Empty Bananas (Malinding Book 1)

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Twenty-one Jesuits left Cadiz, and all arrived at Manila except Father Matheo de Aguilar, who died near these islands on May 12, ; he was thirty-three years old, and had been in the Society sixteen years—most of which time he spent in Carmona, in the province of Andalusia, where he was an instructor in grammar, minister, and procurator in that college In the island of Negros and that of Mindanao, which but a short time before had been given up to the Society, the fathers were occupied in catechising and baptizing the heathens and especially in the island of Mindoro, where besides the Christian convents, were the heathen Manguianes, who lived in the mountains, and, according to estimate, numbered more than six thousand souls.

These people wandered through the mountains and woods there like wild deer, and went about entirely naked, wearing only a breech-clout [ bahaque ] for the sake of decency; they had no house, hearth, or fixed habitation; and they slept where night overtook them, in a cave or in the trunk of some tree.

They gathered their food on the trees or in the fields, since it was reduced to wild fruits and roots; and as their greatest treat they ate rice boiled in water. Their furnishings were some bows and arrows, or javelins for hunting, and a jar for cooking rice; and he who secured a knife, or any iron instrument, thought that he had a Potosi.

They acknowledged no deity, and when they had any good fortune the entire barangay or family connection killed and ate a carabao, or buffalo; and what was left they sacrificed to the souls of their ancestors. In order to convert these heathens, a beginning was made by the reformation and instruction [ 58 ] of the Christians; and by frequent preaching they gradually established the usage of confession with some frequency, and many received the Eucharist—a matter in which there was more difficulty then than now.

Many came down from the mountains, and brought their children to be instructed; various persons were baptized, and even some, who, although they had the name of Christians, had never received the rite of baptism. After the fathers preached to the Christians regarding honesty in their confessions, the result was quickly seen in many general confessions, which were made with such eagerness that the crowds resorting to the church lasted more than two months.

In order to encourage the Indians thus settled to make raids on the Cimarrons and wild Indians and punish them, Don Juan Cerezo de Salamanca, the governor ad interim , granted that those wild Indians should for a certain time remain the slaves of him who should bring them out of the hills; and by this means they succeeded in bringing out many from their caverns and hiding-places.

Some of these were seventy or eighty years old, of whom many died as soon as they were instructed and baptized. Moved by Christian pity, those who were making the raid carried her to the village, where it was with difficulty that the father could catechise her, on account of her age and her stupidity. He finally catechised and baptized her, and she soon died; so that it seems as if it were a mercy of God that she thus waited for baptism, in order that her soul might not be lost—and the same with the other souls, their lives apparently being preserved in order that they might be saved through the agency of baptism.

Blessed be His mercy forever!

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In Ilog, in the island of Negros, several heathens of those mountains were converted to the faith. An Indian woman was there, so obstinate in her blindness and so open in her hatred to holy baptism that, in order to free herself from the importunities of the minister, she feigned to be deaf and mute. Some of her relatives notified the father to come to baptize her. The father went to her, and began to catechise her, but she, keeping up the deceit, pretended that she did not hear him, and he could not draw a word from her.

The father cried out to God for the conversion of that soul, and, at the same time, he continued his efforts to catechise her, suspecting that perhaps she was counterfeiting deafness.

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God heard his prayers, and, after several days, the first word which that woman uttered was a request for baptism—to the surprise of all who knew what horror of it she had felt. The father catechised and baptized [ 60 ] her, and this change was recognized as caused by the right hand of the Highest; for she who formerly was like a wild deer, living alone in the thickets, after this could not go away from the church, and continued to exercise many pious acts until she rested in the Lord.

After the death of Father Juan del Campo, Father Juan de San Lucar went to assist that army, performing the functions of its chaplain, and also of vicar for the ecclesiastical judge. Fathers Valerio de Ledesma and Manuel Martinez preached to the Butuans, and afterward they were followed, although with some interruptions, by others, who announced the gospel to the Hadgaguanes—a people untamed and ferocious—to the Manobos, and to other neighboring peoples.

Afterward this ministry was abandoned, on account of the lack of laborers for so great a harvest as God was sending us. Secular priests held it for some time, and finally it was given to the discalced Augustinian [ i. When Father Francisco Vicente was ministering in Butuan the cazique [ meaning the headman] of Linao went to invite him to go to his village; and even the blacks visited him, and gave him hopes for their submission.

Thus all those peoples desired the Society, as set aside for the preaching in that island—which work was assigned to the Society by the ecclesiastical judge in the year , and confirmed [ 61 ] to them in by the governor Don Francisco Tello, as vice-patron. He also administered the sacraments to some Christians who were there, who with Pagbuaya, a chief of Bohol, had taken refuge in that place. He was succeeded by Father Fabricio Sarsali, and he by Father Francisco Otazo and others, as a dependency of Zebu or of Bohol—until, in the year , his illustrious Lordship the bishop of Zebu, Don Fray Pedro de Arze, governor of the archbishopric of Manila, again assigned this mission to the Society; and in the residence of Dapitan was founded, its first rector being the venerable Father Pedro Gutierrez; and in those times the Christian faith was already far advanced, and was extending through the region adjoining that place, and making great progress.


It is a fertile and abounding land, and on this account they call [ 62 ] it the storehouse or garden of Samboangan. The Basilans, who inhabit the principal villages, are of the Lutaya people; those who dwell in the mountains are called Sameacas. Three chiefs had made themselves lords of the island, Ondol, Boto, and Quindinga; and they formed the greatest hindrance to the reduction of that people, who, as barbarians, have for an inviolable law the will of their headmen, [which they follow] heedlessly—that being most just, therefore, which has most following.

Nevertheless, the brave constancy of Father Francisco Angel was not dismayed at such difficulties, or at the many perils of death which continually threatened him; and his zeal enabled him to secure the baptism of several persons, and to rescue from the captivity of Mahoma more than three hundred Christians, whom he quickly sent to Samboangan. Moreover, the fervor of the father being aided by the blessing of God, he saw, with unspeakable consolation to his soul, the three chiefs who were lords of the island baptized, with almost all the inhabitants of the villages in it; and in the course of time the Sameacas, or mountain-dwellers, were reduced—in this way mocking the strong opposition which was made by the panditas, who are their priests and doctors.

At this good news various persons of the Malanaos came down [from the mountains], and in the shelter of the fort they formed several small villages or hamlets, and heard the gospel with pleasure. The conversions increasing, it was necessary to station there another minister; this was Father Antonio de Abarca. They founded the village of Nagua, and others, which steadily and continually increased with the people who came down from the lake [ i.

The traitor did not desist from his purpose, and, when Father Abarca was in one of those villages toward Layavan, attacked the village; but he was discovered by the blacks of [ 66 ] the hill-country, and they rained so many arrows upon the Moros that the latter abandoned their attempt. Another effort was a failure—the preparation of three joangas which the traitor had upon the sea, in order to capture and kill the father when he should return to Iligan; but in all was displayed the special protection with which God defends His ministers.

However great the efforts made by the zeal of the gospel laborers, the result did not correspond to their desires, on account of the obstinacy of the Mahometans—although in the heathens they encountered greater docility for the acceptance of our religion. The life of the ministers was very toilsome, since to the task of preaching must be added the vigils and weariness, the heat and winds and rains, the dangers of [travel by] the sea, and the scarcity of food.

In a country so poor, and at that time so uncultivated, it was considered a treat to find a few sardines or other fish, some beans, and a little rice; and many times they hardly could get boiled rice, and sometimes they must get along with sweet potatoes, gabes, 13 or [other] roots. But God made amends for these privations and toils with various inner pleasures; for they succeeded in obtaining some conversions that they had not expected, and even among the blacks, from whom they feared death, they found help and sustenance.

Reports from Villages

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He returned to the ministry, where he encountered much cause for suffering and tears; because the [military] officers [ cabos ] who then were governing that jurisdiction, actuated by arrogance and greed of gain, had committed such acts of violence that they had depopulated those little villages, many fleeing to the hills, where among the Moros they found treatment more endurable. The only ones who can oppose the injustice of such men are the gospel ministers.

These fathers undertook to defend the Indians, and took it upon themselves to endure the anger of those men—who, raised from a low condition to places of authority, made their mean origin evident in their coarse natures and lawless passions; and the license of some of them went to such extremes that it was necessary for the soldiers to seize them as intolerable; and, to revenge themselves for the outrageous conduct of the officials, they accused the latter as traitors. Not even the Malanao chief Molobolo, who always had been firm on the side of the Spaniards, could endure their acts of violence, and, to avoid these, went back to the lake.

This tempest lasted for some time, but afterward some peace was secured, when those officers were succeeded by others who were more compliant. The venerable Father Pedro Gutierrez went to Iligan, and with his amiable and gentle disposition induced a chief to leave the lake, who, with many people, became a resident of Dapitan; and another chief, still more powerful, was [ 68 ] added to Iligan with his people.

These results were mainly seemed by the virtue of the father, the high opinion which all had of his holy character, and the helpful and forcible effects of his oratory. The land was scorched by a drouth, which was general throughout the islands, from which ensued great losses. The father offered the Indians rain, if they would put a roof on the church; they accepted the proposal, and immediately God fulfilled what His servant had promised—sending them a copious rain on his saying the first mass of a novenary, which he offered to this end.

With this the Indians were somewhat awakened from their natural sloth, and the church was finished, so that the fathers could exercise in it their ministries. The drouth was followed by a plague of locusts, which destroyed the grain-fields; the father exorcised them, and, to the wonder of all, the locusts thrust their heads into the ground, and the plague came to an end. The village is upon the shore, at the foot of the great Panguil, 14 between Butuan and Dapitan, to the south of Bohol, and north from Malanao, at the mouth of a river with a dangerous bar.

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The fort is of good stone, dedicated to St. Francis Xavier, in the shape of a star; the wall [ 69 ] is two varas high, and half a vara thick, and it has a garrison, with artillery and weapons. The Moros have several times surrounded it, but they could not gain it by assault.

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The Sibugueys are heathens, of a gentler disposition and more docile to the reception of the gospel than are the Mahometans; therefore this mission aroused great hopes. One Ash Wednesday Father Luzon went to the fort, and he was received by a Lutao of gigantic stature who gave him his hand. The father shook hands with him, supposing that that was all for which he stopped him; but the Lutao trickily let himself be carried on, and with his weight dragged the father into the water, with the assurance that he could not be in danger, on account of his dexterity in swimming.

The father went under, because he could not swim, and the captain and the soldiers hastened from the fort to his aid—but so late that there was quite enough time for him to be drowned, on account of having sunk so deep in the water; they pulled him out, half dead, and the first thing that he did was to secure pardon for the Lutao.

He gained a little strength and went to the fort; he gave ashes to the Spaniards, and preached with as much fervor as if that hardship had not befallen him. The principal of Sibuguey was Datan, and, to make sure of him, the Spaniards had carried away as a hostage his daughter Paloma; and love for her caused her parents to leave Sibuguey and go to Samboangan to live, to have the company of their daughter. Father Alexandro Lopez went to minister at Sibuguey, and he saw that without the [ 70 ] authority of Datan he could do almost nothing among the Sibugueys; this obliged him to go to Samboangan to get him, and he succeeded [in persuading them] to give him the girl.

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The father went up toward the source of the river, and found several hamlets of peaceable people, and a lake with five hundred people residing about it; and their chief, Sumogog, received him as a friend, and all listened readily to the things of God. He went so far that he could see the mountains of Dapitan, which are so near that place that a messenger went [to Dapitan] and returned in three days. These fair hopes were frustrated by the absence of Datan, who went with all his family to Mindanao; and on Ascension day in that new church disappeared, no one being left save a boy named Marcelo.

Afterward the Moros put the fort in such danger, having killed some men, that it was necessary to dismantle it and withdraw the garrison. But, [divine] grace accommodating itself to their nature, as the sect of Mahoma have always been so obstinate, it was necessary that God should display His power, in order that their eyes might be opened to the light.

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The fervent father Alexandro Lopez was preaching in that island, to whose labors efficacy was given by the hand of God with many prodigies. The cures which the ministers made were frequent, now with benedictions, now with St. Among other cures, one was famous, that of a woman already given up as beyond hope; having given her some of St.

With this they showed more readiness to accept the [Christian] doctrine, which was increased by a singular triumph which the holy cross obtained over hell in all these islands; for, having planted this royal standard of our redemption in an island greatly infested by demons, who were continually frightening the islanders with howls and cries, it imposed upon them perpetual silence, and freed all the other [neighboring] islands from an extraordinary tyranny.

For the demons were crossing from island to island, in the sea, in the shape of serpents of enormous size, and did not allow vessels to pass without first compelling their crews to render adoration to the demon in iniquitous sacrifices; but this ceased, the demon taking flight at sight of the cross. The Moros of Tuptup captured a discalced religious of St. Augustine, who, to escape from the pains of captivity, took to flight with a negro. Then Father Contreras, moved by fervent charity, went to Patical, where the fair 16 was [ 73 ] held, and offered himself to remain as a captive among the Moros, in order that they might set free the poor religious, who was feeble and sick.

Some Moros agreed to this; but the Orancaya Suil, who was the head chief of the Guimbanos, said that no one should have anything to do with that plan—at which the hopes of that afflicted religious for ransom were cut off. Seeing that he must again endure his hardships, from which death would soon result, he asked Father Contreras to confess him; the latter undertook to set out by water to furnish him that spiritual consolation, but the Lutaos would not allow him to leave the boat, even using some violence, in order not to endanger his person.

All admired a charity so ardent, and, having renewed his efforts, he so urgently persuaded the governor, Juan Ruiz Maroto, to ransom him that the latter gave a thousand pesos in order to rescue the religious from captivity. Twice Father Contreras went to the fair, but the Moros did not carry the captive there with them. Afterward he was ransomed for three hundred pesos by Father Alexandro Lopez, the soldiers aiding with part of their pay a work of so great charity. The same was done in the hospitals, to which they carried many sweetmeats to regale the sick; they made the beds, swept the halls, and carried the chamber-vessels to the river to clean them; and afterward they sprinkled the halls with scented water.

It was a duty, and a very proper manner of celebrating the [virtues of the] men who have rendered the Society illustrious, to imitate them in humility, devotion, and charity. Nor was the zeal of the Society content with laboring in its own harvest-field; it had the courage to go to the ministers of the secular priests to conduct missions. Two fathers went on a mission to Mindoro and Luban, and when they were near the village their caracoa was attacked by three joangas of Borneans and Camucones.

The caracoa, in order to escape from the enemies, ran ashore; and the fathers, leaving there all that they possessed—books, missal, and the clothing that they were carrying to distribute as alms to the poor Indians—took to the woods, through which they made their way to Naujan. On the road it frequently rained, and they had no change of [ 75 ] clothing, nor any food save some buds of the wild palm-tree; they suffered weariness, hunger, and thirst, and to slake this last they drank the water which they found in the pools there.

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After twenty days of this so toilsome journeying they reached the chief town [of the island], their feet covered with wounds, themselves faint and worn out with hunger, and half dead from fatigue; but they were joyful and contented, because God was giving them this opportunity to suffer for love of Him. One of the fathers went back to Marinduque, where he found other troubles, no less grievous than those which had gone before; for the Camucones had robbed the church, ravaged the grain-fields, captured some Indians, and caused the rest to flee to the hills.

The father felt deep compassion for them, and at the cost of much toil he again assembled the Indians and brought them back to their villages. The news of these events was very afflicting to this province, considering the difficulty in its securing aid. Besides the usual fields of Tagalos and Bisayas, the province occupied the new missions of Buhayen, Iligan, Basilan, and Jolo; and there were several years when it found itself with only forty priests, who with the utmost difficulty provided as best they could for needs so great.

He also gave orders that they should be supplied at Sevilla with a thousand and forty ducados, and at Mexico with thirteen thousand pesos—a contribution of the greatest value in those circumstances, and which could only be dictated by a heart so Catholic as that of this prince, who every day renewed the vow that he had taken that he would not make friends with the infidels, to the detriment of religion, even though it should cost him his crown and his life.

On Holy Tuesday, March 31, in , forty-seven Jesuits embarked at Acapulco; and on the second of April mass was sung, and communion was celebrated—not only by the missionaries, but by almost all the laymen who came in the almiranta, where was established a distribution [of their labors] as well planned as in an Observant college.