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History of St. Augustine Parish and Community in Gubat, Sorsogon

St. Augustine Parish - Gubat 2

A historian, Mr. Rogelio Escobal wrote an article “Site of the First Mass in Luzon Revisited” in the Inquirer, a national newspaper dated 25 January 2006.  His study focuses on the spread of Christianity in the Bicol region and later in Luzon which started from the missionary work of the Augustinian Priest Fray Alonso Jimenez, OSA. Today an ecclesiastical mark has been erected at the left side of the sparsely adorned chapel located at the hilly terrain in the Magallanes-Bulan road in Magallanes, Sorsogon.

In 1569, Fray Alonzo Jimenez, OSA, and company embarked on the shores of Sitio Gibalon, Magallanes, Sorsogon and believed that they celebrated mass which has been considered to be the first mass in Luzon.  This Augustinian friar left a glorious heritage to the contemporary Augustinians to continue their missionary spirit.

In 2002, the completion of the Augustinian contemplative monastery felt the need for the Augustinian Fathers to look after the spiritual needs of the nuns.  It was in the same year that Bishop Jesus Y. Varela, DD, of Sorsogon invited the Province of Sto. Niño de Cebu to take the lead in creating a new parish community in the vicinity of the monastery.

After the 6th Ordinary Provincial Chapter on 6 February 2004, the chapter members made a decree to establish a parish in Gubat, Sorsogon.

The new Bishop of the Diocese of Sorsogon, Most Rev. Arturo M. Bastes, SVD, DD, formally accepted the Province’s decision to start a new parish on 9 November 2004.  During its 9th Council meeting in Iloilo city, the Prior Provincial and his council appointed Fr. Arlon M. Vergara, OSA, to oversee the initial stage of establishing a parish in Gubat, Sorsogon.  He was assisted by the Provincial Treasurer, Fr. Nelson G. Zerda, OSA, who joined him in assessing the needs of the place.

Bishop Bastes, the clergy and the people of the locality happily welcomed the Augustinian presence in the Diocese of Sorsogon.  On 9 January 2005, the Bishop installed the Quasi-Parish of St. Lawrence the Deacon.   It was considered “Quasi” parish because of its temporary residence in Barangay Bagacay but it enjoyed canonical rights and exercised independence as any other parish.  The quasi-parish was the 27th parish in the Diocese of Sorsogon.  On the same date, the Bishop installed Fr. Vergara as the first Quasi-Parish Priest at Bagacay chapel.

The Quasi Parish was composed of eight (8) barangays out of 42 barangays of the Gubat municipality.  However, there were nine chapels entrusted the pastoral care of the Augustinians. These were the chapels of Bagacay, Cogon, Nato, Ogao, Paco-Baba, Paco-Taas, Patag, Tagaytay and Tiris.  Ninety-five percent of the residents were Catholics.  Majority of them relied mainly on agricultural and fishery products as their source of income. Despite majority of them belonged to below poverty line,  the people manifested strong faith in God.

With an earnest desire to establish an Augustinian community and a full time religious house of the Order of St. Augustine, the Province of Sto. Niño de Cebu and the Diocese of Sorsogon worked hand in hand to stabilize the Augustinian presence in Sorsogon.  The Chancellor of the Diocese of Sorsogon, Rev. Fr. Antonio G. Lorilla, wrote a letter on 18 January 2007 to the Prior Provincial, Very Rev. Fr. Jerome P. Mesina, OSA, informing him that Bishop Bastes authorized the establishment of religious house belonging to the Order as mandated by canon law (cc. 609-612).  Subsequently, on 26 January 2007, Fr. Mesina petitioned the Prior General, Most Rev. Robert Prevost, OSA, to canonically erect an Augustinian Community and a full-time religious house of the Order in the Quasi-Parish of St. Lawrence the Deacon, Gubat, Sorsogon.

With the consent of the Local Ordinary of the Diocese of Sorsogon and the letter of petition by the Prior Provincial of the Cebu Province, the Prior General established the religious house of St. Lawrence the Deacon in a letter dated on 17 February 2007.  Fr. Noli P. Detoyato, OSA, and later, Fr. Harold Ll. Rentoria, OSA, joined Fr. Vergara in the newly erected Augustinian community in Sorsogon.

To cater the growing population of the parishioners, the Province of Sto. Niño de Cebu, with the approval of the Bishop of Sorsogon, constructed a new church building in Cogon-San Ignacio dedicated to St. Augustine of Hippo.  A ground breaking took place on 5 June 2012.  Thus, the Quasi-Parish of St. Lawrence was abrogated in favor of the newly erected St. Augustine Parish in Cogon-San Ignacio, Gubat, Sorsogon.  The new church building was dedicated on 30 August 2014 in honor of St. Augustine.

The new parish of St. Augustine extended its jurisdiction with additional barangay and sitio chapels.  These chapels are Cabiguhan, Dita, Jupi, Lapinig, San Ignacio and Sitio Pange.

Current condition

At present the parish of St. Augustine caters to the pastoral and spiritual needs of about twenty thousand Catholics under its jurisdiction.  It has fifteen registered chapels.  While the church building is situated in barangay Cogon-San Ignacio, the Augustinian Community retains the chapel and convent in barangay Bagacay as their temporary residence.  The said convent is almost seven kilometers away from the parish. 

To assist the Augustinian friars in serving their parishioners, various lay organizations and parish and chapels officials were established.  At present there are fifteen lay organizations, nine commissions and a parish pastoral council and a kapilya pastoral council.

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