Tomás de Comyn.

The Former Philippines thru Foreign Eyes online

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are to be left, one in possession of the chief magistrate, another in
the hands of the governor of the respective town, and the remaining
one with the parish-curate. By the other measure it is declared, as
a standing rule, that no Indian, who may lately have been employed
in the domestic service of the curate, shall in his own town be
considered eligible to any office belonging to the judicial department.

On measures of this kind, comments are unnecessary; their meaning and
effect cannot be mistaken. I shall, therefore, merely observe, that
no untimely means could have been devised more injurious to the state,
to the propagation of religion, and even to the natives themselves. It
is, in fact, a most strange affair, that such endeavors should have
been made to impeach the purity, by at the same time degrading the
respectable character of the parish-curates, more particularly at a
period when, owing to partality and the scarcity of religious men,
it would have seemed more natural to uphold, and by new inducements
encourage the zeal and authority of the remaining few. This step
appears the more singular, I repeat, at a moment when, neither
by suspending the sending out of missionaries to China, and the
almost entire abandonment of the spiritual conquest of the Igorots
and other infidel tribes, inhabiting the interior of these islands,
have the above Spanish laborers been able to carry on the ordinary
administration, nor prevent entire provinces from being transferred,
as is now the case, into the hands of Indians and mestizo clergymen
of the Sangley race, who, through their great ignorance, corrupt
morals, and total want of decorum, universally incur the contempt
of the flocks committed to their care, and, in consequence of their
tyrannical conduct, cause the people to sigh for the mild yoke of
their ancient pastors.

[Friars bulwark of Spanish rule.] If, therefore, it is the wish of
the government to retain the subjection of this colony, and raise
it to the high degree of prosperity of which it is susceptible,
the first thing, in my opinion, that ought to be attended to is the
good organization of its spiritual administration. On this subject
we must not deceive ourselves. I again repeat, that as long as the
local government, in consequence of the want of military forces,
and owing to the scarcity of Europeans, does not in itself possess
the means of insuring obedience, no other alternative remains. It is
necessary to call in to its aid the powerful influence of religion,
and to obtain from the Peninsula fresh supplies of missionaries. As
in their nature the latter are essentially different from the other
public functionaries, it is well known they neither seek nor aspire to
any remuneration for their labors, their only hope being to obtain,
in the opinion of the community at large, that degree of respect to
which they justly consider themselves entitled. Let, therefore, their
pre-eminences be retained to them: let them be treated with decorum;
the care and direction of the Indians confided to their charge, and
they always be found united in support of justice and the legitimate

[Unwise to discredit priests.] Nothing is more unjust, and of nothing
have the spiritual directors of the provinces so much reason to
complain, than the little discernment with which they have sometimes
been judged and condemned, by causing the misconduct of some of their
individual members to affect the whole body. Hence is it that no one
can read without shame and indignation, the insidious suggestions and
allusions, derogatory to their character, contained in the Regulations
of Government framed at Manila in the year 1758, and which although
modified by orders of the king, are at the present moment still in
force, owing to the want of others, and found in a printed form in
the hands of every one. Granting that in some particular instances,
real causes of complaint might have existed, yet in the end, what
does it matter if here and there a religious character has abused
the confidence reposed in him, as long as the spirit by which the
generality of them are actuated, corresponds to the sanctity of their
state, and is besides conformable to the views of government? Why
should we be eternally running after an ideal of perfection which
can never be met with? Nor, indeed, is this necessary in the present
construction of society.

[Testimony in their behalf] If, however, any weight is to be attached
to imposture with which, from personal motives, attempts have been
made to obscure the truth, and prejudice the public mind against
the regular clergy; or, if the just defense on which I have entered,
should be attributed to partiality or visionary impressions, let the
Archives of the Colonial Department be opened, and we shall there
find the report drawn up by order of the king on November 26, 1804, by
the governor of the Philippine Islands, Don Rafael Maria de Aguilar,
with a view to convey information regarding the enquiries at that
time instituted respecting the reduction of the inhabitants of the
Island of Mindoro; a report extremely honorable to the regular clergy,
and dictated by the experience that general had acquired during a
period of more than twelve years he had governed. Therein also will
be seen the answer to the consultation addressed to his successor in
the command, Don Mariano Fernandez de Folgueras, under date of April
25, 1809, in which he most earnestly beseeches the king to endeavor,
by every possible means, to send out religious missionaries; deploring
the decline and want of order he had observed with his own eyes in the
towns administered by native clergymen, and pointing out the urgent
necessity of intrusting the spiritual government of these provinces
to the dexterous management of the former. Testimonies of such weight
are more than sufficient at once to refute the calumnies and contrary
opinions put forth on this subject, and at the same time serve as
irrefragable proofs of the scrupulous impartiality with which I have
endeavored to discuss so delicate a matter.

In a general point of view, I have alluded to the erroneous system,
which during the last few years has been pursued by the government
with regard to the parish-curates employed in the interior, and also
sufficiently pointed out the advantages reasonably to be expected
if the government, acting on a different policy, or rather guided
by other motives of state, instead of following the literal text
of our Indian legislation, should come to the firm determination of
indirectly divesting themselves of a small portion of their authority
in favor of the religious laborers who are acting on the spot. Having
said thus much, I shall proceed to such further details as are more
immediately connected with the present chapter.

[Ecclesiastical Organization.] The ecclesiastical jurisdiction is
exercised by the metropolitan archbishop of Manila, aided by the
three suffragans of Nueva Segovia, Nueva Caceres and Cebu.

The archbishopric of Manila comprehends the provinces of Tondo,
Bulacan, Pampanga, Bataan, Cavite, Laguna de Bay, Zambales, Batangas,
and the Island of Mindoro.

The bishopric of Nueva Segovia comprehends the province of Pangasinan,
the missions of Ituy and Paniqui, the provinces of Ilocos, Cagayan,
and the missions of the Batanes Islands.

That of Nueva Caceres comprehends the provinces of Tayabas, Nueva
Ecija, Camarines and Albay.

That of Cebu comprehends the Islands of Cebu and Bohol, Iloilo,
Capiz and Antique, in the Island of Panay, the Islands of La Paragua,
Negros and Samar, Misamis, Caraga and Zamboanga in that of Mindanao,
and the Mariana Islands.

The archbishop has a salary of $5,000 and the bishops $4,000 each. The
curacies exceed 500, and although all of them originally were in charge
of persons belonging to the religious orders, owing to the expulsion
of the Jesuits and the excessive scarcity of regular clergy, so many
native priests have gradually been introduced among them, that,
at present, nearly half the towns are under their direction. The
rest are administered by the religious orders of St. Augustine,
St. Dominic and St. Francis, in the following manner:

The Augustinians 88
The barefooted Augustinians (Recoletos) 52
The Dominicans 57
The Franciscans 96
Total 293

It ought, however, to be observed, that since the detailed statement
was made out, from which the above extract has been taken, so many
members of the religious orders have died, that it has been necessary
to replace them in many towns with native clergymen, as a temporary
expedient, and till new missionaries shall arrive from Spain.

[Dual supervision over friars.] The monastic curates are immediately
subject to their provincial superior, in the character of friars but
depend on the diocesan bishop in their quality of parish priests; and
in like manner obey their own provincial vicars, as well as those of
the bishop. They are alternately eligible to the dignities of their
own order, and generally promoted, or relieved from their ministry,
at the discretion of the provincial chapter, or according to the final
determination of the vice-patron or bishop, affixed to the triple
list presented to him. Besides the ordinary obligations attached to
the care of souls, they are enjoined to assist at the elections of
governors and other officers of justice, in their respective towns,
in order to inform the chief magistrate respecting the aptitude of
the persons proposed for election on the triple lists, and to point
out the legal defects attributable to any of them. On this account,
they are not, however, allowed to interfere in the smallest degree
with any of these proceedings, and much less make a formal proposal,
as most assuredly would be advisable if permitted so to do, in favor
of any particular person or persons in their opinion fit for the
discharge of the above mentioned duties. It is their obligation to
ascertain the correctness of the tribute lists presented to them
for their examination and signature by the chief of the clans,
by carefully comparing them with the registers kept in their own
department; and also to certify the general returns, without which
requisite the statements transmitted by the chief magistrates to
the accountant-general's office are not admitted. Above all they
are bound to affix their signatures to the effective payments made
by the magistrate to their parishioners on account of daily labor,
and to certify similarly the value of materials employed in public
works. Besides the above, they are continually called upon to draw
up circumstantial reports, or declarations, required by the superior
tribunals; they receive frequent injunctions to co-operate in the
increase of the king's revenue and the encouragement of agriculture
and industry; in a word, there is scarcely a thing to which their
attention is not called, and to which it is not expected they should
contribute by their influence, directly or indirectly.

[Allowances from treasury.] The royal treasury pays them an annual
allowance equal to $180, in kind and money, for each five hundred
tributes under their care, and this, added to the emoluments of the
church, renders the total proceeds of a curacy generally equivalent
to about from six to eight reals for each entire tribute; but
from this allowance are to be deducted the expenses of coadjutors,
subsistence, servants, horses, and all the other charges arising
out of the administration of such wearisome duties; nor are the
parishioners under any other obligation than to provide the churches
with assistants, or sacristans and singers, and the curates with
provisions at tariff prices.

[Need of more European clergy.] Finally, as from what has been above
stated it would appear, that as many as five hundred religious persons
are necessary for the spiritual administration of the interior towns
and districts, besides the number requisite to do the duty and fill
the dignities of the respective orders and convents in the capital,
independent of which there ought to be a proportionate surplus,
applicable to the progressive reduction of the infidel tribes
inhabiting the uplands, as well as the preaching of the Gospel
in China and Cochinchina, most assuredly, it would be expedient
to assemble and keep together a body of no less than seven hundred
persons, if it is the wish of the government, on a tolerable scale, to
provide for the wants of these remote missions. At the present moment
the number does not exceed three hundred, including superannuated,
exempt from service, and lay-brothers, whilst the native clergymen
in effective possession of curacies, and including substitutes,
coadjutors and weekly preachers, exceed one thousand. And as the
latter, in general unworthy of the priesthood, are rather injurious
than really serviceable to the state, it should not be deemed unjust
if they were altogether deprived of the dignity of parish curates,
and only allowed to exercise their functions in necessary cases, or by
attaching them to the curacies in the quality of coadjutors. By this
plan, at the same time that the towns would be provided with suitable
and adequate ministers, the native clergymen would be distributed
in a proper manner and placed near the religious persons charged
to officiate, would acquire the necessary knowledge and decorum,
and in the course of time might obtain character and respect among
their countrymen.

To many, a measure of this kind may, in some respects, appear harsh
and arbitrary; but persons, practically acquainted with the subject
and country, will deem it indispensable, and the only means that
can be resorted to, in order to stop the rapid decline remarkable in
this interesting department of public administration. Fortunately,
no grounded objections can be alleged against it; nor is there any
danger of serious consequences resulting from the plan being carried
into effect. In vain would it be to argue that, if the reform is to
take place, a large number of priests would be reduced to beggary,
owing to the want of occupation; because, as things now stand, many of
the religious curates employ three or four coadjutors, and, no doubt,
they would then gladly undertake to make provision for the remainder
of those who may be thrown out of employment. On the other hand, with
equal truth it may be observed that the inhabitants of the interior,
far from regretting, or taking part on behalf of the native clergy,
would celebrate, as a day of gladness and rejoicing, the removal of
the latter, in return for their beloved Castilian Fathers.

[Restriction of native ordinations recommended.] In case the ideas
above suggested should be adopted in all their parts, it may be proper
to add that an injunction ought to be laid on the reverend bishops
in future to confer holy orders with more scrupulosity and economy,
than, unfortunately, heretofore has been the case; by representing to
them that, if, at certain periods the Popes have been influenced by
powerful reasons not to insist on ordinations taking place in Europe,
as was formerly the case, very weighty motives now equally urge the
government to decline, in the Philippine Islands, paying so much to
religious vocation, and to relax in the policy of raising the natives
to the dignity of the priesthood.

[Moro depredations.] Long have the inhabitants of the Philippines
deplored, and in vain remonstrated, against the ravages committed
on their coasts and settlements by the barbarous natives of the
Islands of Mindanao, Basilan and Jolo, as well as by the Malanos,
Ilanos and Tirone Moros and others; and there is nothing that so much
deserves the attention, and interests the honor of the Captain-General
commanding in this quarter, as an early and efficient attempt to check
and punish these cruel enemies. It is indeed true that, in the years
1636 and 1638, General Don Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera, undertook in
person and happily carried into effect the reduction of the Sultan of
Mindanao and the conquest of the Island of Jolo, placing in the latter
a governor and establishing three military posts there; under the
protection of the garrisons of which, Christianity was considerably
extended. It is equally true, that on the subsequent abandonment of
this important acquisition, owing to the government being compelled to
attend to other urgent matters, the enemy acquired a greater degree of
audacity, and the captain-general in command afterwards sent armaments
to check his inroads. On one of these occasions, our troops obliged an
army of more than 5,000 Moros, who had closely beset the fortress of
Zamboanga, to raise the siege; and also in the years 1731 and 1734,
fresh detachments of our men were landed on the Islands of Jolo,
Capul and Basilan, and their success was followed by the destruction
and ruin of the fortified posts, vessels, and settlements of those
perfidious Mahometans. It is not, however, less certain that at the
periods above mentioned, the war was carried on rather from motives
of punishment and revenge, and suggested by a sudden and passing zeal,
than in conformity to any progressive and well-combined system. Since
then these laudable military enterprises have been entirely neglected,
as well on account of the indolence of some of the governors, as
the too great confidence placed in the protestations of friendship
and treaties of peace with which, from time to time, the Sultans
of Jolo and Mindanao have sought to lull them to sleep. Their want
of sincerity is proved by the circumstance of the piracies of their
respective subjects not ceasing, the chiefs sometimes feigning they
were carried on without their license or knowledge; and, at others,
excusing themselves on the plea of their inability to restrain the
insolence of the Tirones and other independent tribes. Nevertheless,
it is notorious that the above-mentioned sultans indirectly encouraged
the practice of privateering, by affording every aid in their power
to those who fitted out vessels, and purchasing from the pirates all
the Christians they captured and brought to them.

[A missionary's appeal.] Father Juan Angeles, superior of the mission
established in Jolo, at the request of Sultan Alimudin himself (or
Ferdinand I as he was afterwards unworthily called on being made a
Christian with no other view than the better to gain the confidence
of the Spaniards) in a report he sent to the government from the
above Island, under date of September 24, 1748, describing the
Sultan's singular artifices to amuse him and frustrate the object
of his mission, fully confirms all that has just been said, and,
on closing his report, makes use of the following remarkable words:

"When is it we shall have had enough of treaties with these Moros, for
have we not before us the experience of more than one hundred years,
during which period of time, they have not kept a single article
in any way burdensome to, or binding on, themselves? They will never
observe the conditions of peace, because their property consists in the
possession of slaves, and with them they traffic, the same as other
nations do with money. Sooner will the hawk release his prey from
his talons than they will put an end to their piracies. The cause of
their being still unfaithful to Spain arises out of this matter having
been taken up by fits and starts, and not in the serious manner it
ought to have been done. To make war on them, in an effectual manner,
fleets must not be employed, but they must be attacked on land, and
in their posts in the interior; for it is much more advisable at once
to spend ten with advantage and in a strenuous manner to attain an
important object than to lay out twenty by degrees and without fruit."

[Governmental lenience.] It is an undeniable fact that the government,
lulled and deceived by the frequent embassies and submissive and
crouching letters which those fawning sultans have been in the habit
of transmitting to them, instead of adopting the energetic measures
urged by the above-mentioned missionary, have constantly endeavored
to renew and secure the friendship of those chiefs, by means of
treaties and commercial relations; granting, with this view, ample
licenses to every one who ventured to ship merchandise to Jolo, and
winking at the traffic carried on by the governors of the fortress of
Zamboanga with the people of Mindanao; whilst the latter, on their
part, sporting with our foolish credulity, have never ceased waging
a most destructive war against us, by attacking our towns situated
on the coast, not even excepting those of the Island of Luzon. They
have sometimes carried their audacity so far as to show themselves
in the neighborhood of the capital itself, and at others taken up
their temporary residence in the district of Mindoro and in places
of the jurisdictions of Samar and Leyte; and in short, even dared
to form an establishment or general deposit for their plunder in the
Island of Buras, where they quietly remained during the years 1797,
1798 and 1799 to the great injury of our commerce and settlements.

[Authority for war not lacking.] This want of exertion to remedy evils
of so grievous a nature is the more to be deplored as the Philippine
governors have at all times been fully authorized to carry on war,
and promote the destruction of the Moros, under every sacrifice, and
especially by the royal orders and decrees of October 26, and November
1, 1758, and July 31, 1766, in all of which his majesty recommends,
in the most earnest manner, "the importance of punishing the audacity
of the barbarous infidels, his majesty being desirous that, in order
to maintain his subjects of the Philippines free from the piracies and
captivity they so frequently experience, no expenses or pains should
be spared; it being further declared, that as this is an object deeply
affecting the conscience of his majesty, he especially enjoins the
aforesaid government to observe his order; and finally, with a view
to provide for the exigencies arising out of similar enterprises,
the viceroy of New Spain is instructed to attend to the punctual
remittance, not only of the usual "situado," or annual allowance,
but also of the additional sum of $70,000 in the first and succeeding
years, etc." In a word, our monarchs, Ferdinand VI and Carlos III,
omitted nothing that could in any way promote so important an object;
whether it is that the governors have disregarded such repeated orders
from the sovereigns, or mistaken the means by which they were to be
carried into effect, certain it is that the unhappy inhabitants of
the Philippines have continued to be witnesses, and at the same time
the victims of the culpable apathy of those who have successively
held the command of these Islands within the last fifty or sixty years.

[Native efforts for self-defence.] Abandoned therefore to their own
resources, and from time to time relieved by the presence of a few
gunboats which, after scouring the coasts, have never been able
to come up with the light and fast sailing vessels of the enemy,
the inhabitants of our towns and settlements have been under the
necessity of intrenching and fortifying themselves in the best way
they were able, by opening ditches and planting a breastwork of stakes
and palisades, crowned with watch towers, or a wooden or stone castle;
precautions which sometimes are not sufficient against the nocturnal
irruptions and robberies of the Moros, more especially when they come
with any strength and fire-arms, in general scarce among the natives.

[Moro piratical craft.] The pancos, or prows, used by the Moros, are
light and simple vessels, built with numerous thin planks and ribs,
with a small draft of water; and being manned by dexterous rowers,
they appear and disappear from the horizon with equal celerity, flying
or attacking, whenever they can do it with evident advantage. Some
of those vessels are large, and fitted out with fifty, a hundred,
and sometimes two hundred men. The shots of their scanty and defective
artillery are very uncertain, because they generally carry their guns
suspended in slings; but they are to be dreaded, and are extremely
dexterous in the management of the campilan, or sword, of which they
wear the blades long and well tempered. When they have any attack
of importance in view, they generally assemble to the number of
two hundred galleys, or more, and even in their ordinary cruises,

Online LibraryTomás de ComynThe Former Philippines thru Foreign Eyes → online text (page 36 of 54)