Brothers of Rizal’s Padre Damaso: Travel Cost From Spain to the Philippines, circa 1882

Tomas Gomez III, former consul general of Honolulu and later press secretary of President Corazon C. Aquino (1986-1992), disclosed in an “infinitesimal footnote” that he is a great grandson of a Spanish Franciscan friar named Fr. José Gomez de Huerce, OFM. Interestingly, Mr. Gomez adds that his great “Franciscan friar” grandfather served as Rizal’s inspiration for the iconic character of Padre Damaso (see While family history and memory kept the branches of the Gomez family tree to the Franciscan root of Fr. Huerce, other offsprings of Franciscan friars remained clueless as to their origin. Luciano P.R. Santiago, in his book “To Love and to Suffer” The Development of the Religious Congregations for Women in the Spanish Philippines, 1565-1898,” talked about how Msgr. Cesar Ma. Guerrro, first Filipino auxiliary bishop of Manila, was of the opinion that many of the orphan girls accepted by the Clarisas of Manila in their convent were actually daughters of Franciscan friars (2005, pp. 77). If indeed this is accurate, no surprise then that  the records of these orphans did not contain any reference as to the names of their parents.  Today, with the passing of time, and a more forgiving social milieu, many more Filipino families may welcome the opportunity to share and disclose (proudly as Mr. Gomez has done) that they too descended from the Spanish friar brothers of Padre Damaso.

As a first step to familial reconciliation, or as a further footnote to the “infinitesimal footnote,” Padre Damaso’s congregation, the Province of St. Gregory the Great of the Philippines, arrival in the Philippines in 1574 has been described as more “providential than planned ” (see Jose Guntay, The Franciscans in Colonial Philippines, p.132 in Ma. Luisa T. Camagay’s, 2008, Encuentro: Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day).  Instead of being sent to the Solomon Islands, King Philip II changed the orders at the last moment and sent the Franciscans to the Philippine islands. This accidental detour to travel from Spain to the Philippines during these early period became a test of missionary zeal as the voyage took a very long time. In fact, for this first group of Franciscan friars, the mission left Spain on June 24, 1577 and arrived in the Philippines on July 2, 1578 or almost one year later having passed by the Mexican port of Acapulco. One wonders  what kind of condition such a travel entailed that would cause eight friars to die during this first Franciscan voyage to the Philippine islands?

Fast forwarding to the late 19th century, travel from Spain to the Philippines took a much shorter time especially with the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. The first Franciscan mission to travel by the Suez canal left Spain on May 21, 1872 and arrived in Manila on July 10, 1872 or just after two months travel time whereas the prior mission took about six months (Fr. Eusebio Gomez Platero, 1880, Catalogo Biografico de los Religiosos Franciscanos de la Provincia de San Gregorio Magno de Filipinas, p. 783).

Image: Advertisement for Ship “Espana” leaving Barcelona on April 1, 1882 and traveling to Manila via Suez and Singapore. This is probably the same ship that our Franciscan missionaries that arrived in Manila on June 1st, 1882 used.

Source: Gacetas de los Caminos de Heirro, March 5, 1882 (

Travel Cost circa 1882.

The Spanish government took care of the travel costs of the religious missionaries. As an example, the Franciscan mission that arrived in the Philippines on June 1st 1882 submitted a report accounting for the Barcelona to Manila travel cost at 8,100 pesetas (or roughly about 450 pesetas per friar) for 18 Franciscan friars (Source: Patronatos 1880-1882, B145, SDS 2163),   The report contains an itemized breakdown of the travel expenses incurred down to the last centimos. Among the more expensive items, the Franciscans paid a total of 1,620 pesetas for 18 pcs. of “trajes negro” or the black robe used by the monks. In addition, the Franciscans spent 675 pesetas for 180 pcs of “camisas,” 675 pesetas for 180 pcs. of “calzoncillos” or underwear. For clothing safety and security, 10 pesetas worth of thimbles, buttons, needles, pin cushions, and thread were brought as well. Around 18 pcs. of brushes to clean the clothes of dust and dirt was also paid for at a cost of 27 pesetas.

Image Source: National Archives of the Philippines.

The Franciscans, famous for being called barefooted, paid a total of 160 pesetas for 16 dozens of socks (does that mean 2 friars didn’t get any socks?) and 162 pesetas for 18 pairs of “zapatos” (shoes) and 81 pesetas for 18 pairs of “zapatillas” (sandals). In addition, as part of their wardrobe, 9 dozens of “panuelos la nariz” (handkerchiefs) worth 90 pesates and 90 pcs. of “toallas” (towels) worth 112.50 pesetas were paid for.  To keep the Spanish skin from being sun-burned, the Franciscans paid a total of 162 pesetas for 18 pcs. of “sombreros de castor” (beaver hats).  Talking about skin, and the beard, the Franciscans also paid 18 pesetas for “jabon de barba,” 27 pesetas for “brochas para barba” (brush), and 22.50 pesetas for scissors. Apparently, good grooming is a virtue among the Franciscans.

Interestingly, the supply of goodies for each Franciscan missionary included the cost of tobacco. In this case, around 26 pounds of tobacco or 1.44 pounds of tobacco for each friar was bought at a cost of 156 pesetas. We are not sure if this tobacco was consumed during the time the friars departed the port of Barcelona until the time they arrived in Manila. If they did, then it must have been quite a smoky voyage. Upon arrival in Manila, the friars paid for the embarkation fees at a total of 18 pesetas and for their “cedulas” for another 18 pesetas. The luggage that they carried cost them an additional 50 pesetas for embarkation costs.

Thus, at the cost of 450 pesetas per friar, the 18 fellow Franciscan brothers of Padre Damaso of 1882 arrived in Manila with their initial supplies of the tools of the missionary trade. One wonders how long each pair of zapatos or zapatillas will last each friar before they needed to purchase a new pair. No wonder, the friars needed some source of additional money or funds.

Next topic: The Franciscans and the arancel.


~ by Martin Gaerlan on January 5, 2012.

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