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Diocese of Ipil

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Diocese of Ipil
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The diocese of Ipil is a Roman Catholic diocese located in the city of Ipil in the Ecclesiastical province of Zamboanga Sibugay in the Philippines. Until May 3, 2010, the territory was a territorial prelature. On this day, Pope Benedict XVI elevated the area to the rank of diocese, with the same name and territorial configuration as before, making it a suffragan of the metropolitan church of Zamboanga. The pope appointed Bishop Julius S. Tonel, prelate of Ipil, as first bishop of the new diocese.

In a land area of 4,850 square kilometers, the diocese comprises the Province of Zamboanga Sibugay. Ipil is a 1st class municipality in the province of Zamboanga Sibugay, Philippines. It is the capital municipality of Zamboanga Sibugay.


In the diocesan territory, the population is 674,000 as of 2016. These ethnic tongues belong to the Badjao, Tausog, Maranao, Maguindanao, Subanen, Samal, Yakan and Kalibugan. A majority of the population are migrants from the Central Visayas area, which accounts for the predominance of the Cebuano dialect, followed by Ilonggo. These are the dialects used in the Catholic liturgy.


Cebuano is the major dialect spoken and understood by most Sibugaynon. Minor dialects are Chavacano, llonggo, Tagalog, Ilocano and other ethnic tongues.


The Diocese of Ipil is a suffragan of Zamboanga
Erected: Dec. 24, 1979
Elevated: May 1 , 2010
Comprises: 16 municipalities of the newly created province of Zamboanga Sibugay, and three others that remained with Zamboanga del Sur.
Titular: St. Joseph the Worker

The Diocese of Ipil
From 1595-1910, the whole island of Mindanao was canonically placed under the Diocese of Cebu and Jaro. Christianity first came in the territory in 1963. The first missionaries were two Jesuits priests who established the first chapel in Butuan on Sept. 8, 1597. The early evangelization met with strong, even armed opposition on the part of the Indigenous population. Missionaries had to work hard to win over local chieftains, sometimes risking their lives. In 1910, Pope Pius X established the Diocese of Zamboanga. It included the whole southern Philippines, which is now commonly called Mindanao and Sulu. Later, in the course of the century, the original territory of Zamboanga Diocese was subdivided several times and new ecclesiastical territories set up. The last ecclesiastical subdivision to be separated from the Archdiocese of Zamboanga was the Prelature of Ipil. It was canonically erected by the Holy See as an independent ecclesiastical territory on Dec. 24, 1979, after being considered for many years as the Jesuit mission district of Zamboanga. On June 21, 1980, Bishop Federico O. Escaler, SJ, was transferred to Ipil from Kidapawan. At that time, there were only nine parishes with 13 priests, all Jesuits. From then on, the local church of Ipil Prelature grew with the new parishes established and new ministires formed.

There are now 26 diocesan priests. Other priests from PIME, MM, CMF, SCJ, MSSC, and SV congregations were invited to help. Religious sisters from MMS, OND, OP, MM, ACR, FJC, SPC, ADC, SAC, RSM, FFM, RVM, TC, MSM, DC and SFIC congregations joined the work force in building up the Christian communities. Lay workers and leaders shared their gifts and talents in the formation of the local church. Today, under Bishop Julius Tonel, Ipil Prelature has grown with 19 parishes in four vicariates, 639 chapels, and about 2,000 zones. From being a mission district, it has become a dynamic church in southwestern Mindanao.

Ipil Pastoral Plan
The Pastoral Plan of the Prelature of Ipil incorporates the National Pastoral Plan of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II) in 1991-92, and the nine priorities of the National Pastoral Consultation on Church Renewal (NPCCR) in 2001. It begins with the call to be a church within the context of Mindanao and the rest of the Philippines. Material poverty, in this sense, is not seen as an obstacle but rather an invitation; for poverty "has been historically the privileged place of the gracious intervention of God's grace." (PCP II, no. 123). The ultimate vision for this Church of the Poor is to become a Community of Disciples of the Lord formed under four key areas of renewal with their corresponding spheres of evangelization:

1.    Christian life through catechesis
2.    Religious concerns through worship
3.    Social concerns through the social apostolate; and
4.    Agents of renewal through focal points of evangelization.

In this response of the prelature by means of renews integral evangelization, the nine NPCCR priorities are kept in mind - from integral formation to renewal of the clergy. These are matched with the existing prelature ministries and activities - from our catechetical program to seminary formation. All these ministries are hopefully characterized by the ecclesial features of a Community of Disciples of the Lord.

Christ centric (especially in catechesis) - i.e., Biblical, Eucharistic, and Marian;
Contextualized (especially in worship) - i.e., inculturated, historical, liturgical
Pastoral (especially in our social apostolate) - i.e., community-based, in solidarity with the poor and towards total human development; and
Evangelical (especially the focal points of evangelization) - i.e., prophetic, missionary, apostolic and dialogical

Call, response and vision are thus the three dimensions for our local church in via - as goes on with her pilgrimage and inner transformation, from being Church of the Poor to becoming a Community of Disciples of the Lord, when evangelical poverty resonates with the call of discipleship.

The History of the Cathedral of Ipil as the foundation of the prelature - St. Joseph the Worker Parish
In 1953, by God's grace, the Jesuit missionaries, having been working in the Zamboanga Peninsula decided to create and dedicate Ipil to Saint Joseph. The Jesuits gave Father Federico Martinez, SJ as the first parish priest. Ipil then was under the Archdiocese of Zamboanga. While only after 5 years, the Jesuits known to be Educators established Marian Academy, a mission school to cater the growing needs of the people. 1967, Father Simplicio Sumpayco, SJ initiated parish renewal programs apparently a clear answer to the challenges and aggiornamento of Vatican II. Series of Formations and trainings were given specifically to give and share the burden of evangelization to the lay. Lay formation leadership programs were the beginning of the BECs in Ipil and other parishes. Religious organizations like the K of C and CWL made their presence felt as a help to the parish.

In 1970, Father Robert Walsh, still a Jesuit missioner, is remembered as the first peace negotiator between Moro rebels and the military during the first experience of real people war witnessed in its history. Finally the laying of the cornerstone of the St. Joseph Cathedral happened in 1979. 1980, Ipil was separated from the Archdiocese of Zamboanga. Bishop Federico Escaler, SJ was appointed first bishop of the Prelature of Ipil. From 1982 to 1983, is the setting up of structure in the parish as kapilyas, zonas and parish council, where tragedies upon tragedies piled up on the parish with the burning of Ipil three times in the span of four years from May 11 of 1979, 1981 and 1982. Despite tragedies, challenges and turmoil during those times, Kasikas Festival, a church-organized activity was still created in 1994 by Father Larry Helar. Just after one year, 1995, Abu Sayyaf, a well-known terrorist group, sowed terror in the hearts of people when they delivered their coup d' grace with sweeping ferocity leaving 72 people dead, and hundreds of thousands of properties went up its smoke. Mr. Placido Avanzado, a parish fiscal was one of those who were killed.

In 1996, Bishop Escaler, SJ retired and Bishop Antonio Ledesma, SJ was installed as the second Bishop of the Prelature of Ipil. 1997 up to year 2000, the cathedral building was finally completed, even the fencing of the cathedral and a lot more of gracious events that took place those years. In 2001, a new province was born after a successful and overwhelming "YES Votes" during the referendum for the creation of Zamboanga Sibugaey. Many concerned groups like Parish Social action Political Education desk, the Interfaith Coalition for Good Governance (IFCGG), an advocacy group of inter-religious leaders and the like were created to provide on-going formations for the Prelature. At present, the prelature is very rich and affluent in terms of programs and ministries which truly are participated by laypeople in the prelature.

On May 1, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI elevated the territorial prelature of Ipil to the rank of diocese, with the same name and territorial configuration as before, making it a suffragan of the metropolitan church of Zamboanga. He appointed Bishop Julius S. Tonel, prelate of Ipil, as first bishop of the new diocese.


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 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.


The building of bridges and the improvement of roads linking Canatuan to R.T. Lim town in the west and Siocon town in the east open economic opportunities for people in Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga Sibugay, but also provided greater access to education and health services that were difficult to come by in earlier years. This infrastructure has likewise allowed for better social interaction among citizens of the Zamboanga Peninsula, a melting pot of Muslim, Subanon and Christian cultures.

Tricycles and habal-habal for short distances, jeeps and buses for long distances. Habal-habal is a single motorcycle for hire - the only type of transportation commonly available in most remote areas in the province as well as in the region.

Residents utilized horses or carabaos to transport their farm products up to the point where transportation is accessible.


The Philippines has 40 Mariculture Parks in operation and out of the 11 in Mindanao, one is located in Tungawan, Province of Zamboanga Sibugay. Mariculture parks operate much like industrial estates on land, with investors setting up or renting fish cages to grow high-value marine species such as bangus, lapu-lapu, siganids, seaweeds and other high-value aquatic organisms. Mariculture parks are not only practical and economical but are also ecologically friendly. There is no need to cut a single mangrove tree in raising bangus, in a sea cage, and is also more economical.

The local government is pushing for the extension of the fish port in Taytay Manobo in the municipality of Naga in order to expand its mariculture and fishing industries. The local economy is conducive to extensive mariculture, which is the farming of aquatic plants and animals in salt water. Thus, mariculture represents a subset of the larger field of aquaculture, which involves the farming of both fresh-water and marine organisms. The major categories of mariculture species are seaweeds, mollusks, crustaceans, and finfish.

The province is known as the rubber capital of the Philippines.

The leading industries are in the areas of bakery, rice and corn milling, food processing, and rattan and wood furniture production. New industries include concrete products, garments, wax and candle factory, and other cottage industries.

Major crops produced include rice, corn, coconuts, rubber, fruit trees, vegetables, tobacco, coffee, cacao, and root crops. Livestock and poultry productions are predominantly small-scale backyard operations.

The existing Electric Power is provided by Zamboanga del Sur Electric Cooperative II (Zamsureco II).

Under the Alliance for Mindanao Off-Grid Renewable Energy (AMORE) program, USAID, in partnership with Mirant Philippines, has provided solar generated electricity for 13 remote and conflict affected barangays. The project also provided 16 streetlights to the communities and lighted 8 community centers. Nine schools were provided solar-powered distance education facilities and installed 6 public calling offices. The project also provided 7 water disinfection and 1 spring-fed potable water systems.


Smart Communications, Globe Telecommunications and Sun Cellular provide mobile services in the region while Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) Company provides landline access within and outside the diocesan territory.

Several radio stations are operating in the area: DXMG-FM and Radyo ng Bayan, Magic 103 FM and Radyo Lipay AM. Other radio and TV stations can be heard/seen via relay or affiliate stations. The 102 Lamare Compass FM is the only radio station of municipality of Bayog located at Barangay Lamare.

There is one (1) Cable network operating in the municipality of Bayog. It provides seventeen (17) channels.


To the north it intersects the common municipal boundaries of Kadawit, Tampilisan, and Godad in Zamboanga del Norte. In the west, it is bounded by the municipalities of Siraway, Siocon, and Balinguian, and the province of Zamboanga del Norte. On the south it is bounded by Sibuguey Bay. In the east, the municipalities of Bayog and Kumalarang both in the province of Zamboanga del Sur bound it. It is further bounded on the southwest by Zamboanga City.

The terrain is generally hilly bounded by mountains on the north and the Sibuyan Bay on the south. There are no large cities in the area; it is predominantly rural. Zamboanga Sibugay Province is subdivided into 16 municipalities: Tungawan, R.T. Lim, Ipil, Titay, Naga, Siay, Kabasalan, Imelda, Diplahan, Buug, Malangas, Alicia, Payao, Mabuhay, Talusan and Olutanga. It has a total of 389 barangays under one Congressional District.

Zamboanga Sibugay was created in 2001 when the third district of Zamboanga del Sur split off. Zamboanga Sibugay is the 79th province created in the Philippines.


May 8 for the Tribal Festival which, features pageantry between the different tribes resides in Bayog.
May 9 for the Buklog Festival, a Subanen fertility ritual.
The Bakhawan Festival of Zamboanga Sibugay Province in Kabasalan

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