It all started when Padre Pedro Garcia was commissioned by Rome to make a visitation of the Philippine vice province. He left Acapulco in 16 March 1599 and arrived in Manila in 17 June. Garcia was a good choice for the important task of permanently organizing the work of the vice-province. Garcia joined the Society in 1572 while a student of the University of Alcala and went as a missionary in Peru in 1577. Two years later he went to Mexico for a visitation with Juan de la Plaza. When the latter was appointed Provincial of Mexico, Garcia stayed as his secretary.
Garcia’s arrival in the Philippines led to many innovative forms of evangelizing. He strengthened sodalities as the preferred from of lay associations and used drawings reproduced by woodblock to be distributed to the people. Although Garcia received instructions not to accept any new missions until further order, he was not able to refuse Silang, a town in the uplands of Cavite with four subordinate villages and a population of 1500. Silang belonged to an encomienda of Diego Jorge de Villalobos and was under the spiritual care of the Franciscans until 1598 when they were compelled to give it up. In doing so, the Franciscans suggested to Villalobos that he invite the Jesuits to take it over.
Prat being in the Visayas at the time, Tibera, the Rector of the College of Manila, accepted it in his name in the understanding that the vice-province would not be obliged to take effective possession of it until the missionaries became available. On 8 May 1599 the cathedral chapter of Manila sede vacante formally entrusted Silang to the Jesuits.
Garcia felt himself compelled to honor this engagement, and after sending Chirino and Scelsi to Silang on a temporary mission in January 1601, appointed Gregorio Lopez and Pedro de Segura as resident missionaries later the same year. The Jesuits found that their Franciscan predecessors had been conducting a school at Silang in which there were three classes: those who were learning as altar boys in the highest class, those learning to read in the middle class and those learning the catechism in the lowest class.
They retained this division but took in more boys and girls in the catechism class and divided it into grades according to the parts of the catechism they also opened a class for adult catechumens, in the conduct of which they received valuable assistance from an ex-katalonan, Diego Magsanga, who though blind became the best catechist.
In 1610, the Society had 7 residences: Antipolo, Silang, Bohol, Carigara, Dulag-Dagami, Tinagon-Catbalogan and Palapag. While valiant efforts have been made to keep the mission residences at the minimum strength of six, actual distribution of manpower was below the expected. Silang had 2 Jesuits in 1610, 3 in 1612, 6 in 1618, 5 in 1621, 7 in 1624, 6 in 1630, 3 in 1636 and 1643, 5 in 1646 and 1649 and back to 2 in 1651.
Silang also did not escape from the typical story of excessive harashness of the clergy. It was noted in Father Valerio de Ledesma’s visitation of the province that Pedro de Segura had so antagonized the people of Silang that Ledesma was forced to remove him. He accounted, ” It cost me many tears and exhortations to pour oil on the troubled waters stirred up by the personality and procedures of Father Pedro de Segura.”
Still under the administration of Ledesma as Jesuit provincial, humane efforts were rendered to the natives when it comes to salary. Ledesma certified requisitions made during the period of 1610-1617 that the government owed the Tagalog towns spiritually administered by the Society, namely: Antipolo, Santiago, Taytay, San Miguel, Silang and Indang the some of 8,030 pesos. In addition to the 6,643 pesos, which the towns spent to pay the wages of the laborers drafted by the government and to purchase the requisitioned articles whuch they (government) did not produce. Ledesma explained to the government that the towns had to pay these wages in addition to the wages fixed by the government; the reason is “because no one can be found to come and work for the wages which the royal treasury has fixed for the native labor. Hence the native to whom your Majety’s pays one peso per month is usually paid four pesos in addition by the town from which he comes, in order that he might be able to maintain himself and his family during his period of service.”
To be continued…
From de la Costa, H., S.J. The Jesuit in the Philippines 1581-1768