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January 12, 1985 was the day when Alaminos, once called the "Wild West of Pangasinan," was created into a diocese by Pope John Paul II.  On April 22, L'Osservatore Romano announved the appointment of then Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan, the Most Reverend Jesus A. Cabrera, D.D., PhD, as the First Residential Bishop of the newly created diocese.  On June 28, 1985 the new bishop was installed.

The Diocese of Alaminos is situated on the western part of the province of Pangasinan.  It used to belong to the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan until its creation as a separate diocese in 1985.  It is bounded on the east by the Lingayen Gulf and the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan, on the north and west by the China Sea, and on the south by the borders of Zambales and Tarlac Provinces.  The whole diocese is a panorama of hills and valleys surrounded by bodies of water.  The famous Hundred Islands, a tourist attraction, is found in the vicinity of Alaminos town.

The diocese has about 420,000 inhabitants from about 84,000 households of which 83 per cent are Catholic.  And ministering to this new diocese are 14 diocesan priests, 5 Columban Missionary priests, 2 Capuchin Missionaries and 58 women religious from 13 congregations.  There are 19 parishes in all in the 14 municipalities that belong to the diocese.  The largest of these is the Parish of Alalminos with 54,600 parishioners, followed by Bugallon with 44,000, Mangatarem with 42,000 and Bolinao with 41,000.

The major ethnic group is that of the Ilocanos who comprise half of the area's total population, followed by Pangasinenses with 40 per cent, Tagalog, Zamals and Bolinaos with the remaining 10 per cent.  There are 15 tribal groups of Igorots in the mountains of the diocese, driven south from the northern parts of the country by militarization, eviction by loggers, and by other government projects, and they have finally settled in the mountains of western Pangasinan.

Socio-economic conditions in the diocese are extremely poor.  Out f the 14 municipalities that comprise the diocese, only Alaminos is qualified as a first class municipality.  The others are third, fourth and fifth class municipalities.  The average income per family is way below the level of decent existence released by the National Economic Authority (NEDA) for a family of six.

A majority of those engaged in work are farmers, fishermen, and agricultural workers about 70 per cent.  The rest are craftsmen, sales people, technical workers and government employees.  About 90 per cent of homes are single-room dwellings, and only 7 per cent are made of strong and durable materials.

There are a total of 108 schools, about half of them elementary, the rest secondary, vocational, technical and tertiary schools.  Seven high schools, 2 elementary schools and 10 pre-schools are run by Catholic congregations.  There are about 90,000 children enrolled in schools, but there are still a lot more who are not able to go to school due to economic difficulties of their parents which force them to participate in their family farming activities.

Delivery of health service is inadequate and the provision of medicines insufficient, resulting in poor overall health care.  A main source of income is fishing, but production in this industry is below the required level of consumption to meet the protein requirements of the population.  Ironically, even the children of some fisher folk are listed as malnourished.

Fishermen and farmers are oftentimes victims of middlemen.  Most of them are tied to the pursue strings of middlemen who provide them needed capital, as well as other material needs, when the main earner cannot go out to work.  But the cost is deducted from harvest or catch, and usurious rates eat up about 60 to 70 per cent of their incomes.  Not a few die without even seeing a doctor.  And their inability to obtain a proper education has resulted in ignorance even of their own rights.

While Catholics comprise 83 per cent of the diocesan population, a majority of these are "sacramentalized but not evangelized."  Many are not properly catechized because of the lack of people who can teach.  Only those who are able to attend school are given the basic catechism.  For those who are not fortunate enough to go to school, the only time they are catechized is when they apply for marriage.  And this situation has not been conducive to instructing them on the faith.

The pastoral plan of the diocese is carried out through varied programs and apostolates organized to respond to recognized needs and problems of the people, specially the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed members of the diocese.  But the programs are not only strategies to bring about material development but also spiritual salvation.  These are programs that emanate from the diocesan level and filter down to the families through the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC'S).  Other institutions existing in the diocese such as Radio Station DZWM and Catholic schools help in the implementation of the programs, and are in themselves considered vehicles of evangelization.

The BEC cells are grouped together to form the Barangay BEC.  And the barangays together form the district BEC.  Then the grouping is widened to form the Parish BEC. In each level there are elected officers and coordinators who are also implementors of the varied development programs initiated by the Church.

The varied programs of the diocese are implemented to bring about social transformation in the light of the social teachings of the Church.  It is thought important and necessary that the people themselves agree on the concept of development needed.  After consultation and analyses of the situations, the parishioners prepare their plans and determine the methods of implementation. They are trained to undertake leadership roles and managerial funcitons.  They are also empowered to take on the responsibility of evangelizing others, after they themselves have been evangelized.

 

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