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CUSTOMS OF THE TAGALOGSBy: JUAN DE PLACENCIA
COMPREHENSIVE BACKGROUND OF JUAN DE PLACENCIA
Early YearsJuan de Plasencia was born in the early 16th century as Juan Portocarrero in Plasencia, in the region of Extremadura, Spain.He was one of the seven children of Pedro Portocarrero, a captain of a Spanish schooner, who died in Naples, Italy in 1574.Juan de Plasencia grew up during the period known as the Siglo de Oro, a Golden Age when arts and literature flourished in many parts of Spain.Fray Juan de Puerto Carrero del Convento de Villanueva de la Serrena - his real name.
Life in the PhilippinesFray Juan de Plasencia came together with the first batch of Franciscan missionaries in the Philippines. In the list of missionaries bound for the Philippine Islands which was dispatched from the Casa de la Contratacion of Seville, dated May 21 1577, the name Fray Joan de Puerto Carrero, del convento de Villanueva de la Serena was mentioned. This name undoubtedly belongs to Juan de Plasencia.
As a friar, Juan de Plasencia lived up to his pledge, leading a lifestyle devoid of any luxury and in constant contact with the people he was trying to convert to Christianity. He was also known to be a defender of the native population, looking after the poor, ill, or neglected, and standing up for their rights on numerous occasions.He was also very keen on creating primary schools, and requested official sanction for the creation of educational centers where "Filipinos could not only learn Christian doctrine, but also reading and writing, and some arts and crafts, so they would become after, not only good Christians but also useful citizens", an initiative that was approved byDomingo de Salazar, the first Bishop of the See of Manila (1512–1594).
His untiring work and missionary zeal pushed him further in the foundation and organization of several towns not only in Laguna and Tayabas but also in the present Provinces of Bulacan and Rizal, and these were: Tayabas, Calilaya, Lucban, Mahayhay, Nagcarlang, Lilio, Pila, Santa Cruz, Lumbang, Pangil, Siniloan, Morong, Antipolo, Taytay, and Meycawayan.As his biographers testify, his life was characterized by zeal, prayer, and dedicated service. When he was moving about on foot and visiting areas where the natives dwell he devoted himself wholeheartedly to their conversion. His great interest in this endeavor made him plunge himself into the laborious study of the native language and the foundation of numerous towns.