Padre Faura: The Man Behind the StreetFederico Llatzer Manuel Faura y Prat, better known as Padre Faura, was born on 30December 1840 in Barcelona, Spain, in the diocese of Vich. He was the fourth oftwelve children of Victor Canais Faura and Raimunda Canudas Prat; they had sevenboys and five girls. The religiosity of the Faura family is evidenced by having five ofthe siblings yielding to the call of God; three would be ordained priests while anothertwo would become nuns.Wanting to become a servant of God, Federico Faura entered the diocesan seminarybut left after just three years. Later on, after his application to the Provincial of theAragon Province, he was admitted as a lay brother in the Society of Jesus on 16October 1859. During the same month, ten of his fellow Jesuits in the Philippineswere authorized by Governor-General Fernando Escudero Norzagaray to take over theEscuela Municipal (later on to become Ateneo Municipal). Realizing Faura’s capabilityto become a priest, the Provincial would soon tell him to return to the seminary ofVich.Seven years after joining the Jesuit missionary in 1859, he was ordered to proceed toManila. Suffering from a fever, he came to Manila on 20 June 1866 and was assignedto teach mathematics and physics in Ateneo Municipal. He also took charge of themeteorological work and studies at Ateneo. Eventually, Faura became the first officialdirector of the Observatory of the Ateneo Municipal de Manila and it was through himthat the observatory gained recognition. The aforementioned observatory had comeinto existence on 1 January 1865 and was later granted an official recognition by theSpanish Government. Through the efforts of Faura, a Royal Decree was issued on 28April 1884 designating it as the central office of the Meteorological Observatory ofManila.Unlike most Spaniards in the Philippines, Faura was not a colonist. It is said that hischief passion was watching the heavens and recording the winds from his quietobservatory in Ermita that was later to carry his name. As director of the observatory,he was able to assemble the Universal Meteorograph that was invented by Rev. AngeloSecchi, S.J. of the Vatican Laboratory. A very expensive and recently inventedinstrument, the weather-recording device was acquired from Rome that was madepossible by the monetary donations of Manila businessmen. They realized the need foran adequate forecasting system since their businesses were often affected every timestrong typhoons visit the country.It is said that when the device arrived in the early part of 1869, it was whollydisassembled with no accompanying assembly instructions whatsoever. It was the firstof its kind to be seen in the Philippines: a delicate instrument composed mainly ofjumbled gears, levers, and springs. Fortunately, Faura was there to work on thejigsaw puzzle. Staying solely in a room, he would eventually complete themeteorograph to the surprise of other scholastics. Such is the determination andpatience of the man behind the early triumphs of the institution.
Tireless as he was, his health was frail. The tropical climate in the Philippines did notseem suited to his health. Faura had fever when he first arrived in Manila that wouldeven last for weeks and recur at intervals during the year. He was forced to takevacations and rests every now and then to regain his strength. To aggravate thematter, he also had an asthmatic condition. Despite poor health, he proceeded withhis work magnificently. Encouraged by the Spanish Government, he establishedweather stations in Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, and Marianas Islands. Furthermore, hewas once delegate to the 1868 eclipse expedition that met in Europe that becamehighly successful despite numerous impediments. Furthermore, he contributed variousarticles to the Boletin Meteorologico which was published in Rome by Father Secchi.In 1871, Faura returned to Europe to continue his theological studies at St. Cassaein inFrance, and at the same time, to further his meteorological research. He wasordained to the priesthood in 1874 and made his solemn profession as a Jesuit inRome on 15 August 1877. The following year, Faura returned to the Philippinesofficially assuming the position of Director of the observatory. However, lack ofpersonnel at Ateneo left him without an assistant while simultaneously handlingclasses and other assignments. Upon the resumption of his meteorological work, Faurastudied the paths and patterns of typhoons. On 7 July 1879, Faura predicted thearrival of a strong typhoon that saved hundreds of lives. Because of the typhoonwarning, losses incurred were relatively slight in the affected areas. His forecast wasthe first official storm warning in the Far East, and after which, weather forecastingbecame a regular service of the observatory.In 1880, an earthquake hit Manila. With the use of seismological instruments, Fauraobserved the earth’s movement and his findings were subsequently reproduced instudies published after the quake. In appreciation for Faura’s work, citizens of Manila(and Hong Kong) put up a sum of money for the acquisition of new instruments.Likewise, the Manila City Council conferred upon him the title of “Adopted Son ofManila.” In 1885, he was made Corresponding Member of the Meteorological Societyof Hamburg.Hard work would soon take its toll on Faura’s health. In September 1888, he wasforced to return to Spain due to ill health. Nevertheless, while in Europe, he stillrepresented the Manila Observatory at the exposition in Barcelona. In January 1890,Faura came back to the Philippines but again had to leave for Spain in April 1890. Thiswould be the last time he was to see his native land alive. Faura returned in February1894 only to take a vacation in Macao on April 1895 to escape the summer heat ofManila. Moreover, his asthmatic condition had grown from bad to worse. After stayingthere for about a month, he came back to Manila and once again resumed work. ByDecember 1896, he gave up active duty and rested at the Ateneo.During this time, the Philippine Revolution was well underway as open conflict hadalready broken out between his fellow Spaniards and the Filipino people whom he hadgreatly served as a scientist. A contributing factor perhaps to the deteriorating health
of the weak and anguished man was the eventual execution of Dr. Jose Rizal, one ofthe most brilliant pupils he had met at the Ateneo. Faura even visited Rizal inside hiscell at Fort Santiago while awaiting execution at Bagumbayan. Rizal was said to haveremarked that Faura was a prophet since the priest once predicted and told Rizal thathis head would be cut off if he will not restrain himself from bickering with thecolonial government. And so it was, Rizal was martyred at Bagumbayan on 30December 1896.Sick at heart, Faura’s health continued to weaken. On 23 January 1897, the eminentJesuit meteorologist passed away at the age of 56. Before his death, he laid thefoundations for the astronomical section to complete the Manila Observatory. Boththe seismological and magnetic sections were already in place upon in his death.Faura faithfully served the people of a country which was not even his own but acountry he knew so well. Immediately after the death of the prolific and foremostscientific pioneer in the Philippines, city authorities named the street in front of theobservatory Padre Faura Street in recognition of the work done by a man who spenthis life as a servant of God and a disciple of science.posted by historybuff413 @ 8:22 AM