Manuel Blanco was born in Spain in 1779. He joined the Augustinians there, and studied at their house of formation in Valladolid, the old capital city of Spain.
He made his Augustinian religious profession in 1795.
He became a priest in 1805 at the age of twenty six years. Sent to the Philippines, he served in Augustinian parishes in several parts of the country.
He was responsible for the construction of the Augustinian church at Batangas. Named in honour of Saint Joseph (San Jose), this church – which still stands - has a large one-aisle interior.
The church is typical of Baroque architecture as executed in the Philippines. The pulpit and canopy feature intricate carvings of local flora. (The significance of the choice of native flora will become more relevant later in this text.)
The talents of Manuel Blanco O.S.A. were recognised within the needs of the Order of Saint Augustine.
He was called to serve the Order successively as a Provincial Counsellor, Provincial Treasurer, and as Provincial. He died at Guadalupe, Philippines on 1st April 1845 at the age of sixty eight years.
None of the above, however, yet mentions the reason he is probably the best known of all of the Augustinians who served in the Philippines continuously since the year 1565.
Early in his forty years in the Philippines, Blanco became fascinated by the beauty and variety of the Philippine flora (plant life). He began to collect and study the plants found in the different parts of the country.
He was strongly influenced by the system of the taxonomy (scientific classification) of plants that was published in the book, Systema Vegetabilium, by the Swedish botanist, Carl Linnaeus (1707-1788).
Blanco used the system of Linneaus in his classification of 1,200 plants of the Philippines.
Blanco also studied the use of plants in industry and arts, particularly the medical merits of the different species.
(Continued on the next page)
Photos (at right):
Picture 1: Manuel Blanco O.S.A.
Pictures 2 and 3: Pages from the de luxe edition (500 copies) of Flora de Filipinas, which was produced between 1877 to 1883, after the death of its original editor, Manuel Blanco O.S.A.