Wednesday, February 1, 2017

421. FRAY BALDOMERO ABADIA: Martyr of O’Donnell

SACRIFICE IN O'DONNELL. The saintly Recoleto, Fr. Baldomero Abadia, who was a friend to two holy men--St. Ezekiel Moreno and Bl. Vicente Pinillo,  met his martyrdom in O'Donnell, Tarlac, a casualty of the Philippine Revolution.

That Kapampangans' reverence and love for their Augustinian friars could be gleaned from the many letters of praises written by town leaders and local folks, kept in the archdiocesan archives of Manila and in Spain. Many of these include requests for extension of the friars' terms, due to their good deeds and selfless service. Indeed,  the 18th-century chronicler Fray Gaspar de San Agustin described the faithful of Pampanga as being “ very good Christians, most respectful of their ministers.”

This kindly and accommodating attitude, however, was severely put to a test during the Philippine Revolution against the repression of Spain. The revolutionists’ growing animosity towards their colonial master spilled over to the Catholic church and its leaders, with fatal consequences.

One such tragic victim of circumstance was the saintly Fray Baldomero Abadia. Abadia was born in Jarque del Moncayo in 1871. His father Marcos had this idea of naming his sons after Queen Isabel’s generals—and so this son was named after the Prince of Vergara, Don Baldomero Espartero. His older brother had earlier been named Leopoldo, after the first Duke of Tetuan, Don Leopoldo O’Donnell.

Baldomero entered the Recoletos community of Monteagudo, Navarre province, where, on 4 October 1887,  he professed his vows.  During his stay at the rectory, he became acquainted with two future holy men—St. Ezekiel Moreno, who, in 1885 had just returned from the Philippines to be chaplain at the Augustinian Rectory at Monteagudo. The saint corresponded with  Baldomero before he embarked for Colombia in 1888.

With Blessed Vicente Ibanez Pinilla, Fray Abadia formed a lasting friendship.  They were after all, from the same province of Zaragoza (Pinilla was from Calatayud town), and knew each other’s families. Their friendship would even deepen when they had their 5-year philosophical and theological formation in the convents of San Millán de la Cogolla (La Rioja) and Marcilla (Navarra). The two missionary priests would make a trip to Philippines together, arriving in Manila on 18 September 1892.

Initially, both were assigned in Manila, but Fr. Pinilla was shuttled from Mindoro to Manila and back to Mindoro where revolutionists held him captive in Bongabong. His superiors thus recalled him from the Philippines and shipped him to Brazil. He would be martyred in Motril, Granada in 1936, along with seven others, during the Spanish Civil War. He and his companions were beatified by Pope John Paul II on 7 March 1999.

Meanwhile, Fr. Abadia’s assignment took him to Alaminos. Sometime in January 1896, he was made parish priest of a newly created O’Donnell town in Tarlac, a canny coincidence as the town—like the friar’s brother, Leopoldo O’Donnell—had been named after the same Spanish general. There, Fr. Abadia worked with tirelsslsy, unmindful of the dangers of a brewing revolution.  Historiologist Fray Francisco Sadaba noted of his work inn Tarlac:  "There he fulfilled the functions of his sacred ministry, for he was a young man of angelic customs and a truly apostolic spirit."

But at the end of August 1896, the Philippine revolution had exploded, spreading  quickly from Manila to the border provinces. Several Recoletos were murdered, and Fray Baldomero found himself in the danger zone. In his last letter to his family dated Oct. 27, he calmly reassured them that, for his safety, he was sleeping in the soldiers' barracks.

But he was not safe at all—Fr. Abadia  could not trust even his own parishioners. On October 31, Filipino insurgent troops entered O'Donnell and, as Sadaba described his cruel passing, the revolucionarios  "inhumanly sacrificed him in hatred of Religion and Spain." Fray Baldomero Abadia was not even 27 years old.

Romanillos, Emmanuel Luis A. The Augustinian Recollects in the Philippines, Hagiography and History., Recoletos Communications Inc. 2001.

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