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Palawan was first entrusted to the Augustinian Recollects by the Augustinian Bishop of Cebu, Msgr. Pedro de Arce in the year 1622.  Fathers Francisco de San Nicolas, Diego de Santa Ana, Juan de Santo Tomas and lay brother Francisco de la Madre de Dios were the first evangelizers in the group of islands called Calamianes, Cuyo and Palawan.

Cuyo, where the Spaniards first landed, saw the first fruit of their missionary labors when its neighbor, the whole of Agutaya, was also converted to the new faith.  In just a few months the pioneers were able to extend their activities to the northern islands.

As any evangelization work meets with crosses, the early missionaries were not spared theirs.  The pillaging attacks of Moslems razed to the ground what the missionaries had so laboriously built.  The results of these raids were disastrous, and in 1659 the Recollect superiors were compelled returned, the unabated pillaging of the Moslems forced them to build forts in Cuyo, Agutaya and Culion.  Other ports were also built in Linapacan, Taytay and Dumaran.

In 1871 the politico-military government of Puerto Princesa was founded, officially sealing Spanish hegemony in the Palawan area.  In February 1972, six years after the Diocese of Jaro was erected under whose jurisdiction Palawan belonged, the bishop of Jaro issued the title and faculties of Military Chaplain of thecolony of Puerto Princesa to Fr. Exequiel Moreno.  An expedition of 272 persons arrived in Puerto Princesa to celebrate their first Mass on Palawan soil, proclaiming the Immaculate Conception as the patroness of the new colony.

A second abandonment of Palawan by the missionaries took place when the Philippine Revolution began in 1896.  For years Christians in the area did not see any priest.  In 1901 missionaries returned to Palawan.  A good number of them arrived later to help in the reconstruction work.

On April 10, 1910, a papal bull by Pope Pius X created the Apostolic Prefecture of Palawan, along with the elevated dioceses of Lipa, Tuguegarao, Zamboanga and Calbayog.  Fr. Hernando Hernandez was named Prefect Apostolic of Palawan, but he declined due to ill health.  Fr. Victoriano Roman de San Jose was named to take his place.  This priest crisscrossed the entire territory, confirming the people's faith, braving the storms and the seas to reach the different parts of his apostolic jurisdiction.

On July 3, 1955, the Holy See elevated the prefecture into the Apostolic Vicariate of Palawan.  On December 18, 1987, the Holy See entrusted the Apostolic Vicariate of Palawan to the diocesan clergy under the headship of Most Reverend Francisco C. San Diego, D.D., the first Filipino bishop of Palawan.

Upon his assumption of office, Bishop San Diego mapped out programs of action to continue what the Recollect Missionaries had started.  The Functional Mission Council was organized.  The Palawan Clergy Hospitalization and Pension Plan was designed to help the conditions of the clergy assigned in far-flung parishes.  The enrollment in the CBCP Pension Plan of the Clergy assured welfare for diocesan priests.  The Seminario de San Jose Trust Fund was started to give opportunities to poor but deserving seminarians to realize their priestly vocations.

Ongoing formation and updating seminars as well as retreats have been programmed.  The recently built Pastoral Center Building has become the center for lay formation.  Integrated pastoral programs are being implemented, and the newly constructed building of the Seminario de San Jose in Puerto Princesa, costing P15,000,000, is finally finished.

Ministering to the apostolic vicariate are 50 diocesan priests, 3 religious brothers and 31 religious sisters in its 34 parishes.  The number of BEC's comes up to 12, Catholic institutions including a pastoral center 13.

The Apostolic Vicariate of Palawan, under the leadership of Bishop Francisco San Diego, has drawn up its integrated Pastoral Program.  This was achieved after various seminars, consultations, meetings and colloquia among the clergy, laity and religious were held.  All areas of apostolate have been explored to create a program of renewal in the task of evangelization.  Yearly evaluations and reports are made during the General Assembly of the Clergy.

The Integrated Pastoral Program give emphasis to the following clergy personal formation, seminary formation, catechetical activities, the tribal Filipino apostolate, lay leadership, and youth ministry.

Special attention is being given to the Tribal Filipino Apostolate which seeks to identify the needs of the indigenous communities of Palawan, namely the Tagbanua, Batak and other Palawan tribes.  These once peaceful cultural minorities have become victims of land grabbing, military harassment, and foreign intrusions.  Their cultural habitats have been ruined by unrestrained logging, mining and other businesses.  They have fled deeper into the forest to escape intimidation and exploitation.  And this seclusion foists upon them the inaccessibility to basic services (medical, educational).  Thus the many cases of malnutrition, morbidity and mortality.

The Tribal Filipino Apostolate is taking formal and concrete action toward the upliftment of the conditions of the tribal Filipinos in Palawan.  Under its program on education and culture, teachers give lessons to uneducated adults of the tribal communities.

On the socio-pastoral side this apostolate, in collaboration with other agencies, is conducting a census of certain tribal communities.  And in response to ecological issues and tribal concerns, the World Wild-life Fund, in cooperation with several local and foreign NGO's have started area visits and site-selection procedures for a bio-diversity conservation project in Palawan.

Through the apostolate's international sponsorship program, 100 students of the indigenous communities are sponsored by Japanese individuals, providing them with allowances and school expenses.

 

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