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Celebrating the 500th Anniversary of Catholicism in the Philippines

“…500 years have passed since the Christian message first arrived in the Philippines. You received the joy of the Gospel... And this joy is evident in your people … We see it in your eyes, on your faces, in your songs and in your prayers. In the joy with which you bring your faith to other lands …”

~ Pope Francis said in his homily of the Mass at the Vatican on March 14, formally opening the yearlong celebrations marking the 500th anniversary of Catholicism’s arrival in the Philippines.

A country of 7,641 islands at the sea of southeast Asia with a population of 109 million, of which more than 10 million are migrants living in almost 100 countries across the world.

Why the Pope calls Filipinos “smugglers of faith”? What makes the local Church so unique?

What is the Catholic population in the country? How many dioceses, bishops are there?

All you need to know about the Church in the Philippines in one click
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Diocese of Sibu

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Diocese of Sibu
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The Diocese of Sibu is located on the central part of Sarawak. When it became a diocese in 1986 it covered the Sibu, Mukah, Kapit and Sarikei Divisions of Sarawak comprising the towns of Sibu, Kanowit, Mukah, Dalat, Sarikei, Bintangor, Julau, Kapit and Song. It covers an area of 58,542.3 square kilometers or 47 percent of Sarawak's territory. The diocese's population is made up of Chinese, Malays, Ibans, Bidayuhs, Melanaus and Orang Ulu, among others.

Population

The population is dominated by Chinese especially the Fuzhou as well as indigenous Melanau, Malay, and Iban. The district population (per year 2008 census) is 255,000.

There is no known adjective for the people from Sibu, although there have been many unofficial suggestions: Siburian, Sibuian, Sibunite, Sibu-yan - none are officially recognised.

Sibu has a reputation as a rough, frontier town on the riverside. Even today, it is one of the most bustling towns in East Malaysia. It was originally called "New Foochow"after the Foochow immigrants from the Fujian province of China, who settled in Sibu in the early 20th century at the invitation of Rajah Charles Brooke. However, there were many ethnic groups immigrant from China at that time, such as Heng Hua, Hokkien and others. These people brought a lot of positive changes to Sibu town, putting effort to make a greater SIBU. The new settlement was located next to a small Melanau village that had been established in the 1850s. The first group of Chinese immigrants from Fuzhou, China, led by Pastor Wong Nai Siong, reached Sarawak in year 1900.

With the Rajang River becoming increasingly bustling with economic activity, Sibu served an important role in the Brooke administration as a trading centre between the coast and the vast upriver hinterland. Sibu continues to fulfill this role today.

Sibu also has university-level courses offered by United College Sarawak, which has built a campus on the site of the old Sibu airport.

Sibu Jaya, located 25 kilometers away, is being developed as a satellite town. Sibu Airport, built during World War II, was relocated to its present site 23 kilometers from town near Sibu Jaya in 1994.

Topography

Sibu (the seat of the diocese) is a town, and the capital of Sibu District (229.8 square kilometers) in Sibu Division, Sarawak. It is located at the confluence of the Rajang and Igan Rivers, some 60 kilometers from the ocean.

Sibu is the main tourist gateway to the Upper Rajang River, with its small riverine towns and its many Iban and Orang Ulu longhouses.

There has been a marked increase in public buildings in recent years. Sibu now boasts the largest town square in Malaysia, and the tallest building in Sarawak - the Sanyan, a newly refurbished waterfront, and a large number of public parks.

Culture

There used to be a Sibu Fort, which was built by Rajah Brooke in 1862. The fort was located at Race Course Road, however it no longer exists now. It was common for the White Rajah to build such forts to stake his territorial claim as well as means of protection.

The existence of Sibu Fort is proven by historical writings:
"...There is a fort in Sibu, as indeed there is at most of the river places in Sarawak. The fort at Sibu was close to the Resident Dr. Hose's house and was attacked by Dayaks only a few years ago. Johnson, one of Dr. Hose's assistants, showed me a very long Dayak canoe capable of seating over one hundred men...

The river at Sibu was of great width, over a mile across, in fact, and close to the bank is a Malay village, and a bazaar where the wily Chinaman does a thriving trade in the wild produce of the country, and makes huge profits out of the Dayaks and other natives on this river." Rosli Dhoby, a Sarawakian nationalist, is one of Sibu's more illustrious sons. He was well-known for his assassination of Sir Duncan George Stewart, the second governor of colonial Sarawak in 1948. He was then sentenced to death by hanging and was buried at the Kuching Central Prison in 1950. After 46 years of his remains resting in the prison compound, it was moved out from the Kuching Central Prison and buried at the Sarawak's Heroes Mausoleum near Sibu Town Mosque on March 2, 1996. To honour his struggle against the British, he was given state funeral by Sarawak Government.

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