohoc, Loon, and Inabanga.

Eight Augustinian Recollects arrived in Bohol in 1768. The Recollect mission was headed by P. Fray Pedro de Santa Barbara. They were supposed to be nine Recollect missionaries assigned in Bohol. P. Fray Carlos de San Miguel, the ninth missionary designated to Inabanga, died in Mobo, Masbate, two months earlier.

The First Batch of Augustinian Recollect Missionaries and their respective assignments in Bohol:

P. Fray Pedro de Santa Bárbara Loboc
P. Fray Isidro de la Concepción Tagbilaran
P. Fray Juan de San Ignacio de Loyola Loay
P. Fray José de Santa Orosia Dauis
P. Fray Nicolás de la Asunción Jagna
P. Fray Julián de Santa Ana Baclayon
P. Fray Manuel de la Consolación Loon
P. Fray Carlos de San Miguel Inabanga



Martínez Cuesta, Ángel. Historia General de los Agustinos Recoletos. Volume I:  Desde los origines hasta el siglo XIX.  Madrid: Editorial Agustinus, 1995.

Ruiz de Santa Eulalia, Licinio.  Sinopsis Historica de la Provincia de San Nicolas de Tolentino de las Islas Filipinas de la Orden de Agustinos Descalzos.  Volume I.  Manila: Tip. Pont. de la Univ. de Santo Tomás, 1925.

Fray Emil Quilatan, OAR

Fray Emil Quilatan, OAR

Priest/Religious/Historian of the Order of Augustinian Recollects in the Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno.