The Dominican Province of the Philippines was established on Dec. 8, 1971 as the 41st province of the Order of Preachers.
The years leading to the establishment of the indigenous province can be characterized by utmost nationalism in all fronts and aspects of society, even in religious matters. The upsurge of nationalism in the late 1950s among the Filipinos was due to their aspiration for an identity that they could own, especially after they had gained their independence from the Americans.
The Spanish Dominicans were well aware of the nationalist movement as early as 1951. Fr. Silvestre Sancho, OP expressed his foresight of the eventual departure of the Spanish Dominicans from the Philippines either through the imposition of the government or the establishment of a Dominican Province in the Philippines. However, it would take two decades before such anticipation was to be realized.
In 1969, when the Master of Order, Fr. Aniceto Fernandez, OP was in the country for his canonical visitation, the Filipino Dominicans, led by Fr. Leonardo Legaspi, OP, expressed their readiness to be given administrative positions in the province and the Order.
Before he concluded his visit in the country, Fr. Fernández presided over a private meeting of the Filipino Dominicans. This became an avenue for Filipino Dominicans to voice out their concerns. They hinted their desire for the establishment of a Philippine province, having in mind the newly established Vietnamese Province. They hoped to have the same in the Philippines. This was received heartily by Fr. Fernández, and encouraged the Filipino Dominicans towards the fulfillment of their desire to establish their own province.
With this encouragement, the Filipino Dominicans went on to establish their own province, realized after three stages: 1) the Filipino Dominican Conference; 2) the Regional Vicariate; and 3) the Province.
The first meeting of the FDC was on March 20, 1969 in the Central Seminary of the University of Santo Tomás. Fr. Jesus Gayo, O.P. proposed that FDC be only a consultative body to the Provincial, and urged the Filipino Dominicans to proceed positively in dealing with their present situation and inquiries.
After giving his remarks, Fr. Gayo received the pledge of loyalty of the Filipino Dominicans and left the latter to proceed in their program. In this meeting, Filipino Dominicans elected the members of an executive board. Those who were elected were: Fr. Leonardo Legaspi, president; Fr. Ramon Salinas, vice-president; Fr. Jaime Cura, secretary; and Fr. Manuel Piñon, treasurer.
The resolutions of the first FDC meeting were 1) establishment of a secretariat for vocations; 2) creation of houses completely governed by Filipino Dominicans; 3) apprenticeship of Filipino Dominicans to the offices and ministries of the Province; and 4) election of a vicar provincial for the Philippines.
These were all approved except for the last one. Fr. Gayo requested the FDC to propose plans for the set-up of a vice-province or a vicariate in the Philippines, in view of the upcoming Provincial Chapter. Among the plans presented by FDC, their proposed set-up of a Vicariate in the Philippines was approved for presentation in the Provincial Chapter of 1969 in Avila, Spain.
In the Provincial Chapter in Avila, held on July 16, 1969, the Filipino Dominicans were represented by Fr. Thomas Lopez Francisco, Fr. Rafael Quejada, Fr. Jephte Lucena, Fr. Ramon Salinas, and Fr. Leonardo Legaspi.
They presented in the chapter the proposed setup of a Vicariate in the Philippines. With Fr. Aniceto Castañon, O.P. as the new provincial of the Province, the chapter decreed the creation of an autochthonous province in the Philippines, the erection of a regional vicariate in the Philippines (composed of the Convents of Iloilo, Legazpi, San Juan del Monte, and the Babuyanes Islands), and the establishment of a Novitiate and Studentate formation houses.
From 1969, there would be a two-year transition period before the establishment of the Philippine Province to be approved by the coming General Chapter in Tallaght, Ireland in 1971.
On December 16, 1969, the new Provincial formulated a circular creating the regional Vicariate in the Philippines, and requesting the Dominicans in the Vicariate to elect a Regional Vicar. On January 29, 1970, Fr. Leonardo Legaspi was elected as the Regional Vicar.
The Philippine Regional Vicariate that was established through the efforts of the FDC in the Provincial Chapter in Avila served as a training ground in self-governance for the Filipino Dominicans in view of the establishment of a Philippine Province.
The convents and houses that composed the Vicariate were the ones stipulated by the Acts of the Provincial Chapter, namely; the Convent of the Holy Rosary, Iloilo; the Convent of St. Raymond of Peñafort, Legazpi City; the Holy Cross Convent, San Juan, Rizal; and the Houses in the Babuyanes mission (Camiguin and Calayan).
The General Chapter of 1971 in Tallaght, Ireland was held from July 17 to August 14, 1971. One of the agenda of the Chapter was the petition for the establishment of a New Province in the Philippines. It was approved with an almost unanimous favorable vote for the establishment of the New Province.
On December 8, 1971, during the ceremony proper for the establishment of a New Province, the decree of establishment of the DPP was read. It was followed by the appointment of Fr. Rogelio Alarcon as the first Provincial.
Gracing this very solemn and momentous event were the Master of the Order himself, Dominicans from all over the Philippines, as well as some of those in other countries.
The inauguration started with a Mass where Fr. Fernandez said his homily and wishes for the newly established province: first, “a great fidelity to the Church, to the Pope, to the hierarchy, as had been exemplified by St. Dominic himself;” and second, “a great fidelity to the new constitutions of the Order and to the decrees of the Second Vatican Council.”
To date, there are two provinces of the Order of Preachers, which co-exist in the Philippines—the Dominican Province of the Philippines and the Province of the Holy Rosary. The latter was one of the pioneers of evangelization in the country; from this province were the first Dominicans in the country who were Spaniards.
"Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life."
- Saint Dominic