A Maritime Pilgrimage (Part 2)

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Cuyo and Agutaya

17 May, Wednesday

At 2 am, I was awake. The night was absolutely still, there were a few stars. Prayed the rosary from the balcony of our common room, facing, across the courtyard below, an image of the Crucified Jesus.

Four of us took an early morning dip, while Fr. Notnot was up and about with paper processes of our boat and Fr. Charlie prolonged his sleep.

The surreal scene of the beach took our breath away. The nearby islands seemed to float in the air as the perfectly still waters mirrored the clouds. The low tide had exposed wide swaths of the white sandy beach and we walked as if fearing that our heavy feet would make vanish this unearthly apparition.

Where in the world but in Cuyo can you swim in clear and clean waters in a wide white beach just beside the harbor?

The setting was perfect for Fr. Louie to give Swimming 101 to Fr. Jojo. First step, float face down. Now, flap your legs without bending the knee. Now, float face up. Now, extend your arms to move forward. It was that simple. Was it the expert teacher or the fast learner student? Anyway, the combination of both made Fr. Jojo now able to “locomote” above the water.

After breakfast, Fr. Rey, ever the gracious host, brought us to the other town, Magsaysay. He had hired one of the only two jeepneys in the whole island, a vintage vehicle in blood-red color and chrome-plating such that you thought it was recently restored.

The viatoares 2017, with Cuyo parish priest Fr. Rey Palanca (3rd from left) and soon-to-be-priest Rev. Jeffrey Tan (7th from left), at a kasuy orchard, Magsaysay, Cuyo Island.

We dropped by the parish of Saint Michael the Archangel, paid a courtesy call to the parish priest and got introduced to Monsignor Allen Aganon and a couple of pastoral council officers from Saint James parish in Alabang, Metro Manila, who had just come the day before to check on the progress of the senior high school building their group are financing as part of their outreach program. This praiseworthy cooperation of a rich parish with a faraway community in an island lost in the Palawan sea must surely be an example of the Church going out to the periphery!

Façade of the Saint Michael parish church, Magsaysay town, Cuyo Island, Palawan
Interior of the Saint Michael parish church, Magsaysay town

The “lato” (Caulerpa lentillifera ) from Cuyo island is reputedly among the best in the Philippines. Soft but crunchy, succulent and tangy, it rolls in your tongue like sea grapes and, with a bit more imagination — and much less money — reminds you of caviar. Green caviar, it is indeed sometimes called. The fishermen and lato growers of Cebu and Bohol, reportedly, could only dream that their product had the same quality as that of Cuyo. And so, off we went to one of the seaweed farms. The morning was well advanced, the tide had risen, for which reason we were not able to see the sea product, contenting ourselves with a group selfie while standing on ancient wood planks that serve as walkway. And buying 2 kilos – all that was left – of the prized lato.

Visit to the lato (seaweed) farm in Magsaysay, Cuyo Island

We also visited the ruins of the Magsaysay fort. An enterprising resident, reportedly a politician, has used it as a backdrop to his resort

Fort ruins, Magsaysay town, Cuyo Island

Back in Cuyo town, we accepted deacon Jeffrey Tan’s invitation to visit his grandparents’ house to see the image of Saint Augustine that their family is safekeeping for the parish. Reverend Jeffrey is due for priestly ordination this coming June 7; thanks for the invite to the ordination, but we could not stay that long.

It is a custom in many parishes, we learned, that valuable images are loaned to selected families for safekeeping. The family also vests the image and decorates its carroza for the liturgical festivities. In a recent development, a memorandum of agreement is drawn between the parish and the family, to make sure, that through the passage of generations, both parties understood that the image is property of the parish, and not of the family.

The image of Saint Augustine kept by the Tan family is of ivory, a fine and beautiful work, and from my layman’s eyes, probably by a Filipino or at least Asian carver, judging from the almond-shaped eyes and generally Oriental features. The bushy beard, painted black, is also of ivory. The ivory hands confirm the work of a remarkable artist.

Remarkable ivory image of Saint Augustine, kept at the Tan’s ancestral residence for safekeeping, Cuyo, Palawan
A 1980s painting of the fort and church of Cuyo, Palawan, also at the Tan residence

Fr. Rey also showed us a considerable collection of liturgical vessels and paraphernalia (candelabras, censers, vestments, pennants) and bells that our Recollect forebears had used to help make divine worship what it really is: man’s giving, or trying to give back, to God his numerous gifts. They are gathered in a room, not yet properly a museum, which hopefully Fr. Rey will be able to one day realize. Later, he showed us a treasure which he personally keeps in his room, handed down from the Recollects: a precious ivory image of the sleeping child Jesus, its beauty enthralling.

Again, the words of the Forma de Vivir came back, reminding us that indeed our missionaries spent the best of their fortunes in things that pertain to God and the worship due to him.

Liturgical paraphernalia, Saint Augustine parish, Cuyo, Palawan
Beautiful ivory of the Infant Jesus, Cuyo, Palawan

As I toured the walkways around the fort’s ramparts for picture-worthy angles, a young monitor lizard saw me coming and scurried to safety. It turned the corner, into the corridor leading to the living quarters of the convent staff, as I gave chase. The shiny floor tiles made its escape cartoonish, and it soon disappeared into a room left open. Turned out to be the room of Fr. Rey’s nephew. I informed him and he started shrieking and flailing his arms and beseeching a younger sacristan to drive the monster out. Finally, it was flushed out, and again it ran for dear life. I finally cornered it in an empty corner hall and shot it. With my iPad’s camera.

Fr. Rey said there are two bigger ones that also frequent the area.

Leaving Cuyo past one in the afternoon, we arrived in Agutaya almost three hours later. Mooring the boat was tricky, the currents endangered the propellers hitting the rocks; after disembarking, we left the crew to disentangle the stuck anchor.

Fr. Notnot, is hands-on as we make the difficult mooring at Agutaya port

The welcome party was a pleasant surprise. Fr. Joe Rey Alcantara, parish priest, and his Parish Pastoral Council officers and some choir members were at the dock, and soon were placing leis on our collars. It was enfleshing the words on the town’s entrance arch: “Maambeng ang Pagkabot!” A lavish merienda awaited us in a kiosk in the middle of the Agutaya fort: native suman, cassava puto, and the more Western cake and doughnuts. The Parish Pastoral Council was solicitously hovering over, while the choir was, by way of practicing their songs, providing background music. We felt like celebrities!

Surprise welcoming committee at Agutaya, Palawan. Fr. Joe Rey Alcantara, parish priest, is in white t-shirt, beside Fr. Ken Lao
Maambeng ang Pagkabot to Agutaya
Fr. Jojo Jadulco, at the entrance of the church-fortress of Saint John the Baptist, Agutaya
Interior of the church-fortress of Saint John the Baptist

As dusk settled, we commenced the Eucharistic celebration inside Agutaya church. Fr. Louie, the only native Palaweno among us friars (and whose lolo hails from nearby Cuyo) did not need great persuasion to preside over the sacrament. Also concelebrating with us was Fr. Joe Rey. And there, in the silence of the church fortress, as evening drew near, and in the company of the handful of faithful, we commemorated the Lord’s Supper. Fr. Louie made a stirring homily, with a generous garnishing of cuyonen phrases, on the day’s gospel of how, indeed, only as branches connected to the Vine could we be fruitful. The same fidelity to the Lord that brought our missionaries, back in the 17th century, to these once-inhospitable shores, is the only guarantee to the fidelity and fruitfulness of today’s pastoral efforts.

A rich dinner of fresh seafood was served soon after mass. We insisted that the pastoral council members, the choir and the cooks join us.

The after-dinner conversation with Fr. Joe Rey was a great blessing. We saw in this earnest, dedicated, self-sacrificing and gentle-mannered young priest a pastor that Agutaya needs. Agutaya is one hundred percent Catholic. There have been attempts by ministers of other beliefs, Christian or otherwise, to establish in the island. Fr. Joe Rey talks them out of it. Agutaya’s soil is poor, vegetables are hard to come by; not even the ubiquitous cashew tree, which thrives on acidic soil, grows in Agutaya. The island does not even have a wet market; the sea, its most natural source of livelihood, can spew, in the months of the amihan, not fish but meters-high waves. You’ve got to be a committed missionary to survive in Agutaya.

Of similar commitment and dedication were, of recent memory, the last Recollect pastors of Agutaya: Fr. Jesus Sobejano (+3 July 2015) and Fr. Jose Frances (still alive and kicking in Spain, I met him May 2016 in Marcilla, Navarra). Fr. Sobejano would become later the first parish priest of our parish in Tondo, Manila, and, after that, be elected Vicar Provincial of the Vicariate of the Philippines in China. Fr. Jose Frances was assigned later to San Sebastian convent in Manila, where he was known for ministering to the street people and saying masses in various chapels in the parish. And oh, did I tell you he wrote his master’s thesis in Pilipino?

Holy water dispenser. According to the caption, it is of the time when Fr. Jesus Sobejano was parish priest
According to the caption, the chalice is of the time of Fr. Jose Frances as parish priest
Old bells, Agutaya, Palawan
One of the bulwarks of Agutaya is named after Saint Augustine
At the front rampart, the coat of arms of the OAR, and the epigraph “Se acabo el ano 1748” (Finished in 1748)

Back to Fr. Joe Rey. His limited time and resources have to be divided among the necessary formation of the people of God (through sacraments, catechesis, sacramentals, etc.) and their human development; on the other hand, he cannot but address the stone fort, some parts of which have fallen, endangering the safety of the people around. He was glad to know that, since the National Historical Institute (renamed in 2010 as the National Historical Commission of the Philippines) has put a marker in 1999, it would not be farfetched to think it could help restore the monument. Hopefully, the attention of said government entity could be given to this fort. Though not a high profile project, it is in sore need of help from cultural and heritage agencies.

NHI marker (1999) at the entrance of the church-fortress in Agutaya

The NHI marker reads: “Church of St. John the Baptist. Completed in 1748, the church fortress of St. John the Baptist of Agutaya was built by the Augustinian Recollects as defense against Muslim invasions. Named as Baluarte de San Juan Bautista, it was constructed with the help of the Agutaynons and their encomendero Don Antonio de Rojas, who delineated and laid out the building. The fortress was equipped with cannons, arquebuses, slingers and mortar weapons. During the Second World War, the church-fortress became an evacuation and refugee center for the people of Agutaya”.

Though I seem to remember that Fr. Juan de San Severo, who built the fort of Cuyo, also built those of Agutaya, Linapacan and Taytay in the late 17th century, there is no contesting the inscription on the coral stone at the front rampart that says: Se acabo en el ano 1748. (Doesn’t take away the possibility, though, that he could have started the original forts, onto which further fortifications would be added. But one needs to go back to the original documents).

Entrance to the fort, Agutaya, Palawan
A view of the Agutaya church from the convent inside the fort
Talking with parish priest of Agutaya, Fr. Joe Rey Alcantara, atop the fort ramparts
Crumbling bastions needing repair

Again the complete stillness of the night, when it was time to retire. And the sweltering heat in the rooms. Frs. Charlie, Notnot, Jojo and Louie soon settled in cots which they located in the pasillos outside the stuffy rooms, while Fr. Ken and I pitched our tents at the bulwark. I channeled the little boy in me, imagining pirates kept at bay by the secure fort. Fr. Ken had a more troubled sleep: he felt eyes peering inside his tent. Eyes of those who have died, missionaries, local residents, pirates within and without the ramparts of that fort.

A room with a view
Twilight at the fort, with tent on the ready

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Fray René Paglinawan, OAR

Fray René Paglinawan, OAR

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< 2021 >
September
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2
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3
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4
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    Sis. Mary Grace Morales, SAR (Antipolo Chapter)
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5
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    52nd INTERNATIONAL EUCHARISTIC CONGRESS
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6
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7
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8
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9
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    ANNIVERSARY OF PRESBYTERAL ORDINATION
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10
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    September 10, 2021

    SOLEMNITY OF ST. NICHOLAS OF TOLENTINE
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    51st FOUNDING ANNIVERSARY
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    OAR STORY LECTURE SERIES / 8:00-12:00 A.M. / via Zoom & FB accounts
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11
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    Presider: Fray Giovanni Gil Magbojos, OAR

    PAPAL VISIT TO HUNGARY & SLOVAKIA
    September 12-15, 2021

    DAY 1: ROME – BUDAPEST – BRATISLAVA

    06:00Departure by airplane from

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    08:45MEETING WITH THE PRESIDENT OF

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    Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest

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    17:30PRIVATE MEETING WITH THE

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    B
    IRTHDAY
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    Gerald Artates (RAY-Provincialate)

    PRESBYTERAL ANNIVERSARY
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    Fray Leander Barrot
    Fray Paulino Dacanay

13
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    PAPAL VISIT TO HUNGARY & SLOVAKIA

    DAY 2:  BRATISLAVA

    09:15WELCOME CEREMONY at the Presidential

    Palace in Bratislava

    09:30    COURTESY VISIT TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC in the “Golden Hall” of the Presidential Palace in Bratislava
    10:00     MEETING WITH AUTHORITIES, CIVIL SOCIETY AND THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS in the garden of the Presidential Palace in Bratislava
    10:45     MEETING WITH BISHOPS, PRIESTS, RELIGIOUS, CONSECRATED PERSONS, SEMINARIANS, CATECHISTS at the Cathedral of Saint Martin in Bratislava
    16:00     PRIVATE VISIT TO THE “BETHLEHEM CENTER” in Bratislava
    16:45      MEETING WITH THE JEWISH COMMUNITY at Rybné námestie Square in Bratislava
    18:00     VISIT OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE PARLIAMENT at the Apostolic Nunciature in Bratislava
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    B
    IRTHDAY

    Sis. Aida Lopez, SAR (Antipolo Chapter)
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    Robert John Navarro (RAY-Miranila)
    Hon. Rufus Rodriguez, Brother General of the Order

    ANNIVERSARY OF SIMPLE PROFESSION
    Fray Dionisio Cachero (1970-2021)

    PRESBYTERAL ANNIVERSARY
    (1997-2021)
    Fray Jose Ernil Almayo

    FIRST DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    +Fray Emilio Larlar Jr. [Attention! Recoletos de Provincialate Community: cf. Add. Code
    94ª: “When a brother dies, whether a novice or professed, the community to which he
    belongs will celebrate … Mass on the first anniversary of his death.”]

14
  • All day
    September 14, 2021

    PAPAL VISIT TO HUNGARY & SLOVAKIA

    DAY 3: BRATISLAVA – KOŠICE – PREŠOV – KOŠICE – BRATISLAVA
    Departure by airplane for Košice

    08:10
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    10:30     BYZANTINE DIVINE LITURGY OF SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM PRESIDED BY THE HOLY FATHER in the square of the Mestská športová hala in Prešov
    16:00     MEETING WITH THE ROMA COMMUNITY at Luník IX district in Košice
    17:00     MEETING WITH YOUNG PEOPLE at Lokomotiva Stadium in Košice
    18:30     Departure by airplane for Bratislava
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    BIRTHDAY

    Sr. Ma. Lourdes Piccio, AR Sr. Floramae Lanuza, AR
    Sis. Catalina Marzon, SAR (Tondo Chapter)

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    +Sis. Rizalina Poblete, SAR (Cavite Chapter)

15
  • All day
    September 15, 2021

    PAPAL VISIT TO HUNGARY & SLOVAKIA

    DAY 4: BRATISLAVA – ŠAŠTIN – BRATISLAVA – ROME
    10:00    HOLY MASS at the National Shrine in Šaštin
    13:30    FAREWELL CEREMONY at Bratislava International Airport
    13:45     Departure by airplane for Rome
    15:30    Arrival at Rome/Ciampino International Airport

    BIRTHDAY
    Fray Anthony Morillo
    Fray James Bumangabang
    Sis. Leonida Tejada, SAR (Provincialate Chapter)
    Sis. Patria Laguna, SAR (Talisay Chapter)
    Beah Marie Ganarias (RAY-Bacolod)

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    +Sis. Lolita Jara, SAR (Tondo Chapter)
    +Sis. Josefina Villa, SAR (Antipolo Chapter)

16
  • All day
    September 16, 2021

    108th ANNIVERSARY
    OF RELIGIOSAS FAMILIAS

    BIRTHDAY
    Fray Joseph Cyprian Panaligan
    Fray Robin Ross Plata
    Sr. Mary Ann Lumactao, AR
    Bro. Nestor Paredes, SAR (Puerto Princesa Chapter)
    Bro. Almario de la Cerna, SAR (Cebu Chapter)

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    +Sr. Angeles Gabutina, AR

17
  • All day
    September 17, 2021

    BIRTHDAY
    Sis. Rosalina Derain, SAR (Tondo Chapter)
    Sis. Anita Luces, SAR (Tondo Chapter)
    Sis. Aurora Guilaran, SAR (Baguio Chapter)
    Julia Tamsi (RAY-Baguio)
    Most Rev. Socrates Mesiona, D.D. (Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Princesa)

18
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    September 18, 2021

    OAR STORY LECTURE SERIES / 9:00-12:00 A.M. / via Zoom & FB accounts
    “The Recollect Contributions to Philippine Culture and Society”

    BIRTHDAY
    Fray Henry Santiago
    Sr. Ma. Ruth Gulane, AR
    Sis. Mary Ann Cabanes, SAR (Baguio Chapter)
    Sis. Demetria Bayona, SAR (Talisay Chapter)
    Sis. Josefina Tampus, SAR (Cebu Chapter)

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    +Sis. Lourdes Donayre, SAR (Cebu Chapter)

     

19
  • All day
    September 19, 2021

    PRAYER INTENTION: FOR THE SICK (cf. LAMP I,5c)

    FEAST – ST. ALONSO DE OROZCO

    3rd ANNIVERSARY OF THE ARRIVAL OF THE
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    BIRTHDAY
    Fray Joseph Philip Trayvilla
    Fray Joel Alve

20
  • All day
    September 20, 2021

    BIRTHDAY
    Sr. Ma. Nena Labrague, AR
    Sr. Kristine Ignacio, AR
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    Estella Marie Andador (RAY-Talisay)

21
  • All day
    September 21, 2021

    BIRTHDAY
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    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    +Sr. Isabel Pantoja, AR
    +Sr. Salvacion Olalo, AR
    +Sr. Ma. Susana Quiñones, AR
    +Sis. Aquilina Gonzales, SAR (Manila Chapter)

22
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    September 22, 2021

    BIRTHDAY

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    Lebron Jay Bantog (RAY-Valencia)

23
  • All day
    September 23, 2021

    BIRTHDAY
    Fray Vicente Ramon, Jr.
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    ANNIVERSAY OF PRESBYTERAL ORDINATION
    Most Rev. Roberto Gaa (Bishop of the Diocese of Novaliches)

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    +Sr. Sebastiana Jaropojop, AR
    +Sr. Agustina Salcedo, AR
    +Sis. Florencia Velarde, SAR (Manila Chapter)

24
  • All day
    September 24, 2021

    BIRTHDAY
    Sis. Bernadita Campos, SAR (Tondo Chapter)
    Sis. Dinah Espino, SAR (Talisay Chapter)
    Sugarrey Rendajae (RAY-Talisay)

    ANNIVERSARY OF PRESBYTERAL ORDINATION
    (1967-2021)
    Fray Emeterio Buñao

25
  • All day
    September 25, 2021

    OAR STORY LECTURE SERIES / 9:00-12:00 A.M. / via Zoom & FB accounts
    “The Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno”

    BIRTHDAY
    Sr. Lucita Mingueto, OAR

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    +Sr. Esperanza Heffler, AR

26
  • All day
    September 26, 2021

    107th WORLD DAY OF MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES
    Theme: Towards an Ever Wider “We”

    BIRTHDAY
    Sis. Concesa da Silva, SAR (Antipolo Chapter)
    Sis. Ma. Lourdes Mirasol, SAR (Bacolod Chapter)

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    +Sis. Socorro Ladim, SAR (Antipolo Chapter)

27
  • All day
    September 27, 2021

    2021 WORLD TOURISM DAY
    (cf. Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development)

    BIRTHDAY
    Sr. Rafaela Paras, AR
    Sr. Damiana Tafalla, AR
    Sr. Ma. Melodina Ramirez, AR
    Sis. Estrella Buelo, SAR (Manila Chapter)
    Sis. Teresa Fuertes, SAR (Cavite Chapter)
    Sis. Rosita Lacao, SAR (Inagawan Chapter)
    Sis. Susan Manalon, SAR (Inagawan Chapter)
    Sis. Ruth Miralles, SAR (Inagawan Chapter)
    Sis. Encarnacion Cinco, SAR (Cebu Chapter)

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY:
    +Sr. Genoveva del Santissimo Sacramento, AR

28
  • All day
    September 28, 2021

    PRAYER INTENTION: FOR THE MISSION (cf. LAMP I,5c)

    BLESSED MARTYRS OF JAPAN

    ANNIVERSARY OF EPISCOPAL ORDINATION
    Bp. Peter Liu of Kaohsiung (Taiwan) [1994-2021]

    BIRTHDAY
    Sis. Salome Mapili, SAR (Valencia Chapter)

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    +Sr. Iluminada Apurillo, AR

29
  • All day
    September 29, 2021

    BIRTHDAY
    Fray Roderick Deguit
    Sis. Mercedita Macabihag, SAR (San Carlos Chapter)
    Rodelin Oredina (RAY-Talisay)

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    +Sis. Maria Acuña, SAR (Cebu Chapter)
    +Sis. Elvira Birondo, SAR (Talisay Chapter)

30
  • All day
    September 30, 2021

    BIRTHDAY
    Fray Ferdinand Fornilos
    Sr. Crisanta Lerios, AR
    Sis. Teresita Labos, SAR (Cebu Chapter)

    ANNIVERSARY OF PRESBYTERAL ORDINATION
    (2017-2021)
    Fray Invenzor Melgazo
    Fray Jayferson Baldelovar
    Fray Mark Saludes

  

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