The Augustinian Friars were the first Catholic missionaries in the Philippines. On April 28, 1565 they arrived in Cebu together with the Adelantado Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. The first five friars were:
1. Fray Andres de Urdaneta, OSA
2. Fray Martin de Rada, OSA
3. Fray Diego de Herrera, OSA
4. Fray Andres de Aguirre, OSA
5. Fray Pedro de Gamboa, OSA
For 13 long years (1565 to 1578), the Augustinians were the only friars in the country until the arrival of the friars minor in 1578. During this time they served as chaplains to the Spanish fleet and continued their apostolic work most especially to the nuevos cristianos (the newly baptized natives). It was also at this time that the friars built the first monastery and church in the Philippines which was made of light materials. This church housed the image of the Holy Child (Señor Santo Niño de Cebu) recovered by a Spanish soldier in a burning house. This image is believed to be the same image given by Magellan to Queen Juana during her baptism 44 years earlier (April 14, 1521).
The arrival of the Augustinians in 1565 signaled the official start of the Christianization of the Philippines. In the more than 300 years of the Spanish colonial period, the Augustinian friars were able to found, build and evangelize more than 300 towns and churches in what is now Metro Manila (then Province of Tondo), Cebu, Bulacan, Pampanga, Batangas, Panay Island, the two Ilocos Provinces, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Abra, La Union and during the early years also in Negros, Leyte, Mindoro and Laguna.
Aside from their apostolic labors, the friars also introduced so many things to the Filipinos: from agriculture to printing, from building bridges and dams to building roads, from cooking Spanish viands, desserts and pastries to building magnificent buildings such as churches, convents and schools that effectively urbanized and hispanized their flocks.
In 2015, the Augustinians friars celebrated the 450th Anniversary of their presence in the Philippines as well as the 450th Anniversary of the Finding of the Miraculous Image of the Holy Child (Kaplag in Cebuano). From 1565 to 2020, the Augustinian friars never left the Philippines. Today, the Province of Santo Niño de Cebu is composed of about 120 solemnly professed friars serving in 15 Communities and 5 Residences around the country and in Indonesia.
ACCORDING TO ST. AUGUSTINE
“In order to promote deep communion of mind and heart among the friars in community, we should be mindful that our personal relationships require the same qualities that are needed in all genuine human relationships.”