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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

History : Friar Lands and The Friar Lands Act



Hacienda de Mandaloyon
Trivia :
"The Hacienda de Mandaloyon originally formed part of the estate holdings of the Augustinian Order. The property covered an area of 4,033 hectares. On January 20, 1920, the Augustinian Fathers sold this property to Dr. Frank W. Dudley and Don Francisco Ortigas. Hacienda de Mandaloyon, spanned the municipalities that are now known as Mandaluyong, San Juan, Pasig & Quezon City."
Source : http://www.ortigas.com.ph/about.html

I still vividly recall one of the questions when I took the Real Estate Broker Exam, it was about "friar lands". It was one of the hardest question during the exam. During our review class then, our lecturer  mentioned the term "friar lands"once or twice, but never thoroughly discussed it. It was just a minor subject on real estate terminology. 

Through the years as a real estate practitioner, I have often encountered the term "friar lands" because many of the real estate properties in the Philippines used to be classified as such. And what is interesting is that there are vast references in our history about  the subject. In fact, it was one of the reasons of Filipino revolts and insurrections during the Spanish period. And for this reason the subject should be given more importance and thoroughly discussed in real estate seminars and in Philippine history classes in our schools. But sometimes, the subject of "friar lands"is a contentious and sensitive matter to discuss considering that it involves discussing the past abuses of the Catholic Church and the origin of its landholdings.

The Augustinians, Dominicans, Jesuits and other religious orders were all holders, administrators and owners of vast tracts of land in different parts of the country during the Spanish colonial period. Some of these lands were given to them by the Spanish government and landed Catholics, others they bought and some were taken and possessed by them in very questionable ways, i.e. land grabbing by the friars. They owned estates comprising thousands of hectares. Most of these lands were agricultural and tilled by native Filipinos who themselves did not owned lands. Some of these religious orders were practically landlords during the Spanish colonial period.

These "friar lands" or church lands were a big problem when the Americans took administration of the Philippine Islands. The Americans had to make arrangements with the Holy See to discuss the status of these parcels of lands and estates, and offered to purchase them. Eventually, the friars were forced to sell these lands to the Americans, and these real properties became part of government administered lands classified as "friar lands". A special classification under the Act 1120 (of the Congress of the United States) or "The Friar Land Act".

These "friar lands" also became a source of corruption of some of the American administrators. Some of these lands were transferred to individuals who were not citizens and residents of the country, and some were sold to companies not registered in the Philippines. These acts by the American administrators were in violation of the existing laws at the time.

Below is the salient feature of Act 1120(of the Congress of the United Stares) or The Friar Lands Act :

ACT NO. 1120
"AN ACT PROVIDING FOR THE ADMINISTRATION AND TEMPORARY LEASING AND SALE OF CERTAIN HACIENDAS AND PARCELS OF LAND, COMMONLY KNOWN AS FRIAR LANDS, FOR THE PURCHASE OF WHICH THE GOVERNMENT OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS HAS RECENTLY CONTRACTED, PURSUANT TO THE PROVISIONS OF SECTIONS SIXTY-THREE, SIXTY-FOUR AND SIXTY-FIVE OF AN ACT OF THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES, ENTITLED “AN ACT TEMPORARILY TO PROVIDE FOR THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE AFFAIRS OF CIVIL GOVERNMENT IN THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES,” APPROVED ON THE FIRST DAY OF JULY, NINETEEN HUNDRED AND TWO"

To study and know about "friar lands" would give us Filipinos, particularly the real estate  practitioners, a better understanding of our history, and the real estate and urban development of our country.

Sources and related links:
http://philippinelaw.info/statutes/act1120-the-friar-lands-act.html
http://www.jstor.org/stable/1945652?seq=1&

Map Source :
http://www.ortigas.com.ph/about.html

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