The Christians of Mindoro are a hardly people used to battling all types of disasters, natural or man-made. They are as hardy as the
fierce buffalo specie known as the tamaraw, which is found in Mindoro and nowhere else in the world.
The early Christian missionaries who came to Mindoro as early as 1570 had to learn this kind of attacked the coastal
settlements, and these settlements finally had to be abandoned along with those of Palawan, a neighboring island. Later expeditions tried to regain these settlements but were not successful until the Spaniards
learned to build forts. Toward the end of the Spanish regime, the Moslem raids subsided.
The island of Mindoro lies south of Luzon, separated from it by the narrow Verde Island Passage. It is located
northwest of Panay Island and northeast of Palawan. Even before the arrival of the Spaniards, the people of Mindoro were trading with Chinese merchants, as recorded by Chou-Ju-Kua, a Chinese historian, as early as
The civil government of Mindoro was administered from Batangas during Spanish rule. In the 17th century it was made independent of Batangas when it was made a corregimiento, and included under its
administration was the island of Marinduque. In 1950 the province of Mindoro was finally divided into two: Oriental and Occidental Mindoro.
For the Christian missions there was more stability after 1910
when the mission are of Mindoro became part of the Diocese of Lipa. The entire island province, among the ten biggest in an archipelago of 7,000 islands, was finally entrusted to the Divine Word Missionaries and
was made an apostolic prelature in 1936, with Monsignor William Finnemann as its first bishop. Monsignor Finneman later died at the hands of Japanese soldiers during World War II for championing the people's
rights. Fifteen years later the prelature was raised to the rank of Apostolic Vicariate, a status it still holds today. In 1983 the whole of Occidental Mindoro was separated from the Apostolic Vicariate of
Calapan as the Vicariate of San Jose, Occidental Mindoro was created.
Mindoro is depicted today as a calamity-prone area that is likely to be always ravaged by typhoons, floods or quakes. This has been casting a
sense of doom and fear in the hearts of the more destitute of the population, often making them dependent entirely on government help.
After the tenure of his four SVD predecessors, the current bishop, Monsignor
Warlito Cajandig, the first diocesan bishop of Calapan, faces the Herculean task of awakening the people from an attitude of dependency to one of responsibility. He is met with resistance and tensions emanating
from those who are not willing to give up the status quo. But the Bishop is resolute in his intent to replace an over dependent attitude with one of self-reliance. And the centerpiece of his program is the
building of Basic Ecclesial Communities.
In the area of governance the Bishop has replaced a highly centralized type of administration with one that promotes localization – a system which vests more powers,
responsibilities and accountabilities on the vicariates forane, of which there are four within the Calapan jurisdiction.
The present Vicariate of Calapan is embarking on a pastoral planning scheme with the
assistance of the Asian Social Institute. The process, which uses participatory action research, is quite exhaustive as consultations flow from the BEC's to the parochial, to the vicariate forane then up to the
highest level of the vicariate. So far only two vicariates out of four have reached a level of planning. The rest are still working on their data. At his point it is hoped by those involved that before
the year 1995 ends, a pastoral plan can already be conceived so that in 1996 a general assembly can be called for finalizing an overall Diocesan Pastoral Plan.
One major setback suffered by these preparations for the
formulation of a pastoral plan which started in June 1994 was the killer quake in Mindoro in the same year, registering 7.1 on the Richer Scale. Still reeling from the damages wrought by three successive typhoons
in 1993, the province suffered anew from a temblor that left a large number of casualties. The damage to churches and rectories was also extensive. The catastrophe, however, brought the community closer
together, and the Church maintained contact with everyone during the calamity period including the non-Christians.
Taking into account the province's vulnerability to disasters, the Church is now coordinating with a
multi-sectoral body, the Provincial Care Council, for the implementation of more programs for disaster preparedness. She has also strengthened her Social Action Desk which coordinates the service committees of the
different parishes. This particular desk forms alliances with government and non-government organizations that work for environmental protection.
Leading the way to being a Church of the Poor, the Apostolic
Vicariate of Calapan is finding a new approach to the evangelization and development of the Mangyans, the aborigines of the place. Partly through the encouragement of their pastors and partly on their initiative,
the seven Mangyan tribes in Oriental Mindoro have organized themselves into an assembly called Kapulungan Para sa Lupaing Ninung (KPLN), and have forged represented. The KPLN is now lobbying for the passage of a
"Mindoro Bill" in Congress for the identification, delineation and recognition of Mangyan ancestral domains.
The Apostolic Vicariate of Calapan has involved itself with various spheres of activity relevant
to the needs and aspirations of the common tao. The truth of Jesus Christ's words about the harvest being great but the laborers few is most evident in this calamity-prone area. Many are willing to help but
cannot do so because of their more pressing need for livelihood which the Church cannot sufficiently alleviate.
The vicariate is served by 51 priests and 73 religious men and women in the 37 parishes. There are
33 Catholic institutions, 67 BEC's and 25 religious organizations.