ARCHIVES

SOURCES FOR THE HISTORY OF THE FRANCISCANS IN THE PHILIPPINES

MARCELO DE RIBADENEYRA’S “FRANCISCAN HISTORY”

(Barcelona, 1601 is a foil to Medina’s / his chronicle is characterized by its tone of disillusion /. Ribadeneyra was an eloquent spokesman of the first generation of missionaries, who were inspired by a seemingly boundless optimism about the total success of the missionary enterprise. Ribadeneyra’s chronicle is invaluable for its account of Franciscan methods of indoctrination. Actually, both the optimism of Ribadeneyra and the pessimism of Medina were exaggerated manifestations. Subsequent chroniclers would take a more realistic view of missionary possibilities and accomplishment.


FRANCISCO DE SANTA INES , Whose work covers the period to 1600, does not add an unusual amount of new material about Franciscan activity. Juan de San Antonio’s three volumes, which bear a Manila print of 1738 – 1744, are more informative. Based largely on Ribadeneyra’s published work and Juan de LLave’s unpublished manuscript, San Antonio’s work has much detailed material dealing with resettlement and indoctrination methods. Like Santa Ines, San Antonio did not describe the 17th Century. The Franciscans Emphasis on the 16th century to the exclusion of the seventeenth century can only be explained in terms of events in Japan. They martyrdom of San Pedro Bautista in 1597 was the spectacular events that absorbed a good deal of the attention of the Franciscan Chroniclers. Domingo Martinez’s compendium (1756) attempted to fill this wide vacuum in Franciscan historiography by covering the whole seventeenth make it, however, one of the least interesting of the Franciscan sources.


Two extra-Philippine accounts throw considerable lights on Franciscan activity in the islands. They are Moarcos de Alcala’s chronicle of the Discalced province in Mexico. The former is useful for the Spanish background of the Philippines Franciscans. The latter also contains pertinent information, for the discalced province in Mexicobelonged to the Observant branch of the Order” (John Leddy Phelan, The Hispanization of the Philippines / Madison, 1959 /, pp. 199-200).


To the authoritative information of Phelan we would like to add the following details. Fr. Marcelo de Ribadeneyra was a close relative of Governor Dasmariñas, former Theology professor at the famous University of Salamanca, and arrived in the Philippines 1594. he went to Japan. Where he was imprisoned and finally expelled from the country, hence he retuned to the Philippines passing through Macao. In 1598 he traveled all through the provinces entrusted to the Franciscans, gathering information for his Chronicle. A special attention deserved the chapters devoted to the missionary methods of the Franciscans and the results achieved, especially in the Bicol region.


In 1970, the Historical Conservation Society published an English translation of Fr. Rivadenayra’s Chronicle. This laudable effort to make available to non-spanish readers the first printed account of the history of the Franciscans in the Philippines looses much of its value due to the extremely careless translation of the original Spanish. This is the more regrettable as Fr. Ribadeneyra’s work is the only source available to English readers who would like to know something about the Franciscans.

Fr. Sta. Ines’ chronicle, though written as early as 1678 and approved by the General Commissary of the Indies in the 1681, remained in manuscripts form until 1892.


Granting Mr. Phelan’s contention that Fr. Martinez” Chronicle is one of the least interesting for lack of details and some superficiality, its interest on biographical data might make it one of the friars during the seventeenth century. He wrote his Chronicle between the years 1705 and 1708. but it was denied the official approval of the Provincial Definitorium, and remained in the archives till 1756.


For the first years of the history of the province, the most authoritative source is actually Fr. Antonio de Padua or de la Llave’s Chronicle. Fr. Antonio arrived in the Philippines in 1590, as a valet of Governor Gomez Perez Dasmariñas, but two years later, probably moved by the fiery sermons and example of San Pedro Bautista, he became a Franciscan, changing his name of Gonzalo to that of Antonio. He wrote the first Chronicle of the province, on which most of the others are based as far as the first years of the history of the province is concerned. The main characteristics of Fr. La LLave are his objectivity and reliability. His accounts are also important for civil history due to his close relationship with Dasmariñas. Unfortunately, however he refused to have it published, and until now is kept in manuscript form in our Provincial Archives in Pastrana, Spain. The Biblioteca Filipina association had decided to have it published at the end of the last century, but the break of the revolution aborted its long overdue plan.


Franciscan and non-Franciscan historians are very familiar with two modern works that deal also with the history of the Province, namely Fr. Felix de Huerta’s Estados Geografico, published in the nineteenth century. It gives a short summary of all the towns founded or administered by the Franciscans at that time, a list of the main writers of the Province, Bishops, saints, superiors, etc.,etc.


Then we have the well- known Catalogo-Biografico, by Fr. Eusebio Gomez Platero, printed in 1880, in which a short biography of all the missionaries that worked in the Philippines from the Inception of the Province to the time of publication of the book may be found. Fr. Platero’s style is sobre, but objective and extremely reliable.


The most important and reliable author is Fr. Lorenzo Perez. Though the most modern of all historians of the Province, he was able to make ample use of the first hand sources not available to others, which enable him to tstraighten out many points no one ever questioned before, and bring out a series of extremely important documents that draw new light on entire periods of the history of the Province. He died in 1937 and his publications are scattered in a good number of Spanish as well as international periodicals, of which the most important is Archivo Ibero Americano.


Fr. Antolin Abad and Fr. Mariano Rubio, in a more recent times have also made valuable contribution to the history of the Franciscans in this country. Their publications have appeared in Archivo Ibero Americano, Espana Misionera, Missionalia Hispanica and other Spanish publications.


A considerable number of documents included in this collection have been taken from the monumental collectionThe Philippine Islands (1493 -1803), by Emma Helen Blair and James Alexander Roberson, in fifty four volumes (54)

 

 
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