Antipolo diocese comprises the whole province of Rizal, including the whole city of Marikina. The territorial area is 1,828 square kilometers. Its topography is characterized by hilly towns, including coastal towns bordering Laguna de Bay, the largest inland body of water in the Philippines.
There are no dominant ethnic groups. Filipino and English are the main spoken and written languages used.
The Diocese of Antipolo was created on January 24, 1983 and was canonically erected on June 25, 1983 at the Shrine Parish of the Immaculate Conception in Antipolo, Rizal. It was carved out of the Archdiocese of Manila, taking mostly the eastern part of Rizal. It includes under its jurisdiction 16 municipalities, among them Antipolo, Angono, Baras, Marikina and Montalban. It is a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Manila.
The first missionaries in the territory which now comprises the Diocese of Antipolo were the Franciscans who came in 1578 and set camp in the town of Taytay. Later Antipolo became part of this mission territory. Because of the lack of personnel the Franciscan eventually gave up both places and the Jesuits took over.
Due to frequent flooding in the town of Taytay, and because the population of Antipolo grew considerably around the year 1595, the mission center was transferred from Taytay to Antipolo. In 1597 the town of Cainta was added to the mission.
In 1603 the building of a new church in Antipolo began. The final edifice as it stands today was finally completed in 1726, more than a hundred years later. But in between there were intermediate churches, and one of them, completed in 1633, became the shrine of a little brown image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It had been brought by Governor Niño de Tabora from Acapulco in 1626. This statue was to become known as Our Lady of Antipolo.
When later the statue was borne across the Pacific by the galleons as their tutelary patroness, it became known as Our Lady of Peace and Happy Voyage, Nuestra Señora dela Paz y Buen Viaje. In 1950 Antipolo was proclaimed the national shrine of Our Lady by the bishops of the country. Although the church in Antipolo as a shrine is dedicated to Our Lady of Peace and Happy Voyage, the titular patroness of the church as a parish has always been the Immaculate Conception.
The Diocese of Antipolo has a land area of 1,859 square kilometers. In 1983, upon its creation, the estimated population of the area was about 900,000 of which 83 per cent were Catholics. The diocese then had 21 parishes. Today, over the same land area, the population has grown to over 3,000,000 of which 74 percent are Catholics (updated based on current statistics). While the clergy has also grown in number, the percentage gap between faithful and clergy has widened. The diocese is therefore worse off now that it was twelve years ago, in terms of number of priests to population.
In 1988 diocesan consultations were held among the clergy, the religious and the laity to arrive at a diocesan vision. The diocesan ministries were streamlined, functions defined, all for the purpose of serving the pastoral and spiritual needs of the People of God in the diocese.
After the conclusion of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines in 1991, another diocesan convention was called to discuss the documents and resolutions of PCP II. Here the groundwork was laid for the holding of a diocesan synod that would work in line with the Acts and Decrees of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II).
This First Diocesan Synod of Antipolo was finally held on February 22-27, 1993 at the St. Michael Retreat House in Antipolo with 110 representatives attending, representing the clergy, the religious and the laity. The Synod was a follow-up of the previous diocesan consultations, and a stride ahead to follow in the footsteps of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, for the realization of renewal in the local church. The theme of the First Diocesan Synod of Antipolo was BAGONG NILIKHA, BAGONG PAGKATAO (new creation, new personality) < Eph 4:24 >.
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The image of the "Nuestra Señora dela Paz y Buen Viaje"
On January 14, 1954, the church of Antipolo was declared as a National Shrine of the Philippines dedicated to "Nuestra Señora dela Paz y Buen Viaje." The statue was brought from Mexico to Manila by Governor Juan Niño de Tavora in 1626 and at his death in 1632 was turned over to the Jesuits for the Church of Antipolo. Nuestra Señora dela Paz y Buen Viaje was proclaimed "Patroness of the Galleons." The statue crossed the Pacific on the San Luis in 1641-1647; on the Encarnacion in 1648; on the San Diego in 1650; on the San Javier in 1651; on the San Jose in 1659-1661 and on the Nuestra Señora del Pilar in 1746. The statue was canonically crowned on November 26, 1926, by then Archbishop Michael J. O'Doherty of Manila, at the Luneta, Manila, in the presence of at least one hundred thousand people.
The Church of Antipolo
The first missionaries of Antipolo were the Franciscans. The Jesuits administered the Church from 1591 to 1768. Built by Father Juan de Salazar, SJ, the church was ready for the image of Our Lady in 1632. However, the church structure was greatly damaged during the Chinese uprising of 1639 and in the earthquakes of 1645, 1824 and 1863. For three centuries now, this church has been the object of religious pilgrimages all over the Philippines. The famous historians, Fathers P.P. Chirino, SJ, and Pedro Murillo Velarde, SJ ministered in Antipolo.
The John Paul II Minor Seminary
The Diocese of Antipolo lacks priests to take pastoral care of its people. At present, there are only around 76 diocesan priests for around 3 million people. That means one priest for every 33,000 persons when the ideal is one priest for every 3,000. To increase the number of priests in the diocese, the John Paul II Minor Seminary was built. It is a high school seminary which accepts boys who are graduates of grade six (elementary) and want to become priests. The minor seminary provides an environment where the priestly vocation of these boys is discerned and fostered and where a good Christian formation is given with an eye for the priesthood. The John Paul II Minor Seminary started operating in June 2007 with First Year High School, with around 54 students. To raise funds for the construction of the building and for the other needs of the seminary, the diocese presented a concert on August 10, 2007 at the Ynares Center in Antipolo City. Main participants of this concert were priests of the diocese, religious sisters, and well-known lay singers. The Clergy Concert was entitled "Pagtawag at Pagtugon (call and answer)".
City and town mayors, vice-mayors and local boards/councils lead in local politics. The smallest political units called barangays are headed by abarangay captain assisted by a barangay council in charge of various community concerns like health, environment, women and children, the elderly and livelihood.
Jeepneys, mini-buses, tricycles, taxi cabs and buses both air-conditioned regularly ply around the area, with terminals are located in malls and commercial centers to take commuters to various parts of Metro Manila. The main access roads to and from other areas are EDSA and C-5 hi-way. In general, buses take the main roads, and jeepneys, the secondary roads. People from these areas go to provinces via transport terminals in Cubao.
Some areas are largely dependent on agriculture. Farmers work in rice farms in Pililla town, and some earn a living by planting fruit-bearing trees like mango and cashew. In coastal towns (Binangonan, Angono, Cardona, Jalajala) fishing is the main source of income. Many fish pens can be found on Laguna Bay. Others sell native delicacies from cashew and suman (rice cakes). Marikina City, known as the shoe-manufacturing capital of the Philippines has many shoe factories employing locals. Varied industries include garments factories (Marikina), a cement plant (Teresa town), and petroleum corporation (Petron in Pililla town).
Area franchise for landlines includes mainly the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company. They also provide internet services. Globe Telecom also provides phone and internet connection in some areas. Regular radio, television and cable networks are accessible.
In 2003, simple literacy rate in the diocesan territory was 99 percent and functional literacy rate was 94.6 percent according to the National Statistics Office's Demographic and Social Statistics Division.
Amid strong western influences, elements of local culture have managed to survive since Rizal is a suburb of Manila, and is more slowly urbanized. The people of Rizal are generally proud of having retained much more of nature's gifts than the metropolitan centers. Antipolo and a large part of Rizal province are much greener than the rest of Metro Manila.
Antipolo (then a town) used to be a favorite summer destination, with its many resort facilities and the Hinulugang Taktakwaterfalls. The falls have been affected by general damage to the environment, yet Antipolo still draws sizable crowds, many of them Marian devotees.
The Pilgrimage Season
On May 3, 1947, Feast of the Holy Cross, a wooden cross was blessed and erected on the Pinagmisahan Hill, Antipolo City. The following Tuesday the image of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage was brought in procession from the Antipolo Church to Pinagmisahan Hill before which a mass was said as the opening of the Pilgrimage Season. Since 1947 up to the present, a commemorative thanksgiving Mass is said every First Tuesday of May, the start of the Pilgrimage Season. Every nine days there is a procession. The Pilgrimage Season ends with a procession on the First Tuesday of July. This commemorates what the faithful regard as a miraculous intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary during the Spanish times. The Antipoleños (people of antipolo) were said to have recovered from an epidemic after Holy Mass was celebrated in that spot.
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