“Casianic Experience”: A Glimpse of My Diaconal Exposure

(Note: Here is a glimpse of the life and ministry of an Augustinian Recollect deacon (the author) assigned in the island community of San Isidro Labrador Parish in Casian Island, around two hours by boat from the town of Taytay in mainland Palawan and when seawaters are serene.

Fray Jorr, a native of San Carlos City in Negros Occidental, was ordained deacon on November 17, 2018, together with six others. In mid-December last year, his group were sent to their respective parish assignments for the start of their diaconal practice which is basically described as “one of service in three areas: the Word, the Liturgy, and Charity.” As a deacon, Fray Jorr has to take the ministry of the Word which includes proclaiming the Gospel during the Mass, preaching and teaching. His liturgical ministry includes various parts of the Mass proper to the deacon, including being an ordinary minister of Holy Communion and the proper minister of the chalice when Holy Communion is administered under both kinds. His ministry of charity involves service to the poor and the marginalized and working with parishioners to help them become more involved in such ministry.)

“You cannot really know something until you are there.”

These were the words from a Recollect priest who had dedicated long years in the missions. His wisdom tipped my interest to have this eagerness to also go to the mission territories to experience what is yet unknown to me. Providentially, I was assigned in one of our “local missions” in Palawan for my diaconal exposure, and now I confirm the truth behind those words.

Fray Jorr Rabacal, OAR, with some of the residents of Casian Island, Taytay, Palawan.

It’s been almost five months since I arrived here in Casian Island, and about six months since I was ordained a deacon. I cannot deny the fact that, so far, the sense of adventure and excitement are the factors that really move me to conquer my fears linked to the sea, and to muster courage to face the challenges in my diaconal assignment.

Many things in this island are new to me:  the means of transportation going to my apostolate is through a boat (of different types) where its engine has always the open possibility to malfunction anytime during the trip, long stems of plants and branches of the trees that are like hands slapping my face and like shackles on my feet as I climb the hill towards the chapel, the need to consult a calendar with indicators for high and low tides to somehow approximate the feasibility of travel despite the unpredictable condition of the sea, and the ubiquitous consciousness to conserve energy due to daily power interruption (from 12 midnight to four o’clock in the afternoon) — all of these bring me the sense of awe to see the interesting side of life in the island, and all of which inspire me to find deeper meaning in my vocation as religious and cleric.

Moreover, as I visit the island chapels and minister to the people, I can feel their enthusiasm. Understandable, because they cannot, say, go to mass, as frequent as the people in the mainland do.   And seeing a minister approaching them, their longing to hear the Word of God becomes immediately evident in their eyes. I am happy for them because I know every time a minister visits them, in their hearts they whisper they have another chance to receive God’s grace.

My brief immersion so far in the apostolate like this cannot be compared with those of others who have already spent many years in the mission apostolate. But all that I have witnessed and experienced in these few adventures in the last few months offered me a more profound awareness of God’s goodness. But then a question still lingers in me: Am I as ready as I was for the first time?

Blessed and joyful. Two days after my arrival here in Casian last December, Fr. Louie Gabinete, the local prior and parish priest, immediately assigned me to Barangay Batas in Batas Island, for the 9-day novena dawn paraliturgy, or equivalent to “Simbang Gabi” if it were dawn masses prior to Christmas Day.

Batas is the newest island chapel handed over (or added) by the Vicariate of Taytay to the Recoletos. I stayed there for 11 days to carry out my responsibilities dutifully, with the people of the island. Two chapels were assigned to me where I minister the paraliturgy, and other tasks covered by my diaconal ministry. One chapel was nearer to where I stayed while the other was at the other side of the same island. In order to get to this second chapel, I had to ride a pump boat, enjoying the splashes of the waves that would douse us and soak our clothes. After disembarking, we had to traverse the middle of the forest for an hour. It was in the dark, mid-section of the forest and then on the top of the mountain that I could not help myself but marvel at God’s creation. From the summit, I would peek below and feast on the beautiful scenery: the blue-green-colored sea studded by islets, the rock formations that could be as big as a cathedral, and the multi-hued sunset. If luckier, I would be able to have a glimpse of the wild boars and wild chickens (known to the locals as “labuyo”).

Fray Jorr, together with Fray Niel Ryan Jarumay, OAR, on their way to one of the island chapels to celebrate the Holy Mass with the faithful.

These, for me, are a blessing and they have formed part of my joyful experiences here. These could never be forgotten nor be replaced. Looking back when I was in Batas Island for 11 days, and when at times I felt lonely and tired, I could still remember how these incredible sights of nature had their own way of firing me up and keeping me going in serving God’s people. I didn’t exactly know how to express it, but there was something in them that reminded me of transcendence.

Fearful but courageous. I always looked forward to doing my apostolate every weekend. Although my missionary zeal would be heavily challenged just by the thought of encountering the raging waves, I still strove to muster enough courage to go to the island chapels.

Actually, it’s not about the location of the apostolate area—whether it is just nearby or there in a remote island; rather, it is the unpredictability of the natural phenomena – the waves of the sea. No one can really guess with prevision how these waves would behave when we are already in the middle of the sea. But, once the bangkeros (boatmen) would warn us that the waves would be too dangerous, our apostolate schedule would be postponed to another day. They would make us understand that anything could go wrong during the trip with that rough sea condition, and help could be so difficult. Although Christopher Paolini is saying, “Without fear there cannot be courage,” there is also such a thing as taking calculated risks.That’s the wisdom behind heeding the advice of these sea experts who know their world better. And that is quite a courageous thing to do, too.

At San Vicente Ferrer Chapel in Sitio Luyo.

Returning from the second chapel which was on the other side of Batas Island, I would retrace the footpath across the middle of the dark forest for an hour and a half to get to the place where we had docked our pump boat. As darkness began to fall, I would remember the stories of the inhabitants here about the supernatural forces that I might possibly encounter. Integral to the rich history of this remote island are interesting stories about encounters with supernatural elements such as “engkanto” and “wakwak”.These are only two of those creepy creatures that people warned me about. And in that late afternoon when I was on my way home, what the locals told me before “You I might come across them” became more vivid in my imagination. To intensify the eerie ambiance, there were huge trees — so huge that it would take 10 to 12 people to completely circle around their trunks — whose branches would overshadow our path, forming a canopy. Later, I learned that I had also passed by a cemetery. Luckily, though, the moon at that time was so bright that somehow it illuminated the path, at least a portion of the whole stretch, that I was treading. Otherwise, in the middle of the forest, the only source of light would just be my flashlight. All the singing that we did while walking was gradually replaced by the hush of the branches touching our skin. Honestly, I wanted to run at that sound because it seemed so strange and terrifying. But then I entertained the idea that this travel in the middle of the forest was similar to my journey towards priesthood. It could be as dark and, at times, as frightening as this, but I must stand firm and be brave, I told myself. And so I just prayed to get out of the forest alive, in the same way that I prayed, and am praying, in quiet surrender and trust in my journey towards priesthood: “It’s up to You, Lord.”

Yes, all I did, at that time during that long walk, was to pray and surrender everything to the One who is much powerful than all evil forces combined.

Prayer as refuge during high tide. With courage and readiness as well as with the love of God to serve, I was given the strength that I needed to go on despite the challenges in living out my religious life and diaconal commitment in this “Waterworld.” I realized it wasn’t all about the adventures in Casian and Batas Islands and nearby islands; it was also about the amazing grace and blessing of God. I realized that all of those that I experienced and witnessed to were no mere products of chance. They were divinely appointed moments for me. And they, too, were precious opportunities to build a stronger relationship with the Lord Himself by keeping my prayer life ablaze and with that of the community entrusted to me to shepherd. I also re-discovered that those were the renewing source that kept my religious life so attuned to God’s guidance and my mission firm: to share Christ with His people. These also made me cling to the mercy and will of God. And for one more time, I got to re-affirm: prayer life is indeed vital!

While it is not only by the mind but also by the heart that I was able relate effectively with the people here, what is more necessary and fundamental is my faithful relationship with the Lord. This gives effectiveness in my diaconal exposure. Without my relationship with Jesus, I would surely be an islet that can never be a refuge during high tide for anyone lost in the sea.

New perspective to live by. For some, it may seem to be difficult to live and work in a remote island such as here in Casian. Yet the happiness and the contentment that I had since the day I arrived here could never be equalled to as when I could have been assigned in another place. I know that God has always been with me in this community with its unique features and characteristics as an area of local mission. Now, I come to realize that life in the mission is not just about conquering fears, overcoming hardships, taking risks, or challenging oneself; it is also about convincing oneself that he actually has what it takes to live and love the mission itself and to let God do the rest. After all, everything is God’s works and all we have to do is to be His good workmate. As to those who asked me whether I am still as ready to live and work the ‘Casianic’ way as I was the first time I came here, my answer is: No one is ever ready, but I know for sure that I am willing and able!

jorr4

Fray Jorr Rabacal, OAR

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< 2019 >
December
SMTuWThFS
1
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    December 1, 2019

    1ST SUNDAY OF ADVENT

    40th INTRAMUROS GRAND MARIAN PROCESSION
    Start of the Procession: 4:00 P.M.
    Carroza #67: Nuestra Sra. de la Salud

    PRESBYTERAL ANNIVERSARY
    (1984-2019)
    Fray Constantino Real

    (2007-2019)
    Fray Excel Saycon
    Fray Allan Rubett Cabatian

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    (2014-2019)
    Fray Cornelio Moral

23
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    December 3, 2019

    ENCOUNTER OF NATIONAL SARF PRESIDENTS
    General Curia, Rome December 3-6, 3019

    SILVER PRESBYTERAL ANNIVERSARY
    (1994-2019)
    Fray Rouel Sia
    Fray Joel Villaruel
    Fray Bernabe Dosdos

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    (2011-2019)
    Fray Crisostomo Garnica

4
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    December 4, 2019

    BIRTHDAY
    Fray John Paul Tanquis
    Fray Kenneth Caligdong
    Sr. Noemi Manzo, AR

5
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    December 5, 2019

    431ST ANNIVERSARY (1588-2019) OF THE AUGUSTINIAN RECOLLECTION

    28th FOUNDING ANNIVERSARY OF SEMoNoRe, Antipolo

    PRESBYTERAL ANNIVERSARY
    (1995-2019)
    Fray Reynaldo Jaranilla
    Fray Antonio Zabala, Jr.

    (2003-2019)
    Fray Romeo Ben Potencio, Jr.

    (2009-2019)
    Fray Roy Baluarte
    Fray Dominador Mercado, Jr.
    Fray Renier Alviola
    Fray Christopher Gaspar

    (2018-2019)
    Fray Kenneth Caligdong
    Fray Paul Demillones
    Fray Niel Ryan Jarumay
    Fray Keneth Pahamutang
    Fray Elpedio Sarita, Jr.

    ANNIVERSARY OF SIMPLE PROFESSION
    Sr. Ma. Grace Gicos, OAR (2014-2019)

    ANNIVERSARY (2006-2019) OF ACCEPTANCE AS SISTERS-GENERAL OF THE ORDER (OAR)
    Ms. Brenda Saliendra
    Ms. Nestoria Bad-an

    BIRTHDAY
    Fray Joseph Granada

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    Sr. Juana de Sta. Rita

6
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    December 6, 2019

    BIRTHDAY
    Fray Manuel Lipardo
    Fray Amado Emmanuel Bolilia

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    Sr. Paciencia Orsolino, AR

7
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    December 7, 2019

    PRESBYTERAL ORDINATION
    OLCP Church, Miranila, QC / Time: 9:00 AM
    Ordaining Prelate: Most Rev. Roberto Gaa, D.D.
    Ordinandi:
    Fray Jorr S. Rabacal
    Fray Monday Benjamine Edobor
    Fray Ifeanyichukwu Maximillian Omem
    Fray Jovy A. Gallego
    Fray Andrie S. Pugate
    Fray Tomokatsu N. Yamaguchi
    Fray Jessriel L. Marcha

    BIRTHDAY
    Fray Jaazeal Jakosalem
    Sr. Teodora Gentapa, AR
    Sr. Marlyn Escalante, AR

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    Sr. Andrea Martinez, AR

8
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    December 8, 2019

    2ND SUNDAY OF ADVENT

    ROME: Act of Veneration to the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Spanish Steps (1600H, Rome Time)

    150th ANNIVERSARY OF THE OPENING OF THE FIRST VATICAN COUNCIL (1869)

    JUBILEE YEAR (Dec. 8, 2019 – Dec. 10, 2020): Marking the 100th anniversary of the declaration of Our Lady of Loreto as the patron saint

    BIRTHDAY
    Fray Leo Neil Bullos
    Sr. Concepcion Anadon, AR
    Sr. Concepcion Potoy, AR

    PRESBYTERAL ANNIVERSARY
    (1967-2019)
    Most Rev. Patricio Buzon, SDB, D.D. (Diocese of Bacolod)

    (1972-2019)
    Most Rev. Honesto Ongtioco, D.D. (Diocese of Cubao)

    (2000-2019)
    Fray Jose Alden Alipin
    Fray Don Besana
    Fray James Bumangabang
    Fray Arnel Diaz
    Fray Rommel Rubia
    Fray Edgar Tubio

    (2006-2019)
    Fray Roland Cepe
    Fray Gideon Antolin Lagrimas

    (2015-2019)
    Fray Ken Oliver Lao
    Fray Nimrod Launio
    Fray Leo Neil Bullos
    Fray Mark Ryan Prado
    Fray Enrico Nacorda
    Fray Nelson Plohimon
    Fray John Zachary Haguisan
    Fray Rafael Pecson
    Fray Jerik Troy Siozon
    Fray Lounal Jarumay

    ANNIVERSARY OF SIMPLE PROFESSION
    Sr. Marites Carasig, OAR
    Sr. Lucita Minguito, OAR

    ANNIVERSARY OF SOLEMN PROFESSION
    Sr. Marites Carasig, OAR
    Sr. Lucita Minguito, OAR

9
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    December 9, 2019

    SOLEMNITY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

    GENERAL COUNCIL MEETING
    December 9-13, 2019 / Rome

    40TH DEATH ANIIVERSARY (1979-2019) OF ARCHBP. FULTON SHEEN

    BIRTHDAY
    Sr. Ma. Alberta Tabon, AR
    Sr. Ma. Rosalina Fuertes, AR
    Sr. Herminia Limotlimot, AR
    Sr. Myrna Mianagua, AR
    Sr. Bernadette Calzado, AR

    PRESBYTERAL ANNIVERSARY
    (2002-2019)
    Fray Joel Dequilla
    Fray Jay Parilla
    Fray Niño Cesar Ruiz

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    Sr. Magdalena de Sta. Maria
    Sr. Potenciana de la Encarnacion

1011
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    BIRTHDAY
    Sr. Ma. Amada de Ramos, AR

    PRESBYTERAL ANNIVERSARY
    (2010-2019)
    Fray Persiuz Joseph Decena

12
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    EPISCOPAL ORDINATION ANNIVERSARY
    (2001-2019)
    Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle

    EPISCOPAL ORDINATION OF BISHOP-ELECT JOSE ALLAN DIALOGO (Diocese of Sorsogon)

    SPECIAL BOT MEETING – UNO-R, BACOLOD
    Venue: UNO-R Bacolod / 9:00 AM

    23rd PROVINCIAL COUNCIL MEETING

13
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    December 13, 2019

    GOLDEN PRESBYTERAL ANNIVERSARY
    (1969-2019)
    Pope Francis

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    Sr. Carmen de Sto. Niño, AR

14
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    INSTALLATION OF BISHOP JOSE ALLAN DIALOGO (Diocese of Sorsogon)

    BIRTHDAY
    Fray Charlito Orobia

15
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    3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT

    BIRTHDAY
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16
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    MEETING OF THE GENERAL COMMISSION ON COMMUNICATIONS AND PUBLICATIONS December 16-18, 2019 / Rome

    SIMBANG GABI STARTS

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    Sr. Evangeline Geuncion, AR
    Sr. Paulina Admana, AR
    Sr. Ma. Milgaros Lucero, AR

17
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    December 17, 2019

    BIRTHDAY
    POPE FRANCIS (Jorge Mario Bergoglio)
    Fray Nestor Raras

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    Sr. Generosa Dimapilis, AR

18
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    BIRTHDAY
    Most Rev. Ryan Jimenez, D.D. (Bishop of Chalan Kanoa)

19
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    Sr. Modesta San Jose, AR

20
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    BIRTHDAY
    Fray Albert Pellazar

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    Sr. Soledad Samonte, AR

21
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    December 21, 2019

    BEATIFICATION OF VEN. FULTON SHEEN (1895-1979)
    10:00 a.m. / Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Peoria, IL., USA

    PRESBYTERAL ANNIVERSARY
    (1965-2019)
    Most Rev. Antonio Tobias, D.D. (Diocese of Novaliches)

22
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    December 22, 2019

    4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT

    BIRTHDAY
    Sr. Ma. Emma Navea, AR

    ANNIVERSARY OF SIMPLE PROFESSION
    (1986-2019)
    Fray Agustin Culaton

    ANNIVERSARY OF SOLEMN PROFESSION
    (1989-2019)
    Fray Agustin Culaton

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    Sr. Mercedes Jayme, AR
    Sr. Felicidad Pangilinan, AR

23
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    BIRTHDAY
    Fray Ricky John Austria (simply prof.)

24
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    Fray Allan Jacinto
    Most Rev. Natale Paganelli, SX (Diocese of Makeni)

25
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    December 25, 2019

    CHRISTMAS DAY
    Urbi et Orbi / 12:00 NN (Rome Time)

    BIRTHDAY
    Sr. Mary Lou Duhino, AR

    PRESBYTERAL ANNIVERSARY
    (1980-2019)
    Most Rev. Natale Paganelli, SX (Diocese of Makeni)

26
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    December 26, 2019

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    Sr. Maria Gavino, AR

27
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    December 27, 2019

    BIRTHDAY
    Sr. Ma. Editha Escalania, AR
    Sr. Filomena Atun, AR

28
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    December 28, 2019

    EPISCOPAL ORDINATION OF AUXILIARY BISHOP- ELECT DARÍO RUBÉN QUINTANA MUÑIZ, OAR (Diocese of Mar del Plata, Argentina)

    BIRTHDAY
    Fray Joel Naranja
    Fray Niño Cesar Ruiz
    Fray Jessriel Marcha

29
  • All day
    December 29, 2019

    FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY

    EPISCOPAL ORDINATION OF BISHOP-ELECT JESÚS MARÍA LÓPEZ MAULEÓN, OAR (Territorial Prelature of Alto Xingu-Tucumã, Para, Brazil)

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    Sr. Justa de Jesus, AR

30
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    December 30, 2019

    [Rizal Day: Regular Holiday]

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    Sr. Maria Viñon, AR

31
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    December 31, 2019

    ROME: Celebration of Vespers and Te Deum in Thanksgiving for the past year (1700H, Rome Time)

    PRIOR GENERAL’S RENEWAL VISIT TO BRAZIL

    BIRTHDAY
    Fray Antonio Zabala, Jr.
    Fray Jose Alden Alipin
    Sr. Potenciana Azurin, AR

    DEATH ANNIVERSARY
    Sr. Benigna de la Purisima Concepcion, AR

    HAPPY NEW YEAR 2020!

    

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