Stirring up a hornet’s nest | Inquirer Opinion
Looking Back

Stirring up a hornet’s nest

My column on Cardinal Advincula being the 32nd Archbishop of Manila, not the 33rd as stated in press releases and Cathedral social media posts, provoked a reply. I looked up the Anales Ecclesiasticos de Philippinas cited as the primary source to refute the column. The text from this crudely illustrated manuscript, preserved in the Archives of the Archdiocese of Manila, was first published in the Dominican journal Philippiniana Sacra (1967), translated from the original Spanish. In 1994, a summary translation was published by the archives. An illustrated page from this manuscript states that Domingo de Salazar was “Primer Obispo y Arzobispo de Manila” (first bishop and Archbishop of Manila). Fair enough.

However, going beyond this illustration into the text, the manuscript states that Philip II presented Salazar’s nomination as bishop to the Pope in 1578 and he was consecrated bishop in Madrid in 1579—before the 1581 foundation of the diocese and cathedral! His term, according to the bronze plaque installed in the Manila Cathedral, is 1579-1594. Anales states that Bishop Salazar successfully lobbied in Madrid for the elevation of the Manila diocese into an archdiocese and was nominated by Philip II as first archbishop. Salazar died on Dec. 4, 1594—before receiving the Papal Bull of his appointment. Furthermore, the Anales contradicts itself, stating that Pope Clement VIII elevated Manila into a Metropolitan Archdiocese on Aug. 14, 1595—or eight months after the death of Salazar. Buried in Spain, Salazar did not assume office as Archbishop of Manila.


Eminent church historian Pablo Fernandez, O.P., dated Anales to the “second half of the 18th century,” not from the 16th century as some people would like to believe. Fernandez added that the first part of Anales has little historical value as the author, in his introduction, admitted a lack of sufficient records before 1635 to define the terms of the Archbishops of Manila. As a matter of fact, Ignacio de Santibañez, O.F.M., whom I consider the first Archbishop, served for only three months rather than three years as stated in the Cathedral plaque. He took ecclesiastical possession of the archdiocese without the required Papal Bull and the pallium (a church vestment without which he could not exercise jurisdictional authority). Santibañez assumed office with the written authorization of Philip II while the Papal Bull and arrival of the pallium were pending in Rome.

I guess I opened a can of worms regarding the list of Archbishops of Manila, leaving its resolution to church historians. In my opinion, there is a world of difference in the reckoning of an archbishop’s term from the time of his appointment or consecration to the time he actually assumed office. Take Fernando Montero Espinosa, listed in the Cathedral plaque as seventh archbishop of Manila. While in Mexico, in 1644, Montero was appointed Archbishop of Manila. He sailed to Manila in March 1645, fell ill, and died in Pila, Laguna, on Aug. 1, 1645. According to the Anales:


“Unaware of what happened to the arriving prelate, the Cathedral Chapter and the government sent a delegation to welcome the Archbishop in the town of [Taguig?]. They received instead the corpse of the prelate that they brought to the city via the Santo Domingo gate. Instead of joyous peals, the Church bells of the city tolled in mourning… He was given a solemn funeral.”

How can Montero be seventh archbishop if he died before assuming office? All these make Cardinal Advincula the 30th Archbishop!

Carlos Bermudez de Castro, 13th Archbishop according to the Cathedral plaque, served from 1724-1729. While appointed in 1724 and consecrated Archbishop in Mexico in 1725, he couldn’t get transport to the Philippines and arrived in Manila in 1728. He died the next year. Shouldn’t his term of office be reckoned from canonical possession, and not from his appointment or consecration? His term should then be 1728-1729, not 1724-1729.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila can do no less than generate, as best it can, a comprehensive and accurate list of the Bishops of Manila, including all administrators who acted as officer in charge pending the appointment and assumption of a new bishop. As a columnist who endures obsessive fact-checking twice a week, I volunteer to help out to atone for stirring up a hornet’s nest in this case, instead of keeping quiet and letting sleeping dogs lie.

Comments are welcome at [email protected]

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TAGS: Ambeth R. Ocampo, Archdiocese of Manila, Jose Advincula, Looking Back, Manila archbishops
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