“Bisyap” joins Recoletos de Cuba community

L-R: Frays Julián Vallejos , Noé Servín, Miguel Miro, Keneth Pahamutang and Ismael Xuruc
L-R: Frays Julián Vallejos , Noé Servín, Miguel Miro, Keneth Pahamutang and Ismael Xuruc

In the Comunidad San Ezequiel Moreno in Banes (Holguín, Cuba), the 24th day of July 2022 was no ordinary day! It marked the arrival of its fourth member: Fray Keneth B. Pahamutang, or “Bisyap” as he is fondly called particularly by his contemporaries.

The lone Recoletos convent in this Caribbean island nation warmly welcomed the Filipino Recollect who represents the St. Ezekiel Province. Fray Keneth was the latest addition to this international community whose members represent the different provinces of the Order: Frays Noé Servín (San Nicolás); Ismael Xuruc, the local prior (Candelaria); and Julián Vallejos (Sto. Tomás).

In mid-June this year, the former Prior General, Fray Miguel Miró, also arrived here to be part of the community which is very dear to his heart. In an interview in 2019, Father Miró said: “In this international and interprovincial community, we want to show that we are a sign of communion within the Order, a sign of communion with all the [Recollect] provinces, and a sign of communion in the church here in Cuba.”

With Fr. Martin Jesus Luengo, Prior of Postulantado community and now the Vicar Provincial of Mexico and Costa Rica, and Fr. Frutos Salvador, former missionary in Cuyo and Puerto Princesa

But for the Province of St. Ezekiel, this is also a sign of continuity of its firm commitment to collaborate in the mission works in Cuba. Accordingly, it also complies with what is stated in the newly-crafted Life and Mission Project (LAMP) of the Order for this sexennium (2022-2028): “To strengthen the interprovincial missionary presence in Cuba” (D.10).

Last year, towards the end of July, the first Filipino Recollect missionary here, Fray Joel Naranja, contracted Covid-19 and died on August 8. Of him was said: “[He was] like a wheat that has to fall to the ground [of Cuba] and die, so that he will be able to produce much fruit.”  Regardless of whatever that meant, Fray Naranja’s earlier suggestion to the Provincial Council to look for a replacement was far from complicated because “Bisyap” had already indicated, even while still a deacon, his desire to go to a foreign mission field.

Preparations starting from Panama

Fray Keneth, who has just turned 32, hails from Tagbilaran City, Bohol. He made his simple profession of vows on April 27, 2013 and his solemn profession on August 28, 2017. Together with five confreres, he was ordained a deacon the following month. He spent his diaconal exposure in two pastoral centers: in San Sebastian Parish, Manila, and in Panama. In the latter, he arrived in early April of 2018 and stayed at Colegio de San Agustín, in the capital, where he got the opportunity to hone his Spanish language for five months. Had he arrived a month earlier, he would have witnessed the send-off rites officiated by Fray Miró for the four pioneer missionaries to Cuba at the nearby Parroquia de San Lucas.

Return to the Philippines

With the fusion of the Province of Our Lady of Consolation, to which Panama belongs, with the Province of Candelaria in June 2018, the interprovincial collaboration between the former and the San Ezekiel Province was implicitly closed. In September of the same year, together with another Filipino confrere assigned in Bocas del Toro, Fray Pahamutang flew back to the Philippines.

On December 5, 2018, he was ordained a priest, and his patente brought him to Sto. Tomas de Villanueva-Recoletos Formation House (San Carlos City, Negros Occidental) where he was the Prefect of Discipline of the senior high school interns. But then again, the desire to really work in a mission land kept ablaze in him. So, he wrote to the Father Provincial a letter in June 2019 expressing this “desire and intention.”

Father Provincial (presiding the holy mass) and the members of the Recoletos de San Carlos community

The Provincial Council welcomed the positive disposition of Fray Pahamutang. He was already eyed to substitute Fray Naranja who had hinted to just finish his assignment in Cuba at the end of the quadrennium and come back to the Philippines. In his last letter dated March 10, 2021 to then Father Provincial, Fray Selma, Fray Naranja said that “[I am] giving myself another year of mission work here in Cuba then give the opportunity to Fray Pahamutang to fulfill his dream of coming here for mission work.”

After Fray Pahamutang’s pastoral stint at the Recollect-administered parish in barangay Plaridel of Aborlan, Palawan, from November 2020 to early 2022, he was called to prepare his travel documents.

With Fray Rex Bangcaya, Prior of Recoletos de Plaridel, presiding the holy mass

On April 20, 2022, during vespers, a send-off rite for “Bisyap” was officiated by Father Provincial at the chapel of the provincialate house. The next day, he left for Mexico via Tokyo.

Language preps in Mexico

Fray Pahamutang stayed in Postulantado San Agustín in Ciudad de Mexico for around three months to refresh and improve his Spanish language skills. In this sense, Mexico continues to play an important role, as in the past, to be a convenient place for stop-over before proceeding to the final destination. European missionaries stopped off here before going to the Philippines. This time, it’s a reverse. It’s the realization of what it means to be “gifted to give.”

With other Recollect friars of the Vicariate of Mexico

Welcome to Cuba!

On July 18, Fray Pahamutang landed in Havana. He temporarily stayed in the convent of the Siervas de María Sisters there for six days in order to process and collect his Cuban residence permit. Then, on July 24, after 13 hours of travel, thanks to the bishop of Holguín who accompanied him, he arrived in Banes. The Recollect community of San Ezequiel led by the outgoing local prior, Fray Ismael, welcomed him with the usual warmth of brotherhood. Soon, the community will welcome its new local prior, Fray Joseph Shonibare, OAR.

Fray Jose Ernil Almayo, OAR

Fray Jose Ernil Almayo, OAR

Fray Jose Ernil F. Almayo, OAR, is currently the Provincial Secretary of the St. Ezekiel Moreno Province.