Silang’s Early Accounts Part 2, The Mission Experience
From the first part, the local people of Silan was described as simple, tractable, and well inclined toward all good things and they easily converted them to Christianity. However, it was not that easy. The missionaries had to endure the harsh tropical and terrain conditions of their mission not to mention the occurrence of pestilence. Remarkably, such bad fate was instrumental in making more converts. Could the Jesuits cured them all through prayer? That we don’t know. But the repeated “joyful welcome” as they enter village after village was a positive sign.
It is also interesting to note that there were areas in Silang like Malabag and Balite already existing and even today still bear the same names. But, where are now the areas of Dinglas and Caibabayan as mentioned in the following text?
The following are excerpts, translated in English by FW Morrison of Harvard University, edited and annotated by EH Blair and JA Robertson in the book, The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898 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 2) The new residence of Silan and its Christians. Chapter LXXIX.
The increase of this mission has been very great, although it requires arduous labors on the part of the fathers, who have been obliged to go forth among mountains and rugged cliffs seemingly inaccessible; for they go to seek the people in their huts and grain-fields, where it seems as if the devil, in order to deprive them of instruction and gospel truth, had persuaded them to seek wild and rugged places which can be reached only with the greatest difficulty. In this work the fathers have spent the greater part of their time, and have gathered into settlements (to the consolation of their own souls) a great number of people, of all classes. Old persons who seemed the living and fearful images of death, men, women, and tender little children, of all ages, have in this way become acquainted with gospel truth; and as they see that we act disinterestedly in all things, even aiding them in our poverty, they are attracted to us, and soon are ranked in the number of the faithful.
The fathers have succored them in their sickness; and during a pestilence which was prevalent in one of the places visited from this mission, they went there twice to confess the people, although the distance was great, and the roads so difficult that in the going to that one place one must go through nine or ten precipitous ravines, to pass which, as it was then the rainy season, they must walk barefoot, the mud in many places being knee-deep. The fathers heard the confessions of all the sick, some of whom our Lord soon took to Himself. While returning from this village the father passed through a little hamlet of Christians not dependent on this mission, which lay within some very rugged ravines; and among all its people there was not one who had in all his life made confession. They welcomed the father with great joy, going more than a quarter of a legua out of the village to meet him; and when he departed from the village they accompanied him to a like distance. He heard the confessions of some, and all were desirous of removing to our mission-village; they put this desire into execution, at the end of four months, by breaking up the entire village, and proceeding with their families to Silan. This and other beneficial results from that residence of Silan are well described by Father Gregorio Lopez in a letter written by him for the father-visitor, thus:
“Early in my stay there, the people told me that in Caibabayan was a catalona, or priestess; and in order to cut the thread of evil, and to gain a knowledge of those distant fields and peoples, I went thither, desiring to act toward them as a father rather than as a judge; and the Lord, who is the true Father of all, fulfilled my desire. Finding no present evil, but only the report of past things, I sought to reestablish the reputation of the person whom they defamed. I found in one of the most distant fields, an old man about seventy years of age, who was crippled and had been sick for days. I baptized him, giving him the name of Ignacio, and invited many others who had not even been baptized–encouraging in them the desire for so great a good, helping them to learn what was necessary, to which they commonly give attention. Word was sent from one to another among those mountains and plantations, and those people followed me about with tokens of love and offered to entertain me. Afterward were baptized there many persons of all ages–children, youths, and old men.
A few days ago I was informed that in the villages of Malabag, Balete, and Dinglas there were many sick persons who needed help. I set out in the morning after saying mass, thinking to return in the evening; but when I arrived there and saw the needy condition of the people, I changed my plan, for I found in Malabag many sick persons. After I had cared for them I heard the confessions of many who were infirm and old, and those who wished to guard against the malady which was attacking many of them–and perhaps not a few that they might profit, at little cost, by the presence of the new confessor in their village. I passed on to Balete and found that it had become a hospital. I went through all the houses to hear confessions, but could not finish them on that day; so I continued this task on the following day, and then went to Dinglas, where I found the same needs.
All, both the sick and those in health, were greatly consoled by my visit; and finally I returned to Silang in the night, with the fiscal and others, who accompanied me. I had occasion to make other and shorter trips among the plantations in the vicinity of Silang, as they contained sick persons who were in need; I also desired to ascertain what houses and persons were in those country districts. Moreover, I thus did something to further my plan of removing them to the village and to have them carry thither their rice and their little possessions, desiring to accomplish what your Reverence so desires, and which is so expedient for the proper instruction of those people.
The great activity and solicitude of the father, who is my companion, was of great value to me in this as in all other matters; and the coming of the father rector and Father Diego Sanchez, who assisted us here until Lent, was most valuable, adding more energy and ability to our forces, and consoling and encouraging those people with suitable instruction.