by Fr. Femilou S. Gutay, OFM

The OFM Franciscans arrived in Manila on July 2, 1577. Upon their arrival, the first fifteen friars were temporarily housed in the Augustinian convent in Intramuros. Then they finally moved to their own residence on August 1 of the same year. The next day they blessed their new church and placed it under the protection of Our Lady of the Angels. After a few months, they set off for the evangelization of the archipelago. In Manila, they founded Santa Ana de Sapa, Paco, Pandacan, Sampaloc, and San Francisco del Monte. With the arrival of more friars, the Province of St. Gregory the Great was finally erected on November 15, 1586. In the ensuing years, the Spanish Franciscans labored energetically in many places in the country. From their arrival until the end of the Spanish rule in 1898, the Franciscans were able to establish and/or administer 207 towns/parishes in the following areas: Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, Quezon Province, Isabela, Cavite, Batangas, Bataan, La Union, Ilocos Sur, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay, Albay, Sorsogon, BuriasIsland, Marinduque, Mindoro, Samar, and Leyte.

Aside from the founding of towns and parishes, the Franciscans also dedicated themselves to the establishment of institutions of charity such as the San Juan de Dios Hospital (1580), Naga Hospital of San Diego (1586), Hospital of the Holy Waters in Los Baños (1592), and San Lazaro Hospital – the first leprosarium in the Far East (1580). The Franciscans also excelled in the field of languages. Fray Pedro de San Buenaventura, composed the first Spanish-Tagalog dictionary (Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala) that was published in Pila, Laguna in 1613. The Bicolano-Spanish dictionary printed in 1745 was authored by Fray Marcos Lisboa. The authorship of the first book printed in the Philippines in 1593, the Doctrina Christiana, was attributed to Fray Juan de Plasencia. Fray Juan de Oliver wrote the first catechism on the 10 commandments in Tagalog. The first water system in Manila and free loan-banks (Montes de Piedad) were established through the efforts of Fray Felix Huerta, OFM. They were also involved in the building of infrastructures such as roads, dams, and bridges. Some Franciscans became bishops. Among them were Ignacio de Santibañez, first archbishop of Manila (1595); Luis Maldonado, first bishop of Nueva Caceres in Naga (1595); and Martin Maria Alcocer, last Spanish bishop of Cebu (1886).

By the year 1896, there were 275 Franciscans in the Philippines administering over a hundred parishes and mission areas. However, at the end of the Spanish colonial rule in 1898, many friars departed. By 1900 there were only 70 friars left. In 1905, the seat of the administration of the Province was transferred to Madrid, Spain. What was left was a Provincial Commissariat established to oversee the remaining ministries of the Spanish friars. On July 16, 1931, a seminary was opened in San Francisco del Monte, Quezon City for Filipino candidates. In 1948 only 23 Spanish Franciscans remained in the Philippines.

In 1951, the Italian Franciscans from the Province of St. Anthony in Venice opened a mission in Cagayan Valley. They were mostly composed of the friars expelled from China during the Communist takeover. In 1952, American friars from the Province of the Assumption of Pulaski arrived and took over some parishes in Samar upon the invitation of the Bishop of Calbayog. In 1956, another group of friars from the Province Sta. Barbara, California, USA, came to work in the diocese of Dumaguete. In the same year, another batch of American friars from the Province of St. John the Baptist in Cincinnati, Ohio, established their presence in Leyte and Biliran Island.

In 1962 the Our Lady of the Angels Seminary was founded. OLAS was built through the joint efforts of the foundations (Spanish, Italian, and American). One of its objectives was to develop the native Franciscan vocation and eventually establish an indigenous Franciscan presence in the country.

The increasing number of Filipino friars and the decision of other members of the foundations to work in the country led to the erection of the Vicariate of San Gregorio Magno on March 25, 1970. Thirteen years later, on January 25, 1983, the Province of San Pedro Bautista in the Philippines was inaugurated. On July 2, 2007, the Custody of San Antonio de Padua was inaugurated during a Eucharistic Celebration presided over by the Minister General himself, Jose Carballo. The Custody covers both Visayas and Mindanao.

Today, the OFM’s are ministering in different parts of the country. Province of San Pedro Bautista In Luzon, the Province of San Pedro Bautista takes care of the following: Integration Community in Baguio City; Parishes in Sta. Ana, Casambalangan, and Sta. Teresita in Cagayan Valley; Parishes in Palanan, Rizal, Santiago, and Sto. Tomas in Isabela Province; Caliat, Quezon, and Sta. Fe in Nueva Vizcaya; Santuario de San Pedro Bautista Parish in Frisco, Q.C.; San Jose Tagapagtanggol Parish in Commonwealth, Quezon City; Our Lady of the Angels Seminary in Novaliches; Our Lady of the Abandoned Parish in Sta. Ana, Manila; St. Anthony Shrine in Sampaloc, Manila; Santuario de San Antonio Parish in Forbes Park in Makati City, Sta. Clara Parish in Navotas, Malabon; Juan de Plasencia Novitiate in Liliw, Laguna; in the urban poor communities of the post-novitiate friars in Bagbag, Novaliches, QC and Commonwealth, Quezon City; Parish in Donsol, Sorsogon; Parish in San Andres, Catanduanes and the Poor Clare Monastery Chaplaincy in Katipunan, Cubao, Q.C.).

Custody of San Antonio de Padua In the Visayas (St. Francis School, Allen, N. Samar; Christ the King College, Calbayog City; Parishes in Tucdao and Kawayan, Biliran Province; Palo, Leyte; San Vicente Ferrer Parish and Custodial House in Cebu City, Franciscan Retreat Center in Minglanilla, Cebu; St. Francis College in Guihulngan, La Libertad, and Dumaguete City in Negros Oriental).


Early Franciscan Churches

The church was dedicated to Our Lady of Angels. The church has its advocacy as Our Lady of the Angels, the same name as the Franciscan mother church in Assisi, Italy. In the 18th century, the church enshrined the miraculous image of the Santo Sepulcro, for which San Francisco was noted.

San Francisco Church - Mother church of all Franciscan churches in the Philippines

The church was dedicated to Our Lady of Angels. The church has its advocacy as Our Lady of the Angels, the same name as the Franciscan mother church in Assisi, Italy. In the 18th century, the church enshrined the miraculous image of the Santo Sepulcro, for which San Francisco was noted. This church had a retablo-like façade. decorated with superpositioned Ionic and Corinthian columns. Windows, niches with statues, balustrades completed the design. The church as it survived to the 20th century did not have a prominent bell tower, instead, two protruding decorative piers flanked the façade. This façade was a departure from that built before 1727 which had a bell tower attached to the left of the church and whose ornaments were limited to around the central portal. The church was damaged by the bombardment of 1945. The shell remained until after the war when bulldozers tore it down. The Franciscans did not return to Intramuros, moving their central house to San Francisco del Monte where San Pedro Bautista had built a hermitage.

The Venerable Orden Tercera (VOT) Chapel

This building stood perpendicular to the bigger church and shared the same plaza. It was one part of old Intramuros that particularly gave the feel of old Spain. Venerable Orden Tercera (VOT): This was a church for the lay branch of the Franciscan or Third Order. The third order was established in Manila by Fray José de Santa Maria in the Franciscan convent in Intramuros. In 1618, a small chapel contiguous to the Franciscan convent was constructed for the celebrations of the tertiaries. In 1723, a bigger and more ample church was begun and completed a decade later in 1734. This church was consecrated in 1734 by Bp. Felipe de Molina, bishop of Caceres who himself was tertiary.

The church was dedicated to the Virgin Mary under the title Immaculate Conception. The church became the provisional cathedral after the 1863 earthquake. The remains of Simon de Anda were kept in this church after it they were transferred from the damaged cathedral, They were returned to the cathedral after it had been reconstructed. The church was damaged together with San Francisco in 1945. The tertiaries did not rebuild their Intramuros church but instead aggregated themselves with another band of Franciscan tertiaries in Sampaloc. The tertiaries of Sampaloc were originally established in Dilao, east of the walled city, in 1619. The tertiaries transferred to Sampaloc in 1783, probably after the village of Dilao was razed as a consequence of the British occupation.

In Sampaloc, the tertiaries built a small chapel in 1794 for their devotions. This chapel under the advocacy of the Virgin Mary under the title de Peregrina was replaced after the war with modern construction.

(This article is an excerpt from other sources, no copyright infringement intended) ​

The Franciscans founded churches in Manila, Laguna, Rizal, Bulacan, Albay, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, and Sorsogon. Among these Churches, only four original churches are left under the care of the Franciscans. These are the church of Our Lady of the Abandoned Parish in Sta. Ana Manila, VOT Church in Sampaloc, Manila, Santuario de San Antonio Parish in Makati City and Santuario de San Pedro Bautista Parish in San Francisco Del Monte in Quezon City.

Churches Founded by the Franciscans in Luzon

When the Franciscans arrived in the Philippines in 1577, they built a convent and church in Intramuros made of nipa, bamboo, and wood, It was inaugurated on August 2 of the same year and was dedicated to Our Lady of Angels. On November 5, 1739, the cornerstone of a new stone church was laid. This church was destroyed in the bombings of Manila during the Second World War. The statue of Saint Anthony of Padua in the courtyard was the lone survivor of the ravages of the war. The statue is now in the front yard of Santuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park, Makati, The former site of this Franciscan Church is now occupied by the Mapúa Institute of Technology.

Churches built by the Franciscans in the Philippines