315 TRANSLATED LETTER FROM THE BISHOP OF THE PHILIPPINES TO THE KING OF SPAIN DATED 1584 TRANSLATED BY ROBIN BRIDGE Illustrious Lord, The attached letter is a copy of the letter which the prelates of the orders wrote to Your Majesty last year, via Malacca, which was when the court had already embarked on the revelation of what we all now see. They encharged me to sign and stamp the letter since in my opin- ion everything contained in it is the pure Truth and the land is in the condition that they describe. They have written to me that I should send it again via these ships to Your Majesty. And since I was not here I did not sign it. By this letter Your Majesty will see what the prelates of the orders feel about what the court is doing with the Indians and how much damage the desire to interfere via the court is doing to their conversion. They have written to me that they wish to address Your Majesty again because everything which they wrote in the letter then is now much worse than then and that if Your Majesty does not remedy the situation that they can no longer endure it and in truth I say to Your Majesty and in much or in all that they say they are right, because in the whole world there cannot be any pious evangelical ministers who are less favoured than those in this land. Your Majesty will also see in a paragraph of this letter what the prelates felt about the petition which the public prosecutor raised against them and against myself, which I enclose with this letter to Your majesty, and in which I describe which happened to me here with the public prosecutor, and I confirm to Your Illustrious Majesty that this letter is the same as the one signed by the prelates. Affirmed. And truthfully affirmed. The Bishop of the Philippines 316 Copy of a letter that the prelates of the orders of these Philippine Islands wrote last year, in 1584, via Malacca, to Your Majesty. Confident that it is your Majesty's intention that we should satisfy your Majesty's royal conscience by endeavouring in these lands that the natives should come to know God, this being the principal respon- sibility with which your Majesty encharged us in sending us here, we hereby inform your Majesty of the obstacles and impediments we have encountered, so that being so informed, your Majesty may issue an order to remedy these and we may fulfill this mission to which Your Majesty dispatched us. Our work in relation to this mission has until now been with the land-owners and private individuals who, although they placed many obstacles in our path and caused us much anxiety, did not make us lose heart because, although there were many - though not all - who caused us difficulties, as they were private individuals we could at times plead with them, at times threaten them, at times have recourse to the gover- nors who were mostly in our favour or at least they were sometimes able to conceal their antagonism towards us. And we protested about this as it appeared to us then that simply not putting the preventive measures that we requested into place, caused many obstacles. But the obstacles are now larger and more numerous, and they are preventable because they are made in the voice and name of Your Maj- esty under the pretext of defending the Royal Jurisdiction, as if it had ever not would ever have occurred to us, nor have we any need in order to discharge our mission, to interfere with any matter relating to such jurisdiction. Your Majesty is well aware and it is recorded how hated and per- secuted the evangelical ministries have been in all the Indies, but in these islands this is even more the case, since we have stood up to the 317 land-owners and tax collectors, to the magistrates and to the other Span- iards in these islands, such that it does not appear but that all of them down to a man conspire to hinder the good works that we could do among these Indians if we were not hindered. Furthermore, they avert their eyes from what they are obliged to do as men of faith, the ex- amples being too numerous. Others, in pursuit of their own interests and unbridled greed, prevent us from doing anything because more damage can be done with these weak people with one bad example that is given to them than all the good that we can achieve by preaching to them. And many of the land-owners and magistrates, who have more responsibility than anyone else to favour us, by exploiting their estates and people cause these poor people such offence and vexation that we are given no opportunity to be able to tell them of the good that God has sent them through the offices of Your Majesty. AH the disputes and quarrels arise out of this because since they can see that we stand up to them against their interests and that we bring to light their bad examples, they turn against us and persecute us and slander us, seeking any possible means to pursue their ends, and there is nothing we can do to prevent them. With the arrival of the Court we believed that all these evils would be remedied and indeed a large part of them have been because the magistrates are less audacious and the land owners are less dissolute, and although not everything has been remedied, the president and judges have acted in a correct manner, and as a result we believed that the situation had been much improved. But from what we had thought would bring the remedy to all our troubles now has come our ruin, and we speak in this way because what has occurred is truly of enormous proportions because since the magistrates and land owners have no obstacles but us to prevent them from getting their way, they have informed the Court that we are inter- fering in the Royal Jurisdiction and in this way they have found a man- ner of discrediting us so that we are not in a position to stand up to them and thus they have informed the president and judges that we had stocks and prisons, that we seized and punished the Indians and, be- cause of an order provided by Your Majesty on this matter, they pro- nounced [an infraction against?] a Royal decree that is attached to this letter for Your Majesty to read. 318 We do not deny having the stocks which are mentioned in the notice, neither do we deny that we have occasionally punished the Indians, but this was done before the bishop arrived with the Pope's authority and after his arrival with his approval and consent, and merely in ecclesiastical cases and always with the moderation appropriate to our mission and which the weakness and novelty of these natives requires, and if in this any of our subordinates have exceeded their duties in any way, they have been punished by their superiors and in- structed how to behave, since we are not so entirely lacking in reason that we do not know up to what point we can and must extend, nor do we desire other than the well being of these natives, that we do not consider thoroughly how we should treat them, whether to scold them and punish them for their weaknesses, whether to forgive them, or whether to be lenient and tolerate them, and if there is no confidence in us to do this and if we are obliged to go before Courts and hearings for each mere bagatelle as has begun to occur recently and if the slightest complaint made by the Indians about their ministers has to be heard before the Court and the priest or cleric summonsed under a Royal decree, as has also recently occurred, then it would be better to aban- don this mission, Your Majesty granting us permission to do so, than to suffer so many vexations and anxieties when only concern is to satisfy Your Majesty's conscience and our own which, not without tribulation, makes us see our obligation and seek any remedy we may have to fulfil this. We are well aware that it is ordered by a royal decree that priests should not use stocks nor punish nor seize Indians and as this decree was issued in respect of New Spain, it was never executed since it was not deemed appropriate, and although it was appropriate in New Spain, it is not appropriate in any way whatsoever in these lands as these natives have different characters and customs to the Indians over there and if the person responsible for them were not able to force and com- pel them, they would not wish to do anything concerning the faith. And Your Majesty must not think that we are stating this because in this land we wish to have so much power to go among the Indians as inves- tigating judges, preparing trials, bringing charges against them and hearing rebuttals from them, but rather we treat them as schoolmasters or, more appropriately, as parents with their children, sometimes prais- ing them and sometimes scolding them, sometimes punishing them in an appropriate fashion so that they refrain from the vices to which they 319 are very inclined and sometimes being lenient and tolerating them. 'Have confidence in us, Your Majesty. We are not doing this out of any desire to rule nor because we wish to have authority in such matters as these, neither because it has occurred to us to defy Your Majesty's commands, but rather because it is evident to us that it is of the utmost importance that we treat these natives in this fashion so that things can be done among them and with them. This has already been clearly seen, be- cause once the Court arrived and it was known among the Indians that the priests were not allowed to punish them, more was lost in six months than had been achieved since we came here, because with the liberty they now have, they do not even wish to come to Mass nor bring their children to be baptized nor do they give their consent to the children receiving instruction in the faith and the chaste people we had created will be ruined and they are going into the mountains where they can live more freely being hidden from view and in many places they are performing their old rites as before without respecting the priests who are their teachers nor paying attention to what they are told, seeing that they can no longer be forced to do anything and if they are opposed they go to the court to lodge a complaint and they are heard in the court as if it were a question of a lawsuit between parties, and lawyers and clerks of which there is no lack incite them to this and the landowners encourage them and if the decision goes against their ministers then they want for nothing. And in this fashion, everything has collapsed so suddenly that there is no longer any trace of piety and it seems that we have only come to these lands to become involved in lawsuits and dis- putes and we are so discredited in the eyes of the Indians that, they pay more attention to a magistrate's bailiff than to all the friars and priests. God, to whom we must give account of what we write here, knows that we are not stating this for any selfish motive and neither because we are looking for an easy life instead of being involved in so much work as we have in these lands, but we write to Your Majesty in Spain from here because we clearly see that if we do not do so all our work will be in vain. And we are writing in this manner to Your Majesty so that, should our mission meet with Your approval, you graciously com- mand that the obstacles we describe here should no longer be placed in our path, since otherwise we cannot fulfil our responsibilities. And, if our mission does not meet with Your approval or if we are not working in an appropriate fashion, we request Your Majesty's permission to abandon that which we so much wish to achieve. 320 We indeed believe that the President and judges are acting in this fashion since they are new and have no experience in these lands. In view of the damage arising out of this, they have amended their actions because we requested them to do so and gave reasons for doing so, and although they do their duty by us with fine words, their deeds do not correspond to their words because they rule in favour of anyone citing this decree, which they call resolved, and those citing it go away so content that they no longer have regard for any friar or priest. And as the Indians do not understand this language and neither do many Spaniards, so much of the credit and authority of the faith has been lost among them that it is better for us to abandon our preaching than to continue with so little effect. And if the judges continue with what they have begun it is to see us get up to be knocked down again until Your Majesty definitively decrees that we have authority in this mission and to do what is necessary, and if for reasons which perhaps are apparent in Spain but which we are not aware of here what we ask is not possible, we request Your Majesty to graciously instruct us how we can live, since the life we are now leading cannot be tolerated nor can our souls tolerate the manner in which we live. If we wished to supply copious evidence for our statements herein, we could indeed do so since the walls and stones call out and confirm much more than we state here, but let us not do so since our intention is not to bring a lawsuit and we believe we do not need to bring witnesses before Your Majesty as we are certain that you will believe our state- ments as one can only state the pure truth when addressing Your Majesty. Your Majesty is well aware that not all laws can be the same ev- erywhere since they must be adapted to the temperament of the people and the quality of the land. It would be difficult to understand the tem- perament of these Indians and the anguish and difficulty involved in bringing knowledge of the truth to these Indians and how easily they stray from it after having received it if we did not live among them. And for this reason, decrees cannot be issued in Spain in respect of difficulties encountered here; rather, those of us here who put God and what His law and reason require first, must make use of such methods as are necessary and appropriate to achieve this end, and if such confi- dence is not placed in us our mission will be diminished because, out of all the people here in these lands, no-one can know as much about this matter as us, because they are in this city and in their houses with 321 only second-hand knowledge of what takes place among the Indians and we see it with our own eyes and touch it with our hands because. out of ail the people here in these lands, no-one can know as much about this mater as us, because they are in this city and in their houses with only second-hand knowledge of what takes place among the Indi- ans and we see it with our own eyes and touch it with our hands be- cause we live among them and know and understand up to what point their capacity extends and we tiy to adapt ourselves to what they need and if the Court and Your Majesty's other judges wish to conduct this business by means of lawsuits with proceedings and rebuttals, they will place obstacles in our path so that we will not be able to do any- thing and there will be so many upsets and obstacles among the Indi- ans that they will be of no use to anyone. The business of conversion and evangelical preaching is very dif- ferent to the conventions of the Court and there will never come a time for these natives to understand that the business of conversion must be carried out by lawyers and clerks, and since the laws of the Kingdoms permit that during wartime it is not necessary to maintain the ordinary style in punishing crimes, placing trust in the captains that, although they do not maintain the conventions of legal proceedings, they will maintain the law of God. There is much more reason that, in this spe- cial campaign that we currently have, which is much more labourious, difficult and dangerous than any other in the world, confidence should be placed in those who are involved in it that we do what is appropriate in order to be ultimately victorious and we do not wish now to have subjected to pen and paper and lawsuits and rebuttals what God so plainly wishes to be done and should be done: We also inform Your Majesty that the public prosecutor in this court presented a petition against all of us and we were all very affected, and especially the Bishop, who was most seriously affected by its contents. Evidence of this petition has been requested which we have not received until the present date. If we are given authorized evidence we will send it to Your Majesty and if not with this and fwe enclose?] a simple copy of the claim so that Your Majesty can see how we are treated in these lands and what credit should be given to our faith. When such words are mentioned about the bishop and prelates of the orders in a public court and for the satisfaction of what is here 322 being thrust upon us we confirm to Your majesty, with the truthfulness due when speaking to our King and lord, that whatever has been stated we do not know or understand what we have done or said for the public prosecutor to be able to present this petition but rather, as we have mentioned above, everyone is trying to discredit us and in order to do so, they seek any legal or illegal methods they can. A copy of the peti- tion which was presented on the part of the Bishop in order to request this evidence, is enclosed with this letter, and the secretary did not wish to provide it,simply responding with another petition to request that it should be sent for due authorisation and a copy was sent to the public prosecutor, and in this status the affair has remained until now. However our only intention is that Your Majesty should know what is happening, and that it can be seen clearly how the petitions which have been sent to were authorised. We are at Your Majesty's disposal here as your chaplains and you know that we live in these lands without personal interests, and there- fore Your Majesty will see that we have no reason not to tell the truth in our dealings with Your Royal Majesty whom God protect for many years for the defence of the Church our Holy Mother and protector of those of little power. From Manila, The Bishop of the Philippines, Fray J. De Placencia, custodian/ Fray Diego al Bazer.
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