Wednesday, March 4, 2009


We did not have a recollection last month (February) because Fr. Jim had a biking accident on February 6th, the day before he was supposed fly to Puerto Princesa. Everyone is keeping him in mind.

Last February 13, Pok Estrella and his wife, Marga, and daughter, Risa, arrived in town for a weekend vacation. Pok is a supernumerary whom Sam and I have known since our U.P. days (our frat-brod), before we all got into the Work. In 1999, he brought Fr. Jong Sabandal to Puerto Princesa to give the very first recollection by a priest of the Work in Palawan. It was also Pok who brought Sammy into the Work. We had a get-together at Sam’s house on the night of February 14.

On February 21, Fr. Eugene Elivera celebrated the 8th anniversary of his sacerdotal ordination with a Mass at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral. He is finishing his doctorate in Moral Theology at the University of Navarre in Pamplona and is in contact with the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross. He had to leave for Manila on the 23rd but was back in Puerto Princesa on the 28th to solemnize a wedding. On March 1, some supernumeraries and cooperators had a get-together with Fr. Eugene at our house.

Henry flew in on the afternoon of February 26 (instead of the 21st) for Bong’s oblation that evening which was witnessed by Sammy, Orphy, and myself, in Henry’s room at Circon Lodge. To celebrate the occasion, we proceeded to Ardent Suites for dinner. Henry flew back to Manila the following day.

Today, March 4, 2009, is the 137th anniversary of the foundation of the town of Puerto Princesa. It is a special holiday by law (act of congress) and those who are not connected with government will simply try to avoid the inconvenience of city streets closed to traffic for the usual parade and street-dancing.

The City Government has tried all sorts of catchy descriptions for Puerto Princesa: as the country’s “cleanest and greenest city”, “sports tourism capital”, a “pro-life and pro-family city” (for “one brief shining moment”, ha-ha-ha)—and now, on the heels of being declared a “highly-urbanized city” (a heartier ha-ha-ha!), as “a city in the forest” (an HUC in the stone age, ha-ha-ha). In fact, a more honest and honorable distinction would be that of being “founded by a saint”, because one of the founders—signatory to the “acta” establishing the town—was Saint Ezequiel Moreno, O.A.R., who was the chaplain of the expedition that arrived in Puerto Princesa on March 4, 1872.

The Palawan mainland was one of the last areas to be settled by the Spanish authorities (outside of Mindanao). It was in connection with the creation of the political-military government of Paragua (Spanish name of Palawan mainland, because it is shaped like a folded “umbrella” on the map) and to establish its capital that the expedition of which Fray Ezequiel Moreno was chaplain was sent from Manila on board the frigate Marques de la Victoria to proceed, after a stopover in Cuyo, to Puerto Asuncion (now Puerto Princesa)—also known as Iwahig to the natives—a place “with a good harbor…inhabited by peaceful natives”. The group led by Jose de Sostoa, ship’s captain and political-military Governor, dropped anchor at noon of March 4, 1872, rushed through the mangroves to go uphill where the Spanish flag was quickly planted. By three o’clock of that same date, Jose de Sostoa, Fray Ezequiel Moreno, and the other officials signed the Act of Establishment (Nilo Ocampo, Katutubo, Muslim, Kristiyano: Palawan, 1621-1901, pp. 59-60).

Fray Ezequiel was born in Alfaro, La Rioja, Spain, on April 9, 1848; became a member of the Order of Augustinian Recollects on September 22, 1865; and was ordained a priest in Manila on June 2, 1871. He served for fifteen years in the Philippines, including his stint as chaplain of the expedition that founded Puerto Princesa and as first parish priest of this town, his service in Puerto Princesa cut short by malaria, requiring his return to Manila to recuperate. Thereafter, Fray Ezequiel served in Mindoro, Las PiƱas, Batangas, Intramuros and Imus, Cavite, until his assignment to head a seminary-college in Spain, and later on, as head of a mission to Colombia in South America. In 1896, Father Ezequiel Moreno was made Bishop of Pasto in Colombia. In 1905, he was diagnosed with cancer, which caused his death “in the odor of sanctity” on August 19, 1906.

In 1910, and again, in 1975, the remains of Fray Ezequiel were exhumed and found incorrupt; and with miraculous cures attributed to his intercession, he was beatified on November 1, 1975, and canonized on October 11, 1992. St. Ezequiel Moreno is known as patron saint of cancer patients and his feast is on August 19.

How many towns in the country, and even in the world, can boast of a canonized saint among its founders? We will only know the full import of these connections at the end of time; but even now, it is remarkable that the message of St. Josemaria is being preached in Puerto Princesa at a conference center named after his compatriot, St. Ezequiel, operated by nuns who claim close family relations with both. The “communion of saints” can be palpable at times.


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