Francisco Combés

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Francisco Combés (1620 – 1665) was a Spanish priest who established Christian monasteries in the Philippines in the 17th century.


Combés was born in Zaragoza (Spain) in 1620. When he was twelve, he joined the Jesuit order as a novice at Tarragona, harbor city near in Catalonia. Before finishing his priesthod, after only six years of study, he expressed the desire to become part of the expedition to the Philippine Islands. He was assigned to Mexico, and from there he joined a group of Roman Catholic missionaries bound for the East Indies.

In 1643, eleven years after entering the Jesuits, together with forty-six other friars he was sent to the Philippines in an expedition by Diego de Bobadilla. Combés finished his theological studies in the Philippines, and was ordained as a Jesuit in 1645. He was assigned to Zamboanga in Mindanao where he ministered for more than a decade to the religious needs of the natives. In the twelve years that he served there he grew to acquire strategic function, and prestige as a leader, becoming ambassador to the Muslim chieftains, among them Sultan Corralat, and the sultans of Jolo.

He traveled to Manila in 1657, and stayed there for two years. He was assigned to Leyte where he remained for three years. He gained deep insights into the history, the customs and traditions, and the language of the island.

Combés was again recalled to Manila in 1662. Sensing the decline in the Spanish hold on the Muslim areas of Mindanao, he tried to persuade the Spanish government, and religious authorities to strengthen or hold on government fortifications in the island.

While on voyage to Madrid, and then to Rome as procurator of the Jesuit order, Combés died on board on December 29, 1665. He was 45 years old.

Combés wrote a book, Historia de las Islas de Mindanao, Iolo, y sus adyacentes...(Madrid, Herederos de Pablo de Val, 1667) that contains a three-paragraph section on the voyage of Fernão de Magalhães (i.e. Ferdinand Magellan) in Philippine waters in March–April 1521. It talks of Magellan and his fleet anchoring in Butuan and planting a cross at a mountain there. From Butuan, Magellan and crew sail for Cebu making a brief stopover at an island named "Limasaua". Today, Combés story is seen differently. Instead of anchoring at Butuan, Magellan's fleet is anchored at Limasaua. A mass, which is not mentioned in Combes' story, is held at Limasaua. This phantom mass is celebrated in the Philippines every year and the island Limasaua (now universally spelled with a w in place of u, "Limasawa") is known as the site of the "First mass in the Philippines".


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