ON FEBRUARY 2, we celebrated our town fiesta in Mabalacat. Prior to that, during the novena mass last January 31, something historic transpired. A priest from the Order of Augustinian Recollects (OAR), celebrated mass at the Our Lady of Grace Parish Church in Poblacion, the mother church in Mabalacat. What’s so special about this? Read on.

According to the book “Scenes from a Bordertown and Other Views” written by cabalen Alex R. Castro, the OAR missionaries or recoletos founded Mabalacat in 1712 and established the Mabalacat parish. Three missionaries namely Fr. Andres de San Fulgencio, Fr. Juan de Sto. Tomas de Aquino and Fr. Manuel de San Nicolas were deployed. There was already a Negrito settlement then under the leadership of Garagan.

The recoletos continued their mission to the town until a tragic incident happened. The Parish Priest of Mabalacat, Fray Gregorio Bueno dela Virgen del Rosario was murdered on July 10, 1898. Fr. Bueno served Mabalacat for 23 years and was the last Recollect priest to be assigned in Mabalacat. It was said that before Fr. Bueno died, he managed to spell a curse on Mabalacat that the town would never prosper and thrive.

Today, Mabalacat seems to have overcome that “curse’. Is now a City and has developed economically. Progress has spread not only in Dau, the commercial district of the City, but in the town proper as well. The signs of a progressive area - fastfood stores, supermarkets and high rise buildings- have reached downtown. The areas near the church and old municipio however remain underdeveloped. Could this be the remnants of the ‘curse’?

During the January 31 mass, the recollect Priest, Fray Emil A. Quilatan, mentioned something that caught our attention. He said that after 119 years, a Recollect priest has celebrated mass again in Mabalacat. We were stunned. It means that after the murder of Fr. Bueno, no recollect priest has ever said mass in Mabalacat. What’s more, Fr. Emil said that all is forgiven, all is forgotten, apparently referring to the murder of their fellow priest. I was deeply touched by his pronouncement. Could this be the end of the ‘curse’?

As a sign of gratitude to the OAR for their important role in the history of Mabalacat and the Parish, the Sangguniang Panlungsod passed a resolution recognizing the labors of the OAR in the foundation of the City and the spread of faith. The resolution was read and awarded to Fr. Emil before the end of the mass. The pastoral council also presented a token of appreciation.

Fr. Emil, as we have learned later, is also a historian. And so over dinner, our Parish Priest Fr. Sison asked our visitor why Mabalacat celebrates its Feast Day every February 2 and not on June 9. Fr. Emil said he will do some research on that. Fr. Sison mentioned though that it is believed that the rains in June prevented people from going to the church as the roads are not passable so they changed the date of the town fiesta to February 2 (is this true Alex and Robby?).

Happy Fiesta Mabalacat!