The Jesuit Fr. Jose Arcilla is one of my favorite historians to read. A Premio Zobel awardee, his body of work is directed at reinforcing the Filipinos consciousness of their Spanish past. For this, he’s labelled by the likes of F. Sionil Jose, as hispanista.
There’s a long list of historians that wore the cassock in Philippine history.
The first ethnologist in the islands were of course friars. Padre Chirino’s descriptions of the natives way of life were among the most significant work in the field. Both Spanish and English historians would later draw from his writings. Padre Chirino’s work in the early 17th century was so important that it continued to be reprinted up until the late 19th century in Manila.
A curious book by Antonio Morga, “sucesos de las islas Filipinas” would be annotated by Rizal in 1890. The Filipino could have chosen Padre Chirino’s more scholastic “relacion de las islas Filipinas” which was published five years earlier than that of Morga but he did not. He intentionally eluded religious historians, favoring a secular history book for his book project. This manner endures to this day – historians and students would run to English text by American sources than putting the work in and examining older Spanish texts in our libraries and archives. Ironically, most of these English history books relied heavily on the works of the Spanish friars.
In the late 17th century, another great book was printed in Madrid by Padre Gaspar de San Agustin, “conquista de las islas Filipinas”. Another Jesuit, Padre Francisco Colin, penned “labor evangelica,” in mid-17th century. Then there was Padre Murillo’s book about the history of the Jesuit mission inthe islands. A historian from the early 1900’s writes, “no other religious order do we owe so much historical information as to the Jesuits. The scholarship and literary ability of the company have always been high.”
The list continues. Many early facts about Mindanao we would not have known without Padre Combes’ “historia de Mindanao y jolo”. The Jesuits labored to keep Mindanao Catholic, averting its complete conversion to the Mohamedan religion. One could make the argument that without the Jesuits that part of our state would ceased to be Filipino a long, long time ago.
Other important books are: Domican Padre Diego Aduarte’s “historia de la Provincia del Sancto Rosario de la Orden de Predicadores en Filipinas, Japon y Chine”, Padre Navarette’s “Tratados historicos, politicos, ethnicos y religiosos de la monarchia de china,” and Recollect Padre Juan de la Concepcion’s voluminous work “historia general de Filipinas.”
In early 19th Padre Joaquin Martinez de Zuniga finished “historia de las islas Filipinas”. A book collection packed with historical data, it’s close to a thousand pages! Padre Zuniga is highly regarded for his impartial writing.
There are so many works that came from the religious order that obviously were not mentioned here. I would have to spend days to put them all here! Most of the titles I named here are obtainable on line. My intention is for young researchers to have some form of a list to use. You would have to go to the archives before to see these works, now it’s available to be read anytime!
In order for us to comprehend Philippine history we have to delve deep into the memory of those who wrote about it after observing it. And there’s no better source than the chronicles of those intrepid friars who walked and lived with our ancestors during their time.