Salcedo, a mystic and member ofthe old native nobility. In 1686 the group asked the prior of the Dominican convent to be allowed to live in community with the permission of the Provincial Chapter. Although this date can be regarded as the beginning of their religious community, it was not until 1696 that the Beaterio of St Catherine of Siena was formally inaugurated, with Mother Francisca del Espiritu Santo as the first prioress. Native women were accepted only as 'sisters of obedience' (hermanas de la obediencia), without voting rights.

A second such institution, the Beaterío de la Compañía de Jesús, was founded by the Chinese mestiza Mother Ignacia de Espiritu Santo, with the help of the Jesuit priest Paul Klein. From the 1730s, it received girls who, after undergoing a two-year novitiate, were initially allowed to make simple, temporary vows, for a seven-year period, at the end of which they could make perpetual vows of chastity and obedience as members of the beaterio. In addition to engaging in education, it organized retreats for native, mestiza, and Spanish lay women. 'All these women of diverse races gathered as one, lived in community during the eight days of each retreat, and together performed the spiritual exercises within the beaterio, "to the great benefit not only of themselves but of the communities they came from"'.5 In 1719, two indigenous blood sisters, Dionisia Mitas Talangpaz and Cecilia Rosa Talangpaz of Calumpit, Bulacan, founded the third major Philippine religious community. In 1725 they received the habit ofthe Third Order ofAugustinian Recollects as well as a small house in Manila. This was in effect the beginning of the Beaterio de San Sebastian de Calúmpang.

Given the ambiguity of their status, the beatas could not avoid being drawn into jurisdictional struggles. As Luciano Santiago has aptly put it:

The beatas had to contend with three entities, united nominally yet fiercely independent of each other, and often with conflicting views on the nature of the beaterios: the governor-general as the king's representative who had the prerogative of whether or not to implement royal decrees; the bishop of the diocese; and the provincial of the religious order which supervised the beata's community.6

Despite much official hostility, the three major sister communities managed to survive into the twentieth century, when they were finally given the status of regular religious congregations.

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