In 1972, by mandate of the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA), the Missionary Diocese of the Philippines was divided into three dioceses, namely: Northern Philippines, Central Philippines, and Southern Philippines.
The Diocese of Northern Philippines then had twelve provinces under its jurisdiction: Abra, Aurora, Batanes, Cagayan, Ifugao, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Isabela, Kalinga-Apayao, Mountain Province, Nueva Viscaya and Quirino Province.
To start with, the Diocese of Northern Philippines was endowed with about 32,000 baptized members who were distributed in 2 full-fledged parishes, an aided parish, 25 organized missions and 111 mission stations. The Diocese also inherited 29 pre-schools, 3 high schools, an elementary school, a training center for women evangelists, a convent, an orphanage, a hospital, and 4 dispensaries.
The rapid growth and expansion in membership led to the division of the Diocese of Northern Philippines in 1986. The northernmost provinces of Abra, Batanes, Cagayan, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur and Kalinga-Apayao comprised the new Diocese of Northern Luzon.
The adjoining provinces of Ifugao, Mountain Province, Isabela, Aurora and Quirino and certain parts of Abra, Ilocos Sur and Kalinga became the “continuing” diocese and continued using the name of the original Diocese of Northern Philippines.
The Diocese of Northern Philippines was divided again in 2000 reducing further its area coverage with the formation of its eastern portion into the new Episcopal Diocese of Santiago.
The jurisdiction of the continuing Diocese of Northern Philippines at present includes the municipalities of Barlig, Bauko, Besao, Bontoc, Sabangan, Sadanga, Sagada and Tadian in Mountain Province; Quirino, Cervantes, Salcedo, Del Pilar and San Emilio in Ilocos Sur; Tubo Municipality in Abra, and Tinglayan Municipality in Kalinga.
The Rt. Rev. Edward G. Longid served as the first Diocesan Bishop from January 1972 to June 1975. On his shoulders fell the task of laying the foundation of the newly created diocese. Utilizing existing resources, Bishop Longid set up the diocesan office at the Cathedral Compound in Bontoc. Before retiring in June 1975, he launched the Diocesan Development Program and opened a dispensary in Panabungen, Besao.
Under the Rt. Rev. Richard A. Abellon, mission work was established in Ifugao, Nueva Viscaya, Isabela, Aurora, Quirino, Isabela, Cagayan and Apayao, Bishop Abellon instituted the deanery system to improve diocesan administration through shared leadership. He made renewal evangelism as a priority thrust and created the Social Concerns Office to coordinate the church’s social ministry.
He established the Mountain Province Development Center for cooperatives, and improved the welfare of church workers by organizing the Diocesan Employees Credit Cooperative, which is now giving its share for mission work. St. James High School Annex in Tambuan (Besao) was opened. The St. Mary’s School in Sagada, which was razed by fire three months before his installation, was rebuilt. Mission dispensaries are in Guinaang, Bontoc, Bangnen, Bauko, and Dinapigue, Isabela. The growth and expansion of mission work led to the division of the diocese when Bishop Abellon opted to leave the Diocese of Northern Philippines to become the first bishop of the newly created Diocese of Northern Luzon.
Suffragan Bishop Robert Lee O. Longid was elected and installed in 1986 to succeed Bishop Abellon. Bishop Longid focused on frontier development and mission expansion toward the northern and western parts of the diocese. This resulted in the opening of mission work in Tinglayan municipality in Southern Kalinga, and in Quirino Municipality in eastern Ilocos Sur. He opened a mission dispensary based in Mucdol, Dipaculao. He reorganized the development office, strengthened the programs on social concerns and on renewal and evangelism, and set up the data/resource desk. For the first time, strategically-located deanery centers were connected to the Diocesan Center by two-way radio communication. Bishop Longid’s term was cut short when he succumbed to heart failure on January 20, 1996.
Immediately following Bishop Longid’s death, Suffragan Bishop Miguel P. Yamoyam was designated as Bishop-in-charge while the search for a new Diocesan Bishop was underway.
The Rt. Rev. Edward P. Malecdan was elected by the 26th Diocesan Convention on April 24, 1997 and installed on December 10, 1997 to succeed Bishop Longid. Bishop Malecdan started his episcopate with a visioning workshop to set the diocesan goals for the next 10 years, calling for the empowerment of the clergy and laity, consolidation and expansion of mission work and resource generation to support mission and ministry. Since 1998, seven new organized missions were admitted by Diocesan Convention and six others have been upgraded as provisional aided parishes. The diocesan institutions, all facing financial difficulties, have been given another chance to continue serving the community. A youth affairs coordinator and a BSA coordinator were appointed to strengthen these sectoral groups. A new commercial building was built and leased out to augment local income for mission work. As part of mission expansion strategy, Bishop Malecdan implemented the division of the diocese in 2000.
Among the diocesan organizations, the Episcopal Church Women (ECW) has the most members and is the most active group in the Diocese. Despite the division of the Diocese in 2000, the ECW has maintained one organization with 71 chapters in the various parishes and missions of the two diocese.
When the Diocese was organized in 1972, only the Parish of St. Mary the Virgin had an existing chapter of the Brotherhood of Saint Andrew (BSA). From one chapter, the Brotherhood has grown into a full District with 21 chapters in the various parts of the diocese.
There are now 24 youth organizations in the parishes/missions. Deanery youth groups have been organized in Sagada, Besao, Bauko and Tadian.
Of the various service institutions that the diocese inherited in 1972 and those established in later years, only five have survived: St. Theodore’s Hospital and St. Mary’s School in Sagada; St. James High School in Kin-iway, Besao; St. James High School Annex in Tambuan, Besao; and All Saints Elementary School in Bontoc.
Due to the opening of Government High Schools, increasing operating costs and decreasing church subsidy, these institutions are in danger of phasing out like the other institutions. St. Hilda’s Training Center for Women Evangelists in Tadian was phased out in the early 80s due to lack of trainees and waning support. The pre-schools ceased operating with the early retirement of the women evangelists as part of the diocesan cost cutting measures in the mid 90s. The Holy Child Orphanage in Sagada was taken over by the Christian Children’s Fund which phased out in the early 90s; The dispensaries were phased out also in the early 90s mainly due to the establishment of barangay health centers by the government.
Social and Community Outreach
Aside from the institutional approach to service and outreach as exemplified by the schools and the hospital, the Diocese is engaged in advocacy and community-based development.
The Diocesan Social Ministries Program is mandated to pursue the calls of Diocesan Convention, Provincial Synod, Lambeth Conference and other church bodies for advocacy and action to protect the rights of indigenous peoples, women, children, migrant workers; and to promote peace with justice, conflict resolution, clean and honest elections, responsible governance, sustainable environment and other emerging issues.
The Community-Based Development Program (CBDP) seeks to empower communities through community organizing, development education, and participatory planning, implementation and evaluation of projects that respond to their basic and long-term needs. In partnership with the target communities, local NGOs and overseas partners, the Program facilitated the implementation of community-based projects ranging from palay drying pavements to potable water systems to the more complicated micro-hydroelectric project.
Into the Future
The colorful and meaningful Centennial commemoration marks the end of a century of subsidized mission work. The year 2007 will mark the beginning of an era of self-reliance in mission for the Episcopal Church in the Philippines. There is no doubt that doing mission in the coming years will be more difficult with the total phase out of the ECUSA financial support. But God’s mission must go on. The tasks, as laid out by Diocesan Convention, are clear; empowerment of the clergy and laity for mission and ministry; generation of sufficient resources and logistical support for mission; and development of ministries toward the realization of the diocesan motto: Shalom Beharim –“Peace upon the mountains!”
To proclaim in word and deed the Good News of God in Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit that His people in this diocese may have the fullness of life, reconciliation and redemption.
By the year 2007, we envision the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Philippines with a dynamic leadership and committed members, working to support and sustain God’s mission and ministry.
Of the Seal of the Diocese
(By Dr. William Henry Scott)
The name of the Diocese appears around outside of the seal, “The Episcopal Diocese of Northern Philippines.” At the top, just inside the name, is a bishop’s miter to signify the episcopal authority of the chief pastor of this portion of Christ’s flock. Below the miter is the motto of the diocese, Shalom Beharim, for “peace upon the mountains.” It has been placed in Hebrew rather than English or Ilocano because the modern words “peace” are much more passive than the Old Testament concept of shalom which wraps up the richer concept of human relationships, the totality of the person, and the wholeness of God’s creation.
Below the motto is the shield of the diocese, bearing the coat-of-arms by which it will be known in battle as it goes forth to liberate the sick, sinful and suffering humanity. The shield is marked, first off, with the cross of St. Andrew, chosen because all the priests of this diocese are graduates of St. Andrew’s Theological Seminary. Tradition tells us that St. Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross head downward, and from this horrible circumstance comes the blood-red field against which his cross is displayed, and which may remind us that nothing less than a martyr’s courage is required of the Church today.
Below the cross is the symbol of the rugged mountains, which, God has used as the anvil to temper the strength and spirit of His chosen Igorot people. These mountains has prepared as a challenge to test their ingenuity and vigor: with these He has elected the strong and rejected the weak.
Above is a heavy head of rice, bent down with the goodness of its grains, double symbol of God’s bounty and human responsibility. What staff of life would better signify humanity’s sweaty response to God’s gracious gifts? On the right is a pine tree, chosen as the fit symbol of adjustment to life on these harsh majestic heights. For the pine tree thrives in barren soil with little water, and re-seeds itself without human intervention. It grows in cracks in rocks and splits the rock, but only grows up straight and tall in the company of its fellows, seeking the sun. And it permits no other tree to invade the territory it has chosen for its own to grow beneath its shade.
On the left is the heraldic symbol of the lily, placed here for two reasons: First, because the Benguet lily is the native decoration with which God has planted these mountains, imparting to the Cordillera a beauty which no one could fashion for him/herself nor even seek to find out of mere fleshly hunger; and, second, because the lily is the sign of the Virgin Mary, in whose name two American sisters came seventy five years ago to serve the Filipino people in these mountains with a new message of love and to give their lives in a new example of obedience.
The Rt. Rev. Brent Harry Alawas, Bishop
Diocesan Center, Bontoc, Mountain Province
Telefax No. (074) 6021026