The Jesuits in Tigbauan, Iloilo

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National Historical Commission Plaque - Tigbauan, Iloilo

National Historical Commission Plaque - Tigbauan, Iloilo

Tigbauan history and heritage. While the Augustinian order was assigned general responsibility for Panay and Tigbauan in the 16th century, Rodriguez de Figueroa requested Jesuit, not Augustinian missionaries to minister to the residents of his extensive land holdings in Panay.  His holdings were an “encomienda”, a grant from the Spanish crown.  De Figueroa had the right to demand tribute and labor from the 2,800 inhabitants, but had the obligation to see to their spiritual needs.

De Figueroa was a very powerful figure in Manila and an early patron of the Jesuits. He was also a key figure in Tigbauan’s history.  He was born of Portuguese parents in North Africa.  Eventually he made his way to the Spanish colony of Mexico.  He came to the Philippines as a penniless young adventurer as part of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi’s 1565 expedition to plant Spanish colonies in the Philippines.  He rose in the ranks as he successfully carried out missions assigned to him by the Spanish authorities, including expeditions to bring the Moros under Spanish control.

De Figueroa’s Panay encomienda was called Tigbauan (“field of reeds”) from its principal settlement, fourteen miles west of the Spanish town of Arevalo.  The  Visayan population the Tigbauan encomienda were described as a settled, peace-loving, industrious folk.  The men were farmers, fishermen, and hunters; the women wove white and colored cottons called lompotes whose fineness and durability created a demand for them at the Acapulco (Mexico) fair.  Chirino writes of an encomendero, possibly Figueroa himself, who cleared 150,000 pesos in a few years by shipping his tribute lampotes on the Manila galleon.  Source: The Jesuits in the Philippines 1581-1768, H. de la Costa, S.J., Harvard University Press, 1961.  For a tribute to de la Costa, a remarkable Jesuit scholar, use this link.

Because de Figueroa was a powerful supporter of the Jesuits, Jesuit vice provincial Antonio Sedeno selected  Brothers Pedro Chirino (1558-1635)  and and Francisco Martin (1558-1620) for the Tigbauan assignment.  They arrived in Panay in February 1593. Chirino was an energetic and multi-talented figure in Jesuit missionary history. The pace and scope of his work in Tigbauan exemplifies his energy and competence.

First Chirino learned the local language, Haraya — which likely was a predecessor to modern-day Kiniray-a.  In a few months he produced a catechism in Haraya. Within months of their arrival in Tigbauan, Chirino and Martin had established a school for Visayan boys at Tigbauan in which they taught not only the catechism but reading, writing, Spanish, and liturgical music.  The Spaniards of Arevalo heard of the school and wanted Chirino to teach their boys too.  He replied that he could not leave Tigbauan to open another school in Arevalo. but he would be glad to have the boys come to stay with him in Tigbauan and go to school there.  The Arevalo parents liked his proposal, and Chirino at once put up (1593-4) a dormitory and school house for the Spanish boys near his rectory; the first Jesuit boarding school to be established in the Philippines.  (Source: de la Costa)

Professor Javellana of Ateneo de Manila University has suggested that the Jesuits were not really in present-day Tigbauan at all.  (See http://www.ateneo.edu/offices/mirlab/panublion/panay.html).  he says, “Although a historical marker of the National Historical Institute placed there in 1975, identifies Tigbauan with the town of the same name, there is no record of the Jesuits being in Tigbauan town.”  Javellana thinks it’s more likely that Chirino’s school was at Suaraga — present day San Joaquin, despite the fact that the National Historical Commission placed a plaque memorializing the Jesuit school in Tigbauan.  A close reading of Chirino’s extensive account of Jesuit activities in the Philippines; “Relacion de las islas Filipinas” might shed some light on the specific location of Chirino’s Jesuit school, especially if undertaken by a Spanish speaker with intimate knowledge of south Panay geography.   Until then, it’s too soon to deprive Tigbauan of its Jesuit history!  Certainly if a man of de Figueroa’s power and stature wanted Jesuits in his encomienda he had the power to do so despite any objections from the Augustinians.  Further, it appears that the Augustinians were not present in Tigbauan when the Jesuits arrived, Father Quiroga having departed in 1593.

It should be noted that Chirino was only in Tigbauan for a little over two years, arriving in February 1593 and leaving April 25, 1595, first for Manila and then on to a new assignment in Leyte.  In June of 1595, Chirino stopped in Arevalo on his way to  Leyte to let de Figueroa know that the Jesuit mission in Tigbauan would end.  Madrid decided to assign Leyte to the Jesuits and Jesuit “top gun” Chirino was needed there.

It’s unlikely that there’s any remaining physical evidence of the extraordinary efforts of the Jesuits in Tigbauan beyond the NHC plaque shown above.

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  1. Pingback: The Jesuits in Tigbauan, Iloilo | Philippines or Bust

  2. Pingback: goILOILO.com : Esteban Rodriguez de Figueroa and the Founding of Tigbauan, Iloilo

  3. Pingback: goILOILO.com : The Fabulous Spanish Heritage of Tigbauan, Iloilo

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