Reaction to the Review
By Regalado Trota Jose
In yesterday’s Inquirer, there was a short article on the beginnings of the Simbang Gabi which is so much a part of the Filipino Christmas tradition. It cites a research paper on the website of the CBCP which says that masses were stopped by the Sacred Congregation of Rites “because of the Filipinos’ habit of singing Christmas carols in the vernacular. Such singing was then prohibited, except for the entrance and recessional songs.” Of course we know that only Latin was sung in the mass, and that carols by their nature were sung outside of mass. Then why ban a mass because of our “habit” to sing carols in our own language? Other claims are made in the newspaper article, which seem incredulous especially since no credible sources are cited. There is even a veiled black legend about the Vatican’s autocratic reach.
In this regard we welcome the coming to light of Philippine Local Churches after the Spanish Regime: Quae Mari Sinico and Beyond, published by Adamson University and which we are launching today. The book effectively puts into a much wider reach the research, thoughts, and reflections brought about by a conference presented at the annual gathering of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines in 2010. This conference was inspired by the reminder in 2006 of Archbishop Jesús Dosado that the first years of the 21st century would mark a series of important centennials: 2002 belatedly marked a hundred years of Quae Mari Sinico, 2007 would mark the First Provincial Council held in Manila to act on the vision of Quae Mari Sinico, and 2010 would mark the creation of the new dioceses proposed in said Council. The papers in the conference, which are finally presented in this book, were prepared by church historians with all the resources at their disposal.
The texts of all the papers are easy to read, free from ecclesiastical jargon, comprehensible to laymen. Thus the book fulfils one of the aims of the SVST Interdisciplinary Studies series: to be oriented toward a just and inclusive Church and society. I think to be written in a style comprehensible to most people would certainly make the work inclusive.
The papers, here edited as chapters, are built around the genesis of Quae Mari Sinico (QMS): its contexts, its beginnings, its promulgation, its reception, its effects, its revisions, its rejections, and the implications of such effects, revisions, and rejections. Despite many objections to it, Fr. de Castro says it “was perhaps the best solution possible at the moment.”
I will not repeat the contents of the book, as this aspect has been presented in the panel discussion. However, I’d like to take up a couple of points that struck me as a lay person.
One: the strong Filipino inputs, albeit from different loyalties, that went into the moulding of the QMS, show that Filipinos were already capable of taking things into their own hands. This is an insight into “a local church trying to answer its own questions and living the faith in its specific context”.
This makes one wince upon knowing that the decrees of the plenary council of Latin America held in Rome in 1899 served as the basis for the Provincial Council of Manila in 1907. However, there were some provisions for local conditions. For example, there was a call for churches to remain open all morning until noon and from two in the afternoon until the evening Angelus. The parish church of UP, if not until now, is closed from early afternoon until 4 pm, except for the Blessed Sacrament chapel.
Second point: The prolongation of the Filipino type of college-seminaries, where lay students took subjects together with seminarians, is an important aspect to be further studied. It was during their student days that many political leaders befriended, or made enemies with, their future correspondents in the ecclesiastical sphere. The bishops, based on their own local experiences, prolonged their operation even though they were proscribed by the Holy See.
These aspects and many more give us a deeper understanding of what happened in the fateful years of our church between the end of Spanish control and the beginning of American hegemony. The accounts do not spare us from observations of animosities between the different characters and congregations within the Philippine Catholic church. Despite the church being in ‘disarray’ at that time, the fact that Filipinos kept the Catholic faith, as Fr. de Castro put it “shows just how deep the Catholic faith and the Catholic church had taken root among the Filipino clergy and the nation.”
A gem of this book is the transcription of Quae Mari Sinico as published by the UST Press in 1902: that is, its Latin original and its translations in Spanish, English, Tagalog, Iloco, and Cebuano Visayan. It is a meticulous transcription, carefully including the “enye” (~) sign and accents, not just for the Latin and Spanish words but also for those in the Philippine languages. Even misspellings, in all languages, are noted with [sic]. I would like to know the story behind the translations—who authorized them (my guess is the University of Santo Tomas initiated this)? Were they done in Manila (it seems unlikely there would have been Ilocano speakers in Rome who could translate from Latin)? Who translated them (possibly Augustinians for the Ilocano; members of any of the religious orders for Tagalog; Augustinians and/or Augustinian Recollects for the Cebuano Visayan)? If done in the Philippines, how faithful would have been the translations to the original Latin? Or were they translated from Spanish?
I would also like to commend the physical properties of the book. It is lightweight, easy for carrying and passing on to. The type is clean and easy to read, an aspect much valued by senior citizen scholars. There are footnotes instead of endnotes. There is a comprehensive bibliography and a handy index. The texts are carefully edited, and I could not find any misspelling. I might quibble, though, with the book’s use of “will” instead of “would” in some passages. The cover is attractively designed, with the thoughtful use of stylized icons representing the four newly created dioceses: Tuguegarao Cathedral, Capiz (now Roxas City Cathedral), Lipa (represented by what I think is the Dominican chapel at Caleruega, Nasugbu), and Zamboanga City Cathedral.
From the hierarchical perspective, the chapters deal with the Church from the view upstairs: the Holy See, the bishops, the priests. This then made me think of questions for future study and discussion:
What happened to the friars?
How was the life of the laity affected? The countless stories of struggles for control of the parishes, although collected in many sources, have to be amplified and looked at from local and national contexts. The narratives here will enlighten our understanding of present-day societies.
How were liturgy, church art and architecture, and church music changed?
How did the coming of the new religious congregations promote the vision of Quae Mari Sinico?
Today, a hundred years later, how do we compare with the ideals of QMS, in terms of challenges and opportunities? Are these addressed or reflected in PCP I and II?
If Pope Francis were to prepare a new Apostolic Constitution for the Philippines, what would be the points he would tackle? How would he confront them? It is worth remembering that in 2021 the Philippines will be celebrating 500 years of the introduction of Christianity to its shores, an event surely meriting some comment from Rome.
Before closing, I’d like to react to some of the points brought out by Fr. Tony de Castro in his exposition. We at the Archives of the University of Santo Tomas are working on the annotated catalogues of our collections. This will be one way of “unleashing” this storehouse of historic material to the researching public. We have material dating from 1516; but the Rare Books Section next door has a book from 1492. On early moral cases, we have the papers of Juan de Paz, a 17th century Dominican who was consulted for a wide variety of moral problems; these are important because specific places are mentioned. Of the syllabus errorum, we have 1600s printed broadsheets from the Mexican Inquisition meant to be posted on churches in Manila. On the Philippine Revolution, we have original documents on masonry in the 19th century, early newspapers from the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, and even a letter signed by Antonio Luna sent from his cell in Fort Santiago to his former professor in UST. Much of the material on the Revolution was incorporated in Fr. Fidel Villarroel’s major work, The Dominicans and the Revolution. There are two copies of Quae Mari Sinico. We are also slowly working on a checklist of publications of the UST Press from its beginnings until the 1940s; our earliest example is a book printed in 1623 by Tomas Pinpin.
Following up on the point made earlier about the “Filipinization” of the Spaniards, I’d like to mention two old photographs. The first is of the interior of the Cebu Cathedral. On the floor below the benches for the principalia, which would have accommodated Spanish as well as Filipino authorities, one may see spittoons. The same ceramic containers can be seen as well at the foot of easy chairs in a photo of the teachers’ lounge in San Juan de Letran College. The presence of spittoons (escupidores, or duraan, as they are listed in inventories) implies that the Spaniards had imbibed the Filipino practice of spitting, most possibly from chewing betel nut.
In closing, a final question.
How can all these—the lessons from Quae Mari Sinico—be communicated to all levels of society? (through formation in seminaries and schools; through the establishment and maintenance of archives, libraries, museums, and monuments or shrines). Up to now, there is a divide between the Filipino clergy—secular or religious—and their cultural heritage. There is a notable and lamentable lack of studies on the Philippine church’s past and heritage; there is, really, a lack of interest within the Philippine church on its own inheritance and its implications. We cannot escape from learning to read from the original documents in Spanish.
It’s still a long haul, but we have to have something more substantial about our historical and cultural heritage than blaming the Vatican for stopping masses because we had the “habit” of singing carols in the vernacular.
May we have more scholarly publications like Philippine Local Churches!