culture.3 Their analyses show that evangelisation in the Philippines can be construed not as transplantation of Spanish Catholicism, but as a dynamic encounter between Spanish and native which grew from intermittent contacts into a prolonged relationship founded on religious and political considerations and punctuated by episodic collisions.4
While this encounter occurred within the patronato real de la iglesia de las Indias, the right and conduct of Spanish conquest were seriously questioned by the Dominican Bartolome de las Casas.5 Owing to this earlier discussion and the absence of extensive highly centralised civilisations as in the new world, colonisation of the islands was characterised by skirmishes between the Spanish and small native settlements rather than wide-scale destruction of the local population and culture. Moreover, early Augustinian missionaries disagreed with colonial authorities over the treatment of natives. This and other important church concerns, such as local slavery and polygamy, were discussed by the Synod of Manila (1582-6).6
Of greater impact was the synod's decision to use local languages in evangelising, a practical decision later interpreted by nationalists as denying education in Spanish to natives. With painstaking diligence, missionaries romanised the vernacular syllabary and produced grammars and sermon anthologies, catechisms and novenas. Though extremely cautious of the intrusion of 'pagan' beliefs, choosing for instance the Spanish Dios rather than the Tagalog Bathala for 'God', they nevertheless used for baptism the Tagalog word 'binyag which referred to the Muslim rite of purification.7 Codified in native vocabulary laden with local connotations, Christian doctrines of the afterlife8 or of being 'alipin ng Dios (slaves of God)'9 assumed new nuances. Moreover, other texts developed from official practice by church personnel were often used in aural-oral contexts, being chanted and dramatised during communal outdoor occasions such as Holy Week processions and patronal fiestas. In bringing the Christ story into native hearts and minds, they transformed the vernaculars into a language of redemption and created a Christianity easily appropriated by natives. This story's earliest major text is Gaspar Aquino de Belen's Pasiong Mahal (Sacred Passion) (1704).10 Related to Spanish antecedents and published
3 See, respectively, Ileto, Pasyon and revolution and Schumacher (ed.), Readings in Philippine church history.
4 Bitterli, Cultures in conflict, pp. 20-51.
5 Schumacher, Readings in Philippine church history, pp. 5-11.
7 Peralta (ed.), Reflections on Philippine culture, pp. 46-7.
8 Rafael, Contracting colonialism, pp. 167-209.
i0 See De Belen, Mahal na passion.
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