the franciscans and rizal – padre damaso Rizal and Franciscans

the franciscans and rizal – padre damaso
Rizal and Franciscans

by: Fr. Jose “Long” D. Gutay, OFM


I taught the subject “Rizal” at OLAS college few years back. Being a Franciscan, one of the most frequently thrown questions to me is why Jose Rizal made use of the Franciscans as the antagonists of his novels (Noli and Fili). In fact one such controversial villain in the novel is a Franciscan friar, the infamous Padre Damaso. Given the importance and impact of Rizal’s novels in the history of the Philippines, albeit fictional, I would think that many, including members of the Franciscan family in the Philippines, would probably ask the same question too. Please consider the different points that I have outlined below. I hope these would help the readers in coming up with possible answers. (Fr. Long Gutay, OFM)


01. Noli Me Tangere: A “Franciscan” novel?


Number of times mentioned in the “Noli Me Tangere”:


· Domincans – 18 x

· Dominican tertiary, St. Thomas, etc.- 5 x

· Augustinians – 6 x

· Jesuits – 4 x

· Franciscans – 155 x (in general, as individuals and as institution)

St. Francis of Assisi – 14 x

St. Clare – 11 x

St. Anthony of Padua – 5 x

St. Paschal Baylon – 3 x

· Noli Me Tangere is a Franciscan novel – in a pejorative (negative) sense.

· How Rizal portrayed the Franciscans in his novels:

1. extravagant way of dressing

2. fanatic and ignorant

3. immoral (sexuality)

4. enriched themselves by exploiting their parishioners

5. accomplices in some criminal activities

6. looked down by other religious orders in the Philippines.

7. Only positive trait – their sense of self-identity which makes them feel that they are different from other religious groups and their bond of solidarity.


02. Rizal’s personal knowledge of the Franciscans:


1. Rizal is familiar with the life of St. Francis; romanticized the saint’s life and example as seen in some of his works and letters.

2. His mother, Teodora, is a Franciscan Tertiary.

3. Must have met the Franciscans in Europe

4. Encounter with the Franciscan Missionaries aboard the ship “Melbourne” on his way home to the Philippines on October 18, 1891 – positive remarks and observations about the friars in the ship. Rizal, however, made some negative remarks about the Franciscans in the Philippines.


03. Irony:


1. Rizal’s limited personal encounter with the Franciscans in the Philippines.

2. Calamba was already administered by a native secular clergy (Don Leoncio Lopez, good friend of the family, personified by Padre Florentino in his novel Fili.)

3. He studied with the Jesuits (Ateneo Municipal de Manila) and Dominicans (UST).

4. The Dominicans owned the hacienda where the Rizal’s are tenants and administrators. They had problems with the OP’s regarding the land.


04. Possible Reasons:


1. Jose Burgos versus Joaquin de Coria, OFM

· Paciano (Rizal’s elder brother) was mentored by Fr. Jose Burgos (one of the 3 martyred priests – GOMBURZA) when the former was still studying in Letran.

· Paciano was responsible for Rizal’s political and ideological upbringing.

· Manuel Jerez Burgos, cousin of Jose Burgos, was teacher of Rizal at the Ateneo Municipal de Manila. Rizal lodged in his house during the early years of his stay in Manila.

· Burgos contributed some articles in the print media in Spain (e.g. El Eco Filipino newspaper in Madrid) exposing the abuses of the missionaries in the Philippines (cfr. “Secularization Movement”;). Friar Joaquin de Coria wrote some articles in the newspapers refuting his accusations.

· Fray Joaquin de Coria was a missionary in the Philippines.

· Paciano accused the Franciscan friars as co-responsible (c/o Joaquin de Coria) for the death of Gomez, Burgos and Zamora.


2. Marcelo del Pilar (author of “La Soberania Monacal”;) versus Fray Miguel Lucio y Bustamante, OFM

· In 1885 Bustamante, a Franciscan missionary, published in Manila a pamphlet entitled “Si Tandang Basio Macunat” where he criticized the natives for their indolence. He was parish priest of Tanay, Rizal. He was personified by Padre Camorra, parish priest of Tiani, in the novel “El Filibusterismo”

· Marcelo del Pilar wrote a satirical work against the friars entitled: “La Soberania Monacal” (Rule of the Monks / Friars) as a reaction against Bustamante’s work.

· Rizal was very much familiar with these works.


3. Political Reasons

· Rizal’s novels were primarily intended for Filipino readers in order to expose the problems of the colony.

· To create a greater impact on the Filipinos, Rizal must have chosen the Franciscans to represent the abuses of the regime because the friars were the most visible symbols of Spanish presence in the Philippines. It is very common that friars in brown habit (Franciscans) are always included in paintings or in any art work depicting the arrival of Magellan and his men in the Philippines. This is a historical error because it is a secular priest (not even a religious) Don Pedro de Valderama, chaplain of the expedition, who accompanied Magellan to the Philippines. He also said the first mass in the Philippines.

· The mission work of the Franciscans covered the most populous areas of Luzon (Laguna, Bulacan, Quezon and Bicol) that are close to the center, Manila.




While it is historically true that there were Franciscan friars who committed abuses during the whole duration of the Spanish colonization of the Philippines, it would be historically unfair to insist that they had a monopoly over these excesses. Other religious groups (Jesuits, Augustinians, Recollects and Dominicans) were equally culpable of the same accusations too. But again, why the Franciscans only in the novels of Rizal? Jose Rizal was an active member of the propaganda movement in Spain, “La Solidaridad”. One of the objectives of this movement is assimilation – that the Philippine colony be assimilated as a regular province in the Spanish Republic. In other words, the reformists or “ilustrados”, like Rizal and company (del Pilar, Jaena, Ponce, etc.) envisioned a Spanish-speaking “provincia de Madre Espana” in Asia. The truth is that the movement never intended to have an independent Philippines. This would be the objective of a later (revolutionary) movement of the worker and peasant class led by Bonifacio. Shouts of “viva la independencia” were heard from the “katipuneros” and not from the “ilustrados”. It was quite unfortunate that this revolutionary movement weakened after the execution its leader, Bonifacio, by the elitist faction of the KKK led by Aguinaldo. What would happen eventually was the reformists’ conciliation again with the colonialists in the Pact of Biak na Bato which resulted to Aguinaldo’s exile (trip?) to Hongkong. Another objective of the Propaganda movement was the expulsion of the friars (“fuera a los frailes!”;). Many members (like Rizal) of the propaganda movement belonged to families who were administrators / tenants / “inquilinos” of the friar haciendas (the OP’s in Laguna). They have also gained financially from these lands. They own the biggest house in town (e.g. the house of the Rizals in Calamba, the Aguinaldo’s in Kawit, Cavite). No wonder these families could afford to send their children to Europe for their studies. Who will benefit if the friars (owners of friarlands) are expelled from the colony?

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4 responses to “the franciscans and rizal – padre damaso Rizal and Franciscans

  • Floro Quibuyen

    Fr Gutay writes, Many members (like Rizal) of the propaganda movement belonged to families who were administrators / tenants / “inquilinos” of the friar haciendas (the OP’s in Laguna). They have also gained financially from these lands. They own the biggest house in town (e.g. the house of the Rizals in Calamba, the Aguinaldo’s in Kawit, Cavite). No wonder these families could afford to send their children to Europe for their studies. Who will benefit if the friars (owners of friarlands) are expelled from the colony?
    REALLY? The Calamba inquilinos and their kasamas were ruined by the Dominicans! Haven’t you heard of the evictions of 300 families and deportations of 31 Inquilinos from Calamba (1888-1890) as a result of the Calamba Hacienda case? In response for their PETITION to the government for a more fair and just contract between tenants/lesees and the Dominican corporation (which had been arbitrarily raising land rents, for example, from 45 pesos to 900 pesos, even with bad harvests due to draught, the locust plague, or financial loss due to the low global price of sugar), the Domincan order sued the tenants and got the courts and the military authorities to evict the tenants and deport their leaders like Paciano and the Rizal family and relatives. As a result, the Calamba farming community was destroyed, many fortunes ruined. This issue became a cause celebre for the nationalist movement and was one of the factors that triggered the Revolution of 1896. And it did not just happen Calamba. Something similar happened in Cavite and other haciendas in Central Luzon, Did you ever wonder why the Revolution broke out in the 8 Tagalog provinces? These were the provinces where the biggest and most fertile haciendas were located. If you have to teach Rizal, please get your facts right, and please desist from spreading the same lies that the Dominicans spread against the Calamba inquilinos over 1888-1890.

  • i_elman

    There was no singling out, Jose Rizal defined each Catholic Church daughters who taught idolatry in the Philippines, which way of worship will not liberate the Filipinos. Rizal is Padre Florentino. He is a priest in his own right, an Indio priest, how he considered himself. He continues to die, as he sees people like him who protest against the Catholic Church.

    “…our liberty will (not) be secured at the sword’s point…we must secure it by making ourselves worthy of it. And when a people reaches that height God will provide a weapon, the idols will be shattered, tyranny will crumble like a house of cards and liberty will shine out like the first dawn” – José Rizal

  • jose

    I think that the accusation of having the most profitable churches made against the friars, if proved to be true, can have an explanation;
    1 Studying to become a priest is long and expensive, so the reward should be to have an easy life. Priests do not have the vote of poverty as the friars have,
    2 Priest are in a certain way intellectuals. But there were not a lot of opportunities for learned men to get a living in a rural country like was the Filipines in XIX century (still less as they are specialised in theology and latin, which are useless in a civil society ). So, the competition were huge when a suitable job was to be fulfilled.
    3 Training and sending a friar to the Filipines – and to keep missions open there- was extremely expensive. By that time, the Spanish masons and liberals had taken away all the livelihood of the Catholic Church in Spain, so it is reasonable that they tried to get the money from wherever they could, among them the richest churches in Manila (again if this results to be true ).
    4 It could also be that the Spanish authorities were suspicious of secular priests, (el cura Merino, priest and mason, was one of the leaders of the Mexican revolt against Spain. He was a criollo) and preferred the regular ones, more controlled by their own leaders and by living in a closed community.
    5 The climate of the Filipinas, and their illnesses were fatal to the europeans, so it was a custom to send soldiers, politicians and churchmen to the Filipinas as a punishment with the hope that they pass away. Not only these brought masonry, liberal ideals etc but also some Padre Damasos to the Islands
    6 I suspect also that some of the attacs to the friars were that they wanted to steal their lands, as they already did in Spain.
    7 Catholicism was accused of the bacwardness of Spain, which has been proved to be completely wrong. Spain´s problems -as the Filipinas today- came from being an agricultural country, not an idustrial one.

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