Bunye: The Jesuits in the Philippines

Did you know that the Jesuits used to own that huge tract of land which later became the Makati commercial, business and residential district?

I came across this interesting tidbit in the new month of July during which the Ignatian festival is celebrated. This commemoration is observed in countries and communities which have been under the religious influence of the Society of Jesus, whose founder was St. Ignatius of Loyola. In 1540, Pope Paul III formally gave his approval to the organization and thence the Jesuits engaged in evangelization and apostolic ministry reaching, as of today, as many as 112 nations. Present-day main Jesuit involvements include education, research, cultural and social pursuits.

Pope Francis is the first-ever Jesuit elected as Holy Pontiff.

An online article based on the writings of Fr. Horacio de la Costa ( The Jesuits in the Philipines 1581-1768) and homilies of Fr. Jose Cecilio Magadia, SJ., presented a chronology of Jesuit engagements in the Philippines, as follows:

In 1581, the first Jesuits from the Province of Mexico arrived in the Philippines. In 1591, mission stations were established in Balayan, Batangas, in Taytay, and in Antipolo, Rizal. In 1593, the first Jesuit mission stations were established in the Visayas in Tibauan, Panay. There, Fr. Pedro Chirino opened the first school of the Society of Jesus in the Philippines. It was a catechetical school for natives. Later the school was expanded with an elementary school both for Spanish and Filipino boys. In September 1595, the College of Manila was opened in the Jesuit compound in Intramuros on Calle Real (later Calle General Luna). The College offered courses in grammar, philosophy, theology, and canon law.

In the same year, residences of Jesuits were established in Cebu, in Leyte, and in Samar and much later in Bohol and in Mindanao. The residential College of San Jose, attached to the College of Manila, opened on August 25, 1601. In 1605, just 24 years after the arrival of the first Jesuits, Fr. General Acquaviva made the Philippine Vice Province into an independent Province. By that time, the Province had 67 members who labored in one college of higher studies (the College of Manila), one residential seminary (San Jose), seven mission residences, and two mission stations.

In 1606, a novitiate was opened in Antipolo, but later the novices were transferred to the College of Manila. From 1622-1630, the novitiate was located in San Pedro, Makati, but in 1630, it again returned to the College of Manila. The novitiate building in Makati became a house of retreats and a villa house.

In 1668, the Philippine Province established a mission in the Marianas Islands. This mission later became a Vice Province dependent on the Philippine Province. By 1755, the Philippine Province had the spiritual administration of 80 parishes and missions in the Philippines and the Marianas, caring for a total population of 212,153 persons.

And then came the Suppression of the Jesuits from 1759 up to 1773. The Jesuits were serially expelled from the Portuguese Empire, France, the Two Sicilies, Malta, Parma, the Spanish Empire and Austro-Hungary. According to Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J., the Jesuits were unfortunately caught in the political crossfire among the Bourbon monarchs and were accused of being part of the royal controversy. Curiously, the Chinese Empire, the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia and the United States allowed the Jesuits to continue their work, while Catherine the Great even allowed the founding of a new novitiate in Russia.

In 1768, the Jesuits were banished from the Philippines, by order of King Charles III of Spain. Between 1769 and 1771, the Jesuits in the Philippines were transported to Spain and from there deported to Italy.

The possessions of the Jesuit Province were declared forfeit to the crown except the obras pias, which were maintained as ecclesiastical property but transferred to other religious orders.

According to a document sourced from Ayala’s archives, among the Jesuit properties confiscated was a huge parcel of land bequeathed to the order by a wealthy Spanish couple – Captain Pedro de Brito and his wife, Ana de Herrera. Under the Jesuits, Hacienda de San Pedro Macati produced an annual net profit of 30,000 gold pesos from the operation of an earthenware factory.

The property was auctioned off and changed hands several times until it was acquired in 1851 by Jose Bonifacio Roxas, who bought the property from Simon Bernardino Velez for 52,800 pesos.

At that time, it was considered marginally productive land since it was too far from Intramuros and the center of commerce in Manila. Roxas was an ancestor of the legendary Ayala-Zobel-Roxas clan, which 100 years later started to develop the property into the country’s premier business, financial, commercial and residential district.

It took three decades before Pope Pius VI corrected in 1814 the injustice to the Jesuits and restored the Jesuits to their previous provinces. But it took the Jesuits another 45 years to return to the Philippines. When they did in 1859, after 91 years in exile, they had to start from scratch.

One of the first acts of the Jesuits upon their return was to acquire a small private school (Escuela Pia, renamed Escuela Municipal, further renamed as Ateneo Municipal de Manila) which became the forerunner of the present day Ateneo de Manila University.

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