By Severino C. Samonte

Spotlighting the queerness of Diocese of Novaliches

January 26, 2023, 2:15 pm

When the 88 Catholic bishops across the country gather for their 125th Plenary Assembly at the Pope Pius XII Catholic Center on United Nations Ave., Paco, Manila on Jan. 28-30, there is a likelihood that the 22-year-old Diocese of Novaliches will get a bigger share of the spotlight from most of the delegates because of its queer, unique and peculiar composition.

For one thing, it is the only Philippine diocese named after a former town that was reduced to a barrio more than a century ago but was revived by the Vatican as a separate diocese of the Roman Catholic Church in 2002.

In addition, it is considered as a divided diocese because half of its present territory is under the jurisdiction of Quezon City, while the rest belongs to Caloocan City.

At the same time, it also divides its two mother cities which have their own bishoprics: Quezon City has the Diocese of Cubao and Caloocan City is home to the Diocese of Kalookan.

According to the Diocese of Novaliches website, "The local bishopric was decreed by the Vatican to encompass the whole area circumscribed in the present Civil Statute of the city known as Caloocan City-North and of a part of Quezon City that lies to the north of the road called Tandang Sora. Such a canonical jurisdiction was not defined arbitrarily. This was actually a by-product of the changes in the area the locality of Novaliches belongs to."

It is 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.

Such peculiar attributes have prompted former Quezon City 5th District Congressman and now Councilor Alfred Vargas to post on 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; 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.

It is estimated that the Novaliches diocese accounts for over half of the more than 2.96 million people of Quezon City and about the same ratio as the population of 1.6 million of Caloocan City.

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 kilometers.

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.

Meanwhile, the CBCP News said among the expected participants in the 125th Plenary Assembly are 88 active bishops, two diocesan priest-administrators and 38 honorary members who are retired bishops.

CBCP president and Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David will preside over the meeting, the second to be held after the two-year onslaught of the new coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

The previous assembly was held at the Carmelite Missionaries Center of Spirituality in Tagaytay City on July 9, 2022.


About the Columnist

Image of Severino C. Samonte

He began his journalistic career by contributing to the Liwayway and Bulaklak magazines in the 1960’s. He was the night editor of the Philippine News Service when Martial Law was declared in September 1972. When the Philippine News Agency was organized in March 1973, he was named national news editor because of his news wire service experience.

He retired as executive news editor in 2003. He also served as executive editor of the Malacanang-based Presidential News Desk from 1993 to 1996 and from 2005 to 2008.