DAGUPAN City, Pangasinan, Jan, 23, 2015—In keeping with the ongoing Year of Consecrated Life celebrated by the Universal Church, the head of the country’s bishops takes the opportunity to pay tribute to the “selfless men and women” who had “lived Christ and shared Christ,” bringing the Christian faith to the country, and contributed much to development of what is now known as Filipino culture, proving there is more to Philippine history under Spain than Padre Dámaso.
The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, quotes Papal Legate Cardinal Ildebrando Antoniutti in a recent pastoral exhortation as saying, “To each and every one of these men and women, ‘known or unknown,’ the Church devotes a grateful and heartfelt thought, as does also the fatherland which they helped to establish.”
Besides their task of making God known to the locals, the prelate acknowledges the contributions of religious congregations to Philippine life, describing their legacy as “staggering.”
“As the Church in the Philippines looks to the fifth centenary of its evangelization, we feel gratitude for the legacy left by so many bishops, priests and religious of past generations. They labored not only to preach the Gospel and build up the Church in this country, but also to forge a society inspired by the Gospel message of charity, forgiveness and solidarity in the service of the common good,” Villegas states, borrowing Pope Francis’ message to the Filipino clergy and religious.
“Histories of peoples were written down or may be gleaned through neatly kept canonical books, records of income and expenses, and inventories of church goods and property, all of which were dutifully turned over by every incoming and outgoing personnel and kept in archives and libraries,” he shares.
Villegas notes members of religious congregations were sent as emissaries to foreign countries such as Japan, China, Cambodia, and Thailand, contributed to the defence of the islands against pirates and slave-raiders, helped in pacifying revolts, and helped during natural calamities like famines, wars, plagues, floods, earthquakes, and typhoons.
According to him, the arts and sciences flourished under their care, saying, “In terms of cultural heritage alone, the country is the richer not just for solid and artistic churches and conventos but also schools, hospitals, orphanages, leprosaria, dams, fortresses, watchtowers streets, bridges, plazas, and even marketplaces like the market of Baclayon, Bohol and town halls like the tribunal of Paoay, Ilocos Norte.”
Introducers of technology
He adds, “Philippine languages were preserved in grammars and dictionaries. Local plants were documented and promoted for their medicinal and economic value. The Augustinians introduced the European-style weaving loom, and brought in trapiches from Mexico to extract sugar. As early as 1669, the Franciscans had introduced a hemp-stripping machine in Bacon, Sorsogon which presaged Bicol’s abaca industry.”
The prelate explains explorations of new territories were possible because of maps printed in the presses the religious orders established.
“The Villaverde Trail opened a route that connected Pangasinan with Nueva Vizcaya via the Caraballo mountains (1890s). The most famous Philippine map is that by the Jesuit Pedro Murillo Velarde, printed by Filipino engravers in Manila in 1734. The Dominicans established a printing press in 1593, the present UST Publishing House, possibly the second oldest running publishing house in the world,” he says.
Villegas also lauds the Jesuit Meteorological Observatory which was founded in 1869, and pioneered in predicting tropical disturbances.
“In Minuluan (now Talisay) Negros Occidental, Fr. Fernando Cuenca OAR promoted the sugar industry by inventing the hydraulic pressing machine for milling cane in 1872. Electricity and Edison’s phonograph were introduced through the University of Santo Tomas in 1880. Fr. Felix Huertas, OFM facilitated the realization of the water supply for Manila in 1882,” he adds. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)