TAYTAY, PALAWAN--Four days of buoying up in the sea, with three stop-overs, and equipped only with some provisions, the needed technology to guide the voyage (CPs, GPS, map, compass), and prayers, Fray Joel “Notnot” Naranja OAR, together with 8 lay companions, aboard the boat named after St. Ezekiel Moreno, dared to cross the sea waters from the southeastern part of Negros to Casian island in Taytay, Palawan.

It was May 10, 2016 when Fray Naranja brought St. Ezekiel from his former chaplaincy (under the patronage of San Vicente Ferrer) in Apo Island, Dauin, Negros Oriental to his new assignment in San Isidro Labrador Parish in Casian.

The said chaplaincy was an apostolate area under the Recollect community in Valencia, Negros Oriental where Fray Naranja was a member, and now the appointed prior of Recoletos de Casian community.

The crew were composed of three (3) other men: Tocles as the captain, Melecio as boat carpenter, and a certain Boboy as boat helper. Five (5) women saw to the needs of the entire odyssey. Two of them were from Apo Island’s Chapel Pastoral Council (CPC) officers and three were members of the Mother Butler’s Guild from the Parish of Our Lady of the Abandoned in Valencia, Negros Oriental.

The beginning of the journey at 10AM from Malatapay in Dauin was smooth and uneventful when suddenly, a technical problem occurred. The group cast anchor at Tambobo Bay in Siaton, still in Negros Oriental, for an emergency repair. Sailing resumed after, and they arrived in Bayawan City in late afternoon, where they spent the night.

 Early the following day, May 11, at around 5 o’clock, the “little church” proceeded towards Maricalum Bay of Sipalay, Negros Occidental, crossed Panay Gulf that is shared by the islands of Negros, Guimaras, and Panay, until, at 1PM, they reached the silent town of Anini-y at the southern tip of Antique province. They rested here, replenished their provisions, and strategized their plans for the next challenging leg of their voyage.

 Again, they woke up very early of May 12 and left at 5AM en route to Cuyo. Father Notnot recalled how they were blest with good weather and a serene cellophane-like cobalt waters that carpeted the open sea to Cuyo archipelago. They landed in the población of Cuyo at 12 noon of that day. They underwent the usual inspection and interrogation as part of the standard operating procedures. They passed the grilling, thank God.

They stayed there, enjoyed the sightseeing of the similar sceneries they had back in Negros, and waited for the break of dawn to start afresh the last and the most exciting chapter of their travel.

On May 13, feast of Our Lady of Fatima, at 5AM, they bid goodbye to Cuyo and sailed towards their destination.

At long last, with grateful relief, they docked at 1:30 PM in front of the convent, after around 8 hours of navigation. St. Ezekiel would become a big help for local missionaries assigned in Casian especially during seasons of big waves and strong winds. Boasting of a passenger capacity of 50 persons, St. Ezekiel became the biggest of the three seacrafts for interisland mission works of the Recollects who came “again” here in 2009. (The other boats in this Recollect waterworld are the Our Lady of Consolation which is medium-sized can accommodate around 20 passengers, and a “dyonkong” which is the smallest and the fastest and for 2-3 persons only.)

Three days after, on May 16, the parish in Casian celebrated its 7th patronal fiesta and the Recoletos community (composed of Fray Naranja, Fray Charlie Orobia as parish priest, and Fray Ken Oliver Lao as procurator), its 7th founding anniversary.

ANTIPOLO CITY—More than 36 religious “alumni” of the Pre-novitiate program of the OAR Province of Saint Ezekiel Moreno graced its 20th anniversary with a two-day period of prayer, reflection, and fellowship.

The celebration was opened in the morning of March 9, 2017 by Fr Emilio Edgardo Quilatan, OAR, the official church historian of the Province, with the presentation of the thumbnail history of the Pre-Novitiate. He said that the Program welcomed its auspices in 1998 to 11 candidates of whom six completed the formation cycle and two were ordained to the OAR priesthood.

Fr. Romeo Ben Potencio, OAR and Fr. Roweno Eugenio Hamo, OAR were the pioneers. The former was the first to be ordained among the so-called alumni in 2005 while the latter was just recently ordained.

Fr. Dionisio Selma, OAR, prior provincial, presided the thanksgiving mass. In his introduction he encouraged the brothers to pray for the recovery of Fray Philip Rollon, OAR (one of the Pre-novitiate program alumni) who met a car accident on his way to celebrate a funeral mass.

During the homily, the prior provincial focused his reflection on two significant points, namely, remembrance and gratitude. Remembrance of the memories of the past, and gratitude to people who shared their life and resources in the Pre-novitiate especially the two Pre-novice directors who have already gone back to heaven, Fr. Loreto Cesar Dacanay, OAR and Fr. Alberto Avanzado, OAR.

Two other erstwhile directors, namely, Fr. Regino Bangcaya, OAR, the first pre-novice director and Fr. Nicolas Salamanca, the third pre-novice director and now a diocesan priest of the Cubao diocese, also attended the celebration.  

Before the final blessing, Fr. Roland Cepe, OAR, the present pre-novitiate master, gave thanks to the participants on behalf of the SEMONORE community.

 An exhibit displayed in Bahay Lingkod-Recoletos guided the alumni in their journey back to the past. This exhibit unveiled memories of the pre-novitiate program in the past twenty years. Picture throwbacks, video presentation, art works and pre-novitiate trivia cramped the entire space of the building’s first floor. The room was filled with noise and laughter as the alumni browsed over their old pictures and recalled the stories behind them.     

At 12:00 PM, lunch followed. After a short rest, the participants readied themselves for the basketball game. They were divided into two groups—Recoletos of Luzon and Recoletos of Visayas. In a four-quarter duel of about an hour and a half, the Recoletos of Luzon team was declared the winner.

The first day of the anniversary celebration culminated with a get-together at the Villa San Ezekiel in Brgy. Pansol Calamba City, Laguna. The 50 seater-bus of San Sebastian transported the alumni from Antipolo to Laguna. They stayed overnight in the resort. They celebrated each other’s presence with sumptuous meal, videoke, swimming, more chats, and card games.    

The next day, March 10, 2017, the celebration continued. Many of the participants took advantage of the remaining hours to relax their bodies in the fresh and cool water of the resort’s pool.

At 11 o’clock in the morning, the participants assembled at the resort’s lobby for the closing liturgy—the Holy Mass presided by the newly ordained and one of the pioneer pre-novices, Fr. Eugenio L. Hamo, OAR. The short homily of Fr. Hamo recapitulated the very purpose of the anniversary celebration— gratitude.

After lunch, the delegates went home with new memories to keep and another anniversary celebration to look forward to.

             The St. Ezekiel Moreno Day Care Center (SEMDCC ) will hold its 19th Closing and Recognition Exercises, March 21, 2017 at the Recoletos Social Outreach Center (RESOURCE), Brgy. Handumanan, Bacolod City.   The rites will be held at the Our Lady of Handumanan Mult-Purpose Hall.

The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) represented by the provincial Director Joel Villagracia signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with UNO-R Junior High School, February 25, 2017 at the Recoletos Social Outreach Center (RESOURCE) in Handumanan.   The agreement is about the UNO-R as a partner of TESDA in the implementation of the latter’s flagship program, “Barangay Kasanayan para a Kabuhayan at kapayapaan”. 

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