Diocese of Dipolog
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In a land area of 7,205.92 square kilometers, the diocesan territory covers the entire civil province of Zamboanga del Norte and the cities of Dipolog and Dapitan.


The final results of the latest 2007 population census conducted by the National Statistics Office (NSO) sited the Zamboanga Peninsula's population at 3,230,094 persons as of August 1, 2007. It increased from 2,831,412 persons in May 1, 2000.

The Zamboanga Peninsula's 2007 and 2000 census figures were translated into an average annual population growth rate of 1.83 percent for the period 2000 to 2007. It is lower compared to the average annual growth rate of 2.12 percent in 2000 for the period 1995 to 2000. Furthermore, it revealed a positive population growth where Zamboanga City has the highest average annual population growth rate of 3.54 percent.

Zamboanga del Sur had the largest population with 914, 278 persons, followed by Zamboanga del Norte with 907,238 persons, Zamboanga City with 774,407, Zamboanga Sibugay with 546,186, and City of Isabela with 87,985.

When the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines in the 16th century, Zamboanga was already populated by Muslims, along the coast and rivers, by Visayans, in Dapitan, and by the Subanuns in the interior. Dapitan, one of the earliest towns visited by the Spaniards, was believed to have been established by refugees from Bohol fleeing the destruction of their settlement by Moluccans.


The main dialect is Cebuano/Visayan. Other dialects include Subanon and Muslim. English and Filipino (Tagalog) are also spoken. The original and native Subanen dialect lives on, especially in the highlands.


Suffragan of Ozamis
Created: July 31, 1967
Erected: August 1967
Comprises the entire civil Province of Zamboanga del Norte and the Cities of Dipolog and Dapitan. Titular: Patron Saint: Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Secondary Patron: Saint Vincent Ferrer

Carved out of the Archdiocese of Zamboanga, Pope Paul VI created the Diocese of Dipolog by virtue of the Apostolic Letter "Quantum Prosit" on July 3, 1967.

The territorial jurisdiction of the diocese covers the civil province of Zamboanga del Norte, including the cities of Dipolog and Dapitan, a land area of 7,205.94 square kilometers. This province covers the western border of Mindanao facing the Sulu Sea.

The Society of Jesus was tasked to preach the good news in this part of Mindanao when they came to the Philippines in 1581. When the country was divided among four major religious congregations in 1598, the Jesuits were given the Diocese of Cebu which covered the Visayas and Mindanao their area of responsibility.

The Jesuits came as chaplains of the Spanish naval force out to explore, conquer and colonize more tribes. Pascual de Acuña started the Jesuit mission in Dapitan. The squadron of Juan Juarez Gallinato, of which he was the chaplain, defeated the Maguindanao muslims in a ferocious battle in 1609.

Other Jesuit naval chaplains followed when Dapitan became a regular port call for Spanish squadrons on patrol. In 1629 the Society of Jesus sent Pedro Gutierez, a Mexican Jesuit. He established a permanent Jesuit mission residence in the area two years later where he became the first superior.

As a missionary residence, Dapitan was at first dependent on Cebu. It was placed under the jurisdiction of Zamboanga residence in 1639. It was transferred anew to Loboc (Bohol) residence in 1643. Finally, in 1645, it became independent with its jurisdiction extending from Iligan to Sindangan Bay.

The missionary zeal of the Jesuits was spent particularly on the conversion of the Subanen known to be the original inhabitants of the peninsula. By 1969, churches were built in Dapitan, Iligan, Layuan, Ylaya, Dipolog, Dicayo, Duhinob, Manukan, Sian, Sindangan, Mucas and Quipit with a total number of 3,478 Christian residents.

During the 18th century the endearing and questionable loyalty to the Pope and Rome, as well as their international character, made the Jesuit missionaries a threat to the Bourbons and their plans. This resulted to the banishment of the Jesuits from all lands under the domination of the Bourbon monarchs in 1768. They were expelled from the Philippines soon after. The Order of Augustinian Recollects took over their jurisdiction, including the Dapitan mission in 1770.

In 1796, during the administration of the Recollects, the Katipunan parish also known as Lubungan was established. In 1865 the jurisdiction of Dapitan and the whole of Mindanao was transferred from the ecclesial province of Cebu to the newly created diocese of Jaro.

The Royal Decree of 1852 allowed the Society of Jesus back to the Spanish lands. They returned to the Philippines and resumed their old Mindanao mission. In 1870, they took possession of Dapitan.

Dipolog was under Katipunan until it was established as a parish in 1896. Jose Vilaclara became its first parish priest. As preachers, builders and educators, the Jesuits served Dipolog until 1946 when they passed the stewardship to Epifanio Baleares, a Filipino diocesan clergy.

Originally the Diocese of Dipolog was a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Zamboanga. When the diocese of Ozamiz was elevated to an archdiocese in 1983, it took the Diocese of Dipolog as one of its suffragans.

The principal patroness of the diocese is Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, with St. Vincent Ferrer as its secondary patron.

The Most Reverend Felix Zafra, D.D. was appointed First Bishop of Dipolog. He took canonical possession of the diocese on Oct. 2, 1967. In the process, basic ecclesial structures were set in place. The number of parishes increased to 28.

The Maryknoll and Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) Fathers came in the 1970's. PIME took place of the Claretians in the South while the Redemptorist did mission work in the area. Aside from the Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM) Sisters who had worked in Dipolog since 1892, the Holy Spirit Sisters and the Blessed Virgin Missionaries of Carmel began to serve the diocese. In 1982, the Sacri-Cordian Sisters were organized by Bishop Zafra. Three years later, he gathered some young men to form them into Brothers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

More significant to the diocese was the increasing number of Filipino diocesan priests ordained. The founding of two seminaries capped the remarkable growth of the diocesan clergy. In 1979 Bishop Zafra co-founded St. Mary's Theologate in Ozamiz City for theology students. The following year, Cor Jesu Seminary was established in Dipolog for college seminarians.

On May 27, 1987 the Most Reverend Jose R. Manguiran, D.D. became the Second Bishop of Dipolog, and remains the bishop of the diocese to date.

Brief History of Zamboanga del Norte

The 2nd largest island in the Philippines is Mindanao, which is the southernmost part of the archipelago. It is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean to the east; Celebes Sea to the south and to the west is Sulu Sea. The island of Mindanao is marked by a peninsulas and the largest of all is the ZAMBOANGA Peninsula. It is a semi circular peninsula extending southwesterly towards the Sulu Archipelago and Borneo. The peninsula has an area of 14,500 square kilometers (5,600 square mile).

The ZAMBOANGA Peninsula was known as Sibugay or Sibuguey during the coming of the Spanish conquistadors. And later on was changed into Zamboanga from the capital town of the province which derived its name from the Malay word Sambangan meaning a place where wild flowers grow. The Spanish colonialization of Mindanao was done by sending missionaries and one of the sites was Sambangan. As the years went by, the mispronunciation of Bisaya (North Borneo dialect) and Spanish words turned into what is now today Zamboanga. On June 23, 1635 the town was officially called Zamboanga. The boundary of the town of Zamboanga comprised half of the peninsula then. The entire peninsula was later called Zamboanga Peninsula although the easternmost part of the peninsula belongs to the Province of Misamis.

Before the Philippines were ceded to the United States of America (Treaty of Paris), the peninsula was partly to the south where ZAMBOANGA city proper is the Provincia Mora and towards the North where Dipolog City is a part of the Provincia Misamis. Dapitan district which includes Dipolog was part of Provincia Misamis.

Each province has a governor and the whole Department of Mindanao and Sulu has also a governor. From 1903 to 1913 Zamboanga City was the capital of the Provincia Mora which comprised five districts, namely: Cotabato, Davao, Lanao, Zamboanga and Sulu.

In 1903, Judge William Howard Taft, President of the Second Philippine Commission (later on he became the President of the United States of America) decreed Dapitan to be separated from Cagayan de Oro and annex to Provincia Mora, which later on 1913 became part of the Province of Zamboanga.

One day in the year 1910 the Provincial Governor of Zamboanga Province, Mr. Helper visited Dipolog on his way to Dapitan on horseback. He was asked by the Dipolog town people that Dipolog be separated from Dapitan. This was the beginning of the crusade to make Dipolog a Municipality.

On Sept. 15, 1911, the governing body of the Provincia Mora, the legislative council passed Act. No. 272 converting the Municipality of Zamboanga into a city. The ceremony was held on Jan. 1, 1912 with the appointment of American Christopher F. Bader as the first City Mayor.

Also at almost the same time created the provinces of Davao, Lanao, Sulu, Zamboanga, Cotabato, Surigao, Butuan (a sub province of Surigao), Agusan (a sub province of Davao), Malaybalay (now Bukidnon) and Misamis. Misamis was part of the Department of Cebu, Agusan and Surigao was District of Caraga during the Spanish era.

General John J. Pershing, Governor of the Department of Mindanao and Sulu granted the petition to elevate Dipolog into a town. On July 1, 1913, amidst a solemn inspiring ceremony John J. Pershing pronounced Dipolog as a Municipality from the balcony of the brand new Dipolog Municipal Hall and the appointment of Pascual T. Martinez as the first Municipal Mayor (called president at that time).

In 1942 during the Second World War, Acting Governor Felipe B. Azcuna transferred the seat of the provincial government from ZAMBOANGA City to DIPOLOG. Thus, making DIPOLOG the capital-in-fact of the ZAMBOANGA Province.

On June 5, 1952, a bill authored by Roseller T. Lim became the republic act 711. It created the Province of Zamboanga del Sur with Pagadian as its capital and Province of Zamboanga del Norte and with Dipolog as the capital town.


Zamboanga del Norte is part of the Zamboanga Peninsula, under Region IX in the island of Mindanao. It is subdivided into 25 municipalities and 2 cities. These are further subdivided into 691 barangays, and clustered into 3 congressional districts.


The influx of domestic and foreign tourists is facilitated by a regular schedule of land, air and sea transport. Equipped with relatively modern facilities, Dipolog City Airport can accommodate Boeing 737, Fokker 50s, and other light crafts. Dipolog is just less than an hour's flight from Cebu City and less than a couple of hours from Manila. With the advent of the Strong Republic Nautical Highway project, Zamboanga del Norte is brought closer to the provinces in Luzon and Visayas.

There are no taxis in the province. To go around the poblacion (short distances 1 to 20 kilometer) one will have to call a motorcab. (A motor cycle with sidecar good for 2 people). One can also hire a Jeepney (local made vehicle for urban and suburban transportation) instead of a motorcab. For long distance there are several scheduled public transportation that goes from one city to another. The province have cars, jeepneys and air conditioned vans for rent or hire.


The National Statistics Office's Quickstat shows that in 2000 the annual per capita income (in Philippines Pesos) of the province is 20,528 (USD472 as of October 2010).

Zamboanga del Norte is cited in a study of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) as the poorest province in 2003 and the second poorest (after Tawi Tawi) in 2006. Mindanao has more than 50 percent of the 20 poorest provinces. In terms of the poorest municipalities, Siayan in Zamboanga del Norte, ranked first in 2003. Almost 80 percent of the 20 poorest municipalities in 2003 are in Mindanao (ADB, 2009).

Endowed with vast and rich natural resources, Zamboanga del Norte is home to almost all of the major minerals of the country --gold, manganese, white clay, copper, silica, guano, asbestos, among others--, all of which are in huge commercial volumes. Likewise, the province is a major producer of agricultural crops such as coconut, mango, banana, corn and rice, not to mention its affinity to growing ornamental plants like the orchids. Meanwhile, its marine resources are an envy to a number of provinces as it has at least eight (8) fishing grounds, namely: Murciellagos Bay, Dapitan Bay, Dipolog Bay, East Sulu Sea, Sindangan Bay, Coronado Bay, Sibuco Bay and Siocon Bay. From these fishing grounds are harvested sardines species, yellow fin tuna, anchovies, mackerels, snappers, round scads, and marlins which are popular both domestically and internationally.

Dubbed as the "Twin-City Province," Zamboanga del Norte has been made famous by the beauty and charm of the Orchid City of Dipolog and the historical, rustic quaintness of the Shrine City of Dapitan.

Zamboanga del Norte is equally famous for Dakak Beach. The very popular Dakak Beach is most known for its beautifully shaped cove and powdery white sand, and as a diving mecca in Mindanao. Pristine blue waters, excellent dive sites with an abundance of coral reefs, and a magnificent sunset horizon characterize this tropical eden. Dakak Park and Beach Resort boasts 15 hectares of wooded land, a natural reservoir for native plants and animals, and a 750-meter private white-sand beach.


Communication facilities in the province include 30 government postal offices, and several express delivery couriers; telecommunication like the telegraph, telephone with digital system, telex and facsimile.

Telecommunication companies like Smart and Globe are operating in the province. Internet services are also available via Moscom.com and Q-mile.com, both in Dipolog City.

The broadcast media comprises two AM radio stations and six FM, one government TV- station, and two cable stations; and the print media providing 10 local weekly newspapers and all national dailies and magazines.


The province has 3 power franchise holders -- Zamboanga del Norte Electric Cooperative (ZANECO), Zamboanga del Sur Electric Cooperative (ZAMSURECO), and Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative (ZANCELCO). ZANECO has 3 substations: Obay, Polanco with 10 MVA transformers, Pres. Roxas and Salug, each with 5 MVA transformers.

The existing water supply is continously being operated to service the growing population. The province has 15 Level lll water supply systems, of which 8 are gravity-fed and 7 are pressure-pumped.


The province is predominantly hilly and mountainous. Hills and mountains cover an area of 609,399 hectares or 84.7 percent of the total land area.

Zamboanga del Norte is composed of 25 municipalities and 2 component cities - Dipolog City, the trading and commercial center, and Dapitan City, the tourists haven. It is situated in the western border of Mindanao and lies in the northwestern edge of the Zamboanga Peninsula. With more or less 400 kilometers of irregular coastline facing Sulu Sea, it is bounded by the province of Misamis Occidental in the north, the provinces of Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga Sibugay in the east, and Zamboanga City in the south. It is strategically situated relative to the rest of the Philippine Archipelago.


In 2000, the literacy rate (simple literacy) is 86.32 percent.


Zamboanga del Norte is the home of the Subanun, or 'people of the upstream' (also Subanen, Suban-on). They are upland and swidden cultivators, who prefer to build their houses on top of ridges near potable water sources near their fields. They prefer to locations near springs rather than streams. Through the years, land problems and degraded environment have forced some of the people to adopt wet rice agriculture. Metal craft and weaving are also practiced. The Subanons have maintained trade with coastal peoples through the centuries. Present day Subanons are non-aggressive, although there are indications that in the past the people were required to provide a "soul companion" for an important deceased relative. 'Buklog' is a Subanon set of unique rituals that utilizes a huge dancing platform to which a log is attached that hits a hollowed sounding board on the ground.

For the Subanens, music and dance are inseparable. From the simplest ritual (PEKANO) to the most important and expensive ritual (BUKLOG), music and chanting always go hand in hand with traditional dance and performance.

Their musical instruments include the AGONG, a big single brass gong, the KULINTANGAN, a set of eight small brass gongs of graduated sizes, the DURUGAN, a hollow log or bamboo tube which is beaten like a drum, the SIGITAN, a hallow bamboo with few slits on the sides as strings to be flucked, the KUTAPI, an improvised guitar-like instrument with two strings, and TAMBOL, the native drums in various sizes.

Subanens have several types of songs, which include the DIONLI (a love song ), BUWA ( lullaby ), GENADONG ( ballad ), and GELOY, ( a funeral song ). The GELOY is usually sung by two singers, one of them being the Balyan, during a GUKAS, the ritual ceremony performed as a memorial for the death of a high ranking member of the community. The chanting of the Biloy is accompanied by the ritualistic offering of bottled drinks, canned milk, cocoa, sardines, broiled fish and egg, chicken and pork. The Balyan and assistants bring out a jar of PANGASI (rice wine), from the house out into the field, where the wine is poured onto the earth. Then the chanting begins, inside the house.

The Subanen dance is usually associated with rituals. In BUKLOG, the whole community led by the Balyan, participate in a dance performed on a platform, at least six to ten meter above the ground. The Buklog platform can accommodate hundreds of participants at a time.

The SOTEN is an all-male dance dramatizing the strength and stoic character of the Subanen male. It employs fancy movements, with the left hand clutching a wooden shield and the right hand shaking the SIOSAY or dried leaves of palm. In a manner of supplication, he calls attention of the spirits (DIWATA) with the sound of the leaves, believed to be the most beautiful and pleasing to the ears of these deities. The Subanen warrior, believing that he has caught the attention of the Diwatas who are now present, continues to dance by shaking his shield, manipulating it as though in mortal combat with unseen enemies. The Soten is danced to the accompaniment of music played by striking several Chinese porcelain bowls and other percussion instruments.

DIWATAHAN is a dance performed by women before they set out to work in the field. In this dance, they supplicate the Diwata for a bountiful harvest. The farmers carry baskets laden with grains. They dart in and out of two bamboo planting sticks laid on the ground, which are struck together in rhythmic cadence by the male dancers. The clapping sequence is similar to that of Tinikling or bamboo dance.

The LAPAL is the dance of the Balyan as a form of communication with the Diwata, while the SOT is a dance performed by Subanen men before going off to battle.

The BALAE is a dance performed by young Subanen women looking for husbands. They whisk dried palm leaves (Siosay) whose sound is supposed to please the spirits into granting their wishes.

The PANGELITAWO is a Subanen courtship dance, usually performed during harvest time and in other social occasions. Traditional costumes are worn. The man carries a handkerchief in his right hand which he tries to put on the woman's shoulder. The woman always turns her back away from the man and always drops the handkerchief from her shoulder or put it back to the man's shoulder, until finally, towards the end of the dance, she accepts the handkerchief as a gesture of submission and dances along with the man in the same direction.

The SINALIMBA is an extraordinary dance which makes use of a swing that can accommodate three to four persons at a time. The term is also used to mean the swing itself, a representation of a mythic vessel used for journey. Several male dancers move in rhythm to the music of a gong and drum ensemble, which are played beside the swinging sinalimba. At a given precise movement, one of them leaps onto the platform, steadies himself, and moves with the momentum of the swing. Once he finds his balance, he forces the sinalimba to swing even higher. This requires considerable skill, since he has to remain gracefully upright, moving in harmony with the silnalimba as though he were a part of it. The other two or three performers follow him onto the sinalimba one after the other, making sure they do not disrupt the pendular rhythm of the swing. A miscue could disrupt the motion, and even throw them off the platform. Even as they end the dance, they must maintain their agility in alighting from the sinalimba without counteracting or disrupting the direction of the swing.

Sinulog and Kinabayo are celebrated every July 24-25 in Dapitan City in honor of the city's patron, Saint James. The Sinulog is a dance procession and Kinabayo is an exotic and colorful pageant re-enacting the Spanish-Moorish wars, particularly the Battle of Covadonga. In that battle the Spanish forces under General Pelagio took their last stand against the Saracens. They were able to reverse the tide of the war with the miraculous apparition of Saint James, the Apostle. The addition of local color and innovations has made this annual festivity a popular attraction to visitors of Dapitan.