IN MEMORIAM: FR. BENJAMIN CABALLERO UNABIA, JR., OSA
+ FR. BENJAMIN CABALLERO UNABIA, JR., OSA
Fr. Benjamin C. Unabia, Jr., OSA was born on November 1, 1958 to Benjamin Alegrado Unabia, Sr. of Minglanilla, Cebu and Emiliana Alegado Caballero of Carcar City, Cebu. He was second to the eldest in a brood of three sisters and five brothers. From 1965 to 1971, he studied at Minglanilla Central Elementary School. He finished his secondary education at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Academy in 1975. He pursued his tertiary education at the Southwestern University in Cebu City from 1977 to 1981 earning the degree Bachelor of Science in Agriculture.
Fr. Benjamin worked for many years in Cebu and abroad before entering the Order as an aspirant in May 1995 at San Agustin Center of Studies (SACS) in Quezon City. On the same year, he took his Associate in Philosophy at Christ the King Mission Seminary in Quezon City and finished the course the following year. In June 1996, the formation house for professionals was transferred to San Agustin Seminary (SAS) in Makati City. Fr. Benjamin was accepted as a postulant in SAS and started his theological studies at Maryhill School of Theology (MST) in Quezon City. In May 1997, Fr. Benjamin was accepted as a novice at the Augustinian Novitiate and Prayer House in Talisay City, Cebu. After a year of canonical novitiate, he professed his simple vows on May 24, 1998. He then proceeded to continue his initial formation at San Agustin Center of Studies in Quezon City. He also continued his studies at MST finishing his General Theology Program by March 2001.
In 2001 after finishing his theological studies, Fr. Benjamin applied for mission work in South Africa. his application was approved and he was sent to South Africa. He solemnly professed his vows on January 8, 2002 before the then Prior General, Fr. Robert F. Prevost, OSA at Saint Rita’s Friary in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. One month later, Fr. Benjamin was ordained a deacon on February 15, 2002 at the Our Lady of Mercy Parish Church in Durban, South Africa by Cardinal Wilfrid F. Napier, OFM, Archbishop of Durban. Fr. Benjamin went home to the Philippines for his presbyteral ordination on August 17, 2002 by Cardinal Ricardo J. Vidal of Cebu at the Basilica del Santo Niño in Cebu City after which he continued his mission work in South Africa until August 2003.
From September 2003 to March 2005, Fr. Benjamin was assigned as Community Member of the Santo Niño Pilgrim Center (Provincialate) Community in Cebu City. In 2005, Fr. Benjamin was also assigned as Member of the Provincial Commission on Mission. After almost 2 years at the Provincialate, he was transferred to Augustinian Community of Basilica del Santo Niño. In May 2006, he was again transferred to another community, this time to Monasterio de Guadalupe in Makati City. He served as the Local Prior from May 2006 to April 2008. He also served as Master of the Pre – Novices (Professionals) at San Agustin Seminary and the Chair of its Formation Team. He was also assigned as Community Treasurer of Guadalupe from March 2007 to April 2008.
In May 2008, Fr. Benjamin was transferred to Socorro in Surigao del Norte. He was assigned as Parish Priest of Our Mother of Perpetual Help Parish and Local Superior of the then Socorro Residence. It was during this time that another parish in the Diocese of Surigao was entrusted to the Augustinians – the parish of Santa Ana in Burgos. When the Province accepted the parish (ad experimentum)in 2010, Fr. Benjamin was assigned as its parish priest and the residence’s first local superior. For the term 2012 – 2016, Fr. Benjamin was retained to his posts in Burgos serving as Local Superior and Treasurer of the Residence and Parish Priest. On October 2015, due to an illness, the Provincial Council during that time advised Fr. Benjamin to recuperate at the Augustinian Novitiate and Prayer House in Talisay City, Cebu while officially remaining as a Member of Burgos Residence. For the term 2016 – 2020, Fr. Benjamin was assigned as Member of the Augustinian Novitiate and Prayer House.
Fr. Benjamin will always be remembered as the jolly fellow who exhibited strong leadership qualities ever since his initial formation years as shown in his election as Decano of the Late Vocations in SACS for the Formation Year 1995 – 1996, Decano of the Late Vocations in SAS for the Formation Year 1996 – 1997 and Decano of the Novices for the Novitiate Year 1997 – 1998. Fr. Benjamin lived his Augustinian vocation as best as he can. He was an easy going friar and the people from the parishes he has served and his brothers in the community can easily relate to him. On the afternoon of July 30, 2018, Fr. Benjamin was rushed to University of Cebu Medical Center. He stayed at the hospital’s intensive care unit. Due to complications on his heart and kidney, Fr. Benjamin died on his second day at the hospital. The Lord called him to his eternal reward at the age of 59 on the 1stday of August 2018 after serving God for 20 years as a professed Augustinian friar and 16 years as a priest. Fr. Unabia was laid to rest at the Manila Memorial Park in Lilo-an, Cebu on August 8, 2018.