The Malaybalay Diocese by Father Miguel A. Bernad, SJ
The evangelization of the native tribes in the Central Mindanao highlands (now Bukidnon Province) began towards the middle of the 19th century. The first mission station was Malitbog, situated in the canyon behind Tagoloan. The Spanish Recoleto friar who had charge of the parish of Jasaan (of which Tagoloan was a dependent chapel,) made occasional visits to Malitbog. A chapel was already existing there by 1848.
In the 1870s the Recoleto Fray Mateo Bernad who had charge of Jasaan, made excursions farther up to the valley of theTagoloan River and established a chapel at Sumilao, which he dedicated to the Patroness of his native Aragon, Our Lady of the Pillar. He made visits further inland, to Impasugong, Kalasungay, Malaybalay, Bugcaon, and established a chapel at Linabo, on the confluence of the Sawaga with the Pulangi. The baptisms administered in these various places were recorded in the baptismal register of Jasaan. Access to Bukidnon at that time was by trail up the Tagoloan River on horseback.
In 1876, in accordance with an earlier royal decree entrusting all ofthe Mindanao missions to the Jesuits, the Jesuits took over the parish of Jasaan. The evangelization of the mountain area was at once intensified. A resident priest was eventually assigned to Sumilao, and later also to Linabo. It was from Linabo that Father Eusebio Barrado made his historic exploration of the Pulangi downstream to the Cotabato regions where it became the Rio Grande de Mindanao. (Cf. M. A Bernad SJ, "The Jesuit Exploration of the Pulangi-or Rio Grande de Mindanao 1888-1890", Kinaadman, VI/2 (1984) 149-190).
More and more of the "Bukid-non" (Monteses) of the northern part (or valley of theTagoloan) and of the Manobo in the southern (or valley of the Pulangi) thus became Christian. One Jesuit lay-brother (Jose Vila) assigned to Sumilao died of fever while taken down to Tagoloan and was buried by the tribesmen in an unmarked grave somewhere near Dalirig.
This was the situation at the time of the Revolution when all the priests and lay-brothers of northern Mindanao were imprisoned in Cagayan by the insurgent leaders. (Cf. M.A. Bernad SJ, "Church Funds Confiscated in Northern Mindanao, 1899-191F, Kinaadman, V (1983) 1-38; also 'Two Letters Concerning the Jesuits Imprisoned in Cagayan de Misamis, 1899-1990". Kinaadman, XIII (1991) 233-240".)
After the restoration of peace during the American regime, the Spanish Jesuit went back to Sumilao, serving all of the Bukidnon area from that base. Father Laureano Contin, SJ was the last Spanish Jesuit to be in charge of the Bukidnon missions based at Sumilao. After 1927 he was replaced by American Bukidnon missions based at Sumilao. After 1927 he was replaced by American Jesuits.
By that time a road had been constructed, making it possible to penetrate into Bukidnon by vehicle from Cagayan, instead of on horseback from Tagoloan.
In the 1930's, besides Sumilao, a second Jesuit mission station was established at Malaybalay. (Malaybalay had become the provincial capital and had regained its old name. In Spanish times it had been renamed "Oroquieta" by the Spaniards in honor of one of their generals in the Spanish civil wars.)
Ecclesiastically, the Bukidnon missions, like all the rest of Mindanao, had been under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Cebu until 1865. With the creation of the Diocese of Jaro in that year, Mindanao was divided longitudinally from north to south: the western part was under Jaro, the eastern remained under Cebu.
In 1910 the Diocese of Zamboanga was created, with jurisdiction over all of Mindanao and the adjacent islands. In 1933, Mindanao was divided horizontally, the southern part remaining under the Diocese of Zamboanga and the northern part under the new diocese erected at Cagayan de Misamis (now Cagayan de Oro). Two Jesuit bishops were appointed that year: Luis del Rosario for Zamboanga and James T. G. Hayes for Cagayan.
Bukidnon is subdivided into 20 municipalities and 2 cities.
Although the province has several air strips being used by private firms, the Lumbia Airport in Cagayan de Oro City is the nearest commercial air strip. Malaybalay is an hour and a half land travel from the city and three and a half hour drive from Davao City and about the same time from Cotabato City. Aircon and regular buses regularly ply the Cagayan de Oro-Bukidnon-Davao, and Cagayan de Oro-Bukidnon-Cotabato routes. Public utility vehicles provide service to commuters to and from the different municipalities and barangays of the province.
The Syre Highway cuts right at the center at the province, from Cagayan de Oro in the North to Carmen, Cotabato in the South. Secondary National Roads also lead to Davao City, Misamis Oriental, Cotabato Province, Lanoa del Sur and two other points in Cagayan de Oro City. (www.bukidnon.gov.ph)
The diocese has a land area of 8,293 square kilometers. Malaybalay is the capital city of Bukidnon, a landlocked province in the Northern Mindanao region.The Talaandig and the Manobo tribes reside in the uplands. Lowlanders who came from Cebu, Bohol and Iloilo provinces and migrated to Bukidnon contributed to acculturation among the natives. But there are still those who maintain their ancestral beliefs and practices.
The diocese is largeky dependent on the agricultural economy. Bukidnon is considered as the "food basket" of Mindanao because it is a major producer of cassava, corn, coffee, pineapple, rice, rubber, sugar, tomato, flowers, cattle, chickens and hogs. Firms in the province are involved in production or processing of these products. These goods, along with handicrafts from bamboo, rattan and wood are sold both local and abroad.
According to the provincial website, Bureau of Telecommunications (BUTEL) and private operators like Radio Communications Philippines, Inc. (RCPI) and Philippine Telegraph and Telephone (PT&T) provide telecommunication services. Southern Telecommunication Company (SOTELCO) operates domestic and international long distance services in the poblacion of Quezon, Maramag, and Don Carlos; and Damilag, Manolo Fortich; and Bagontaas, Valencia City. It is also an Internet-Service Provider. Philippine Communications, Inc. (PHILCOM) operates in Malaybalay City and Valencia City. Its services include domestic and international Direct Dialing System and also a provider of Internet. Five (5) AM and four (4) FM radio stations operate in the province.
Aside from the Catholic schools, Bukidnon has four (4) colleges and universities, the state-owned Central Mindanao University (CMU) and Bukidnon State College (BSC) and Sectarian Schools-Mountain View College (MVC) and San Isidro College (SIC).
Cultures and traditions in the diocese reflect in oral folk literature like folk tales, proverbs, love songs, poems and proverbs. Those who live far from the urban centers, in the forests or along the riverbanks still lead traditional lifestyles unlike those who immigrated to Bukidnon from other provinces, or the younger generations.