Fray Cabarles’ 50th Presbyteral Anniversary: A Marian and Communitarian Celebration

Fr. Cabarles at the CST-R Grotto.
Fr. Cabarles at the CST-R Grotto.

San Carlos City, NEGROS OCCIDENTAL—Fifty years have passed since a man of the Recollects became an ordained priest. Since 1971, he has been in mission in the Philippine Recollect schools and communities.

Fray Rafael E. Cabarles, OAR, the octogenarian Recollect, who is among the oldest religious in the Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno today, achieved yet another milestone in his colorful career last June 29, 2021. Fray Cabarles celebrated his Presbyteral Anniversary in a true Augustinian Recollect fashion, which means the event was Marian, relevant to the Church’s call to be “Siempre en Misiòn” and communitarian.

For Mother Mary. Members of the Secular Augustinian Recollect Fraternity offer flowers to the Immaculate Conception, Fr. Cabarles’s Patroness.
50 Golden Flames. Selected guests and friends from San Carlos City lighted candles during the anniversary celebration.


As a true Marian devotee, Fray Cabarles gave tribute to Mother Mary by dedicating a Chaplet to the Our Lady of Immaculate Conception at Monteagudo-Recoletos, Barangay Rizal, San Carlos City on June 27. The exclusive religious event marked the first of Fray Cabarles’s three-day Golden Jubilee festivity. The Immaculate Conception is his patroness and spiritual mother because after all it was the Memorare that inspired in him to respond to his priestly vocation. Beyond coincidence is the fact that Fr. Cabarles’s biological mother was also named Maria.

The Golden Recollect. Rev. Fr. Rafael E. Cabarles, OAR, all decked in gold to celebrate his 50th Sacerdotal Anniversary Thanksgiving Mass.

Relevant to the Mission

Months prior to the anniversary Fray Cabarles picked the central theme around which his homily and activities revolved: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attach and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever.” (2 Timothy 4:18)

“It is the Lord’s faithfulness that rescued me during the trials in my priesthood and the challenges that I faced as school administrator,” he said during the Thanksgiving Mass at the Sto. Tomas de Villanueva–Recoletos Chapel on June 29.

A Community of Recollect Brothers. Fr. Cabarles (middle of the altar) is flanked by his brothers in the community of Sto. Tomas de Villanueva-Recoletos, San Carlos City.

It can be recalled that Fray Cabarles took on the challenge of recruiting young men to become Augustinian Recollects. The tasked proved to be frustrating in many ways after countless failed vocations. However, he found assurance in an even longer list of successful priests and religious, who he had personally recruited.

Among them is the current Prior Provincial, Fray Dionisio Selma, OAR, who would have attended the anniversary sans the pandemic. Fray Selma thanked his vocation promoter in a video greeting. The Prior Provincial added that among the many anecdotes which Fray Cabarles told, the “Bayawak Story” is his favorite.


“I did not expect that they [would come] because of the pandemic,” the octogenarian said in mirth as he opened his homily. His Augustinian Recollect brothers from nearby Bacolod, Talisay and Ayungon communities arrived on June 28 to celebrate his career and times. The brothers who were constricted from travelling due to protocols sent their felicitations through video greetings that were compiled into a mini documentary. Each greeting contained a brief recollection of the inspiration of Fray Cabarles on their mission and vocation.

Recollects. Fr. Cabarles embraces Rev. Fr. Don Besana, OAR of the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos and the other Recollects who joined the celebration.
One Recollect Family. The Recollect Sisters of Colegio de Sta. Rita join Fr. Cabarles’s anniversary celebration.

The festivity ended with Fray Cabarles sending off his visiting brothers and selected guests back to the communities where each of their mission belonged.

That June 29, while the golden sun was poised to set over Colegio de Sto. Tomas Recoletos, Fray Cabarles’s home community since 2004, the accomplished Recollect and his loyal Japanese Spitz, Mik-mik, ambled the familiar trail to the Grotto of the Immaculate Conception. There the priest and Marian-at-heart lighted candles and whispered prayers to the Mother who interceded for his 50 years of priesthood. Undoubtedly, the same Mother will intercede for him as he moves forward to the next 50 years.

photos by Meryl Molina

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Georgene Quilaton-Tambiga

Georgene Quilaton-Tambiga