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, and 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. He also studied the use of plants in industry and arts, particularly the medical merits of the different species; he recorded the vernacular names of these 1,200 classified plants. In 1837 he published the first edition of his book, Flora de Filipinas ("Plants of the Philippines"). The book was in high demand and a second edition appeared in 1845. The book was acclaimed by scientists from all over the world. A de luxe edition (500 copies) of Flora de Filipinas, was produced between 1877 and 1883. It was prepared by disciples of Manuel Blanco, including a number of Augustinians. It contained seven volumes, and was published and printed at the expense of the Province of the Holy Name (the "Philippines Province") of the Order of Saint Augustine.
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.
Four of these volumes contained text in Spanish and Latin, and three volumes were devoted to coloured lithographs by C. Verdaguer. The pages measure 17.25 inches by 11.50 inches. This edition of 1877-1883 was displayed in Amsterdam, Holland in 1883, where it received the award, "Extraordinary Mention of Honour for Science." A description appears below. A set containing all seven volumes of Flora de Filipinas was recently offered for sale for about US$50,000.
A section of land within the Convento (monastery) San Agustin at Intramuros, Manila was called Manuel Blanco’s Garden, until the Seminario San Agustin was rebuilt upon it in 2009. (The previous Seminario there was destroyed by artillery shells and aerial bombing during World War II.) Manuel Blanco was very familiar with this location, for it was there that he had carried out many of his botanical experiments. A facsimile edition of Flora de Filipinas was reissued in 1995 by the San Agustin Museum at Intramuros.
A plant in the vicinity of Perth, Western Australia, has been named in honour of Manuel Blanco O.S.A. Blancoa Common name. Bugles. Family Haemodoraceae. Photo GalleryFor the Augnet photo gallery that includes Manuel Blanco O.S.A., click here.Links
Flora de Filipinas. Mauel Blanco’s text, included in a PDF file of 619 pages. http://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/102888#page/676/mode/1up
Photos of Intramuros Augustinian church and monastery/museum. With captions. http://superpasyal.blogspot.com.au/2007/09/san-agustin-musem-part-one.html