(transferred to Vigan in the mid-eighteenth century), and Cebu. This structure remained in place throughout the period 1660 to 1815. However, due to an acute shortage of secular priests in the Philippines during the early Spanish colonial period, regular clergy, trained in Spain by their respective orders for missionary service, often found themselves assigned as parish priests. Periodically this situation led to serious tensions over jurisdiction between the religious orders and the ecclesiastical hierarchy.
During the last decades of the seventeenth century, the Habsburg kings of Spain continued to take seriously their role as promoters of the Catholic faith in their colonial possessions, and they looked to the Spanish clergy, especially the friars, to play their part. 'As missionaries, the friars worked within the context of the Spanish colonial policies. They were agents of the State as well as servants of the Church.'1 From the start, the mendicant orders had been intimately involved in the encomienda programme of pacification and colonization. The encomienda system consisted of feudal holdings entrusted by the King of Spain to the colonizers as reward for their services. It was a means for extracting produce and labour services from the conquered indigenous populations in return for their protection. The early friars worked through this system to pursue mass evangelization among pacified and settled native groups.2 The regulars remained a potent force in the Philippine church throughout the Spanish era.
Through the ardour and thoroughness of the early missionaries, Christian communities were established in the lowland Philippines within two or three generations after the Spanish arrival. Both the friars and the Jesuits insisted that neophytes memorize the entire Doctrina Cristiana - a compendium of common Catholic prayers and religious practices - together with the fundamental doctrinal principles. Thus new practices (the sacraments, confessions, penance) and new concepts (the idea of original sin and the idea of salvation) entered the Philippine world. At the same time, converts had to conform to the new Catholic morality, which included the renunciation of polygamy, ritual drinking, chattel-slavery, and usury.
While the regular clergy played an important part in shaping the beliefs of the neophytes, otherfactors also contributed to the successful evangelization ofthe Philippine lowlands. Charles Macdonald has alerted us to the 'transformative continuity between old religious rituals and present-day Catholicism', which was achieved 'by using the same belief structure within a new framework or by simply transposing a pre-existing structure into a new idiom'. Macdonald argues that some of the later Spanish friars were 'probably simple peasants', who brought with them 'their own brand of folk Christianity, including the
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