In a land area of 2,091.1 square kilometers, the diocesan territory covers the central territory of the Province of Negros Occidental from the Municipalities of Hinigaran in the south to Victorias City in the north.
Negros Occidental is located in the northwestern portion of Negros Island, the fourth biggest island in the Philippine archipelago. It is bounded on the north by the Visayan Sea, and on the south by the Sulu Sea. It is southeast of Panay Island from which is separated by the Guimaras Strait. On the east are the Tanon Strait and Negros Oriental, which forms part of the Central Visayas or Region VII.
Negros Occidental can be found near the central part of the country. It is one of the five provinces that compose Western Visayas or Region VI.
The province is composed of 13 cities and 19 municipalities. It has the most chartered cities among all the provinces in the Philippines. Although Bacolod City serves as the capital, it is governed independently from the province as a highly-urbanized city.
As of end of year 2015, the diocese total population is 1,396,318 of which 78 percent are Catholics.
Among its earliest inhabitants were dark-skinned natives belonging to the Negrito ethnic group with their unique culture. Thus, the Spaniards called the land "Negros" after the black natives whom they saw when they first came the island in April 1565. Two of the earliest native settlements were Binalbagan and Ilog, that later became towns in 1573 and 1584, respectively. Other settlements were Hinigaran, Bago, Marayo (now Pontevedra), Mamalan (now Himamaylan) and Candaguit (now a sitio in San Enrique).
Negros Occidental is predominantly a Hiligaynon-speaking province. However, the cities and towns facing the Tañon Strait are Cebuano-speaking due to their proximity to the island-province of Cebu. English is widely spoken on both sides of the island. Tagalog, the national language is also widely understood.
- DIOCESE OF BACOLOD
Suffragan of Jaro
Created: July 15, 1932
Erected: May 4, 1933
Comprises the central territory of the Province of Negros Occidental from the Municipalities of Hinigaran in the south to Victorias City in the north Principal Titular: St. Sebastian, January 20
Secondary Patroness: Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, Second Sunday of October
On July 15, 1932, Pope Pius XI issued a Bull creating the Diocese of Bacolod. On May 4, 1933, the Papal Delegate Guglielmo Piani issued an order of execution (decretum excutioriale) that put into operation the implementation of the Papal Bull. When Bishop McCloskey received the order, he summoned the Recollects in Negros to a meeting on May 10 and informed them of the creation of the new diocese and then sent a message to the seculars about this development. On May 16, the Papal Delegate issued a decree of the erection of the diocese (acta de erectionis) followed by the order of May 19 (acta dismembraciones) issued by the Archdiocese of Cebu of which Jaro was a suffragan, separating the province of Occidental Negros from the Diocese of Jaro and the province of Oriental Negros including its sub-province island of Siquijor, from the Archdiocese. On June 3, Msgr. Piani informed Bishop McCloskey that the Vatican had appointed him Apostolic Administrator pending the arrival of the first Bishop of Bacolod. Bishop McCloskey then set in operation all the necessary means to prepare the diocese for this historic event, including the order of the ceremonies for the canonical erection.
On June 23, 1933, the Pope appointed Father Casimiro Lladoc of Albay as the first Bishop of Bacolod. He was a vicar forane, 40 years of age and one of the most intelligent graduates of the University of Santo Tomas.
Bishop McCloskey organized a delegation from Negros to attend the episcopal ordination of Msgr. Lladoc in Nueva Caceres by Bishop Gabriel Reyes and Bishop Piani on Sept. 16, 1933. The new bishop left Manila on Oct. 23, arriving by boat in Silay the following day, and took possession of the diocese on the same day.
On June 3, 1951 Bishop Lladoc died after suffering from a lingering illness since 1949. His vicar general, Msgr. Flaviano Ariola was appointed Apostolic Administrator pending the appointment of a new bishop. On March 16, 1952, the bishop of Capiz, Manuel Yap was appointed to Bacolod and was installed on May 29 of the same year. A biblical scholar, he gave impetus to the massive catechism work by establishing immediately the Catechetical Institute in 1954 to address the need for more trained catechists. When Msgr. Ariola was appointed Bishop of Legaspi, Bishop Yap appointed Father Antonio Y. Fortich as vicar general. With his vicar general, Bishop Yap began the Cursillo de Cristianidad that started a mass movement for renewal of the faith. He expanded and strengthened the Sacred Heart Seminary with new buildings as his campaign for more vocation to the priesthood brought in new candidates. He used the donations from the American Catholic Charities to help undernourished children with milk and doughnuts and for children attending catechism classes.
Moreover, Bishop Yap committed the diocese to the work of the Jesuits to address the plight and exploitation of workers in the sugar farms, factories and the business enterprises. He supported the organization of cooperatives of workers and farmers and the mobilization of the masses under the banner of the Barangay Sang Birhen that initiated the block praying of the Rosary and Bible study. He also rehabilitated and consecrated the Cathedral. He gave shelter to Chinese Catholic priests who fled China due to the persecution by the Communists. By special faculty these priests served the Chinese and Chinese mestizos community, founded the St. John Institute and built the Queen of Peace Church. A traditionalist and conservative he was strict in the enforcement of Church rules for the clergy as well as for lay faithful.
On June 12, 1955 the Diocese of Dumaguete was created and carved out of the Diocese of Bacolod. The new diocese comprised all the parishes in the Oriental side of Negros and Siquijor Island.
To address the various internal concerns of the diocese, Bishop Yap convoked a synod on March 14-18, 1960. At that time, only members of the clergy participated in the synod. Among its significant results was the standardization of the arancel, the fee charged of the faithful for various religious services and facilities. Bishop Yap died on Oct. 16, 1966 and was succeeded by Msgr. Fortich.
Bishop Fortich came at the time when the world was experiencing widespread protests against the existing social, economic, religious, educational, moral and political situation. The Second Vatican Council convoked by Pope John XXIII to "open the windows of the Church and allow fresh air". The Council led to a re-examination of all things that affect people, their religion and their governments, some taking this openness as a license to change everything not to their taste. Even fashion changed. Spearheaded by student protests in France, student activism spread throughout the world. Students boycotted classes and marched in the streets demanding for change and railing against the "establishment" or the status quo. Radical socialism and communism took hold in Latin America most especially in Catholic countries of South America when Cuba and Nicaragua fell into communist hands.
In Negros, students went to "teach-ins" that priests and social reformers conducted and "student power" became a byword not only in schools but outside into the larger society. Liberation theology emerged as if given a go signal by the reforms brought about by the Vatican Council II. Altars were stripped of traditional retablos, communion rails and pulpits disappeared, priests celebrated Mass in Hiligaynon and outside the church, more Masses became available on Sundays, the anticipated Mass was adopted, women were no longer required to wear veils inside the church and hemlines rose with the weather without bothering the priests or the churchgoers. What was fashionable was modern and acceptable. Renovation and experimentation in all fields of human endeavor, including inside the sacrosanct churches, ruled the days.
While Bishop Fortich gave vent to the modernization inside the diocese, he focused more on social and economic conditions of the masses of the people. Nowhere in the Philippines was the gap between the rich and poor as glaring and scandalous as in Negros. The bishop described the situation as a "social volcano" and the nation is sitting right on top of it. The clergy and religious of the diocese supported the thrust laid down by the bishop in a new pastoral program - the social and economic amelioration of the masses. He convoked a Pastoral Congress in 1968 and with the strong support of his clergy he confronted the exploitation of labor and worked for the cause of justice and peace. His pastoral letter relating the "social volcano" in Negros and his call for radical change to remove the causes of worker exploitation and injustice, particularly of the sacadas or seasonal migrant sugar farm workers, caused many of the wealthy who supported his elevation to the episcopate to lambaste him and withdraw their support for the diocese and the parishes. He summarized his thrust as "preferential option for the poor" in line with the Papal Encyclical on the "Development of Peoples."
What the diocese lost, however, was more than regained by the support of the masses for the Church. Mass attendance grew as he mobilized the masses for faith renewal in the Cursillo-type Sa Maria Movement and the grassroots organization of the Basic Christian Communities in the hinterlands and squatters areas. The BCC or Kristianong Katilingban was the training center for the poor and the marginalized in their faith and in developing and protecting human dignity. The poor were finally welcomed into the Bishop's Palace that was renamed Bishop's House and the masses looked to the Church as their champion against oppression and injustice. The diocese protected and sheltered the victims of land grabbing by powerful political groups north to south of the island and established the Social Action Center to help the exploited workers, including providing legal assistance. He carved out of the hinterlands of Kabankalan new lands and there established the Dacongcogon Sugar and Rice mill in 1968, a cooperative of poor farmers, as concrete manifestation of the Church's concern and to show that he was not merely preaching but providing a pulsating example.
Part of this mass mobilization was the Visayan Educational Radio and Television Association he founded in 1968 to manage the diocesan media of social communication - Channel 10 television and DYAF radio station.
The politically and economically powerful were so incensed with him that they labeled him and several of his priests engaged in working for justice as communists or agitators. The military, under the aegis of martial law declared in 1972 took an antagonistic stance against the clergy leading to the filing of trump up murder charges against two Columban priests, Father Brian Gore and Father Naial O'brien and Filipino secular, Father Vicente Dangan. The three were working with the BCC in Kabankalan that the military charged to be communist fronts. They were found innocent amid international protests against the clear oppression of Church workers. Not content, right-wing elements waged a vilification campaign against Bishop Fortich and even lobbed a grenade at Domus Dei, the retirement home of priests where the bishop was temporarily staying after the Bishop's House was burned under mysterious circumstances in January 1985.
His works received national and international recognitions including the Ramon Magsaysay Awardfor rural development and a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize aside from doctoral degreehonoris causa from the Ateneo de Manila University. His numerous works received notice from the Vatican that on Feb. 21, 1981, Pope John Paul II came to Bacolod in clear support of the bishop's work for justice, peace and development. The speech of the Holy Father angered some people who had been strongly opposed to the pastoral work of the bishop and the diocese.
In 1987, two dioceses were created. The Diocese of Kabankalan was carved out of Bacolod while the Diocese of San Carlos was taken out of Dumaguete and Bacolod. Bishop Fortich retired in 1989 after reaching the mandatory age of 75 and was succeeded by Bishop Camilo D. Gregorio who took possession of the See of Bacolod on July 25, 1989. The new bishop tried to fill the shoes of Bishop Fortich based on the diocesan pastoral program, but his priorities were on charismatic renewal. Under his episcopate the Pope John Paul Institute of Marriage and the Family was established. The clergy, schooled in the pastoral program of Bishop Fortich found Bishop Gregorio had a different view. Division raised its ugly head in the diocese, the clergy took opposite sides and despite the efforts of the bishop and the Papal Nuncio to heal the wounds of the conflict, and much reflection on the part of the clergy the contentions remained and afflicted the faithful. To bring peace in the diocese and heal the wounds, Bishop Gregorio filed his resignation on Sept. 2, 2000; on the same day the Pope appointed Kabankalan Bishop Vicente M. Navarra as Apostolic Administrator and in December he presided over the Jubilee celebration - the end of the 20th century.
The Holy Father designated Bishop Navarra as the Fifth Bishop of Bacolod on May 24, 2001 and on July 19 he took possession of the diocese. Under his episcopate the Diocese of Bacolod hosted the National Youth Day in 2004. After studying the problems of the diocese, he convoked the Second Diocesan Synod on Jan. 20, 2002 that involved a long process of consultation on the grassroots or parish level. It was the biggest consultative assembly - 182 delegates that included 89 members of the diocesan clergy, 26 religious men and women, 64 lay persons and representatives of lay associations, and special bodies. After the parish consultation on issues laid by the Synod had been completed, the delegates deliberated from Oct. 2004 to Jan. 18, 2005. On Jan. 20, 2005 Bishop Navarra promulgated 115 decrees covering a wide range of subjects that intended to transform the diocese and the faithful. The Synod defined the transformed and renewed diocese through its pastoral trust: A Church of the Poor, embracing Jesus' spirituality through a sense of communion and renewed integral faith formation and expressed in the Basic Ecclesial Communities. To begin the process of these historic decisions, he strengthened the Pastoral and Social Action Centers.
Because of his experiences as the first Bishop of Kabankalan he was aware of the problems of the province. He spoke strongly against illegal logging and environmental degradation and led protest caravans to call public attention to the dangers to the environment. He established a new Rectory, a three-storey building beside the Cathedral, inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2007, to accommodate the expanding operations of the Cathedral and the diocese and lodged in it the Pastoral Center. On March 30, 2007, he initiated the celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of the Diocese.
Missionary Trail in the Evangelization of Negros
- Binalbagan - Site of the first Christian convent established by the Augustinians 1575 and parish of Blessed Martin de San Nicolas (parish priest 1627-1629)
- Talisay - Father Cuenca's well where St. Exekiel Moreno had a water cure and the Spanish times retablo in the San Nicolas de Tolentino church
- Himamaylan - first parish of the second Recollect mission in Negros
- Escalante - Father Victor Baltanas, OAR was martyred here
- Bacolod - Bishop's House, largest convent in Negros
- Bacolod - Sta. Clara Chapel, Church of seashells
- Bacolod - USLS museum of religious art
- Bacolod - St. Sebastian Cathedral, burial place of the first three Bishops of Bacolod; oldest and largest church in the diocese
- Silay - San Diego Pro-Cathedral - only church of Byzantine architecture; site of the ruins of the pre-Recollect church
- Isabela - church almost entirely of bricks constructed by Recollect Father Mariano Lasa who introduced brick-making to be used in this church.
- Manapla -Church of Cartwheels
- Victorias - Church of the Angry Christ
- Bacolod - Sacred Heart Seminary - training institution for the priesthood
- Bacolod - Mt. Carmel Monastery - oldest monastery in Negros
- Pontevedra - Church of St. Michael - example of Spanish mission church common in California and the only one of its kind of architecture in Negros
- Bago - oldest parish in the present diocese of Bacolod established in 1625
- Bago, Calumangan - only shrine devoted to the Divine Mercy
The website of Diocese is available at: www.dioceseofbacolod.org
A Philippine province is headed by a Governor. A Provincial Council (Sangguniang Panlalawigan) is composed of a Vice Governor (Presiding Officer) and Provincial Board Members. A Philippine city or municipality is headed by a Mayor. A City Council (Sangguniang Panlungsod) or Municipal Council (Sangguniang Bayan) is composed of a Vice Mayor (Presiding Officer) and City or Municipal Councilors. A barangay (village) is headed by a Barangay Captain, who is also the presiding officer of the barangay council. The Barangay Council is composed of seven (7) Barangay Kagawads. A similar unit called a Youth Council (Sangguniang Kabataan) is headed by an SK Chairperson with a similar rank to a Barangay Captain. The council is composed of SK Members.
Annual per capita income (in Philippines Pesos) is 16,553 (USD382 as of March 2011).
Negros Occidental is the Philippines' major sugar producer. Its principal sugar-growing region is located in the north and west of the island, stretching from northwest along the coasts of the Visayan Sea and Guimaras Strait, which is one of the country's principal lowland areas. Sugar refining has many by-products such as acetylene, fertilizers and rum.
Fishing is the major industry based in Cadiz City. There are also a number of fishponds and prawn farming has become a major industry.
Bacolod City is the center of commerce and finance in Negros Occidental. It is where you find oil companies, factories, bottling plants, allied industrial businesses, steel fabrication, power generation, agri-businesses, prawn culture and other aqua-culture ventures.
With diversification as a major provincial development program, new land uses such as more inland fishing, livestock and poultry, grains and new crops like coffee, cacao, black pepper, orchards, ramie and others are increasing.
The province of Negros Occidental is reported by the Bureau of Mines to be rich in both metallic and non-metallic mineral resources, notably copper, gold, silver and molybdenum. Among the non-metallic minerals are stones, gravel, and sand and other construction materials, also salt and guano.
Literacy rate (simple literacy) is 91.21 percent in the diocesan territory.
- MassKara Festival
The festival is held every October and culminates on the weekend nearest October 19, which is the Charter anniversary of Bacolod.*
MassKara is coined from two words: Mass, which means "many, or multitude," and Kara, a Spanish word for "face," thus MassKara is a mass or multitude of smiling faces.
For Bacoleños, MassKara is a celebration and expression of thanks for the abundance of blessings life brings them.
- Pandot Sa Bacolod
January 20, Bacolod City, Negros Occidental
A true to life dramatization depicting the life of Bacoleños during the Spanish times and the life of being a Catholic.
- Pasalamat Festival
La Carlota City; every 4th Sunday of April
based on the tradition of giving thanks to the Gods of the elements after a bountiful harvest by the ancients in "Buglas". Characterized by the beating of drums, maracas, congas, bongos and other percussion instruments.
- Kali-Kalihan Festival
Don Salvador Benedicto, Negros Occidental; every December
celebration of age-old practice showcasing ancient skills in martial arts and beliefs in the forces of nature; walking on live charcoal is one of the highlights.
- Pinta Flores Festival,
San Carlos City; every November
coined from the words "pinta" and "flores", depicts the tradition of welcoming visitors through dancing as in the "pintados" during the coming of the Spaniards in the Visayas. Flowers instead of tattoos are painted on the bodies and costumes of the dancers.
- Cadiz Ati-Atihan, Cadiz City; every January
a festival in honor of the Sto. Niño, patron of Cadiz City believed to have created miracles protecting the city from the invading pirates long time ago. <b