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Diocese of Balanga

Dioecesis Balangensis

Diyosesis ng Balanga
Diócesis de Balanga
Coat of arms
Country Philippines
Ecclesiastical provinceSan Fernando
MetropolitanSan Fernando
HeadquartersBalanga, Bataan
Coordinates14°40′45″N 120°32′24″E / 14.6792°N 120.5400°E / 14.6792; 120.5400
Area1,373 km2 (530 sq mi)
- Total
- Catholics
(as of 2020)
658,300 (86.5%)
Parishes38 parishes, 3 diocesan shrines, 1 chaplaincy, 1 minor basilica, 1 quasi-parish, 1 chapel
DenominationRoman Catholic
Sui iuris churchLatin Church
RiteRoman Rite
EstablishedMarch 17, 1975
CathedralDiocesan Shrine and Cathedral-Parish of St. Joseph
Patron saintJoseph
Current leadership
Metropolitan ArchbishopFlorentino Galang Lavarias
Apostolic AdministratorFlorentino Galang Lavarias
Vicar GeneralJosue V. Enero
Diocese of Balanga

The Diocese of Balanga is a Latin Church diocese of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, established on March 17, 1975, by Pope Paul VI. The diocese has jurisdiction over the whole province of Bataan, with 37 parishes, 3 diocesan shrines, one minor basilica, chaplaincy, quasi-parish, national shrine and chapel, and 4 vicariates. It has 11 schools as of 2017, with 10 are operated by the diocese's Diocesan Schools of Bataan (DSOB). The Diocesan Shrine and Cathedral-Parish of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary in Aguire Street, Poblacion, Balanga, serves as the seat of the diocese. It is part of the Ecclesiastical Province of San Fernando, Pampanga.

The titular patron of the Diocese of Balanga is Saint Joseph, whose feast day falls on March 19. The city fiesta is celebrated on April 28.


The Diocese of Balanga was established on March 17, 1975 from the territory of Archdiocese of San Fernando, Pampanga, by Pope Paul VI through the papal bull Quoniam Recte Universum. It comprises the entire civil province of Bataan, the smallest among the provinces of Central Luzon. The province is a peninsula jutting out to sea, with Manila Bay to the east, South China Sea to the west, and the province of Zambales to the north. Only 1 of the 15 priests of the diocese was a native of Bataan upon the diocese's founding in 1975.

Before this, the region was divided into two parts: the Corregimiento of Mariveles and the Province of Pampanga. The towns of Mariveles, Bagac, Morong and Maragondon, Cavite, comprised the Corregimiento of Mariveles that was under the jurisdiction of the Recollect Order of the Roman Catholic Church. The province of Pampanga included the towns of Orion, Pilar, Balanga, Abucay, Samal, Orani, Llana Hermosa and San Juan de Dinalupihan. The latter group was under the charge of the Dominican Order. Limay, the twelfth town of Bataan, was named only in 1917.

The topography of the province has made most of the inhabitants farmers or fishermen, with a sprinkling of merchants, factory workers and professionals. Recent years, however, have seen the development of manufacturing industries in the province, particularly the Free Zone in Mariveles which has brought an influx of workers from other provinces and improved living conditions of its own workers.

Historically, Bataan is most remembered, along with the island of Corregidor, as the main scene of action in the Philippines during the Second World War. These places are strategic in guarding the entrance to Manila Bay. The surrender of Filipino and American soldiers to overwhelming Japanese forces marked the Fall of Bataan in 1942. A war memorial, Dambana ng Kagitingan, now stands to honor the men who fought and died in that last stand.

During the 23-year ministry of Bishop Celso Guevarra, the diocese has continuously spread its branches far and wide. The number of parishes increased from 13 to 25. In each of these parishes, one can find many concerned, committed and generous lay leaders. Together with their parish priests, not only have they renovated and/or totally rebuilt their parish churches and convents but are actively responding to the never-ending demands of evangelization. The major diocesan commissions, which have been established, introduced new and various apostolates in the diocese and in the parishes.

The inspiring words and assuring presence of Honesto Ongtioco, who succeeded Bishop Celso, guided the young diocese as it celebrated its 25th anniversary and as it responded to the call of Pope John Paul II at the beginning of the third millennium, “Duc in Altum.” His kindness and charity allowed the various branches of the diocesan tree to grow in different directions in pursuit of his plan to convoke a Diocesan Pastoral Assembly. However, God has other and better plans both for Bishop Ongtioco and the diocese of Balanga. Bishop Ongtioco has just laid the foundation for the realization of his vision when he was installed to lead the new Diocese of Cubao in Quezon City on August 28, 2003.

The diocese will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2025.

Diocesan coat-of-arms

The miter symbolizes the pastoral authority of a bishop, which he will be exercising within the province.

The three long-stemmed lilies, symbols of Saint Joseph, the patron saint of the cathedral. According to legend the staves of the many suitors of the Blessed Virgin Mary were gathered in the temple; the staff of Joseph bloomed to signify that he was the one chosen by God to be the head of the Holy Family. Blue signifies peace, justice and tranquility. Joseph was called "just" by the Gospel. He was a placid and silent man, too.[1]

The three youths reading books. Bataan, the civil province co-terminus with the Diocese, means the Land of the Youth, the hope of the Fatherland. The books being read by each are respectively marked VIA, meaning Christ The Way; VERITAS, meaning Christ The Truth; and VITA, meaning Christ The Life. Overhead is the golden sun with the letters IHS, meaning Jesus. Our Lord Jesus Christ said, "I am the Light of the world" (John 8:12; 9:5). He is the "real light that comes into the world and shines on all men" (John 1:9). He is the Lamb, the lamp of the Celestial Jerusalem (Revelation 21:23), the Sun of Justice (Malachi 4:2). He also said, "I am The Way, I am The Truth, I am The Life" (John 14:6). So in the light of Christ that is explained by the church, we must study and follow and live Christ who is the way, the truth and the life. This study entails seriousness, this following of Christ means patience, this living of Christ requires perseverance—virtues signified by the red color.[2]

50th Anniversary coat of arms

The coat of arms for the diocese's 50th anniversary also has a miter which symbolizes the bishop's pastoral authority which will be exercising within the province of Bataan and three-stemmed lilies which is the symbol of Saint Joseph.

The three red crosses symbolizes the Holy Trinity (God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit), four small crosses inside a circle symbolizing the past and current bishops of the diocese (Bishops Celso Guevarra, Honesto Ongtioco, Socrates Villegas, and Ruperto Santos), seven red and blue lines signifies the 7 sacraments of the Catholic Church, symbols of Dominican and Augustinian orders at the left and right side of the miter indicating that they are the missionaries who went to the province in order to teach the faith, with Dominicans built the churches of Abucay, Samal, Balanga, Orani, Pilar, Hermosa , and Orion, while the Augustinians built the Morong, Bagac, and Mariveles church. The number 50 and the years 1975 and 2025 represents the 50th anniversary of the diocese, with 1975 indicate the diocese's founding and 2025 for its 50th year. At the lower left is the letter "M" symbol (which is also used on the coat of arms of Bishop Ruperto Santos) symbolizing Virgin Mary serving as the diocese's secondary patroness under the name of Virgen Milagrosa de Orani and showing the devotion of the Bataan people to her. At the right is the map of Bataan from which the diocese has jurisdiction and authority with. At the bottom is a golden banner which has the text "Magtipon (Gather), Maglakbay (Travel), at Maghasik (Sow)" which are the theme for its 50th anniversary. "The daughters of kings, women of honor, are maidens in your courts. And standing beside you, glistening in your pure and golden glory, is the beautiful bride-to-be!" comes from Psalms 45, the word of God which is a guide for the celebration of 50 years of the diocese.[3]


Bishop and apostolic/diocesan administrator

The cathedra of the Balanga Cathedral with the coat of arms of Bishop Ruperto Santos that was used during his 13-year and 14 days tenure as Bishop of Balanga from July 8, 2010 to July 22, 2023.

The diocese is headed by a bishop which is appointed by the pope like other dioceses and installed as bishop of the diocese on his installation date, with his installation makes him become Bishop of Balanga and marks the start of his term as the diocese's bishop. When the diocese becomes vacant or a successor is not yet installed, either an apostolic administrator which is appointed by the pope or a diocesan administrator may temporarily govern the diocese until a successor is installed. The seat of the bishop is at the Diocesan Shrine and Cathedral-Parish of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary, also known as Balanga Cathedral, in Aguire Street, Poblacion, Balanga which is under the patronage of the Saint Joseph, Husband of Mary. The bishop's residence, however, is located at P. Paterno Street, also in Poblacion, Balanga.

Bishop Celso N. Guevarra was appointed by Pope Paul VI on June 4, 1975, and became the diocese's first bishop on November 8, 1975, eight months after its founding. He served as bishop of the diocese until his retirement on April 8, 1998. Guevarra is the longest-serving Bishop of Balanga, served for 22 years and 308 days.

Due to the retirement of Bishop Celso Guevarra, Pope John Paul II appointed Honesto Ongtioco as the diocese's second bishop and became bishop of the diocese two months later on June 18, 1998. Ongtioco served as bishop of Balanga until he became Bishop of Cubao on August 28, 2003.

After Honesto Ongtioco became bishop of Cubao on August 28, 2003 which ended his term as second bishop of Balanga, Antonio S. Dumaual was named as the diocese's diocesan administrator and served the position until Bishop Socrates Villegas (appointed also by Pope John Paul II as Ongtioco's successor on May 3, 2004) became the diocese's third bishop on July 3, 2004.

Socrates Villegas served as the bishop of the diocese from July 3, 2004 until he became archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan in Pangasinan on November 4, 2009. Bishops Honesto Ongtioco and Socrates Villegas both served as the diocese's bishop for 5 years.

Due to Socrates Villegas became archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan on November 4, 2009 which ended his term as third bishop of Balanga, Victor de la Cruz Ocampo (later became Bishop of Gumaca in Quezon six years later on September 3, 2015 until his death on March 16, 2023) was named as the diocesan administrator of the diocese and served the position until Bishop Ruperto Santos (appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as Villegas' successor on April 1, 2010 and ordained on June 24, 2010) became the diocese's fourth bishop on July 8, 2010.

Bishop Ruperto Santos served as the diocese's bishop from July 8, 2010 until he became Bishop of Antipolo on July 22, 2023. Santos is the diocese's second-longest serving bishop after Bishop Celso N. Guevarra since December 2015, and the longest-serving living bishop of the diocese. He also served as the acting parish priest of St. Nicholas of Tolentino parish church in Mariveles during his 13-year tenure as bishop of Balanga from June 5, 2020 to June 4, 2023.

Due to the departure of Ruperto Santos from Bataan on July 22, 2023 to become Bishop of Antipolo, Pope Francis appointed Florentino Galang Lavarias, Archbishop of San Fernando, Pampanga, as the diocese's apostolic administrator while awaiting for the installation of Santos' successor as bishop of the diocese.

List of bishops of Balanga

No. Image Name Period in Office Age at start/end of episcopacy Coat of Arms
1 Celso Nogoy Guevarra November 8, 1975
– April 8, 1998
(22 years, 308 days (8344)
52 / 75
2 Honesto Flores Ongtioco June 18, 1998
–August 28, 2003
(5 years, 71 days (1897)
49 / 54
3 Socrates Buenaventura Villegas July 3, 2004
–November 4, 2009
(5 years, 124 days (1950)
43 / 49
4 Ruperto Cruz Santos July 8, 2010
–July 22, 2023
(13 years, 14 days (4762)
52 / 65

Sede vacante and apostolic/diocesan administrators

Preceding Bishop Succeeding Bishop Beginning Ending Duration Apostolic/Diocesan Administrator
Celso Nogoy Guevarra Honesto Flores Ongtioco April 8, 1998 June 18, 1998 2 months, 10 days (71 days)
Honesto Flores Ongtioco Socrates Buenaventura Villegas August 28, 2003 July 3, 2004 10 months, 5 days (310 days) Antonio Tony S. Dumaual
Socrates Buenaventura Villegas Ruperto Cruz Santos November 4, 2009 July 8, 2010 8 months, 4 days (246 days) Victor de la Cruz Ocampo
Ruperto Cruz Santos July 22, 2023 Florentino Galang Lavarias

Timeline of bishops and apostolic/diocesan administrators

Florentino LavariasRuperto SantosVictor OcampoSocrates VillegasHonesto Ongtioco

Priests of the diocese who became bishops

See also


  1. ^ Archived 2007-09-29 at the Wayback Machine COAT OF ARMS of Most Rev. Socrates B. Villegas, D.D.Bishop of Balanga paragraph 4
  2. ^ Archived 2007-09-29 at the Wayback Machine COAT OF ARMS of Most Rev. Socrates B. Villegas, D.D. Bishop of Balanga paragraph 5
  3. ^ Roman Catholic Diocese of Balanga on Facebook

14°40′45″N 120°32′24″E / 14.6792°N 120.5400°E / 14.6792; 120.5400