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Archdiocese of Zamboanga

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Archdiocese of Zamboanga
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In a land area of 1,648 square kilometers, the diocesan territory covers the City of Zamboanga. 

Zamboanga City is a highly urbanized city located in Mindanao, Philippines. It is currently ranked as the 6th most populous city and the 3rd largest by area in the Philippines. It is located at the southernmost tip of the Zamboanga Peninsula and is bounded in the north by the provinces of Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga del Norte, in the west by the Sulu Sea, in the east by Sibugay Bay, and in the south by the Basilan Strait.

Zamboanga City commands the sea lanes of southwestern Philippines. It is the Philippine's gateway to Southeast Asia. The city is the nearest major urban center to the ASEAN neighbors: Malaysia, Brunei, Sarawak and Singapore; and through them, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and southern China. Farther to the west, through the Indian Ocean, is the Indian subcontinent with giant India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Zamboanga City has at least 25 island communities and 98 barangays (villages; 28 urban barangays and 70 rural barangays), divided into two congressional districts.


As of year end 2020 the total population of Zamboanga archdiocese is 1,068,000 of which 72.5 percent are Catholics of equivalent to 774,800.


The major language in Zamboanga City is Zamboangueño Chavacano, a Philippine-Spanish Creole. Other common languages in the city are Tagalog, English and Bisaya. Fookien (a Chinese dialect) and Tausug are also prevalent.

English is still the language used in all the school system to educate the public. Filipino or Tagalog is the second language used for education.


(Archdiocesis Zamboangensis)

Created Diocese: April 10, 1910
Elevated to Archdiocese: May 19, 1958
Comprises the City of Zamboanga
Suffragans: the Prelatures of Ipil and Isabela, Basilan and the Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo
Titular: Our Lady of Pillar
Secondary Patron: St. Pius X, Pope

From 1607 to 1910 the entire island of Mindanao was under the Diocese of Cebu and Jaro. On April 10, 1910, Pope Pius X created the Diocese of Zamboanga and gave it jurisdiction over the whole island of Mindanao, including the adjacent islands of the Sulu Archipelago and the island of Cagayan de Sulu. The faith first came to Zamboanga in 1635 with the arrival of the first missionaries, Father Melchor de Vera and Father Alejandro Lopez, both Jesuits. The Spanish authorities were always at war with the Muslims then. Their efforts to subdue the Muslims always resulted in reprisal raids in Zamboanga and the Visayan Islands. In Zamboanga, Fort Pilar, in honor of Our Lady of the Pillar, was constructed in 1636. Two Jesuits priests died as martyrs in their efforts to win the Muslims through diplomacy - Father Francisco Paliola and Father Alejanrdo Lopez.

On Jan. 20, 1933, Pope Pius XI divided the Mindanao area into two - the whole southern portion, including the Sulu Archipelago, under the jurisdiction of Zamboanga, and the northern portion under the Diocese of Cagayan de Oro. In 1951, Cagayan de Oro was elevated to an archdiocese, the first in the island of Mindanao. And all episcopal jurisdictions in Mindanao and Sulu, including that of Zamboanga, became suffragans of this archdiocese.

The Diocese of Zamboanga was further divided when the Diocese of Davao was established and separated in 1949; the Prelature of Cotabato in 1950; the Prelature of Isabela, Basilan, in 1967, and finally the Prelature of Ipil in 1980.

Zamboanga was raised to an archdiocese on May 15, 1958 by Pope Pius XII. As an ecclesiastical province, the Archdiocese of Zamboanga now comprises the City of Zamboanga and part of the province of Zamboanga del Sur. As suffragans it has the Prelature of Ipil, also in Zamboanga del Sur, the Prelature of Isabela, Basilan, and the Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo. Its titular patroneses is Our Lady of the Pillar, and its secondary patron is St. Pius X, Pope.

The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines adopted the Community of Disciples as the prime model of the Church, with the special attribute of being a Church of the Poor. For the church in Zamboanga, the challenge is to incarnate in the archdiocese the vision of PCP II.

History of the City
The evolution of the name "Zamboanga" provides an interesting insight into its historical background. The early Malay settlers called the region "Jambangan", which means Land of the Flowers.

These Malays who built their settlements by the river banks were the subanons that is the "People of the River". Their chief, Saragan, lived with his family atop the legendary Mount Pulumbato that today lords over Pasonanca and Climaco Freedom Park (formerly Abong-Abong Park) then later on, the Samals and the Badjaos who came on their frail vintas also settled here, building their frail huts along the shorelines and confused "Jambangan" with "Samboangan" which comes from the word "Sabuan", the wooden pole used to help push their vintas in shallow waters or to tie them for anchorage purposes.

The Spanish colonizers found difficulty in pronouncing "Samboangan" and instead called the place "Zamboanga".

It was in 1569 when the Spaniards made their presence felt with a small Catholic Mission established briefly at La Caldera, now known as Recodo.

Much later on June 23, 1635, the cornerstone of what is now known as Fort Pilar was laid by Father Melchor de Vera, a Jesuit Priest-Engineer and the Spanish authorities. This date marked the change of the name of the place from Samboangan to Zamboanga. It is the city's founding date.

In 1899, immediately after the Spanish-American War in the Philippines, the United States of America established full authority in Zamboanga. A special form of government was established in Mindanao and Sulu. Zamboanga was made the capital. The first form of which was the Moro province and during the 12 years of its existence, the American Military Government in the Philippines converted Zamboanga into a city in the Commission Form, the first province of Mindanao to become a city. However, the government of the Moro Province was abolished to give way to a new form of government, the Department of Mindanao and Sulu. This form of government entrusted to the Filipino residents of Zamboanga practically all positions in government.

The Commonwealth of the Philippines on 1936 declared Zambaonga a Charter City. Progress and development in Zamboanga continued and in 1983, the Minister Interior Jose Roño proclaimed Zamboanga City a highly urbanized city. 

The website of Diocese is available at:


Zamboanga City is a chartered City of the Philippines. It is an independent entity and not a part of any province in the Philippines. The City government is represented by a mayor, a vice-mayor, two congressional seats and 8 city councilors for each district totaling 16 councilors. The city council is chaired by the vice-mayor.

Zamboanga City is the third oldest city in the Philippines, with a strong mayor-council form of government. The city received its own representation for the Philippine Congress since 1984. The former lone congressional district was divided into two separate districts: the West District (I) from the City Proper to Limpapa, while in the East District (II) from Tetuan to Licomo.

Congresswoman Beng Climaco of District I was elected House Deputy Speaker for Mindanao and Women during the 15th Congress of the Philippines, a very important position that is considered to be the first for a representative from Zamboanga City.

The City of Zamboanga is composed of more than 774,407 people since 2007. Under the Republic Act No. 9269, Zamboanga City is qualified to have a third district representative in the House of Representatives of Congress.


The common mode of transportation in Zamboanga is by a jeepney or a tricycle. Buses are used for long-distance travels, there are bus companies serving the city to other major cities in Mindanao. There are also bicycles with sidecars (locally known as sikad) which are used to ferry passengers in short distances. Taxi service in the city is not well-established, although there are some independent taxis.

The Port of Zamboanga is an international port of entry. It has a schedule passenger trip to Sandakan, Malaysia, a cruise ship destination and several shipping lines offer regular trips from and to Davao, Cotabato, Dipolog/Dapitan, General Santos, Pagadian, Jolo, Bongao, Isabela City, Cebu City, Dumaguete, Iloilo, Bacolod and Manila.


Falls under the third and fourth types of climate. Seasons are not very pronounced, relatively dry from the December to April, minimal rain from May to August and wet on September and October. The city is rarely visited by typhoons.


  • Annual per capita income (in Philippines Pesos, exclude Zamboanga City) is 14,654.

    Zamboanga City was the center of barter trading among Chinese, Malays and the native Tausugs, Samals, Subanons, and the Badjaos as early as the 13th and 14th centuries.

    The city of Zamboanga is one of the wealthiest cities in the Philippines. Its economy is mostly concentrated on agricultural and aqua cultural products. Most of the investments in the city come from the local business people. This means that unlike other major cities in the country, Zamboanga has been growing through homegrown businesses.

    The city is known as the Sardine Capital of the Philippines because most of the sardine and canning factories are situated in Zamboanga City. It has been involved in the export of marine/aquaculture products, fruits, processed food, furniture/wood products, and many more.

  • Processed Fish Industry 
    Fishing has always been a part of life in Zamboanga City. The fishing group has 12 major players, which provide income to over 6,000 families. The players are all members of the Southern Philippines Deep-Sea Fishing Association, a SEC registered group based in Zamboanga City. The industry has 35 Light Boats and 35 Fish Catchers. It also supports the operation of two (2) canneries, nine (9) sardines' factories, thirteen (13) allied processors, 20 dried fish operators. Many commercial establishments support the requirements of the industry such as those engaged in fishing supplies, equipment, boat building, ice plants and cold storage facilities.

    The City now has forty-four (44) fish processing companies with product lines from canned tuna to canned sardines, bottled Spanish sardines, pet food, fish meal, fish balls, tempura, bagoong gata, ginamus, fish sausage and dried fish.

    Canned Tuna has remained to be the leader in exports in Zamboanga City, followed by seaweeds and pet food. Its l


  • Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) is the major telephone company operating in the City. Public phones are also provided by PLDT in strategic places where the demand is high. It provides both domestic and direct dialing services up to Recodo in the west Coast, Talon-Talon in the Eastern part, and Pasonanca and Putik in the Northern part.

    There are three cellular phone companies providing mobile communication services in the city such as Digitel Mobile Philippines, Inc. (Sun Cellular), Smart Telecommunications and Globe Telecoms.
    The existing telegraph system in the city has a computer link to 13 regional centers, which have links to provincial capitals, cities and municipalities, but international telegraphic links are not provided. This telegraph system includes a relay (repeater) station located at Bandera Hills, Abong-Abong.

    Fax machines for local use are commercially available at the City Post. International fax services are not provided. Telex services on the other hand, are provided for local and international calls.

    There are four Internet Service providers (ISPs) in the city, providing the city's links to the world.

    Like any other key cities, Zamboanga offers courier services to major cities in the country and to any other countries. There are at least a hundred telegraph stations/counters located strategically within the City.
    There are 15 Post Offices to serve the entire population. Program like Project Mercury or Kidlat Sulat was launched to hasten the delivery of mails.

    The city has 25 radio stations of which 13 are frequency modulated (FM) stations and the rest are operating on amplitude-modulated (AM) band. There are also seven regular TV stations broadcasting by affiliate stations and/or by relay station in the region and three Cable TV stations.
    There is one broadcasting station under the Catholic Media Network-Veritas, an AM which is base


  • Literacy rate (Simple literacy) is 86.41 percent in the diocesan territory.

    The formal education in Zamboanga City is patterned after the American system, with English as the medium of instruction. Schools are classified into public (government) and private (non-government). Classes start in June, and end in March. The majority of colleges and universities follow a semester calendar from June to October, and November to March. There are a number of foreign schools with study programs.

    The general pattern of formal education follows by five stages:
  • Pre-primary level - nursery and kindergarten offered in most private schools;
  • Primary level - six years of basic education;
  • Secondary level - four years of high school education;
  • Tertiary level - usually takes four years, sometimes five and in some cases as in medical and law schools.
  • Graduate level - additional two or more years of schooling.

    Zamboanga plays host of numerous first-rate colleges and universities. These educational institutions attract many students in the province, as well as from the other parts of the country. The city of Zamboanga has a several prestigious private schools in Southern and Western Mindanao. Most of these private schools or institutions are administrated by Catholic missionaries.

    Most of the universities and colleges in the city which offer different courses with the same standard of teaching to that of others schools in the Philippines. Thus, pursuing a degree in the city is not difficult. 

    Records show that educational institutions in the city have produced topnotchers in board examinations as well as competent men and women in the government and private sectors.


Catholics: The city contains the first Catholic diocese in Mindanao, today's Archdiocese of Zamboanga which was created in 1910 and elevated to an archdiocese in 1958. Others were Protestants, Seventh day Adventists, Church of Latter day Saints and Iglesia ni Cristo.

Followers of other religions are mostly Muslims. The Muslims have been an integral part of Zamboanga City since the beginning. Before any other religions were practiced in Zamboanga City, The Muslim religion already had a firm hold of the area. It is estimated that approximately 22 percent of the people in Zamboanga City are Muslims. Some barangays of Zamboanga City are populated by 100 percent Muslim. These barangays with Muslim majority population do not celebrate "Fiestas". Instead, they celebrate Hari-Raya.


  • Dia de Zamboanga (Feb. 26, 1937)
    The date when Zamboanga was declared a chartered city under the Commonwealth Government. Charter Day of the City became a non-working holiday. A roster of special activities are lined up annually to mark the occasion.

  • Holy Week (March/April)
    A city procession known as the Santo Entierro (Holy Funeral) on Good Friday highlights the observance of the season of Lent. Celebrated in barangays Sta. Maria, Tetuan, and the Immaculate Conception Cathedral Parish, the Santo Entierro is a procession of Christ's images, many of the Stations of the Cross, along the city's main streets, depicting his last hours before, during, and after the Crucifixion.

  • Flores de Mayo (May 1-31)
    A religious feast celebrated in all Catholic churches in honor of the Virgin Mary. Little children in white gala dresses walk up the altar to offer flowers to the image of the "Blessed Mother," as she is the Catholics call her. In some parts of the city, the traditional Santacruzan is also held. The Santa-cruzan is a procession of the Reyna Elena and other local beauties with their escorts, decked out in Maria Clara gowns and barong tagalogs, along major streets.

  • Zamboanga Hermosa Festival - Fiesta Pilar (Oct. 3-12)
    Highlighted by the Oct. 12 Fiesta Pilar in honor of the miraculous image of Our Lady of the Pillar at the legendary Fort Pilar. The festival features week-long novena masses, cultural shows, agricultural fairs, cultural exhibits, a two-day mardi gras parade, the bandoreal, a regatta, torch parades, fireworks, and carnivals. The festival commences with a solemn procession and a grand mass at the Fort. With thousands of pilgrims converging in Zamboanga City, this is the peninsula's biggest festival.

  • Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8)
    Feast day of Zamboanga City, commemorating the Blessed Virgin's Immaculate Conception; traditionally celeb

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