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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?

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Diocese of Bayombong

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Diocese of Bayombong
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In a land area of 6,961 square kilometers, the diocesan territory covers the civil provinces of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino and is a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao. Its titular patron is St. Dominic de Guzman, whose feast is celebrated in the diocese every first Sunday of August.

Population

In the diocesan territory, the population is 998,253 at the end of 2015 of which 56.10 percent are Catholics. 

The original inhabitants of Nueva Vizcaya were wild and semi-wild tribes. The wild tribes were the Igorots, Ifugaos, Ilongots and the Aetas. The semi-wild tribe includes the Gaddangs and the Maalats. The former led a nomadic life and roamed over the Cordillera, Ilongots Regions and Sierra Madre Mountain Ranges.

Language

Ilokano, Tagalog and English are in use in the diocesan territory.

History

  • Diocese of Bayombong 
    (Dioecesis Bayombongensis)

  • Suffragan of Tuguegarao
    Created Prelature: Nov. 7, 1966
    Elevated to Diocese: Nov. 15, 1982 by Pope John Paul II
    Comprises the civil provinces of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino
    Principal Patron: St. Dominic de Guzman, first Sunday of August
    Secondary Patron: St. Vincent Ferrer, April 5

    The first Christian mission established in Nueva Vizcaya was that of Ituy in 1609. This sitio or barrio could have been anywhere between what is now the province of Cagayan in the north, and the mountains bordering Nueva Ecija in the south, because as the Spaniards colonized the Philippines, the entire Cagayan Valley, now Region III, was simply one province called Cagayan.

    The faith spread over the region through the efforts of the Augustinian and Dominican missionaries who came from areas now called Cagayan and Pangasinan.

    By 1717, Father Alejandro Cacho went on mission trips to Ituy, and slowly picked up once again whatever threads of Christianity had been left by the earlier missionaries. Within twenty years, with the help of the Augustinians, Father Cacho was able to baptize many Isinays and Ilongots, original inhabitants of the place, and build cogon chapels in some eight settlements in the Marang Valley.

    Over the years the settlements grew in number. Bujay, now the town of Aritao, and Dupax already had their resident priests. In 1739, Holy Mass was celebrated in Bayombong for the first time. The parishes of Bayombong, Bagbag and Dupax were established in 1741, and that of Solano soon after.

    In April of 1841 the province of Nueva Vizcaya was born, created as a politico-military province by royal decree from Spain. The original line dividing the valley into two — Cagayan and Nueva Ecija provinces — ran between Tumauini and Ilagan (now the capital of Isabela). The name Nueva Vizcaya came from that of a province in Spain called Vizcaya. The capital was the town of Camarag (now Echague in Isabela).

    In 1856, the province of Isabela was created, deriving half of its land from Cagayan, and half from Nueva Vizcaya. With this new partition, Bayombong became the new capital of Nueva Vizcaya.

    On Nov. 7, 1966, the Prelature of Bayombong was established. In 1972 Quirino was made a separate province. The prelature then comprised the civil provinces of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino.

    On Nov. 18, 1966, Monsignor Alberto Van Overbeke, CICM, was appointed prelate and installed as such. In 1969 he was appointed Bishop-Prelate Ordinary, and ordained bishop in the same year. On Nov. 15, 1982, the prelature was elevated to a diocese, with Bishop Van Overbeke in charge. Because of ill health he asked for assistance and was given a coadjutor-bishop with the right of succession, in the person of Monsignor Ramon Villena. In 1987 Bishop Van Overbeke died and Bishop Ramon Villena became his successor.

    The website of Diocese is available at: www.dioceseofbayombong.org

Political

Nueva Vizcaya is composed of 15 municipalities with Bayombong as the provincial capital. The province also consists of one congressional district with two (2) sectors, the North and South Sector. The subdivision follows the administrative jurisdiction set in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. There are 275 barangays of Nueva Vizcaya. The North Sector comprises seven (7) municipalities namely: Ambaguio, Bagabag, Bayombong, Diadi, Quezon, Solano and Villaverde. On the other hand, the South Sector has eight (8) municipalities namely: Alfonso Castañeda, Aritao, Bambang, Dupax del Norte, Dupax del Sur, Kasibu, Kayapa and Santa Fe. The boundary of the two sectors is drawn between the municipal boundaries of Ambaguio and Kayapa, Bayombong and Bambang and Quezon and Kasibu.

Quirino is a lone district with six (6) municipalities namely: Aglipay, Cabarroguis, Diffun, Maddela, Nagtipunana, and Saguday with 132 barangays.

Religion

The literacy rate (simple literacy) is in Nueva Vizcaya 91.43 percent. In Quirino the literacy rate (simple literacy) is 91.51 percent.

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