The Laoag Clergy


Visit St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Marcos, Ilocos Norte.

The CHRONOS: Monthly Diocesan Schedule for FEBRUARY 2009

July 26: Laoag's foundation anniversary and St. Anne Parish fiesta

Today, the Diocese of Laoag celebrates her 48th birthday. Today, too, is the launching of activities in commemoration of the diocese's golden anniversary in 2011.

Let us pray for our diocese. Let us pray for the increase of faith and the deepening of love and commitment to God and the Church.

Happy fiesta to the Piddiguenos!

Click here to read CBCP news on the launching.

July 25: Fiesta greetings!

Today is the feast of St. James the Greater.

Happy fiesta to our brothers and sisters in Solsona and Pasuquin!

Cadaratan Church: A Miracle in Progress

Cadaratan Church: A Miracle in Progress

The Dream Church of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Cadaratan, Bacarra, Ilocos Norte

The Dream Church of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Cadaratan, Bacarra, Ilocos Norte

Foundation for the church-construction project in Cadaratan, Bacarra put up!

The construction of the OUR LADY OF FATIMA PARISH CHURCH started anew, September 8, the birthday of Mama Mary. Very crucial in this project is the financial consideration being tacked by the whole parish community. To address this concern, we, the Parish Pastoral and Finance Councils, together with our newly-appointed parish priest, Rev. Leonardo L. Ruiz, planned to put up a FOUNDATION for the continuation and completion of the construction of the parish church.

The Foundation is chaired by our beloved Bishop, Most Rev. Sergio L. Utleg, D.D. and the members of the Board include Victor R. Bolosan, M.D., Rosalina R. Javier, Flordelina T. Cadelina, Eugenia M. Mendoza, Emilia B. Agonoy and Dante Subia, all from Our Lady of Fatima Parish.

Registration of the Foundation with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is under way.

Architects and Engineer: Arch. Coleen Cajigal and Arch. Joemar Bolosan, Engr. Eduardo Cid.

FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE IS NEEDED. For those who wish to send their donations directly through the bank, this is our bank: PHILIPPINE NATIONAL BANK, Batac Branch, Batac, Ilocos Norte, Philippines. DOLLAR ACCOUNT NUMBER: 158881300038; Account Name, Most Rev. Sergio L. Utleg, D.D., Victor R. Bolosan, M.D. and Flordelina T. Cadelina. PESO CHECKING ACCOUNT: 158881300020, with the same above-mentioned account name.

The Happy Priests

The Happy Priests
The clergy during their annual retreat with Bp. Mylo Vergara of the Diocese of San Jose, Nueva Ecija as retreat master at Betania Retreat House in Baguio City, November 10-13




For financial assistance or donations in-kind, please contact the Bishop or the Curia at (077)770-5210, or Fr. Lorenzo Torreflores (Baresbes, Dingras) at 0917-5701085, Fr. Danny Devaras (Carasi) at 0920-5537806, Fr. Lester Menor (Davila, Pasuquin) at 0915-7879701, Fr. Leo Ruiz (Cadaratan, Bacarra) at (077)670-3801, and Fr. Anthony Dimagiba (Sta. Rosa, Sarrat) at (077)782-2031, Fr. Antonio Calautit, SVD (Pancian, Pagudpud) at 0918-5228902.

Listen to DZEA-CMN Radio Totoo, 909 khz!

Pray for your priests. They need your prayers as much as you need theirs.

Pray for your priests. They need your prayers as much as you need theirs.
The clergy of Laoag with the lone cardinal of Thailand and the bishop of Changmai

PHILIPPINES Themes of Friendship And Sacrifice, Not Prejudice, Come Through Shakespeare Play, by Leilani Adriano

December 11, 2008

LAOAG CITY, Philippines (UCAN) - High-school student Sharmaine Mata was among more than 1,000 people laughing and chattering as they watched William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice staged in Filipino at a local college.

The 15-year-old Santa Rosa Academy student was filled with "excitement" and "curiosity," she said, because it was her first time to watch a live play.

Laoag, the capital of Ilocos Norte province, is 340 kilometers north of Manila.

Mata remembered vividly the character Antonio, who was willing to "sacrifice his life" to help his friend, Bassanio, who needed a large sum of money. Antonio was able to borrow the money for him from Shylock, a greedy moneylender, by agreeing to give a pound of flesh if he failed to pay it back.

Fellow student Jan-Jan Decano, 14, another person UCA News interviewed in connection with the play, was also impressed by Antonio's commitment to his friend. The boy told UCA News it was hard for him "to imagine someone would sacrifice his life just to help out a friend."

Actors' Repertory Theater staged the play on Nov. 29 at Ilocos Norte Centennial Arena in Laoag City, in collaboration with local tourism and education officials. The Manila-based theater group has been touring cities and towns outside the national capital region to promote appreciation of Filipino culture and Christian values through stage plays.

Group member Don Umali said he hopes students in areas where the medium is not popular will deepen their appreciation of theater arts.

The Merchant of Venice, written in the late 1590s, has stirred debate over the Jewish identity of its villain, Shylock. The U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League provides on its website ( a discussion guide for educators on anti-Semitism and The Merchant of Venice. The website says the league seeks to stop defamation of the Jewish people, and secure justice and fair treatment to all citizens alike.

However, Father Joel Castillo, superintendent for Catholic schools in Laoag diocese, noted that the local audience found the nature of the characters "more important" than their religion and did not express any prejudice.

"In Ilocos Norte, people of all religions live in harmony and without prejudice," the school superintendent said on Dec. 11.

Laoag diocese serves Ilocos Norte province. Roughly 67 percent of 658,454 people are Catholics, according to the 2005 Catholic Directory of the Philippines. Most of the rest are other Christians.

Santa Rosa English teacher Mercy Reyes told UCA News teachers appreciated The Merchant of Venice as well. She said it showed students values "we have been teaching them in the classroom."

According to provincial education department records, there are about 20,000 high-school students in Ilocos Norte.

Catholic schools require students to take Christian Life Education where values are taught. The public high-school curriculum integrates values education in Filipino, English literature and other subjects.

On Dec. 8, Father Nolasco Pacua Jr., Laoag's catechetical director, told UCA News each parish provides optional weekly catechism classes for students in public elementary and high schools in their area that have values formation in their curriculum.

The director said about 140 catechists teach 15,000 students.

From UCAN News



Responding to the Call of the 2nd Vatican Council and the 2nd Plenary Council of the Philippines for Communion, Participation and Co-responsibility in the Church; and desirous to realize the Commitment of the First Diocese of Laoag Plenary Assembly to renew and revitalize our Diocese toward making it a veritable Kingdom of God and a Community of Disciples of Jesus Christ; through the intercession of Mary Our Blessed Mother and St. William the Hermit our Patron Saint, we promulgate this Constitution of the Parish Pastoral Councils in the Diocese of Laoag.


Section 1. The Parish Pastoral Council (henceforth PPC) is a Representative Group of the Christian faithful of the parish that acts as the official policy-making, planning, implementing and monitoring body of the Parish.
Section 2. The PPC is an advisory and consultative body to the Parish Priest (or Pastor, henceforth PP) who has the final and accountable decision in parochial agenda in accord with the provisions of Church Law and in line with Diocesan policies and norms.



Section 1. To draw a parish pastoral plan in line with the Diocesan Pastoral Plan.
Section 2. To approve the Budget of the Parish which is made and presented to it by the Parish Finance Council.
Section 3. To foster participation and communion among the People of God with one another in the parish and with the other Parishes in the Diocese.
Section 4. To give support to the PP and undertake any appropriate project or task given to it by the PP.


Section 1. Membership in the PPC is by:
a. Ex officio:
The PP and Parochial Vicar/s
Religious Sister (the Superior of the Community)
Principal or President of the Catholic School
b. Appointment by the PP:
One member from each of the Parish Commissions
Two Representatives of the Youth
c. Election by their own constituents
One Representative of (Mandated) Religious Organizations
One Representative of (Charismatic) Religious Movements
One Representative from each Barangay Pastoral Council. (In big parishes, there will be one representative from each Cluster of BPCs.)


Section 1. The group of officers of the PPC shall be known as the Executive Board (henceforth EB).
Section 2. The members of the PPC shall elect among themselves, by secret ballot, the officers or members of the EB, composed of the President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer. Other officers can be added to the EB (from among the members of the PPC) as deemed necessary by the PP or PPC, but they should not exceed seven in number.
Section 3. The functions of the EB are:
a. To make recommendations for the good of the parish, to be approved
by the PPC en banc.
b. To prepare the Agenda for the PPC en banc meeting. This involves prioritizing the needs of the parish.
c. To act as the Secretariat and Steering Committee of the PPC.
d. To undertake any task given to it by the PP and the PPC.
Section 4. The duties of the Officers are as follows:
a. President – presides in the PPC and EB meeting when delegated by the PP and to represent the Parish in appropriate occasions.
b. Vice-President – assumes the duties of the President in the latter’s absence.
c. Secretary – takes the minutes of meetings and keeps the records.
d. The Treasurer keeps and accounts for the funds of the PPC, but not
necessarily of the Parish.

Term of Office

Section 1. The term of office of officers is two years, renewable for another term. No officer can serve for more than two consecutive terms. However, they are eligible again to be officers after a break in their officership.
Section 2. In case a member ceases to be a member because of resignation, incapacity or disqualification, the PP will appoint somebody from the same sector to serve out his/her unexpired term.
Section 3. Current PPC officers as of February 2009 are considered to be in their first term. Therefore, they can be reappointed or reelected for their second term during the coming election.


Section 1.
Only those Christian Faithful who are outstanding in the practice of the Faith in their parish, and who can commit themselves and are able to work with others, can be members of the PPC.
Section 2. No elective official in the Government from Barangay Captain upwards can be a member of the PPC, much less be an officer.
Section 3. No member of the PPC can be a member of the PFC and vice versa.


Section 1. The meetings of both the PPC and the Executive Board shall be presided over by the PP, although he may delegate the PPC President to preside. The PP can call a special meeting whenever he deems it necessary.
Section 2. The PPC en banc meets bi-monthly, and so does the Executive Board. Hence, their meetings alternate every month. The meetings are held on the ______ Sunday (or another day) of the month, at ______ o’clock in the Parish Hall..
Section 3. All meetings must be formal in nature, and minutes are to be duly recorded and kept. It is encouraged that a short bible-based prayer should precede every meeting.

Parish Pastoral Commissions

Section 1. Worship and Liturgy
Section 2. Christian Education
Section 3. Social Action
Section 4. Temporalities
Section 5. Youth
Section 6. Family and Life
Section 7. Vocations

Election, Organization and Cessation

Section 1. The PPC should have already been constituted by the end of January of 2009, and every other year thereafter, i.e. on an odd-ending year. The election of the Executive Board is to be held simultaneously in all parishes of the Diocese on the fourth Saturday of February also on an odd-ending year.
Section 2. The members and officers of the PPC will take their oath of office on the Monday of Holy Week, after the Chrism Mass. They start their office and assume responsibility after they take their oath.
Section 3. In case the PP is changed, the PPC members and officers are considered ipso facto resigned. However, the new PP may reinstate them in writing to serve their unexpired term.

Amendments in this Constitution may be made by the Bishop in consultation with the Priests’ Assembly, who will in turn make recommendations in consultation with their parishioners. The Bishop may also consult other groups.

This Constitution and By-Laws is hereby promulgated and takes effect today, the First Sunday of Advent, the 30th of November, 2008 and will remain effective until it is abrogated by the Bishop Ordinary of the Diocese.


+ Sergio L. Utleg, D.D
Bishop of Laoag
November 30, 2008

The Chronos for December 2008

1: Monday: Advent Weekday. WHITE.

2: Tuesday: Advent Weekday. VIOLET.

Bishop’s Schedule:
Attends the Northern Vicariate Meeting in Pagudpud

Let us pray for:
Rev. Florante B. Rigonan + (Birthday)
Rev. Romualde D. Batoon (Priestly Ordination Anniversary)
Rev. Adriano Lagoc + (Birthday)

3: Wednesday: St. Francis Xavier, priest. WHITE.

Bishop’s Schedule:
Presides over a wedding in Manila

4: Thursday: Advent Weekday, VIOLET. or m. of St. John Damascene, priest, religious and doctor. WHITE.

Let us pray for
Rev. Jaime B. Jose (Priestly Ordination Anniversary)

5: Friday: Advent Weekday, VIOLET.

Bishop’s Schedule:
Officiates mass at the City Hall, 5:00 p.m.

Let us pray for:
Rev. Victor P. Hernando (Birthday)

6: Saturday: Advent Weekday, VIOLET, or m. of St. Nicholas, bishop, WHITE.

Bishop’s Schedule:
Presides over the Holy Mass with the Mother Butler’s Mission Guild


Bishop’s Schedule:
Officiates mass at the cathedral

8: Monday: THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY, Principal Patroness of the Philippines. WHITE.

Bishop's Schedule:
Officiates mass at the cathedral, 5:30 a.m.
Presides the Patronal Fiesta of Immaculate Conception Parish, 8:00 a.m.;
Officiates the Anniversary of the coronation of La Virgen Milagrosa de Badoc, 2:30 p.m.

9: Tuesday: Advent Weekday, VIOLET.

Bishop’s Schedule:
ECIP Staff Meeting with the bishop, Bishop’s Residence (9-10)

10: Wednesday: Advent Weekday, VIOLET.

Bishop’s Schedule:
Officiates mass at the cathedral
Meets with the Commission on Youth, 3 p.m., Bishop's Residence

11: Thursday: Advent Weekday, VIOLET. or m. of St. Damasus I, pope. WHITE.

Bishop’s Schedule:
Presides over mass at the Clarisas Capuchinas Monastery

Let us pray for:
Rev. Damaso Argel + (Birthday)
Rev. Mariano Pacis + (Birthday)

12: Friday: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Philippines, WHITE.


Let us pray for:
Rev. Tranquilino T. Santos, Jr. (Priestly Ordination Anniversary)

13: Saturday: St. Lucy, virgin and martyr, RED.

Bishop’s Schedule:
Officiates mass at the CFC Christmas Family Day, DWCL Gym, 4 p.m.

Recollection and Program of Tenants, Bishop’s Residence
Recollection and Program of Apostleship of Prayer, Bishop’s Residence

Let us pray for:
Rev. Hermogenes G. Saturnino, Jr. (Priestly Ordination Anniversary)
Rev. Lorenzo G. Torreflores (Birthday)
Rev. Henry Josue + (Birthday)

National Youth Day

Bishop’s Schedule:
Officiates mass at the cathedral, 6:00 a.m.;
Presides over mass with the Confraternity of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, St. John Sahagun Parish, Burgos, 3:00 p.m.; The bishop attends book launching in Batac.

Launching of the Book, “Out of the Depths-Revisiting the ‘Epicenter’ of Aglipayanism” venue: Kalipi Training Center, Batac City, Time: 7:00 p.m.

Recollection and Program of the members of the Confraternity of Our Lady of Perpetual Help at St. John Sahagun Parish, Burgos

Let us pray for:
Rev. Primo Cabanos, Jr. (Priestly Ordination Anniversary)
Rev. Ericson M. Josue (Priestly Ordination Anniversary)

15: Monday: Advent Weekday, VIOLET.

Bishop’s Schedule :
Officiates a wedding at the cathedral, 2:30 p.m.;

Christmas Recollection and Program of Catechists

16: Tuesday: Advent Weekday, VIOLET.
Start of Misa Aguinaldo

Bishop’s Schedule:
Officiates the Aguinaldo Mass at St. Nicholas Parish, San Nicolas

17: Wednesday: Advent Weekday, VIOLET.

Bishop’s Schedule:
Officiates the Aguinaldo Mass at St. Andrew Parish, Bacarra

18: Thursday: Advent Weekday, VIOLET.

Bishop’s Schedule:
Officiates the Aguinaldo Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Balatong, Laoag City

19: Friday: Advent Weekday, VIOLET.

Bishop’s Schedule:
Officiates the Aguinaldo Mass at St. John the Baptist Parish, Badoc

Let us pray for;
Rev. Noel Ian G. Rabago (Birthday)

20: Saturday: Advent Weekday, VIOLET.

Bishop’s Schedule:
Officiates the Aguinaldo Mass at St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Marcos

Recollection and Christmas Program of ARWIN, Bishop’s Residence
Recollection and Christmas Program of Lay Ministers at SMS GYM

Let us pray for:
Msgr. James A. Bonoan (Priestly Ordination Anniversary)


Bishop’s Schedule:
Officiates the Aguinaldo Mass at St. Joseph Parish Laoag City. He also celebrates the mass at the Regional Conference of Youth for Christ at the Bacarra National High School, 9:00 a.m.

22: Monday: Advent Weekday, VIOLET.

Bishop’s Schedule:
Officiates the Aguinaldo Mass at the Sta. Rosa de Lima Parish, Sta. Rosa, Sarrat

23: Tuesday: Advent Weekday, VIOLET.

Bishop’s Schedule:
Officiates the Aguinaldo Mass at St. Gabriel Parish, Nueva Era

24: Wednesday: Advent Weekday, VIOLET.

Bishop’s Schedule:
Officiates the Aguinaldo Mass at St. Anne, Piddig;
Presides over the Midnight Mass at the Cathedral


Bishop’s Schedule:
Officiates mass at the cathedral

26: Friday, Stephen, First Martyr, RED.

Christmas Recollection and Program of PRIESTS’ PARENTS, Bishop’s Residence (a.m.)
Christmas Recollection and Program of Diocesan Employees (p.m.)

Let us pray for:
Rev. Ercison M. Josue (Birthday)

27: Saturday: St. John, apostle, evangelist, WHITE.

Bishop’s Schedule:
Officiates wedding in Manila


Fr. Fred Lamprea Child of Hope Memorial Project, Christmas Program and Gift Giving, SAJPC

29: Monday: FIFTH DAY WITHIN THE OCTAVE OF CHRISTMAS, WHITE. or. m of St. Thomas Becket, bishop and martyr. WHITE.

Let us pray for:
Rev. Jesus Cirilo R. Bala, Jr. (Priestly Ordination Anniversary)


Bishop’s Schedule:
Officiates a wedding in Cagayan

Let us pray for:
Rev. Noel Ian G. Rabago (Priestly Ordination Anniversary)

m. of St. Sylvester I, pope, WHITE.

Bishop’s Schedule:
Officiates mass at the cathedral

Let us pray for:
Rev. Damaso Argel (Death Anniversary)

THE DIOCESE OF LAOAG: The Faith Grows From the Ashes of the Aglipayan Schism, by Rev. Danilo R. Laeda

The turn of the 20th century saw the Church in the Philippines being put asunder. The once monolithic faith established by the zealous and indefatigable Castilian missionaries three centuries and a half before was shaken due to the Religious Revolution as an offshoot of the nation’s quest for sovereignty to shake away the yoke of colonialism in the last decade of the 19th century. This was a fight in the religious sphere of the Filipino clergy towards self-determination, that is, an all-Filipino hierarchy. Of the five ecclesiastical jurisdictions then existing in the country, the then Diocese of Nueva Segovia suffered the most. The epicenter of the tremors was in Ilocos Norte. This was understandable since the man whose name was stamped in the schism, Gregorio Aglipay y Labayan, was a native of the province. Practically the whole province, with the exception of few families, was swept by the tide of national feelings. Only one priest of the seventeen then assigned in the province remained in the fold.

A hundred years later and with an ecclesiastical jurisdiction comprising the whole province of Ilocos Norte, the Roman Catholic faith has grown considerably. The once moribund Church loyal to the Roman Pontiff is now more vigorous than ever.

Colonization of Ilocos Norte and Christianization

Long before the coming of the Spaniards, there already existed an extensive region (consisting of the present provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Abra and La Union) renowned for its gold mines. Merchants from Japan and China would often visit the area to barter beads, ceramics and silk with gold. The inhabitants of the region believed to be of Malay origin, called their place Samtoy from saomi ditoy, which literally meant “language spoken in this place”.

Like other parts of the Philippines, Ilocos Norte before the advent of Spanish colonization was inhabited by different tribes. Settlements were located along the river systems. Most people preferred to settle down near their farming or hunting grounds. Trade between seashore communities and nearby China must have been present considering the proximity of the place with mainland Cathay. Religion was mainly animistic with the belief in Supreme Being like “Kabunian” and other minor spirits which were collectively known as di-kataotao-an.

The Diocese of Laoag shares the early history of its mother see, the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia. Christianity came to this part of the country in June 1572 during Northern Luzon “pacification” campaign led by the Spanish conquistador Juan de Salcedo and his Augustinian chaplain Alonzo de Alvarado. It is said that the cross was first planted on top of what is now known as Ermita Hill in Laoag. However, it was not until 1575 when Vigan was finally “pacified” by the Castillians that effective evangelization campaign reached this part of the newly established Province of Ilocos. During this last quarter of the 16th century, mission centers were established in Laoag, Bacarra, San Nicolas, Batac and Dingras. Towards the end of Spanish rule in the Philippines, there were 13 towns. The evangelization of this northern part of Ilocos Province was done by the Augustinian friars. They did their apostolate here until the end of Spanish rule in 1898.

Ilocos norte was so remote from the central government in Mnaila during the Spanish Regime. It was rural and rustic. Owing to the abusive practices of many Augustinian friars, a number of Ilocanos revolted against their colonizers. A number of uprisings erupted. Noteworthy of these were the Dingras uprising (1589) and Pedro Almazan revolt (San Nicolas, 1660). One in Bacarra led by a certain Juan Magsanop was triggered by a series of revolts in the south in the 17th century. The Augustinian parish priest of the town Juan de Arias was killed by the rebels. In the first quarter of the 19th century three rebellions in a row erupted in a period of fifteen years, which prompted the colonial government to divide the Ilocos province in 1818. One of these revolts in Piddig town was caused by the government’s attempt to put a monopoly on the production of basi, a locally produced wine fermented from sugarcane juice.

The Rise and Decline of Aglipayanism

Three quarters of a century later this rebellion was experienced in the religious sphere. The Philippine Religious Revolution at the turn of the 20th century that gave rise to the Philippine Independent Church (Iglesia Filipina Independiente [IFI]) made Ilocos Norte as the epicenter. Only one of the seventeen Filipino priests then assigned to the province remained steadfast to the Catholic faith. This was mainly because the former guerilla padre Gregorio Aglipay, now the religious leader of the new schismatic movement was from Batac and both his lieutenants, Simeon Mandac and Santiago Fonacier were from Laoag. The “Independientes”, (to distinguish them from the “Romanos”) as they were subsequently called, brought with them about 95% of the total population of Ilocos Norte.

It was a slow and painful recovery for the “Romanos” in this part of the Philippines. The years following 1902, the foundation year of the IFI, were difficult. All church properties except the Laoag Cathedral were taken over by the schismatics. However, the Philippine Supreme Court’s landmark decision in 1905 (Barlin vs. Ramirez) ordering the return of properties belonging to the Roman Catholic Church, which were taken over by the Independientes, saved the day for the Romanos. By 1908 appointees for the parishes in Ilocos Norte took their billet. Practically all of them were soon withdrawn because they suffered indignities from the “Aglipayanos”. A strategy was worked out by the then American Bishop of Nueva Segovia, the Most Rev. Dennis Dougherty. Priests were soon assigned to their hometown to bring back to the fold their relatives and their tenants. Hence, we have the likes of Luis Cortez of Badoc, Mariano Pacis of Vintar, Clemente Edralin of Sarrat, who was later murdered in his convento of mysterious causes, Atanacio Albano of Bacarra and others.

The Canonical Erection of the Diocese of Laoag: Antonio Ll. Mabutas as Bishop

The Civil Province of Ilocos Norte became the Diocese of Laoag in 1961. The first bishop was the former chancellor of the mother see of Nueva Segovia, Antonio Lloren Mabutas of Agoo, La Union. The next decade saw the building up of the new diocese. Infrastructure had to be built and the people spiritually prepared and clergy had to be united.

The St. Mary’s Seminary opened its doors to the first batch of seminarians in 1963, although the construction was still going on. The bishop’s residence soon stood up along Gomez Street in the then outskirts of Laoag City. The Catholic Center Building near the cathedral replaced the old Knights of Columbus building, Catholic Schools were opened (St. Anne in Piddig, St. James in Pasuquin, St. Lawrence in Bangui and St. Jude in Pagudpud) to add to those already existing at the time of the separation. Two parishes were erected: St. Anthony of Padua in Marcos and St. Gabriel in Nueva Era.

Lay formation was centered on the Cursillos de Christianidad. This was a weekend lived-in retreat. Then came a new trend in catechesis, the Christian Community Program. This was a different approach from the Baltimore-type of traditional catechism. The Diocese of Laoag was one of the experimental centers for the whole Philippines.

A good number of priests from La Union (6) and Ilocos Sur (6) were “trapped” in the Diocese of Laoag as a result of the separation. Unity and spiritualization among the clergy had to be worked out. The monthly recollection and meeting had to be consistently held. Priests from every nook and cranny of the diocese were urged to go to Laoag every month for this event. These were the times when coming to the center was still a feat considering the dust and bumpy roads to the interior parishes in the eastern and northern vicariates.

Bishop Rafael Montiano Lim: A Tagalog in the Heart of Ilocandia

When the 1970s came, storm clouds were looming in the horizon for the Diocese of Laoag. In 1970, Bishop Mabutas was elected coadjutor Archbishop of Davao. Archbishop Juan Sison of Nueva Segovia was apostolic administrator during the months of vacancy. The following year Bishop Rafael M. Lim of Boac, Marinduque (then a part of the Diocese of Lucena) came to Laoag. This was a difficult decade everywhere: the first and second quarters saw the storm of activism, the “hippie” generation, martial law and dictatorship, the changes brought about by Vatican II were now being felt.

It was Bishop Lim who introduced the first reshuffle of priests’ assignments in the diocese, thus moving the well-entrenched “immovables”. The general reshuffle in 1973 also tried to standardize the finances of the parishes with priests theoretically receiving equal remunerations. A system of parish financial reporting was established with transparency as the end in view. this did not progress in the ensuing years, and it was eventually dropped to give away to the quota system, that is, each parish was assessed and the amount to be submitted to the curia was fixed.

The Diocese experienced the exodus of priests in this decade. Many priests either left the diocese or left the active ministry. By 1978 five parishes were already without priests. In the middle of this year, Bishop Lim became the first bishop of the newly created Diocese of Boac, Marinduque, his home province. The Rev. Jose F. Agustin served as diocesan administrator.

Edmundo Madarang Abaya: The shepherd for 20 years

By early 1979, the diocese had its third bishop in the person of Edmundo M. Abaya of Candon, Ilocos Sur. The next two decades saw the diocese on the rise. New orders of Sisters came mainly to do pastoral work. At its highest number, there were 17 religious orders of sisters working in the diocese. The priestly identity crisis brought about by the shift of things by Vatican II was on the wane. More vocations, hence more ordinations, were coming up. The catechetical program of the diocese was beefed up with a more centralized management. However, the once thriving Catholic Schools in the diocese were on the run because of many factors.

The strong earthquake of 1983 wrought havoc and destruction to the centuries-old churches of the diocese. Two years later all the destroyed churches and rectories were rebuilt or restored.

The diocese of Laoag celebrated the 25th anniversary of its foundation in 1986 with much fanfare. Archbishop Antonio Mabutas of Davao, the first ordinary, presided over the opening Eucharist. The San Lorenzo Medical and Dental Charity clinic was also inaugurated to serve the indigents who need medical and dental treatment. About the same year, the Foyer de Charite in the compound of the St. Mary’s Seminary was slowly rising to serve as a retreat house for the diocese.

In 1994, Bishop Abaya convoked the First Diocese of Laoag Pastoral Assembly. This was in response to the renewal of the Philippines called for by the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines in 1991. This was a week-long gathering of clergy, religious and lay faithful of the diocese to pray, to reflect on the pastoral situation and to offer solutions and remedies. It was geared towards creating a community of disciples in the Diocese of Laoag. The Vision-Mission Statement with the Acts and Decrees of the Pastoral Assembly reflects the pastoral situation of the diocese and the kind of response to be addressed to such.

Bishop Abaya’s episcopal ministry in the Diocese of Laoag came to an end when he was installed as the Archbishop of Nueva Segovia on September 8, 1999. The diocese was again without a pastor. The months of interregnum were under the leadership of the Rev. Rodolfo R. Nicolas, who served as administrator for 16 months.

Fourth Bishop: Another Ilocano From the Southern Ilocos Province

On January 30, 2001 Bishop Ernesto A. Salgado became the fourth Bishop of Laoag. A native of Sta. Lucia, Ilocos Sur, he was originally a priest of Nueva Segovia. When he took possession of the See of Laoag he was already a veteran in the mountain missions of the Cordilleras having served as Apostolic Vicar of the Mountain Provinces for 14 years.

Bishop Salgado steered the 40th anniversary celebration of the Diocese of Laoag with the Church as Mystery of Communion as its theme. The celebration was held on July 28, 2001, a Saturday, to allow more faithful in the celebration. The biblical exegete Fr. Gerardo Tapiador was the main speaker.

There are three things the bishop Salgado wanted to do in his episcopal ministry in the diocese of Laoag. First is the security of priests to make them veritable servant-leaders of this particular church. Priestly solidarity and fraternity was the second, to create a community of servant-leaders reminiscent of the primitive Christian community in Jerusalem. And the third was the formation of Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) to create a community of disciples.

Indeed, this was a gargantuan task. But the life of the priests and the faithful is what makes the Church. Talis sacerdos, quails grex, so the old Latin Maxim goes. A dedicated and unified presbyterium would be the first witnessing of the priests towards BEC. Basic Ecclesial Communities could only endure for as long as they are served by dedicated and selfless priests.

Four new parishes were erected during Bp. Salgado’s term: St. Francis of Assisi in Davila, which was carved out of St. James in Pasuquin; Our Lady of Fatima in Cadaratan from St. Andrew in Bacarra; Divine Mercy in Pila, comprising the 10 barrios in the northwestern portion of Laoag; and, St. John Bosco in Baresbes, covering three barrios at the eastern side of Dingras. St. Joseph the Worker in Carasi was being prepared but events did not permit its formal erection as parish during the tenure of Bp. Salgado.

After much rev up, Bishop Salgado was still taking off when he was named to his mother see, the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia, which he took possession on May 31, 2005. The former Vicar General, the Rev. Jacinto A. Jose, was elected by the Board of Consultors as the diocesan administrator. He could not wait for the coming of the new Bishop of Laoag, though. He was ordained Bishop of Urdaneta on November 26, 2005. The Rev. Policarpo M. Albano continued to steer the diocese in the months of vacancy.

Bishop Sergio L. Utleg: Coming Back to His Roots

The diocese was sede vacante for 16 months. On November 13, 2006, the then ordinary of Ilagan (Isabela) Bishop Sergio Lasam Utleg was named to the See of Laoag. Bishop Utleg was formerly a priest of the Archdiocese of Tuguegarao, being a native of Solana, Cagayan. He was appointed coadjutor Bishop of Ilagan in 1996 and eventually took possession of the see a couple of years later. The appointment of Bishop Utleg to the See of Laoag is a homecoming of sort. His paternal grandfather was a native of Laoag who migrated to Cagayan. He was installed the fifth Bishop of Laoag on January 11, 2007.

To prepare for the forthcoming reshuffle of priest’s assignment and to have a firsthand knowledge of the whole diocese, Bp. Utleg immediately embarked on a pastoral visit. This commenced in February and completed in September of 2007. The bishop’s advocacy for environmental protection was immediately made manifest. He is practically making waves with the mountain climbing that he organizes to conquer the highest peaks of Ilocos Norte: Mt. Siminublan in Nueva Era, Mt. Masadsadoc in Vintar, Pico de Loro in the boundary of Pagudpud and Adams. Cycling buffs flock to him in his trek of the highways and the byways of the province.

The general reshuffle of priests’ assignments went through in April 2008, thus continuing a tradition of periodic transfer since 1973. Diocesan commissions were reorganized and the parish councils are being given a new direction with a uniform constitution and by-laws to be adopted in the whole diocese. Streamlining of the financial management of the parishes is now being prepared to adopt a uniform system thus paving the way towards a standardized remuneration of the clergy.

The 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Diocese of Laoag is two and a half years away. This early Bp. Utleg has already started to lay down the groundwork for the celebration. He has tasked the presbyterium to craft a five-year diocesan pastoral plan. The 1994 First Diocese of Laoag Pastoral Assembly will soon be revisited for a reorientation to the present pastoral needs of this particular church.

The Roman Catholic faith has come a long way in this part of the Philippine archipelago. Thrown in the abyss of a schism a century ago there was only a flicker of light at the end of a long tunnel as the virus of apostasy spread in an epidemic proportion like the Bubonic plague. The recovery was slow but steady. The erection of the Diocese of Laoag in 1961 weaned from the mother see of Nueva Segovia exacerbated the growth of the faith. Although few shock waves are still felt at times relationship with our Aglipayan brethren has become more friendly if not cordial. Things are now seen in the lens of ecumenism espoused by Vatican II.

CATECHETICAL AND MISSION OFFICE: Outreach in Adams, October 29, 2008

CATECHETICAL AND MISSION OFFICE: Diocesan Catechetical Day, September 20, 2008, Part 1 (2)

CATECHETICAL AND MISSION OFFICE: Diocesan Catechetical Day, September 20, 2008, Part 2 (2)

COM. ON THE CLERGY & OFF. ON CH. HERITAGE: Convocation (Playa Tropical, Currimao, Aug.18-20, 2008)