Silang’s Early Accounts Part 1, The Jesuit Mission

Padre ChirinoA Jesuit priest recorded Silang’s early history as a colonial mission. The following paragraphs show some basic facts about Silang: location, population and general conditions. We can also get a glimpse of the mission’s perspective and justifications on the importance of Catholicism and their initial accomplishments.

A highlight of this first part is the account of a certain indio who accepts the new faith so profoundly that he became one of the early native catechists influencing his fellow locals through catechism and eventual baptismal. No name was made mention until towards the end by plain Diego. But I recall back in my high school days of a certain Diego Masanga- a hailed catechist and claimed the most faithful by the local church of Silang. I don’t know how people got his last name.

The following are excerpts, translated in English by Frederic W. Morrison of Harvard University, edited and annotated by Emma Helen Blair and James Alexander Robertson with historical introduction and additional notes by Edward Gaylord Bourne, in the book, The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898 Explorations by early navigators, descriptions of the islands and their peoples, their history and records of the catholic missions, as related in contemporaneous books and manuscripts, showing the political, economic, commercial and religious conditions of those islands from their earliest relations with European nations to the close of the nineteenth century, Volume XIII, 1604-1605, from the book Relacion de las Islas Filipinas written in 1604-1605 by Fr. Pedro Chirino, S.J. and published in Rome.

(Excerpt Part 1) The new residence of Silan and its Christians. Chapter LXXIX.

This new field of Silan was assigned to the Society of Jesus from the year 1599, as the people of those villages, among whom were some Christians, were without a priest to minister to them, although they were but a day’s journey from Manila. [24] There are five villages, which contain about one thousand five hundred inhabitants, besides the many other people who, as is their custom, are separated and dispersed through the country districts, in their cultivated lands.

These villages are in the tingues, as they call them, of Cavite, among some mountains; the climate there is very moderate, and in no season of the year is there excessive heat–rather, the mountains render it cooler. The people are simple, tractable, and well inclined toward all good things. The first members of the Society who went expressly to instruct them and to settle there were Father Gregorio Lopez and Father Pedro de Segura, who went in the year 1601. In previous months and years some of us had gone there for a short time, as we had visited other places, on a mission or by way of recreation; and by the friendly reception that they gave us and the results which, by Divine grace, were accomplished among them, we were encouraged to establish among them in that year a regular mission, stationing there the two fathers whom I have mentioned. Through the teaching and good example of those fathers they abandoned some of their evil practices, and applied themselves to the Christian customs with good will and pleasure; and many (for there were no Christians among them) received holy baptism.

Not only do they attend their own mass and sermon on Sundays (never missing one of these services), but on Saturdays they go to hear that in honor of our Lady, which is said for them with as much solemnity as that on Sundays. They were greatly encouraged in the observance of these masses and feasts by the following incident which occurred at that time: A woman, who was very eager to finish the weaving of a piece of cloth, sat down at her loom one Sunday to work thereon; afterward, upon returning to her task, she found the cloth all eaten away by moths. She herself made this known, with the full knowledge that it had been a chastisement and penalty for that offense of hers.

To assist us in instructing the large number of catechumens in those villages, and in teaching the doctrine to the innumerable children who assemble at the mission from all the settlements, our Lord provided for that work an Indian blind in body but truly enlightened of soul, who, with great faith, charity, and love for the things of God, instructs those who wish to be baptized, catechizing them morning and night in the church. He is so expert in the catechism that none of us could excel him therein. Consequently, they come from his charge marvelously well instructed; and, although he is blind, he is so watchful over the large number of catechumens in his charge, that he notes if even one person is absent, and reports it to the father.

The first time when he received communion, which was on the feast of our Lady, he displayed such profound respect and reverence that his body trembled while receiving the holy sacrament, and so great devotion that the sight of it inspired that emotion in others. This man deserves all the greater credit for what he is doing, for having gone from one extreme to another; formerly he was one of the heathen priests, whom they here call catalones, and now he has become a preacher of our holy faith. This he relates, while uttering fervent thanks and exalting the great favors and benefits which God has bestowed upon him.

[24] The present Silang is nineteen miles south of Cavite.