International Conference on the Augustinian Presence in the Philippines and on Kaplag

Fr. Czar Emmanuel Alvarez, OSA (The Freeman) - February 1, 2015 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - The members of the Augustinian Order in the Philippines will hold “Kaplag 2015 International Conference” at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Cebu City this coming April 25-28. The said event is part of a series of activities they organize on the occasion of a three-fold celebration – namely, the 450th anniversary of the discovery (“kaplag”) of the miraculous image of the Santo Niño de Cebu (1565-2015), the 450th anniversary of the their presence in our country (1565-2015), and the 50th anniversary of the elevation of the Santo Niño Church in Cebu to the rank of a “minor basilica” (1965-2015).

Both international and local experts in the history of the early Christian missions in the Philippines, the Augustinian legacy to our people, the prodigious finding of the image of the Child Jesus in 1565, and the devotion to the Santo Niño and its impact, are expected to deliver scholarly papers during the conference. There will be a total number of nine talks to be given on April 25, 26 and 28 (on topics like the Augustinian Saints of the Orient, Architectural Characteristics of Augustinian Churches in the Philippines, Augustinian Musicology, Augustinian History, Devotional Aspects of the Celebration of the Feast of the Santo Niño, etcetera). On April 27, on the other hand, participants will have a chance to join the fluvial procession of the Santo Niño and watch the grand re-enactment of its finding along the main streets of Cebu City.

The Augustinians were the first Christian missionaries to reach the Philippine shore. When the first five of them – Fray Andrés de Urdaneta, Fray Martín de Rada, Fray Andrés de Aguirre, Fray Diego de Herrera, and Fray Pedro de Gamboa – arrived in 1565, along with the expedition of Miguel López de Legazpi, one of the soldiers (named Juan de Camús) discovered the image of the Child Jesus given by the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan to the local queen of Cebu forty-four years earlier (in 1521). The annual commemoration of this event is commonly called as “Kaplag.” We have a detailed account of this provided by Fr. Gaspar de San Agustín, OSA in his book “Conquistas de las Islas Filipinas” (1998 bilingual edition, p. 342):

“Coming to a small house, which seemed to have not been entered into by anyone, he (sc. Juan de Camús) went into it and upon entering he found two native boxes tied together. He opened one and it had nothing inside except a bowl and a wild pig tusk. The other one seemed light to him and contained nothing. He went deeper into the house, found another box tied with Castilian sailing thread and Castilian cord made of hemp … and since it seemed heavy to him and to contain something, he cut the rope and opened it. Once opened, he found another box made of pine wood and a Child Jesus in it.”

The discovery of the religious icon marked the beginning of the systematic and sustained Christianization of our country, under the guidance of the Augustinian missionaries. Since then they have faithfully carried out their mission to evangelize our people, propagate the devotion to the Santo Niño, uplift the life of our countrymen, provide quality education, and so forth. The legacy they have bequeathed to the Filipino people goes well beyond religion. It comprises the arts and culture, education, fields of science (like botany, medicine, etcetera), philology, literature, cartography, urban planning, defense of human rights, promotion of justice, and many others. Indeed, the 450 years of presence of the Augustinian Order in the Philippines is worth-celebrating.

The Augustinian presence in our land has been associated with the Santo Niño devotion since 1565. The discovery of its image in Cebu 450 years ago has been interpreted, since the time of Legazpi up to now, as a sign of divine favor and protection. Thus, the Augustinians’ missionary works in the Philippines throughout the past centuries have been carried out under the aegis of the Holy Child, venerated by countless Filipinos in different ways and styles all over the world. The original image is venerated at the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño in Cebu City under the custody of the Augustinian Order.

For inquiries concerning the “Kaplag 2015 International Conference” and other Kaplag activities, please visit or or simply call the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño de Cebu at (032) 255-66-98 (local 400).

Every Sunday, The Freeman will feature stories about the Augustinians and their contributions to Cebu

and the country in line with the 450th anniversary of Augustinian presence in the Philippines. (FREEMAN)

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