ON the morning of May 19, 1768, after 187 years, Jesuit missionary work in the Philippine Islands was finished. The Pragmatic Sanction of Charles III was put into effect and 148 Jesuits were prepared for the long return voyage to Europe and exile from the King's domains.
There were very strong accusations leveled against the society, which from the Spanish crown's point of view, were serious enough to expel them from Spanish territories and colonies. They were charged that they preached against the government and that the Jesuit Provincial had maintained illicit communication with the English general during their occupation of Manila.
These charges were by no means the deciding reasons for their expulsion. The decision to do so was based upon a different set of circumstances.
That they had preached against government abuses in the colonies, particularly those perpetrated against the natives, were clear enough. In fact, it was not just the Jesuits who used the pulpit to criticize Spanish civilian authorities. Other orders did as well.
But the last straw seem to be the sermons preached in Manila in 1765 by the Jesuit, Fr. Francisco Puig. These were a series of lenten tirades delivered in the church attached to the Colegio de Manila. It was just a matter of time before these reached the royal ears in Spain.
A few months after the expulsion orders were signed, a commander of the royal navy, Don Pablo Verdote, took charge of rounding up the Jesuits in Leyte and conveying them to Manila. The first residencia to be closed was that of Ormoc. In his report, he wrote:
"On October 4, I sailed the transport under my command into Ormoc Bay. On the 5th I went ashore at the town of Ogmuk. I had with me the Reverend Father Fray Francisco Martinez of the Order of St. Agustin. Upon reaching the residence of the reverend father missionary of the town, I sent for the petty governor, his officials and the principal citizens. When they were all assembled in the house in the presence of the said Jesuit father (Luis Secanell), I read to them the decree of the King our lord and caused it to be translated in their language. Their unanimous reply was that they obeyed and accepted the royal orders of His Majesty. I then proceeded to make an inventory of the gold and silver vessels and the arms belonging to the church of the said town in the presence of the above-mentioned persons, who have affixed their signatures below."
The procedure was repeated all over the islands in the Jesuit residences. Status of the Jesuit missions
At the time of their expulsion, the Jesuits had three residences (or centers) in Leyte: Dagami, Carigara and Hilongos. Under these were the parishes of Palo, Burauen, Basey, Dulag, Balangiga, Tanauan, Alangalang, Jaro, Barugo, Ormoc, Baybay, Palompon, Sogod, Hinundayan, Cabalian and Maasin. Although Basey and Balangiga were part of Samar island, the Jesuits included these because of their sizes and proximity.
Fray Agustin Maria de Castro, one of the Agustinians sent over to Leyte to replace the Jesuits, wrote that Leyte at that time already had 11,000 tax-paying residents. This was under the diocese of Cebu eccleciastically, but politically under Catbalogan.
De Castro's description of the parishes was very brief.
He said 10 of these towns already had stone churches in their varying degrees of completion. These were the towns of Palompon, Ormoc, Cabalian, Dulag, Tanauan, Palo, Dagami,Carigara and Barugo. In Palompon, the church was buttressed by artillery pieces in defense against the pirates. Here, the Spaniards were said to be collecting taxes from people who were very poor.
Ormoc's stone church was unfinished. Like Palompon, it possessed a sea port well-defended from pirates.
Hilongos had stone walls and artillery pieces surrounding the church. A large portion of these stone walls and watch tower are still intact.
Maasin during this period was still a visita. It had no church or houses for storage of provisions but instead maintained a small baluarte (light fortifications) with artillery pieces of medium bores, evidently to ward off Muslim attacks.
In the Pacific side of the island, the town of Cabalian had a baluarte made of stone armed with small artillery.
Like Cabalian, the town of Dulag also faced a "very dangerous portion of the coast". By this time, Dulag already had a church, rectory and well-armed and fortified walls of stone. Because of these, Muslim pirates never succeeded in their invasion despite several attempts.
Tanauan with some 700 taxpayers, had a church, rectory and fortifying walls all made of stones, well stocked with military and logistic provisions.
To the north of Tanauan was the town of Palo, with some 700 taxpayers. Its church dedicated to the Transfiguration was "beautiful and richly decorated with wrought silver and frills".
The rectory was also " good and the surrounding stone walls ... well-equipped with arms."
In the interior part of Leyte was Dagami, with also about 700 taxpayers. It had a stone church dedicated to St. Joseph, "big, beautiful and well and richly decorated," the walls fortified, armed and provided with logistics.
Some two hours walk away from Dagami was the town of Burauen, another mountain town skirting a volcano. It had a presentable church dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. Its 600 taxpayers were percieved to be unsociable and hostile, and disliked living in groups.
Salug or Jaro also had a "presentable wooden church" dedicated to St. Matthew. This was "well-provided with brass bells and rich decorations." Jaro always had priests assigned here.
Alangalang, half an hour by horseback (from Jaro) going to the seacoast, had 500 paying tributes to the king. It used to have a big wooden church, strongly constructed, dedicated to the Holy Trinity, "well-decorated with wrought silver and other ornaments". The rectory was similarly fashioned, while at the same time served as a baluarte (light fortification).
Carigara, a town located near the coast, was an important population center of some 900 taxpayers. Its church was "very big and beautiful" and dedicated to the Holy Cross. It had "plenty of wrought silver, fine ornaments and rich with relics, among them a Lignum Cross (lignum crucis) which is authentic and very special". The posts of its church were made of molave wood, considered among the best in the Philippines. The rectory was made of stone, large and sturdy, with its fortifications well-armed with cannons, rifles and adequate ammunitions.
Carigara included a sub-parish some three hours away by travel called Hileyte (now Leyte), once a thriving settlement, until it was laid to waste by pirate raids. The place was assigned Fr. Antonio Comas as its parish priest and another companion Fr. Miguel Perpiņan, who later died as a captive of the Moros in Mindanao.
The last town Leyte turned over to the Agustinians was Barugo, an hour away by horseback from Carigara. Its 400 taxpayers were said to be "bad people, but very rich and abounding with wines, oil, wax, cacao beans, rice and fish." Its church was made of stone but unfinished and was protected by a fortification made of stone. No priest was assigned regularly here.
These settlements left by the Jesuits were patterned after the Spanish pueblos: streets running in straight lines, opening towards a plaza; at the center of the plaza was the church and "colegio" (school); houses of the natives in separate groups to diminish danger of fire. These upon the insistence of Jesuit Father General Claudio Aquaviva.