Tuesday, March 21, 2017

*426. MISIONEROS RECOLETOS IN MABALACAT

FR. ANDRES DE SAN FULGENCIO was one of 3 Recoletos that began ministering in Mabalacat, Capas and Bamban sometime in 1712, along with Frs. Juan de Sto. Tomas de Aquino and Manuel de San Nicolas. His namesake saint is shown on this estampita.

With the arrival of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi  in 1565, also came the Augustinians, who had a headstart in the evangelization of the Philippines and the Far East. Back then, missionary groups were assigned territories to govern, and in 1575, the Augustinians named their “provincia” after the Most Holy Name of Jesus (Santisimo Nombre de Jesus) . As early as 1572 though, Augustinians were already active in the Pampanga region. The succeeding missionary groups that followed were the Franciscans (1578), the Jesuits (1581) and the Dominicans (1587).2

The Recoletos (OAR, Order of the Augustinian Recollects), an offshoot of the Augustinian reforms in 1598,  were the 5th religious order to arrive, landing in Manila on 31 May 1606, with Fr. Juan de San Jeronimo leading the missionaries.  By then, though, most of the areas have already been assigned to the earlier groups, with the Augustinians dominating in most Pampanga towns.

These “Discalced or Barefoot Augustinians” had to make do with the remaining uncharted and remote Zambales/Upper Pampanga regions, naming their “provincia” after San Nicolas de Tolentino. The noble Recoletos braved the province’s wild and untamed northern frontiers—and are credited with the early development of Mabalacat through their ministry, the only town that was not subject to the influence of the Augustinians.

1712 is widely recognized as the founding year of the Mabalacat township, on the basis of a Negrito settlement under the leadership of Garagan. Like Magalang and Porac , Mabalacat started as a forest outpost. Historian Fr. Valentin Marin confirms this date, with the deployment of 3 pioneer Recoletos to Bamban, Capas and Mabalacat, namely, Fr. Andres de San Fulgencio, Fr. Juan de Sto. Tomas de Aquino and Fr. Manuel de San Nicolas .

Another Augustinian historian, Fr. Agustin Cadava, also validated the aforementioned year, although there are other dates mentioned. Fr. Licinio Ruiz, a Recollect chronicler, puts Mabalacat’s founding year at 1714, while Fr. Andres de San Fulgencio cited 1717 in his report.  Whatever, this would  make Mabalacat older than San Fernando (1756), Sta. Rita (1726), Sta. Ana (1759), San Luis (1762) and San Simon (1771).

Fr. Andres de San Fulgencio would play a major role in the  establishment of the Mabalacat mission, which would gain the status of a “mission viva” or an active mission center in a few years, from which the needs of nearby “visitas” , including those of Tarlac,  were ministered. Fr. Andres’ early labors included not only dispensing spiritual services like baptisms and conversions of Negritos but also community-building duties like tilling of agricultural lands and constructions of houses.

Though successful  in his early labors, the enthusiasm of Fr. Andres was met with lukewarm support from his elders, as it was only in 1725—a  full 8 years after the mission’s founding—that a full-time, regular missionary was assigned to Mabalacat. That distinction belonged to Fr. Alonso de San Gabriel of Toledo Spain, who served Mabalacat from mid-1725 to 1728.

The Recoletos played a significant role in warding off the British during the British invasion of the Philippines. . Simon de Anda secured the help of Recoletos in the re-capture of Manila. Mabalacat served as an important point of transport for loyalist soldiers from Zambales and Pangasinan, which had a number of Recollect-ministered pueblos.

Appointed as a companion priest to Fr. Joaquin, but elevated to full misonero rank in 1765, serving in that capacity until  his death in Bamban in Feb. 11, 1765. During his term, the British–Spanish War flared up. Lt. Governor and Visiting General  Simon de Anda secured the help of Recoletos in the re-capture of Manila. Mabalacat served as an important point of transport for loyalist soldiers from Zambales and Pangasinan, which had a number of Recollect-ministered pueblos.

Beginning in 1800, there was a 30-year disruption  of missionary activities in both Mabalacat and Bamban, due to acute shortage of priests (many died of tropical diseases like malaria), political unrest and new development in Spain. It was only in 1831 that Recoletos resumed their mission work in Mabalacat.

Notable Recoletos who came to work in Mabalacat include:  Fr. Alonso de la Concepcion (30 Mar. 1792-1794) an accomplished Recoleto who held important offices in Spain and the Recoleto province of the Philippines; Fr. Diego Cera (9 June 1794-1797) who stayed only for a year, until his transfer to Las Pi├▒as, where he built the world-famous Bamboo Organ; Fr. Jose Fernando Varela de la Consolacion (1834-1843, re-assigned to Mabalacat 13 May 1858-1860), an ilustrado priest whose  biggest achievement was the elevation of the mission to a regular “parroquia” ca. 1836; Fr. Cipriano Angos del Rosario (served intermittently from 1840-1867), an important personage of the Order who was appointed as the Vice Rector of the Recollect Convent in Monteagudo, Spain; the saintly Fr. Juan Perez de Santa Lucia (23 Feb. 1844-Sept. 1845) known for serving and protecting Aetas, and Fr. Gregorio Bueno de la Virgen del Romero (30 Nov. 1875-10 Jul. 1898), the last Recollect priest known for putting a curse on Mabalacat before he was executed—that the town will never prosper.

Through difficult years, the Recollect Order helped in shaping the future of Mabalacat. They hold the record for building and administering the most number of churches and parishes in the country, until these were turned over to other orders or to secular clergy.

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