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SVD - Society of the Divine Word Philippine Northern Province

Our Lady of the Pillar

The Blessed Mother, in her title, Nuestra Señora del Pilar, is the patroness of Cagutongan, Pilar, now San Isidro, Abra.
The statue of Apo Pilar was brought by the Augustinian Missionaries assigned in Villavieja. It is uncertain as to when and where it came from but it is presumed that it was brought here from Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur around 1885 because it was in 1885 when the municipality of Pilar was founded, situated across the Sinalang River at the western side of Lumaba. It was named Pilar in honor of the patroness. Sometimes, people called it “Naguilian.” (The present municipality of Pilar was formerly called Villavieja. In 1903, the two municipalities -  Villavieja and Pilar - were converged and called Villa-Pilar. As years passed by, it came to be called Pilar.)
In the middle of 1889, when the American soldiers arrived in the municipality of Pilar (Naguilian), they made the church as their quarters. They removed the statue of  “Apo Pilar” from the sanctuary and tied it unto a horse. But an old man and aide of the American soldiers, Gregorio Pacursa, hid the statue in the forest. The statue of Our Lady of the Pillar was saved when the guerillas burned the community including the church.
When the Americans were gone, the old man gave the statue to Capitan Marcelo Valeros of Cagutongan. Because there was no chapel yet in Cagutongan, Capitan Valeros built a temporary chapel across the eastern side of Cagutongan. Here, they enthroned the statue of the Our Lady of the Pillar. Every Sunday, the people gathered and heard mass or prayed the Holy Rosary when no priest was around.
The chapel was moved to the present location in 1903 because there were more people who resided here and the place was more spacious.
Old folks of the place narrate, “The transfer was already decided upon by the leaders of this community. But it took a hard time for them to think over where to place it across the brook. One early morning, they noticed that there were “amorseco” seeds at the linings of the dress of Our Lady. They then presumed that she wanted them to build the chapel at the meadow. This is the same place where the present church is located.
In 1943, during the World War II, the Japanese forces burned all the houses in Pilar, starting from Balioag going northward to Cagutongan. But before the Japanese reached Cagutongan, Blandina Villamor and Lourdes Blaza hid the statue somewhere in the forest of barangay Olo.
It was believed that due to some miracles of Our Lady, Cagutongan was spared from fire.
Fr. Egon Strottman, SVD (then parish priest of Pidigan and of Cagutongan for seven years before the war), narrated to the people that after conquering Pilar, the Japanese soldiers stopped at the parish convent in Pidigan to say that they did not burn Cagutongan. The Japanese narrated that they have already gathered some dried bamboo fences and rice straws and placed them in the church ready for setting the place on fire, but a beautiful lady carrying a little child appeared to them and spoke in Niponggo. She said that they should leave the place because they have done their purpose. Realizing that she was no ordinary woman, they then moved away as fast as they could until they reached Pidigan.
Fr. Egon showed some pictures of beautiful ladies in Cagutongan but none of these pictures resembled the lady  they saw. But when they saw the picture of the Blessed Virgin Mother, the captain said that she was the lady who appeared to them in the church.
The statue of Nuestra Señora del Pilar was hidden in various places. After the war, it was found at the evacuation hut of the Busque family in the mountain north of Poblacion and so they returned it to its sanctuary in the church.