The parish of San Rafael was established in response to the need ofvspritual nourishment among fishermen and city dwellers who had decided to make the Isla de Balut and Isla de Cocomo as their new home. The late 1940s and early 1950s saw tremendous population increase in these areas, which justified the creation of a new parish.
The first parish priest assigned to lead the San Rafael Parish was Fr. Jose Abriol. From a temporary site in Sta. Cruz located at the corner of Pinoy and Balasan streets, Fr. Abriol was able to convince the B&I Realty Company, which was then developing a new subdivision in the area, to donate a lot for the church of the new parish. Further, the company agreed to sell the parish the adjoining lot at half the prevailing price at that time. The total land area used for the church complex was 3.147 sq. m fronting Taliba St., Manila.
In 1962, Rev. Fr. Laureano Caoili assume the curacy of the parish. During his time, Fr. Caoili undertook the building of a multi-purpose community center with full support from the Knights of Colombus Council 5124. Engr. Pedro Alfonso and Architect Victorino Garcia donated their services and worked gratis et amore. In 1969, the San Rafael Parochial School was established. In order to enhance the spiritual life of the Parish, Fr. Caoili established the cursillo movement in the parish and translated the Rollo Book into Tagalog.
Fr. Alfredo Fermin took over Fr. Caoili’s place in 1976. His five year stay in the parish saw many physical improvements in the parish structure. He was also instrumental in the developer of various lay organizations.
Rev. Fr. Pedro Agbayani was the fourth pastor of San Rafael Parish, who served from 1980 to 1982. He was responsible for the establishment of the Holy Name Society in the community. Also, with his approval and encouragement, the Charismatic Renewal took roots in Balut.
Rev. Fr. Manuel Nery, a native of Balut, came after Fr. Agbayani. By this time, the church needed major repairs and Fr. Nery set himself to the task of raising funds. He was also instrumental in dividing the parish into ten major prayer group zones.
Rev. Fr. Ernesto Tobillo was appointed sixth pastor in 1985, Fr. Tobillo proved to be an effective fundraiser as he was able to solicit from generous parishioners and friends the amount needed for the repair and construction of a new church for San Rafael. He held multi-functions in the construction as he was the supervisor, foreman, planner cum architect rolled into one. He was also responsible for the formation of the Confraternity of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Likewise, he initiated celebrating street masses with the creation of fourteen Ugnayons in strategic and populated areas in the community. He also converted the side aisles of the church into a perpetual Adoration Chapel and the other into a mortuary. In 1987, Fr. Tobillo left the parish.
Msgr. Jose Flores became the next pastor of the church. Under his leadership, he was able to accomplish the following: the construction of a new Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Chapel, the formation of a community of the Third Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the revamp in the administration of the San Rafael Parochial School.
Three years after, Fr. Gerardo Mascariña assumed the curacy of the parish. It was the worst of times because Smokey Mountain, which was near the community, was emitting stinky fumes and during high tide polluted water from the bay flooded the streets. Despite this, he was to bring improvements to the church and parochial school, but his lungs could not endure the pollution.
In 1993, Rev. Fr. Enrique Santos became the ninth pastor of the parish. Fr. Erick grew up in Tondo and he was well aware of the predicament of his parishioners during rainy seasons. He knew that his parishoners had to brave the murky and polluted water coming from the bay in order to hear Mass. Thus, he communicated the needs of the parish to then Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim. The dialogue resulted in the repair and elevation of Taliba Street, fronting the church.
Fr. Erick’s next priorities then were to work the elevation of the patio and the church flooring. He worked tirelessly for the improvement of the area and the project was completed in 1994. This was followed in 1995 by the installation of the altar retablo in gold leaf and the new chandeliers. He then proceeded with the reconstruction of the SRPS, the Parish Renewal Center and the Sisters’ convent, which were completed in 1998. Fr. Erick was also responsible in organizing the Dulaang Tobias, the Mayflower festival and the colorful Mardi Gras during fiestas.
Rev Fr. Nestor Gungon, who was also born in Tondo, took the role as parish priest in February 2000. Fr. Nesty envisioned the development and beautification of the church as preparation for the Golden Jubilee of the parish on August 27 2001. He accomplished major repairs and renovations, like repainting of the church and the retablado of the altar and the pews, the replacement of rusty windows and the whole roof of the church.
For its Golden Anniversary, the parish had Grand Hermanos and Hermana Mayor two respected elders who have generously helped in many significant ways- Bro. Manuel Camara and Sis. Aurelia Gopuansuy. It is also noteworthy to mention that Fr. Nesty organized the San Rafael de Balut Multi-Purpose Foundation Inc. (SRBMFI) which an initial trust fund of one million pesos, the interest of which is intended in support in pastoral programs, and thecmaintenance of the church. Fr. Nesty also initiated the construction of a new PEA chapel.
Rev. Fr. Elpidio Biliran Jr. served as the 11th parish priest effective February 25 2002, which coincided with the blessing of thecnew PEA chapel. He initiated major repairs in the church, school and convent, as well as the renovation of the Abriol Hall and the sacristy. Due to termite infestation, the ceiling was torn down and replaces. Repainting was also done on the school and church, including the re-application of gold leaf on the altar retablo.
A community based scientific survey was initiated for the BEC this was the agenda of the First Parish Pastoral meeting. Fr. Boy also devoted time conducting formation series for the Pastoral Council and organization members, through catechesis, particularly on the Liturgy and Sacraments. The Apostolate of the Sick was likewise given attention through a Thursday visitation conducted with Lay Ministers, wherein the Sacraments of the Anointing and Penance are given.
During his term, the boundaries of the parish were redefined and consequently, ten zonal groups were recognized into Basic Ecclesiastical Community (BECs), where family groups experience a new way of being church. Fr. Boy also worked toward strengthening linkages among the different sectors of the community. Closer collaboration among the Pastoral Council, church organizations, the BECs, schools and barangays ensured the successful implementation of pastoral programs.
Pursuing the MAGPAS vision of integral evangelization in building the Kingdom of God through promoting fullness of life, the parish lent full support to the archdiocesan program, Pondo ng Pinoy, launched in the parish in 2004. Consequently, a vicariate-wide cooperative was organized in 2005 and its e-commerce vehicle, VHSC-SKETRAN is envisioned to provide a basic needs of the poor at the lowest cost. San Rafael Parish was the first to implement with enthusiasm. A warehouse- office was designated a few meters away from the parish church.
Meanwhile, the Pastoral Council, responding to the need for a bigger and elevated church structure initiated the reconstruction of the new church. Under his guidance, a masterplan was designed and subsequently aprroved by the Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales. The building committee and finance committee were then organized to work together for the construction phases.
Parish Priests of San Rafael Parish:
- Fr. Jose Abriol, PA (1951-1962)
- Laureano Caoili (1962-1976)
- Fr. Alfredo Fermin (1976-1980)
- Fr. Pedro Agbayani (1980-1982)
- Fr. Manuel Nery (1982-1985)
- Fr. Ernesto Tobillo (1985-1987)
- Jose Flores (1987-1991)
- Fr. Gerardo Mascariña (1991-1993)
- Fr. Enrique Santos (1993-2000)
- Fr. Nestor Gungon (2000-2001)
- Fr Elpidio Biliran Jr. (2002-present)