By Severino Samonte
Of the more than 80 bishoprics of the Roman Catholic Church in the country, the 19-year-old Diocese of Novaliches in the Ecclesiastical Province or Archdiocese of Manila under Archbishop Jose F. Cardinal Advincula can be considered unique.
For starters, it is the only Philippine diocese named after a former town reduced to a barrio (now called barangay) more than a century ago. Its territorial jurisdiction covers big portions of two Metropolitan Manila premier cities that have their dioceses – Quezon City and Caloocan City.
It comprises the northern section of Quezon City from Tandang Sora Avenue, leading northward and comprising all barangays of Districts 2 and 5, Barangay Matandang Balara (from District 3), and the District 6 barangays of Pasong Tamo, Sauyo, and Talipapa, including portions of barangays Tandang Sora and Culiat found north of Tandang Sora Avenue, as well as the northern part of Caloocan City.
It is also peculiarly different from all of the other dioceses in Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao as the name of the local diocese does not represent a specific town, city, or province of the country.
These peculiar attributes have prompted Quezon City 5th District Rep. Alfred Vargas to post in his Facebook page titled “Did you know?” this trivia: “Novaliches is the only barangay (formerly called barrio) in the country today which has its own diocese – the Diocese of Novaliches, which was created by Pope John Paul II on Dec. 7, 2002.”
His observation has enough basis, for indeed, the Diocese of Novaliches is very much unlike the adjoining dioceses of Cubao, Pasig, Parañaque, and Caloocan in Metro Manila; Antipolo in Rizal; Malolos in Bulacan; Cabanatuan in Nueva Ecija; Balanga in Bataan; Romblon in Southern Luzon; Capiz in the Visayas; and Cotabato in Mindanao, among others.
The directory of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) shows that the names of the country’s Catholic bishoprics usually denote either a province, a city, or a municipality.
The Diocese of Novaliches was canonically established on Jan. 16, 2003, from the Ecclesiastical Province of Manila by Pope John Paul II.
The former town of Novaliches existed from the Spanish regime in September 1855 until the early part of the American occupation when it was reduced to a barrio of Caloocan town in Rizal province in 1903.
The original town, where 12 vicariates and more than 70 parishes and churches are located, is now divided between Quezon City and Caloocan City.
As a result, people looking at the Philippine map can no longer see any trace of the original Novaliches town, very much unlike the other eight dioceses of the Archdiocese of Manila, which are Cubao, Pasig, Caloocan, and Parañaque in Metro Manila, and Antipolo in Rizal, Imus in Cavite, San Pablo in Laguna, and Malolos in Bulacan.
It is estimated that the Novaliches diocese accounts for at least half of the more than 2.93 million people of Quezon City and about the same ratio of the population of 1.58 million of Caloocan City.
The Diocese of Parañaque covers the adjacent cities of Parañaque, Las Piñas and Muntinlupa. On the other hand, the Diocese of Cubao, created on June 28, 2003, comprises the southern half of Quezon City, specifically Districts 1, 3, and 4.
The Diocese of Pasig, established also in 2003, covers the cities of Pasig and Taguig, as well as the town of Pateros.
The first head of the Novaliches diocese was Bishop Teodoro C. Bacani Jr. He became Bishop Emeritus of Novaliches upon his replacement by Bishop Antonio G. Tobias sometime in 2003. Its present bishop is the Most Rev. Roberto O. Gaa.
The diocese, which is dedicated to Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, has its cathedral along Regalado Avenue Extension in Fairview, Novaliches. It has a total land area of 138 square km.
The boundaries of the Novaliches diocese are San Jose Del Monte City, Meycauayan City, and Marilao town in Bulacan on the north; Marikina City and the towns of Rodriguez (formerly Montalban) and San Mateo in Rizal on the east; Tandang Sora Avenue and Mactan Avenue in Diliman, Quezon City on the south; and Caloocan City-South and Valenzuela City on the west.
The dozen vicariates of the diocese are those of the Christ the King; Our Lady of Lourdes; Santo Niño; Holy Cross; Ascension of Our Lord; Good Shepherd; Holy Spirit; Shrine and Parish of Our Lady of Mercy; San Bartolome; San Isidro Labrador; St. Peter; and Ina ng Lupang Pangako. (PNA)