Diocese of Catarman
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In a land area of 3,498 square kilometers, the diocesan territory covers the civil jurisdiction of the province of Northern Samar.

Northern Samar is one of the three provinces comprising Samar Island. It was created on June 19, 1965 through the issuance of Republic Act 4221, "Providing for the Division of Samar Island into Three Provinces: Samar, Eastern Samar and Northern Samar".

The province is located in the eastern part of the Philippine Archipelago, bounded on the north by the San Bernardino Strait, on the east by the Pacific Ocean, on the west by the Samar Sea, and on the south by Samar.

Northern Samar is composed of 24 municipalities and 569 barangays (villages). Catarman is the provincial capital and center of trade and commerce.


As of yearend 2009 the total population of Catarman diocese is 500,639 of which 73.1 percent are Catholics.

The early people in the Visayas region were Austronesians and Negritos who migrated to the islands about 6,000 to 30,000 years ago. These early settlers were animist tribal groups. In the 12th century, settlers from the collapsing empires of Srivijaya, Majapahit and Brunei, led by the chieftain Datu Puti and his tribes, settled in the island of Panay and its surrounding islands. By the 14th century, Arab traders and their followers, venturing into the Malay Archipelago, converted some of these tribal groups into Muslims. These tribes practiced a mixture of Islam and Animism beliefs. There is also some evidence of trade among other Asian people. The Visayans were thought to have kept close diplomatic relations with Malaysia and Indonesian kingdoms since the tribal groups of Cebu were able to converse with Enrique of Malacca using the Malay language when the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived in 1521.

The people of Northern Samar were previously called the "Ibabaonons". Generally, they are members of the "Waray" or "Waray-waray" or "Waraynon", the people of Eastern Visayas or Samar-Leyte region. To distinguish themselves from the Westehanon (people from Samar) and Estehanon (from Eastern Samar) when Samar Island was split into three provinces in 1965, and the Leyteños (the people from the Leyte Island), they now call themselves as "Nortehanon".

The communities of this province are predominantly Catholic. Other religious groups are Iglesia ni Cristo, Philippine Independent Catholic Church (Aglipayan), Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Church of Latter-Day Saints and other Christian sects. A small number of population are Muslim.


Majority speak Waray dialect, along with Inabaknon, which is predominantly spoken in Capul Island. English is used as the language of business and education. Tagalog is also widely spoken and understood.


Suffragan of Palo
Created: December 5, 1974
Erected: March 11, 1975
Comprises the Civil Jurisdiction of the Province of Northern Samar
Titular: Our Lady of the Annunciation, August 29

On Dec. 5, 1974, Catarman was made a diocese by Pope Paul VI. And on March 11, 1975, the Father Angel T. Hobayan was installed as the First Residential Bishop of the Diocese of Catarman.

The diocese covers the whole province of Northern Samar, one of three provinces within the island of Samar bounded on the north by San Bernardino Strait, on the east by the Philippine Sea, on the west by the Samar Sea, and on the south by the boundaries of Western Samar and Eastern Samar provinces. Covered by the diocese are a total of 24 towns, 570 barangays, and a land area of 3,499 kilometers. Catarman is the capital town and the center of the civil administration of the province.

On the ecclesiastical side the Diocese of Catarman is divided into four vicariates representing the municipalities of Allen, Catarman, Laoang, and Gamay, to which belong 18 canonically established parishes. Catarman is the seat of the diocese.

History of Northern Samar
Between 1599 and 1605, the Jesuits established a mission residence in Palapag among the Ibabao populace. These missionaries stayed until the late 17th century when they were expelled from the Philippines and were replaced by the Franciscans.

As the San Bernardino Strait was along the route of the Spanish galleons plying between Manila and Acapulco, Mexico, a royal port was established in Palapag where the richly laden Manila galleons were protected from unfavorable winds and troubled seas.

In the early year of the 16th century, shipbuilders were drafted from Palapag to the Cavite shipyards for the construction of galleons and vessels for the conservation of defense of the island. It was also at this time that these recruits ignited the Sumoroy insurrection, which signaled a general uprising against Spain in the Visayas and Mindanao. The insurrection simultaneously flared northward to Albay and southward to the northern coasts of Mindanao and then Cebu. It took over a year before the Spaniards were able to subdue the rebellion.

Later in 1898, when the Americans landed on the beach of Catarman, they organized a revolutionary army led by General Vicente Lukban who fought the invaders armed with cannons and rifles with only bolos and "paltiks". Although defeated, they, however, continued to harass the Americans through guerilla warfare.

During World War II, the people of Northern Samar organized a platoon of volunteers supported by voluntary contributions. The contingent became a part of the Philippine National Guards in Manila. The province also helped the government by purchasing a considerable amount of bonds floated to finance the National Commission for Independence, then organized by Manuel L. Quezon after a coalition of the Nacionalista and Democrata parties was formed.

Congressman Eladio T. Balite of Northern Samar and Felipe J. Abrigo of Eastern Samar, filed Republic Act 4221 which was approved by Congress in 1963. The law, ratified in a plebiscite on Nov. 9, 1965, divided Samar into three, namely, Northern Samar, Eastern Samar and Western Samar. The first provincial officials of Northern Samar were elected on Nov. 14, 1967 and on Jan. 1, 1968, they officially assumed office.


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.


Transportation within the province is readily available. 19 municipalities can be reached by car, jeepney, bus, motorcycle and other land vehicles. Island towns however can only be reached by motorboats.

Northern Samar can easily be reached by plane from Manila. Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and ZestAir have regular flights to Catarman, the capital town.

The province also has several ports. The primary port is located in the town of San Isidro. There are other ports in Laoang, Allen, San Jose and Victoria, which also serve ships ferrying copra, abaca, and other commodities to Manila or Cebu and vice-versa.

The province is accessible by land through the Maharlika Highway or using ferry services from Matnog, Sorsogon to the port town of Allen crossing the St. Bernardino Strait. The trip from Manila using this route is about 14 hours by bus.


Annual per capita income (in Philippines Pesos) 17,215 (USD392 as of March 2011).

Major agricultural crops include coconut, abaca, palay, rootcrops and other subsistence crops. Its rich fishing grounds produce spanish mackerel, grouper, tuna, big-eyed scad, round scad, herring, anchovies and salmon. Other aquatic products include cattlefish, crabs, shrimps, squid and lobsters.

Major industries consist of Agriculture (Rice and Vegetable Farming, Poultry and Piggery, Cattle Raising, Banana and Peanut Plantations, Cacao Plantation, Copra Processing, Oil Manufacturing) and Fishery (Deep Sea Fishing, Prawn and Agar Culture, Fresh Water Fish Culture, Bangus Culture).

Other Industries: Furniture, Handicraft making, Hat and mat making, Fibercon manufacturing, Brick making, Pili nuts processing and Soap Making.

The province is divided into three (3) municipal clusters: Western, Central, and Eastern. The Western Cluster is composed of nine (9) municipalities - Allen, Biri, Rosario, Lavezares, Victoria, San Isidro, San Antonio, San Vicente, and Capul. The Central Cluster is composed of six (6) municipalities - Catarman, Bobon, San Jose, Lope de Vega, Mondragon, and San Roque. The Eastern Cluster is made up of nine (9) municipalities - Laoang, Pambujan, Silvino Lobos, Las Navas, Catubig, Palapag, Mapanas, Gamay, and Lapinig. The major urban centers of the Western, Central, and Eastern Clusters are Allen, Catarman, and Laoang, respectively.

The Western Cluster is the center for ecotourism development, where both natural and historical attractions are being preserved together with the development of tourist facilities. Most breath-taking tourist sites are found in this cluster, particularly in the island municipalities of Biri, San Antonio, San Vicente, and Capul.

The Central Cluster is the center for agri-industry or ecozone development. The municipalities in this cluster are expansion areas for settlement and commercial activities. Catarman, in particular, serves as the provincial agri-industrial processing center and educational hub since the main campus of the University of Eastern Philippines (UEP) is located there.

More than half (206,307 hectares or 58.98percent) of the province's land are used as agricultural area. Some portions of the land are also used as swamps, mangroves, fishponds/open water spaces, pasture/open land grasslands, road networks, forest/timber, built-up/settlement, industrial, and eco-tourism areas.

Northern Samar is endowed with metallic minerals like copper, aluminum and bauxite which can be particularly found in the municipalities of Biri, Mapanas and San Isidro. Non-metallic resources include coral, adobe, salt, gravel, earth, boulders and cobbles.

The working age population for 2003 was 307,000 of which 227,487 (74.1 percent) were employed. Employment rate was 89.9 percent. The projected number of employed individuals by 2013 is 234,755.
In 2008, unemployment rate dropped from 4.9 percent in the second quarter to 3.9 percent in the last quarter. Underemployment rate also fell from 29.3 percent in the second quarter to 26.6 percent in the last quarter.

Northern Samar has a lot of tourism potentials that are still undiscovered and unknown by many tourists. Here you can find famous old churches, falls, rivers, caves, forests and beaches.
Remote and desolate, and definitely off the normal tourist track, Northern Samar evokes powerful images in the islands of Biri, Capul and Dalupiri (San Antonio), all off the coast of the province.

Among the last frontiers in the country, its rugged coastline of limestone cliffs along the Pacific Ocean is a historical landmark. During the Spanish colonial era, Samar island was the first Philippine landfall seen by the galleons as they approached the end of their long voyage from Acapulco.


Catarman National Airport, otherwise known as Catarman Airport, is an airport serving the general area of Catarman, located in the province of Northern Samar in the Philippines. The airport is classified as a secondary airport, or a minor commercial domestic airport.

Power Supply
Electricity in the province is provided by the geothermal plant in Tongonan, Leyte. The sole electric cooperative, Northern Samar Electric Cooperative (NORSAMELCO), reports 99 percent electrification of the 569 barangays in the province.

In 2007, recorded total length of national roads is 351 kilometers, of which 217 kilometers are concrete and the rest of gravel and asphalt. Local roads have a total length of 334 kilometers, 308 kilometers of which are gravel and 26 kilometers concrete.

Bridges in the province numbered 111 in 2005, with a total length of 4,090 linear meters.


Four private telecommunications firms operate in the province - PLDT, PT&T, Bayantel and Innove (Globelines). Similarly, government-run Telecommunications Office in Catarman also provides service to local residents with national and international access.

Internet connection is available in internet cafes or in coffee shops that offer wi-fi access. Further, mobile telecommunications companies, Smart and Globe, operate in the province.

One AM and five FM radio stations operate in several municipalities in the province. Each town also has TV cable providers which make access to world news and other international channels easy.


Literacy rate (simple literacy) is 88.33 percent.

St. Michael Academy is the first Catholic school in the island to have been instituted. It caters only secondary courses, but is formerly catered to all levels of education. The school is run by the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, and is formerly known as St. Michael Junior College. A member of the OP-Siena Schools System, the school is known for its prestige and excellent achievements through its ages.


The fiesta season is in the months of March to September (Fiestas are celebrations in honor of a Catholic Saint or religious day).

The moro-moro celebration called Embajada is celebrated in Laoang and Catubig in January and in Catarman on the 9th of June. Each participating municipality fields as many as 150 costumed participants complete with tolotong drums and horn blowers and well-rehearsed dance steps.

The municipality of Pambujan holds its Kadayaw Festival on the first full moon of the year in January. Laoang has its Sakay-Sakay Fluvial Procession on the last Sunday of January that begins in the morning with a moro-moro reenactment, culminating in an enchanting torch parade in the evening.

San Roque Municipality has its Parayan Harvest Festival on the 16th of March complete with street-dancing and stage performances.

Dalupiri-San Antonio has its Pasidungog Festival where fishermen on the island prance around dressed up in colorful costumes.

Lavezares has its Bangkathon on the 20th of August in honor of Nuestra Señora de Salvacion.

The most colorful celebration of all is the Bangkules (tuna) Festival of Palapag on the second week of June. Preceded by a rayhak or merrymaking, the festival on its final day lets all the fishermen in town row to sea to catch fish in the early morning. Returning laden with all kinds of fish at mid-morning, they hand over their harvest to the people on the beach who have readied fires and ingredients to cook the bounty. Everyone on the beach has to consume everything - roasted, boiled, fried, or raw.

Visayan Culture
Historical documents written in 1907 by Visayan historian Pedro Alcántara Monteclaro in his book Maragtas tell the story of the ten chiefs (Datus) who escaped from the tyranny of Datu Makatunaw from Borneo and came to the islands of Panay. The chiefs and followers were said to be the ancestors of the Visayan people.

The documents were accepted by Filipino historians and found their way into the history of the Philippines. As a result, the arrival of Bornean tribal groups in the Visayas is celebrated in the festivals of the Ati-Atihan in Kalibo, Aklan and Binirayan in San José, Antique.

The culture is basically Visayan. The Waray-Waray are often stereotyped as brave warriors, as popularized in the tagline, "basta ang Waray, hindi uurong sa away" (Waray never back down from a fight.)

Farming and fishing are the main livelihood. In the entire cropping season, from land preparation up to post harvest, the farmers perform rituals invoking the nature spirits and ancestor spirits for a good harvest. This is also complemented by Christian customs as the recitation of novenas (9-day). Fisherfolk likewise ask permission from the water spirits for safety at sea and a good catch.

Their religious devotion is very evident in their celebrations like feasts honoring their patron saints. Fiestas are celebrated with prayer, food/drinking dance and music.

Many Waray-Waray traditions can be traced to pre-colonial times. For example, the Kuratsa dance is a very popular traditional dance of the Waray-Waray at many social gatherings, especially weddings. It is very common throughout Samar. The couple who dances the Kuratsa are showered with money by the people around them. The belief is that the more money showered upon them, the more blessings will come their way.

The literature of Eastern Visayas refers to the literature written in Waray and Cebuano by writers from the region. Of the two, it is Waray literature that has been collected, recorded, and documented by scholars and researchers, a movement largely spurred by the interest of German priests, managing a university in Tacloban City, who saw the necessity of gathering and preserving the literary heritage of the region. It is in this light that whenever East Visayan literature is written about, it is usually Waray literature that is being described.

Earliest accounts of East Visayan literature date back to 1668 when a Spanish Jesuit by the name of Father Ignatio Francisco Alzina documented the poetic forms such as the candu, haya, ambahan, canogon, bical, balac, siday and awit. He also described the susumaton and posong, early forms of narratives. Theater tradition was very much in place - in the performance of poetry, rituals, and mimetic dances. Dances mimed the joys and activities of the ancient Waray.

With three centuries of Spanish colonization and another period of American occupation, old rituals, poetic forms and narratives had undergone reinvention. A case in point is the balac, a poetic love joust between a man and a woman. According to Cabardo, the balac retained its form even as it took new names and borrowed aspects of the languages of the colonizers. During the Spanish period, the balac was called the amoral; during the American occupation, it was renamed ismayling, a term derived from the English word "smile." According to a literary investigator, in certain areas of Samar, the same balac form or ismayling has been reinvented to express anti-imperialist sentiments where the woman represents the motherland and the man, the patriot who professes his love of country.

Modern East Visayan literature, particularly Waray, revolves around poetry and drama produced between the 1900s and the present. The flourishing economy of the region and the appearance of local publications starting in 1901 with the publication of An Kaadlawon, the first Waray newspaper, saw the flourishing of poetry in Waray.

In Samar, Eco de Samar y Leyte, a long running magazine in the 1900s, published articles and literary works in Spanish, Waray and English. A noteworthy feature of this publication was its poetry section, An Tadtaran, which presented a series of satirical poems that attacked the changing values of the people at the time. Eco likewise published occasional and religious poems.

In Leyte, An Lantawan, which has extant copies from 1931 to 1932, printed religious and occasional poetry. It also published satirical poems of Bagong Katipunero, Luro, Datoy Anilod, Marpahol, Vatchoo (Vicente I. de Veyra), Julio Carter (Iluminado Lucente), Ben Tamaka (Eduardo Makabenta), and Kalantas (Casiano Trinchera). Under these pseudonyms, poets criticized corrupt government officials, made fun of people's vices, and attacked local women for adopting modern ways of social behavior.

With the organization of the Sanghiran San Binisaya in 1909, writers as well as the illustrados in the community banded together for the purpose of cultivating the Waray language. Under the leadership of Norberto Romualdez Sr, Sanghiran's members had literary luminaries that included Iluminado Lucente, Casiano Trinchera, Eduardo Makabenta, Francisco Alvarado, Juan Ricacho, Francisco Infectana, Espiridion Brillo, and statesman Jaime C. de Veyra. For a time, Sanghiran was responsible for the impetus it gave to new writing in the language.

The period 1900 to the late fifties witnessed the finest Waray poems of Casiano Trinchera, Iluminado Lucente, Eduardo Makabenta, and the emergence of the poetry of Agustin El O'Mora, Pablo Rebadulla, Tomas Gomez Jr., Filomeno Quimbo Singzon, Pedro Separa, Francisco Aurillo, and Eleuterio Ramoo. Trinchera, Lucente, and Makabenta were particularly at their best when they wrote satirical poetry.

The growing acceptance of English as official language in the country strengthened these writers' loyalty to the ethnic mother tongue as their medium for their art. The publication of Leyte News and The Leader in the twenties, the first local papers in English, brought about the increasing legitimization of English as a medium of communication, the gradual displacement of Waray and eventual disappearance of its poetry from the pages of local publications.

Where local newspapers no longer served as vehicles for written poetry in Waray, the role was assumed by MBC's DYVL and local radio stations in the seventies. Up to the present time, poetry sent to these stations are written mostly by local folk - farmers, housewives, lawyers, government clerks, teachers, and students. A common quality of their poetry is that they tend to be occasional, didactic, and traditional in form. The schooled writers in the region, unlike the local folk poets, do not write in Waray nor Filipino. Most of them write in English although lately there has been an romantic return to their ethnic mother tongue as the medium for their poetry.

Waray drama was once a fixture of town fiestas. Its writing and presentation were usually commissioned by the hermano mayor as part of festivities to entertain the constituents of the town. Town fiestas in a way sustained the work of the playwright. In recent years, this is no longer the case. If ever a play gets staged nowadays, it is essentially drawn from the pool of plays written earlier in the tradition of the hadi-hadi and the zarzuela.

According to Filipinas, an authority on the Waray zarzuela, the earliest zarzuela production involved that of Norberto Romualdez' An Pagtabang ni San Miguel, which was staged in Tolosa, Leyte in 1899. The zarzuela as a dramatic form enthralled audiences for its musicality and dramatic action. Among the noteworthy playwrights of this genre were Norberto Romualdez Sr., Alfonso Cinco, Iluminado Lucente, Emilio Andrada Jr., Francisco Alvarado, Jesus Ignacio, Margarita Nonato, Pedro Acerden, Pedro Separa, Educardo Hilbano, Moning Fuentes, Virgilio Fuentes, and Agustin El O'Mora.

Of these playwrights, Iluminado Lucente stands out in terms of literary accomplishment. He wrote about thirty plays and most of these dealt with domestic conflicts and the changing mores of Waray society during his time. Although a number of his longer works tend to be melodramatic, it was his satirical plays that are memorable for their irony and humor, the tightness of their plot structure, and the specious use of language.

The hadi-hadi antedates the zarzuela in development. It used to be written and staged in many communities of Leyte as part of town fiesta festivities held in honor of a Patron Saint. It generally dealt with Christian and Muslim kingdoms at war. Today one hardly hears about hadi-hadi being staged even in the Cebuano speech communities of the region.