Thus says Prof. Emmanuel Luis Romanillos IIl the opening paragraphs Of his article Casiciaco Recoletos Through the Years: “Perhaps there is no other more cherished place that evokes a great many recollections than Casiciaco Recoletos in Baguio City…”

Irrefutably true. But while Casiciaco has effectively changed young men’s lives it itself has undergone ”and still is undergoing” a series of changes and updating in response to the challenging demands of the signs of the times.

Here are the milestones of the seminary’s historical existence.1951 (August 31) Vicar Provincial Fr. Rafael M. Garcia (1911-1977) and Procurator General Fr. Simeón S. Asensio (1905-1974) together with Architect Arturo Mañalac and the vicariate’s legal counsel, Atty. Ayala traveled to Baguio City to inquire about lands up for sale. One offer that immediately caught their attention was the pristine eight-hectare land parcel owned by the American Jesuits. The estate is situated right below the Mirador Hill and alongside NaguiIian Road — now President Elpidio Quirino Highway.

Shortly afterward the two Recollect superiors met with the local ordinary of the place, Bishop William Brasseur, CICM. They expressed to the Belgian prelate their earnest wish to set up a retreat house in his ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Casiciaco would one of the pioneer religious houses in the Apostolic Vicariate of the Mountain Province that was only created only in 1948.

1952 Fr. Alonso S. Bernal (1923-1904) was named superior of the first Augustinian Recollect community of Baguio City that included Cipriano Q. Zubiri and Simeón Asensio. Msgr. Leandro B. Neito (1893-1960) who had resigned as the prefect apostolic of Palawan due to failing health joined them the following year. Meanwhile, the religious resided at Villa Santa Rosa in adjoining Quezon Hill, a property then owned by Colegio de Santa Rosa in Manila.

1953 During his canonical visit to the Philippines, the newly-elected prior provincial Manuel G. Carceller (1899-1983) granted his approval to the undertaking. In this same year, he issued a circular order for all religious to observe their annual spiritual exercises in Baguio.

(August) The second floor of the right wing was ready for occupancy. The four priests descended from Villa Santa Rosa to occupy the new rooms. A twenty-five-year old man named Fulgencio Culaton was hired as cook that year.

1954 (March 19) Prior General Eugenio Ayape consecrated the chapel that was dedicated to Our Lady of the Pillar.

1955 Fr. Modesto C. Martinez (1911-1996) replaced Fr. Bernal.

1956 Fr. Esteban M. Tejedor, fresh from his twelve-year stint in the Recollect college in Cebu City, replaced Fr. Tejedor. He employed laborers to put up a stone statue of the Virgen del Pilar in the garden fronting the seminary edifice.

1959 Msgr. Leandro B. Nieto assumed Fr. Esteban’s office. The only Recollect who died in Baguio, Monsignor Nieto (+July 8, 1960) was interred at its cemetery which is just a few hundred meters away from the seminary.

1960 Fr. Serafin Z. Lamiquiz (1913-1977) succeeded Msgr. Nieto. Then, the former relinquished the rectorship to Fr. Blas J. Montenegro in the wake of the 1964 provincial chapter.

1965 (June 4) The Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda Fide approved the petition of prior provincial Candelas M. Moriones (1912- 1982) for canonical erection of Casiciaco as a “house of philosophical studies” for Filipino aspirants. Propaganda Fide Secretary Pietro Sigismondi signed the historic decree. The next day, a similar decree was also issued by the Sacred Congregation of Religious, conferring canonical status on the Recollect college seminary in Baguio City, “with all the spiritual privileges and graces.” The name given to this latest Recollect house of formation was Seminario Mayor-Recoletos.

(June 22) Rome-based Recollect vicar general Jenro E. Fernández (1909-1972), confirmed the appointment of the first seminary administrators, namely: Blas J. Montenegro as seminary rector and house prior, Federico G. Teradillos (1910-1989) as spiritual director, and Felipe S. Maraya as prefect of discipline. Other members of the formation team included Daniel Ayücar, music director and procurator; Benedicto Jayuma, dean of studies; Alfonso Diaz, librarian; and the Filipino Brother José Fandivila.

1966 The seminary area along Naguilian road was bulldozed to give way to the soccer field.

(June) The Bureau of Private Schools granted Casiciaco the official government recognition. The seminary offered the government-recognized Bachelor of Liberal Arts with philosophy as major of AB Classical. As a requirement to the petitioned recognition of the AB program, tuition had to be implemented in the same year. Each aspirant should contribute a nominal monthly fee of ten pesos.

(July) Forty-one formands commenced their philosophate. Start of apostolate at Baguio City Jail as part of the seminarian’s pastoral formation. The apostolate continues to this day.

1967 (17 April) The first Commencement Exercises, which is today called “Transitio et Formatio” was held. The uncommon distinction of being the first graduates belongs to Recollect priest Delfin A. Castillo, and five batchmates: Cosme D. Berdon, Romeo B. Escalona, Manuel S. Libo-on, Raymundo E. Piccio and Felix C. Sumortin.

1969 (June) The first lay faculty member was Francisco Macano who was employed to handle English language and literature courses.

1970 Casiciaco Recoletos was canonically erected as Novitiate House. Fr. Crisostomo A. Garnica (1926- ) was appointed the novice master’s post by the newly-elected Prior Provincial Javier M. Pipaón. He remained to his post up to 1979. The pioneering novices were: Regino Z. Bangcaya, Euben G. Capacillo, Cornelio E. Moral, Hector O. Songcayawon, Doroteo Ocheda and Rene Villarosa. Start of the seminary’s Sunday apostolate in Sinco (Km. 5), Tuba, Benguet, particularly in what is known today as St. Joseph chapel.

1971 The polemical transfer of the novice master and the thirteen novices at Villa Santa Rosa for a week due to “functional” problems, which were later on resolved through the intervention of the Major Superiors in Madrid and Rome.

1979 Novices polemical transfer to Spain under the new master of novices, Fr. Pastor Paloma (1943-1996): Constantino B. Real and Aaron Vito M. Baygan who donned their Recollect habit in June were sent to Monteagudo four months later. The decision for transfer was traced to the grave concerns on some Filipino theology students’ poor academic performance at Marcilla, i.e. their difficulty in coping with thelogy and its medium of instruction; and belief that a one-year period of adjustment and preparation should be improved, with Monteagudo as the place. The provincial council ultimately acceded to the petition made by the Filipino formators led by Fr. Paloma, which would be borne out in the following year. In a survey, 77% favored the novitiate in the Philippines. furthermore, it was suggested that the novitiate house be separated from the philosophate.

1975 Tenth anniversary of the seminary. For the first time, the “Open House” was declared and was made available for outsiders to take a look at the seminarians’ dormitories, library, and classrooms. But the rooms of the Fathers and the professed religious remained off-limits.

1976 (December 12) The roots of what is known today as Inter-Seminary Forum of Baguio (1SF-B) can be traced back to the very first gathering of the seminarians from 5 different seminaries in Baguio: San Pablo Seminary, La Salette Seminary, Passionist Seminary, Maryhurst Seminary and the Seminario Mayor-Recoletos. The Mother Butlers’ Foundation of Baguio City was behind the success of the assembly.

1980 (February 4) Two lateral chapels that could hold 70 to 80 persons were blessed by Msgr. Gregorio I. Espiga, OAR, DD, local ordinary of the apostolic vicariate of Palawan.

1981 An annex to house the kitchen was built, as the old kitchen gave way to a larger dining room-cum-social hail for cultural shows.

1982 The superior Fr. Emeterio Buñao spent a total of Php1.3M for two Judicious projects initiated during Fr. Paloma’s term: the construction of a subterranean water tank and a gymnasium.

1984 In view of hosting the first- ever Curso de Renovación (April 24-May 22) here in the Philippines, the interior walls were repainted and a 12-unit intercom was installed to facilitate communication.

1989 (March) End of the four-month long chicken pox that plagued the seminary with 38 recorded cases, all of whom were seminarians.

1990 (January 23) the formal blessing of a multimillion-peso three-storey annex building of Casiciaco built during the rectorship of Fr. Meiqulades

(July 16) At 4:26 p.m. the inauspicious 7.7 killer tremors struck northern Luzon, and the Casiciaco community composed of six Formators and 103 seminarians—by far the highest number of seminarians—had a “glimpse of the apocalypse”. On July 21, the formation chapter decided to send the young men home for some imperative respite. Meanwhile, the Casiciaco superior Fr. Modequillo stayed at his post to supervise the immediate repair of the old building. Fr. Joseph Philip Trayvilla took charge of the seniors who reported at Recoletos Formation Center in Mira-nila, Quezon City. At San Sebastian-Manila, Frs. Regino Bangcaya and Bernard Amparado watched over a total of 25 formands. The thirty-three Aspirants in Central Visayas and Mindanao who enrolled at University of San JoseRecoletos, Cebu City, were put under the watchful supervision of Fr. Demetrio Peñascoza. Modequillo. (September 2) The third and fourth year seminarians returned to the seminary. The first and second years were advised to complete their first semester outside.

(October 12) The Solemnity of Our Lady of the Pillar, the seminary patroness, also marked the Silver Jubilee celebration of the seminary’s foundation. That day, too, twenty seminarians were solemnly admitted to postulancy stage in a private “Toma de habito” rite, one of the simplest investiture rites  ever.

1991 (September 16) Made to coincide with the Solemnity of St. Nicholas of Tolentine was the blessing of the dreamed-of Prayer Room located at the end of the third floor of the extension building.

1992 “The Voyagers” was the name the Graduates ‘92 called themselves. The next generations of alumni would see themselves following the example of giving a name to their respective batches. Apparently, the pioneering graduates of S.Y. 1966- 67 have started to call themselves “The Stoics”. Today the practice still continues; it even includes a patron saint for each batch.

1994 (April 11-15) the seminary hosted the First Vicarial Congress of the Recollect Vicariate of RP-China. The seminary rector Fr. Joseph Philip Trayvilla declared in his position paper at the First Vicarial Congress that the Seminario Mayor-Recoletos was “still a minor seminary in spite of its name, since postulancy or pre-novitiate formation is undertaken here”.

1995 (16 July) under the rectorship of Fr. Lauro Larlar, the seminary was re-named. The local chapter recommended the seminary’s original and familiar name, thus the appellation Casiciaco Recoletos Seminary—with its very meaningful acronym CaReS— came into being. On this same day, Fr. Vicar Provincial René Paglinawan blessed the following newly- renovated areas of the seminary: mini-theater, the former speech laboratory which was converted into a new Registrar’s Offie, the Fathers’ recreo and library as well as the extended laundry quarters with its newly-purchased heavy duty washing and drying machines.

(December 2-5) Inspired by the challenge of the World Youth Day (held in Manila on January 10-15, 1995), the First CaReS Youth Day was initiated and supervised by Fr. Cristituto A. Palomar, the National Vocation Director.

1996 (March) The term “Graduation” was changed to “Transitio et Formatio” and was deemed “more fitting to the postulants”.

(June) The five-year curriculum, which was approved a month earlier, on May 14, took effect in the first semester of the academic year 1996-1997. The revised curriculum proposed by Fr. Lauro Larlar was approved by Beatriz A. Dongul-is, the Regional Director of the Commission on Higher Education of the Cordillera Autonomous Region. The first year orients the candidates to religious life, the next three years for humanistic preparation, and the fifth year a kind of pre-novitiate experience or stage of integration.

(August 17) Computer rooms were set up for the seminarians’ use, most especially with the Computer Science subject in the new curriculum.

(September 20) Just before noon, a “chinito-looking” baby boy whom an unknown woman named Francis was literally “handed over” to the seminary through seminarian Romeo Ben Potencio. The woman later called up informing the person on the other line who happened to be Fr. Cris Palomar that due to her inability to support the infant she wished the Fathers to take care of her baby. Later a certain Amelia Ignacio, a SARF member and registered nurse, was asked to take care of the child.

1997 (October) Inauguration of the new multi-function room which is a conversion of the common bathrooms of the Fathers’ wing.

(December) The Instructional Media Center (IMC) was also inaugurated, a conversion of the old science laboratory which was to its non- the present replaced due requirement in curriculum.

1998 (April 17) Fr. Paulino H. Dacanay, OAR was installed as the first Recollect parish priest of St. Vincent Parish to which the seminary belongs. He was accompanied by some 26 OAR priests led by Father Vicar Victor Lluch in a mass presided by Bishop Ernesto Salgado, with the attendance of theologians, seminarians and parishioners. By coincidence, a first Recollect priest would come from this parish in the person of Fr. Jonathan Caballero, OAR (Graduates Batch ‘93) who would say his thanksgiving mass on September 26, just five months after the installation.

(June 12) Blessing of the centennial kiosk in commemoration of the Centenary of the Philippine Independence, and the grotto of Our Lady of Montañosa clad in a typical Cordilleran apparel.

(November 25) Blessing of the so-called Buiwa gang Sto. Tomas, a multi-purpose hail annexed to the guest lounge. Fr. Hernan Cañete, OAR presided the rite.

1999 (August 27) Attended by the seminary community, SARF-Baguio, parents of the candidates for Investiture and visitors, the Blessing of the bronze statue of St. Augustine in his “Tolle, lege” form was held amidst intermittent drizzles.

Source: Casiciaco Recoletos Through the Years