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Post by yang-ew on Fri Aug 07, 2009 3:01 pm

Writer’s Notebook
By: Freda Lacochao-Changat

Freda and Bruno reviewing the Memorabilia

During my college years of studies at Saint Louis University, Fr. Cornelio was invited in the College of Human Sciences as a speaker in one of the momentous events in the Mass Communication Department. That was the first time I met him. He was a very intelligent and educated man with a sense of humor. Records showed that he was an exemplary pupil since his grade school in Saint Joseph, Sabangan, Mountain Province where he graduated a valedictorian. Until his secondary education at Saint Louis Boys High, Baguio City he remained a very consistent honor student.

Ordained priest, his life was so clearly demonstrated. The high and holy calling of priesthood was his most challenging assignment on the face of the earth. It is a sacred trust, a commitment to use every means possible to help his brother priests grow in loving Jesus and embracing His agenda for life.

Ordained bishop and installed Apostolic Vicar of the Vicariate of Bontoc-Lagawe, he was determined to know the bent of each of his priests in the vicariate and to plant seeds that challenged them according to their abililies. He was a great coach. He believed in each of his “players” and sought God’s best for each one with much prayer. And his positive reinforcement worked.

Six weeks shortly after he passed away, friends of the bishop thought of documenting a written memory about his life, as a son, a brother, an uncle, a friend, a co-worker, a priest and as a bishop.

This memorabilia is a collection of some of the hundreds of messages; others are testimonies, homilies and articles. Each is self-contained, developing a basic idea that grew out of a great extent of experiences and events in the life of Bishop Nel shared from among his family/ relatives and friends here and abroad.

Along with this memorabilia, we have included some of our own thoughts and reflections from his childhood. I think you will find these pages filled with warm and loving thoughts, wisdom, and insights that will inspire you to be all that God wants you to be.

Come along with us as we look back with great fondness and deep love on the life of a remarkable man – Most Reverend Cornelio G. Wigwigan, D.D.

Biography of Bishop Cornelio G. Wigwigan

Most Reverend Cornelio Galleo Wigwigan third Apostolic Vicar of the Apostolic Vicariate of Bontoc-Lagawe. Born on May 26, 1942 in Poblacion, Sabangan amidst the dangers of the second world war. His family evacuated to Taliwaga, Losad since the town was being devastated by bombs. It was not an easy condition for the parents protecting their youns especially for the newly born baby-Cornelio. Despite the tremendous risk the family encountered, they surpassed it for it was a devine plan that the family will be safely kept from any dangers. Young Cornelio and his family were blessed to have survived the terrifying experiences in the evacuation camp until the war settled. By the time the family moved back to their home, young Cornelio was about three years old. He was the third among the six children of Edwardo Wigwigan and Hedwiga Dugaysa Galleo who both trased their roots as natives of Sabangan, Mountain Province.

Bishop Cornelio was a son of a hardworking farmer and a carpenter.His father worked in the field of carpentry in the Catholic Mission in Sabangan His job- well-done was demanded by the church, in the convent, as well in the schools and other neighboring barrios. Bishop Nel’s mother was a gifted woman with tender hands like healing sprained bones or injured muscles. She believed that she gain her strength and wisdom to help others because of her strong devotion to God and continued service to help a person who comes for “hilot” in any way she can.

On January 1, 1943; Bishop Cornelio was welcomed to the Christian fold. He was baptized by Rev.Fr. Mauricio Van Overbergh, CICM. During that time; parents who gave birth to a baby would come down from the mountain to let their baby be baptized then return back to their safe hide-outs They were tought by the missionaries that the sacrament of baptism is an essential need to become true Christians. Bishop Nel received the sacrament of confirmation by Mgsr. Jose Billiet, CICM during the feast of St. Joseph, the patron saint of Sabangan Catholic Mission.

]Bishop Nel has five siblings. The oldest brother was +Pablito, second was Virginia, followed by Bishop Cornelio who was third, Eulogio came fourth, then Remedios and the youngest is Linda. All are happily married and had family of their own.

Based from the scholastic records of Bishop Nel, he was one among the top competing pupils from Kindergarten through out his entire elementary schooling at the St. Joseph Catholic School. A retired school teacher, Mrs. Loreto Liclic attested to his exellent performance. His early years in the primary school gave a promising sign for him to become successful someday. He was not just a studious pupil but he was so sincere in what he does. He was an obedient child too. As any other typical boys in the town of Sabangan, he helped his mother tender the animals after classes and does his homework religiously. On weekends he set aside his play time to help his folks in the farm or at the field. Her sister Virginia Bondad had a fresh memory about her brother that he was often times seen holding his book, reading. He was never lazy to go to school because he was eager to learn new lessons from his teacher. Being absent in school was not among his lists. He loved challenges that made him a real achiever and graduated a valedictorian from his elementary class- batch 1955.

After his primary schooling in Sabangan, he moved to Baguio and entered St. Francis Xavier Minor Seminary on May 1955. While in the Seminary, he attended high school at St. Louis Boys High, Baguio City where he met and befriend Attorney Thomas Macli-ing from Bontoc and his good ole friend, Bob Wong who both shared a fond memories about him. They all together graduated on March 1959. He entered San Carlos Seminary on the same year and finished Classical A.B. in 1960. In 1967, he finished Theology. His respond to the priestly life made a great fulfillment in the family and pride of the Sabangan people. The ordination of Bishop Cornelio as a priest was a remarkable chapter in the history of Sabangan.

Ordained Subdeacon – September 24, 1966
Ordained Deacon - September 25, 1966
Ordained to Priesthood-December 26, 1966
Further Studies- East Asian Pastoral Institute, Loyola Heights, Quezon City, 1971-72


Assistant Pastor: Pudtol Catholic Missin, Kalinga Apayao- 1967-68
Rector: Flora Catholic Mission, Kalinga, Apayao-1969-71
Assistant Pastor: ST. Vincent’s Church, Baguio City-1972-73
Rector: St. Francic Xavier Seminary, Baguio City-1974-76
Director of Catechetical: Bishop’s House, Baguio City- 1976-82
Superintendent of Vicariate Schools: Bishop’ House, Baguio – 1982-85
Vicar General: Apostolic Vicariate of Montanosa- 1985-87
Rector: Immaculate Conception Church, Aurora Hill, Baguio City- 1985-87
Treasurer: Apostolic Vicariate of Mountain Province- 1985-90
Rector: St. Francis Xavier Seminay, Baguio City- 1988-90
Rector: Sta Rita Catholic Mission, Bontoc, Mt. Province- 1991-93
Rector: St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Mission, Lagawe, Ifugao- 1994-97
Rector: Sta. Rita Cathedral, Bontoc- 1997-2004
Vicar General: Apostolic Vicariate of Bontoc Lagawe- 1997-2005
Director: St. Peter Seminary, Bontoc- 2000-2005
Appointed Apostolic: Vicar-Apostolic Vicariate of Bontoc-Lagawe- April 15, 2004
Ordained & Installed Bishop: Sta
. Rita Cathedral, Bontoc- July 14, 2004

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Post by yang-ew on Fri Aug 07, 2009 3:39 pm


Funeral Homily of Bishop Emeritus Francisco F. Claver, SJ, DD for Bishop Cornelio Wigwigan

Let me begin by thanking all of you who have come from far off places to be with us in this morning’s liturgy. We are all united today in our common grief for our departed brother, Bishop Cornelio Wigwigan—we, his immediate family, his brother and sisters especially, our Vicariate priests and religious, and delegates from all our mission stations. We are here to bid him our final farewell and we thank you all for joining us.

I would like especially to thank you, Archbishop Franco, for taking the trouble to come to preside at our liturgy today, knowing that these past few days you have been flitting all over the country, from one diocese to another, for various appointments and celebrations . We are happy you are with us. Thank you.

We also wish to acknowledge with gratitude the unstinting assistance given by the Provincial and Municipal governments, led by Governor Dalog and Mayor Kiatong, to give proper honor to the late bishop in the Vicariate’s funeral arrangements.

These past eleven days since Bishop Cornelio passed away, he was waked first in Sabangan, his home town; then Lagawe, where he’d been pastor immediately before coming to Bontoc; and finally here in Bontoc itself, where he has been since 1997 as mission rector and Vicar General. The people’s outpouring of devotion in their continuous day and night vigils in these three places deserves our special thanks too.

Inpakita yo ti ayatyo iti Obispo tayo iti panagpatpatnag yo nga agbantay iti bankayna. Dakkel nga sakpripisyo ti inaramidyo ket amok nga iti panagyaman na kadakayo, ituloyna met iti panagayaywanna kadakayo ita nga adda iti saklang ti Ama tayo sadi langit. [i]

Ilocano: You showed your love for our bishop in the vigils you went through to watch over his remains. Your sacrifice was great and I know that he will continue, in thankfulness, to care for you now that he is in the presence of God our Father in heaven.

[i]Ya chakayo pay isna’d Fontok, isnan nay ilitako nan nateyenna, ya isna akes nan mangikaofan tako ken siya. Inpaila yo nan layadyo ken siya isnan nay upat ay akew ay ninfanfantayan yo ken siya. Chak-ayo nan mangitutoloy ay minfanfantay ken siya.

Finontok: And as for you here in Bontoc, the bishop died in our town and it is here too that we bury him. You showed your love for him the past four days in the vigils you kept over him. It is left to you to continue your watching over him.

A short ten months ago we were gathered here in overwhelming numbers—it was the biggest crowd this town had seen in years—to witness Bishop Cornelio’s ordination and installation as the new Bishop of Bontoc-Lagawe.

The spirit of that day was one of joy, of unbounded jubilation, that one of our own native sons was being gifted with the dignity of bishop. Today’s spirit is just the opposite: deep sorrow and sadness at his passing. And an uncertain questioning of God’s dealing with him. And with us.

Why? Why, we ask, did he have to leave us so soon? It is a very human reaction—this questioning. It is done in pain, in grief, in weeping that he no longer is with us, the living. Why? It is a question we ask with every death—at least with deaths we consider premature. Like his.

We were hoping, when he was made bishop, that Bontoc-Lagawe would be blessed with at least ten years more of the dedicated service that had marked his life as a priest. It wasn’t to be. So in our loss we ask why. To this very human question we give an equally human answer: Our grief. Our tears. Our regrets. For now.

But yet, even now, in our all too human grieving, there is another way of answering that urges itself on us irresistibly: the way of faith, the answer of faith. And the sentiments faith calls for from us are the direct opposite of the sorrow we feel deeply, namely, joy, gladness, happiness. Even as we weep? Yes, even as we weep.

A paradox. A mystery. But that is what our first reading is telling us. The Book of Wisdom speaks of hope, of understanding truth, of striving to be worthy of God—all coming from an abiding faith in the God who has nothing but love for us. Thus the Book:
It is a foolish mistake to think that righteous people die and that their death is a terrible evil. They leave us, but it is not a disaster. In fact the righteous are at peace. It might appear that they have suffered punishment, but they have the confident hope of immortality.

Death. It is actually punishment for Adam’s primal sin. But with the atoning death of the Son of God, death itself has become surpassingly great reward. Because he rose again from the dead. This is our faith.

It is a faith that generates a confident hope. And that kind of faith was Bishop Cornelio’s to a very high degree. At this time last year, he was in Cebu, coming to the end of a month-long retreat. That retreat—it was uppermost in his mind when he first came to tell me of his appointment. He wanted to prepare himself for his coming ordination and his first preoccupation was for a protracted time of prayer and reflection. Very much as Christ did in his desert sojourn before beginning his public ministry. He asked if I could arrange, at such short notice, a thirty-day retreat at one of our Jesuit retreat houses. That spontaneous turning to prayer to prepare himself for the work of bishop—that says much, very much, about the kind of faith he had.

This theme of faith is most striking too in our second reading from the letter of Paul to the Romans:
The Spirit himself gives witness with our spirit that we are children of God. But if we are children, we are heirs as well: Heirs of God, heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so as to be glorified with him.

Heirs. We have faith because we are God’s children, heirs with Christ of his eternal kingdom, of the glory that will be ours with him. So we try living that faith every moment of our life while we still have this earthly life. That faith ends with death. And Bishop Cornelio’s faith, even as we praise it, is now ended. Ended, because now he is face to face with the God whom he sees no longer with the eyes of faith but directly, in an immediacy that does not need the intervening sight of faith. And if this is so, then we have to be happy with him, we have to rejoice with him that now he has come to the reward of his life of faith. But to be able to rejoice with him, we can’t do so without having faith ourselves.

The Gospel brings us back to Bishop Cornelio’s brief pasturing of the Church of Bontoc-Lagawe. It tells of the Good Shepherd, his prime model in his work as bishop.

I am the good shepherd who is willing to die for the sheep. When the hired man, who is not a shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees a wolf coming, he leaves the sheep and runs away . . . The hired man runs away because he is only a hired man and does not care about the sheep.

The bishop’s choice of motto for his coat of arms—pastor et agnus, pastor and lamb—speaks eloquently of what he did not intend to be: a hireling who runs away at the first sign of danger, a paid mercenary who has no real care for the sheep. In fact considering his last few days, we see it was that over-zealous care of his flock that contributed to his early death.

Ten months ago at his ordination, I had occasion to say from this very pulpit that in the final analysis, we are all pastors to one another, we are all carers of our brothers and sisters. I feel that is the final message we get from the life of our late bishop. We mourn him now. Yet we rejoice that he has come to his reward. In our mourning, in our rejoicing, we go forth and do as he did in faithful imitation of the Good Shepherd, Christ the Lord.

May the bishop’s spirit of faith, of service and caring, be ours too. Always.

I end my homily here. But I can’t help adding a little postscript—a triviality, perhaps, but I say it anyway for the bishop’s lasting memory. This stole that many of our concelebrants are wearing became the symbol of the Apostolic Vicariate of Bontoc-Lagawe back in 1998 when we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the old Montanosa Vicariate. The distinctive colors of our tribal peoples in the Mountain Province and Ifugao are all represented here. It was Bishop Cornelio who designed it—and of course it was Sabangan weavers that produced it! (The logo was done by Father Manoling Francisco who is here with us today.) This stole is thus a continuing memory of Bishop Cornelio for us of the Vicariate, and with that memory, I trust, a continuing thanks to the Lord for blessing us with his life. Amen.

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Post by yang-ew on Fri Aug 07, 2009 4:01 pm

¨Life is not taken away but changed”
Rev. Fr. Francis D. Balacuit

Last Monday, May 16, about 6:15 or so, Fr. Noel sent the text message that Bishop Nel died that same early morning. Right away, I sent the same text message to all our priests in Ifugao District and to some people, who, I know, knew Bishop Nel. Then my cell phone became very busy receiving test messages- most of them were expressions of shock, doubt, disbelief; others called up to verify if it was true that Bishop Nel died, and what was the cause of his death.

I could imagine that the message of Bishop Nel’s death was a shocker to all who know him. It is a testimony that he has touched the lives of many as a friend, priest and bishop. Last Friday, his remains were brought here to Lagawe, and is lying in state in this church up to tomorrow morning when we will bring him back to Bontoc. We brought him to Lagawe because he is our bishop. He was also our parish priest of Lagawe for five years, and that the many people whose lives he has touched and ministered to, have the opportunity to see him, pay respect to him and pray with him, even as he lay in state. I am sure that he is happy that all of you came to see him, to spend time in vigil for him. For this, our vicariate is grateful to all of you.

Bishop Nel came to Kiangan in the afternoon of May 13, last Friday, for the School Board Meeting. After the meeting, he came down to Lagawe at 8 o’clock in the evening. He said then, that he
would be going to San Jose, Nueva Ecija the following morning, Saturday. And so, at 5 a.m., March 14, he went to San Jose to attend the installation of Bishop Vergara, the new bishop of the Diocese of San Jose, Nueva Ecija. After the installation, he went back to Bontoc, arriving in the evening. He still gave a talk to the seminarians who were having their get-together with their parents. The following day, Sunday, he went to Sadsadan, Bauko for confirmation. Then came the shocker news early morning of Monday, May 16.[/size]

Bp. Nel with Fr. Francis Balacuit in Kiangan, Ifugao

In relating to you the last three days of Bp Nel’s itinerary with its activities, indeed, those were busy days spent in ministering to his responsibilities as Shepherd. Coming to think of it, those last three days of his life depicted vividly the mission encoded in his coat-of-arms- Pastor et Agnus- Shepherd and Lamb. He gave life to his pastoral ministry as Shepherd as he ministered to the needs of his flock, even as he accommodated, giving moral and spiritual support to the new bishop of San Jose, Nueva Ecija by his presence in that occasion. In that way, Bp Nel testified to the life that needs to be given out and shared with others so that these others may come to experience a fuller life. In the Gospel of St.John, the evangelist records that message of giving life and sharing it, that people will have life. Thus, Jesus says: “I have come that you may have life and have it in all its fullness.” (Jn. 10:10) This, Bp Nel has given meaning in his priestly and episcopal ministry in the footsteps of the Lord.

Bp. Nel has been a priest for 38 years and bishop for almost a year. I believe that these 38 years have been a ministry of giving and sharing life with his parishioners as parish priest in various mission stations, for catechists with whom he has worked as Director of the Catechetical Program of the old vicariate of Mountain Provinces, for the seminarians and his fellow priests and fellow bishops and for our people in Bontoc-Lagawe.

Fr Joseph, in his homily yesterday, actually focused on this reality of Bp Nel’s given responsibilities especially to the many seminarians, whose formation he has been tasked repeatedly to take care, to form so that they be conformed and modeled into the life of Christ. But, I should also add here that Bp Nel had also been assigned to the Vicariate schools in the old Apostolic Vicariate of Mt. Provinces as Director. And so, he too, must have touched the lives and shared life to our many teachers and school employees, their families and students. In fact, one of his last acts in those last three days of his life was to preside over the meeting of the School Board of St. Joseph’s School- Kiangan, for the welfare of the school community. In giving and sharing life with all those entrusted to his ministry, Bp Nel was faithful to the gospel message, just as he gave life and meaning to his being Pastor et Agnus. Bp Nel was a faithful servant of the Lord.

During these past two days of Bp. Nel’s wake in Lagawe, we were exhorted in the two homilies during the Eucharistic celebrations to continue to love God as did Bp. Nel, and to hope in God in His goodness, in His love, in His mercy upon us all. Indeed, our bishop believed in this. His passing away, therefore urges us more to make this faith strong in our Vicariate of Bontoc-Lagawe.
Yesterday, I received a fax message from Bp.Palang of the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose de Mindoro. In his message of condolence and solidarity with our people at the occasion of our bishop’s untimely death, he wrote: “The lights are put off, because the dawn has come… We join you, the clergy, religious and People of God of Bontoc-Lagawe in praying to God in faith and hope in the resurrection, with firm conviction that ‘life is not taken away but changed.”’ In a personal note, I thank the good bishop of San Jose de Mindoro for his reassuring message to all of us in Bontoc- Lagawe. That, in the passing away of our very own good Bishop Nel, the promise of life by our Lord Jesus Christ, which Bp Nel, during his priestly life gave meaning to and shared with us and our people in the vicariate, is not taken away but changed; that the light of Bp Nel was only put off because he has gone into the fullness of life where “the” Great Light is never put off. And so, let this faith and conviction in the goodness and mercy of God dawn upon us all. Let this faith, hope and love, which our good bishop touched upon us all continue to shine forth in our lives and in our Vicariate.

Yes, our bishop may have gone from our midst, but the testimony of his faith and conviction to the truth of Christ’s words that He has come to give life will ever remain in and among us. May this testimony, enshrined in the person and ministry of our Bishop be the light of our hope in the God who does not abandon His people. May it be the refreshing water that strengthens the growing seed of faith in
the church of Bontoc-Lagawe, and may it be the inspiring spirit that rekindles our love for God, for our vicariate and its mission to our people.

Bp Nel, Ilualuoam dakami amin ta maes-esakami isnan vicariato tako ay linaylayad mo. As the Father called you to His heavenly home, may He give you eternal rest. Amen

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Post by yang-ew on Fri Aug 07, 2009 5:07 pm

He Passed through Glory’s Morning Gate, and Walked into Paradise”

May 16, 2005 at around 2:00 am, Bishop Nel felt a chest pain that was bothering him. He couldn’t get to sleep that he phoned Judith Escher, the Swiss Lay missionary and a nurse by profession staying in one of the building in Teng-ab pastoral center next to the bishop’s residence. Judith and her husband John quickly reached the room of bishop Nel after receiving his desperate phone call.

As they got in, Judith monitored the blood pressure of Bp. Nel and it was perfectly normal. But something else really bothered the couple and Tessie. Chest pain and suspected heartburn are not to be ignored so they asked the bishop that they would bring him down to Bontoc General Hospital for proper check-up. Despite his condition he seemed certain that it was just a normal pain he used to encounter and it will pass away after some time. He assumed he need not go to the hospital. He thought maybe it would be convenient to ask his doctor to come over to check him at the crack of dawn. That! They didn’t buy his idea; Tessie insisted to take him to the doctor instead. She begged the bishop that if something really bad happen there was no standby oxygen in Teng-ab, it would be best if he was down for hospital care for proper medical assistance and observation… At last! He was finally convinced.

John & Judith Escher, Tessie and Bp. Nel
few months before Bp. Nel´s death

Unfortunately the road to Teng-ab was being cemented and no vehicle of any kind was allowed to pass. They began to set for a walk from bishop’s house up to the main entrance gate of Teng-ab where the beetle car was parked. John drove it until Tay-ok, where the road construction was being done. They had to stop and walk again for about a hundred meters. Bishop Nel managed to walk on the muddy earth where gravels and sands were piled on the road side. Thanks to Judith and John who assisted him on both sides holding a flashlight. As they reached the end of the road rehabilitation there was Richard waiting to drive them to the hospital.

Inside the hospital, at around 3:30 am. Nurses on duty took his blood pressure, then again and again… indicating it was stable. There was no sign of uneasiness or discomfort from the bishop as he remained seated. The attending physician examined and questioned him about his health history and he replied so calmly. He did what he always did; carry on a conversation pretending nothing was really wrong. No matter how he would very much like to lie down, he would still make people smile regardless of his unbearable condition. Underneath those sweet smiles and laughter was a sobering fact of the spiritual realities, his tolerance and holiness. It tears your heart to think that no matter how painful it was he still muddled through some lines that would make people smile and say “I’ll be fine, don’t’ you worry.”

A Quiet Gentleness

At 6:00 am. He laid there on the hospital bed at Room Deluxe 1 feeling more tired than usual. His right hand on his chest rubbing it slowly to eased the pain. He struggled to breathe better. Maybe his lungs were screaming for oxygen? The nurses hurried to assist him but he had gone weak… his heart beats gone frail.

“My hands must needs be busy; Lord my day is full – too full for any length of time alone with thee. In the midst of all the busyness, keep within my heart a quiet place…”

A Fellowship with the Father

At exactly 6:15 in the morning, Bishop Nel let go his last good breath. The Almighty Father had summoned him to His heavenly home.

“Lord, I see the trapeze You’re sending my way. I know it will be of great benefit to let go of mine and catch Yours. My knuckles are white; I must give up to catch up. Give me the grace to grasp the centrality of Your promises, the wonder of Your person. Enable me, oh Lord to let go of distorted images of who You are and what You do. Let me find pleasure in calling out. ‘Father, Father’.

May the wind carry my call to Your throne”.

Who Will Take Care of Us?”

At 6:35 am., at Sta. Rita Cathedral. Before the Monday morning mass ended, Fr. Bong stepped forward to the altar close to Fr. Andrew who presided the mass. As he softly whispered something to his ear, there was a sudden change of his blissful feature to a melancholic face. He took a long deep breath. There was a moment of silence then later; Fr. Andrew finally broke the shocking sad news that Bishop Nel passed away.

After the initial shock… and then a rush of tears. Parishioners started to wonder why? And then one cried in great despair, “Who will take care of us?”

On Wakes and At the Funeral

Sta. Rita Cathedral, Bontoc


Following the postmortem, the coffin that was made by the Provincial Engineering Office- Carpentry Department arrived just after midnight at the Sta. Rita Parish Hall. The coffin was made of special pinewood engraved with beautiful designs on its sides following its octagonal shape. The next morning shortly after the six o’clock mass, Bp. Nel was brought to his hometown in Sabangan. The Philippine National Police officers led by the Provincial Governor Maximo B. Dalog, Bontoc Mayor Alfonso Kiat-ong and parishioners escorted him. His body was laid at St. Joseph Parish Church for four days and four nights. The long wake and sleepless nights didn’t leave the pews inside the church vacated. Many people came to mourn for their beloved bishop. Mayor Jupiter Dominguez of Sabangan and other municipal leaders joined the many parishioners in bringing the faithful departed bishop to Lagawe, Ifugao. For another three days his body rested at St. Mary Magdalene Catholic church. People wept for the great lost of Bishop Nel. Thousands from different parish missions of Ifugao district and nearby provinces came to pay respect to the good bishop.

St. Joseph Parish church, Sabangan

After Lagawe, the body of Bishop Nel was brought home to his cathedral at Sta. Rita, Bontoc, Mountain Province. Thousands were waiting to pay tribute to him. It seemed that many of the other religious groups; none government organizations and the government agencies led by the provincial government had come to a halt. Shops were shut and many government leaders and employees joined in the funeral procession.

Some media members who were present to cover the memorial proceedings said, “This was a funeral with a difference. In most funerals, either a family or close relative takes control. But here all – the priests, the parishioners, both the locals and those who came from outside, - were just doing the right things – as if it was all divinely controlled. There was perfect harmony, in every detail – big and small – we could feel that all these were possible because of God’s grace in abundance”.

St. Mary Magdalene Cathedral, Lagawe, Ifugao
Above pictures: Thousands mourn for the great lose of Bp. Nel in Lagawe, Ifugao. Below: Passing through Banaue, Fr. Joe Tagupa and parisioners earnestly await the body of Bishop Nel.


Many priests and bishops from neighboring vicariates and dioceses despite tight and hectic schedules traveled to attend his internment, to bid farewell to the Most Reverend Cornelio G. Wigwigan to his final resting place. Looking at the funeral crowd was like a flashback of his joyous ordination and installation not a year ago. The only difference was people gathered to mourn and comfort each other for the loss of a dear bishop.

At the funeral service, the cathedral was filled with somber ambiance of solidarity. The solemn mass begun with a wind like introduction of a violin accompanied by a cello played in the tune of “Priestly People”. There was an impeccable serenity and coordination as the papal nuncio, bishops and priests marched towards the altar.

The Sta. Rita Family Choir led by Mrs. Maybel Amongan solemnly fade-in the singing of Priestly People in resonant chorus and absolute unison with the clergy who by heart sung it in perfect harmony.

Family members of the bishop as well as relatives and friends were beside themselves with grief. Only the word of God consoled them. Lexis of condolences was expressed and others shared comforting verses from the bible in the homily and testimony.

Earlier, as one of the siblings of Bishop Nel passed by the coffin, noticing the beautiful red roses said, “Bp. Nel loved red roses. It was nice of you to put so many roses here”. Throughout the service, everyone seemed composed and at perfect peace.

By:Freda L. Changat

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Post by yang-ew on Fri Aug 07, 2009 10:10 pm

Till We Meet Again

By:Atty. Maximo B. Dalog
Governor Maximo B. Dalog with the Most Reverend Cornelio Wigwigan scrutinizing the rich heritage of the Mountaineers scribbled in a history book at the Bontoc Museum

It was exactly 63 years ago when Edward and Hedwiga Wigwigan gave birth to their third child. The sight of a healthy baby boy gave hope to the couple who were then living in the world war torn village of Sabangan. Taking their other two children with them, they found their way to an evacuation camp amidst the deafening roars of bombs and gun fires. They had no inkling that someday, the baby boy would become an instrument mightier than the most powerful bomb ever invented.

His family returned to the village where life started anew after the Second World War. It was never said but his experience during his formative years helped him shape up his future. Bent on helping the people despite the dire material need of his family, Brother Cornelio went through the basic educational requirements after he finally entered the St. Francis Xavier Seminary in 1955 and later at the San Carlos Seminary where finished AB in 1963 and Theology in 1967.

A day after the celebration of the birth of Christ in 1966, he was ordained to his spiritual calling. This clothed him with the authority to spread the Gospel in almost all areas of the Cordilleras. Brother Cornelio was assigned to areas in the City of Baguio and the provinces of Kalinga, Apayao, Ifugao, Benguet and Mountain Province.

Last July 14, 2004 the flock of the Bontoc-Lagawe Vicariate rejoiced when Brother Cornelio marked the apex of his calling when he was ordained Apostolic Vicar.

Last month, I saw myself sitting with Brother Cornelio tomorrow to celebrate his 63rd birthday. Unfortunately, that scenario was never to come. Here we are now mourning his death.

As we are but human to grieve the death of a beloved brother who has touched the lives of many people, we also have reason to be happy. We feel happy with the thought that one among us has unselfishly dedicated his earthly life to serve the spiritual needs of many of our brethrens. We feel contented with the thought that one among us has given all what he has so that the less fortunate may taste the goodness of life. But more than these, we feel blessed with the thought that one among us was an instrument in securing an eternal resting place for many lost and weary souls.

Many may feel sad that the time you served us as bishop was short-lived. But the span of time doesn’t count much. What matters was how you performed your duties as shepherd to the flock. And we are very aware that you were very busy carrying out your hours before you left us. For this we will always be grateful.

My brothers and sisters, what tribute can you pay a man whose whole life was a tribute in itself? A tribute to goodness, godliness, kindness, caring and generosity. There is no need saying it in words because his life has spoken loud and clear.

He was a very gentle man.

We will miss you but we will never forget who you were. We love you and you will forever remain in our hearts, our prayers and our memories.

Now go and be with God and be in peace. FAREWELL, TILL WE MEET AGAIN.

SVES Principal

The first successful graduates of the Schools of Living Tradition, a program of the Bontoc-Lagawe

Vicariate in Parnership with Assumption College, Manila.

To form a character of life that witnesses to the coming of the reign of God in us and around us and the transformation of people and groups according to the gospel so that this world/ this Vicariate/ this community grow in conformity to God’s plan for humankind”.

This is quoted from Evangelion Foundation Incorporated on Stewardship and Discipleship.

This goal, I think and I believe aptly capsulizes the life of Bishop Cornelio-Bishop Nel as he was fondly called.

As per records of the Sta. Rita Catholic Mission (and to make the records straight) Bishop Nel first came to Bontoc in the month of June 1989 as Parish Rector and Head of School of Saint Vincent’s School. From the onset of this missionary life in Bontoc, he got so endeared to us by his simple and caring ways, eating with us listening to us, teaching us the BEC way or becoming a church, and most especially breaking the bread with us.
We celebrated with Bishop Nel, his silver Jubilee as priest in Bontoc in 1991.

January of 1993, he was assigned at St. Magdalene Catholic Mission, Lagawe, Ifugao, but even then, he was familiar figure to us because of his constant visits.

Personally, I first joined the Vicariate of Bontoc-Lagawe as classroom teacher of one of its Mission Schools in June of 1993. I first met Bishop Nel at Lagawe in one of our Vicariate-wide seminars. During the last 2 days of our seminar, it was raining profusely. We later learned that there was a typhoon. When our seminar ended us, the teachers of Bontoc, Sabangan, Bauko and Kayan were determined to come home during that stormy night but Bishop Nel being the Head of the School of Don Bosco persuaded the group to stay rather than taking that risky travel. Truly, along the way were slides between Bayyo and Bontoc. That was my first experience of the Bishop shepherding to us, his flock.

In April of 1997, he came back to Bontoc and continued his unfinished work which he left. He is like an engineer who keeps on inspecting and finding ways on how to improve our parish and school. He was behind the re-structuring of our Cathedral, the Cathedral which had been made ready for his Ordination and Installation. The Cathedral which will be his “home”.

As the Head of School, he kept the lines of communication open. Although most of us teachers would not dare talk to him when we see lines on his forehead. Fr. Bong said that Bishop Nel is very approachable. I dare not dispute his judgment for he knows the Bishop more than I do. I rather affirm his opinion because I have approached him once with

the lines in his forehead with an open smile and instantly his mood changed. (The power of smile prevailed) Whenever I approached him with problems related to the school and our parish, he would always listen, ask my opinion on how to solve it and encouraged me to go on with the solution on hand or rather propose another alternative on how to solve the problem. One would hear his very good comment which is “buwisit”. For me, I never understood what he meant.

In 2003, Bishop Nel had already in mind the coming Diamond Jubilee of Saint Vincent’s School – High School Department this year. So as early as November and December of 2003, he called for Alumni Meetings to discuss plans, thus, the ADHOC committee was created who were behind the successful launching of the diamond jubilee of the school last year. As a last gesture to the school, his well thought planned t-shirt for the 75th year of the school is now available.

It was also in 2003 that I officially became a member of the Parish Pastoral Council of Bontoc wherein I came to realize that my already big sphere of influence in the school became bigger. During the deliberations of the council, one would surely notice Bishop Nel with his eyes closed and hands holding his chin as if not listening. But when asked of his opinion or ideas, he would give brilliant suggestions/ answers and solutions.

Upon hearing the happy news that Father Nel was proclaimed Bishop by Pope John Paul II, The PPC had meetings as early as April last year, and we were all witness and part of that joyous occasion last July 14, 2004 for his Ordination and Installation.

Because of his caring ways, he encouraged each of us teachers to undergo the SLT

(Schools of Living Tradition), a program of the Vicariate in Partnership with Assumption College Graduate School, San Lorenzo, Makati which was conceptualized by Bishop Francisco Claver, then continued by Bishop Nel to pursue higher education and be able to know more about God and be rooted in our culture as Igorots, With luck, there were eleven teachers from the Vicariate who earned their Master’s Degree through this program.

April 11, 2005 was the thanksgiving mass of these eleven teachers in Bauko.This happy event was the last time I have exchanged jokes and eaten with him.

Finally, early morning of May 16 this year the whole Bontoc-Lagawe community was shocked when the news broke that Bishop Nel passed away. The Lord God of Resurrection called him to his heavenly

heavenhome. Now, we are all sad and surely we’ll miss his presence among us but we still thank the Lord for giving us Bishop Nel who shared his life to our Vicariate and we fervently pray that he will find his room in the Father’s house.

Bishop Nel, Nan Layad mi, mifuweg ken sik-a. Nan layad mo akhes koma nan umpa isnan pamilyam, isnan gagayyemmo, isnan oobispo, isnan papachi ya mamadli, ya am-in kami ay karnerom.


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Post by yang-ew on Fri Sep 04, 2009 12:23 pm

A Formator Even in Death
Rev. Fr. John Habawel
Sta. Rita Cathedral Parish Priest

Fr. John Habawel gracefully leads the Ifugao dance during
the first mass of Bp. Nel in his hometown in Sabangan.

Our anguished souls bemoan the uneasiness, loneliness, a struggle with meaning, as well as the pain from the unexpected, untimely and shocking loss of Bishop Nel. Last year, he became our bishop, our Shepherd and Lamb – taking off from the fruitful pastoral leadership of his predecessor, Bishop Francisco Claver, SJ.

When he took over, he was welcomed well by all sectors in the Vicariate as well as the bigger society. He was providing our Vicariate with connectedness in the air uniquely drawn from his own person. Ten months later, he is absent, with finality… forever. His presence was very hopeful, concrete, real, source of continued hope and comfort. Now, it is an absence. Though it is an absence that is uneasy, dark, lonely and difficult, it is not empty because it is full of memories that turn the absence into a presence itself. The continued presence of a man who in death continues to be alive in the hearts and thoughts of the many his gentle hands had touched.

Bishop Nel was a mentor who accompanied me as a seminarian and as a young priest. There are so many things I will not forget about him. I describe my memories of him with the words: a formator all his life; a spirituality rooted in human flourishing; lay people; gentleness; man of prayer; sitting down with you; true to his feelings; creativity; beauty and order; attentiveness as a way of life; seeing deeper and wider; faithful friendships; collaboration; accountability; management; pastoral leadership; reaction…and many, many more.

One incident is dear to me. Coming home in August 2004 from my studies outside the country, I went to Bontoc to visit him. One of the things I asked was the tenure of my assignment as formator in Vigan seminary? “I cannot say how many years. I am thinking more of the program of the Spiritual Formation Year. We are sending you there to set up the program. If the program is set in three years, then it is three years. If more then it is more. But double your time so you can come home soon because you had been absent from the Vicariate for too long”, Bishop Nel said. Try to analyze these words. His consciousness in this is in different levels or concerns: one is the level of needs of the Church of Northern Luzon; the other is concern for seminarians; the other is from the manager in him, the attention on the formation program as essential; the concern for me as his priest, and my need to be connected, his firmness in telling me that I had been absent for too long; and his generosity to let go of his priest to work outside his diocese. Reflecting on this decision he made regarding my assignment in Vigan, I am awed at the man. How he could put all of these concerns in one lucid decision. You can see his values and principles as a person all coming into play in one lucid stroke of decision-making.

He was sometimes seen as indecisive. I do not believe he was. The appearance of indecisiveness is the price you have to pay for making inclusive, compassionate, firm and quality decisions. It was not indecisiveness. It was the practice of love and communion in the process and art of making decisions. I will cherish this little story because one important thing I want to learn from Bishop Nel is how he made decisions. He continues to be a formator even in death.

“The Last Mass, Last Confirmation”
Bishop Nel’s Pentecost Sunday in Upper Bauko
by: Rev. Fr. Marshall Castañeda

Christ came in MEMORY and He fulfilled a MISSION. Today He comes in MYSTERY in the Eucharist to nourish us. Soon He will come to judge the living and the dead in MAJESTY.” “Bishop Nel came and he left us a MEMORY. He fulfilled a MISSION as a shepherd and lamb of the vicariate amidst the MYSTERY. Death opened the door for him to understand fully this mystery and now lives with his Creator in MAJESTY.”

Last year, Bishop Nel made his schedule to visit Upper Bauko and to administer the sacrament of confirmation. I gave a date but he proposed May 15, 2005. I submitted myself to his suggestion without leaving any questions, unknowing of the significance of the date. The lay leaders of Upper Bauko made all the preparations particularly in educating them about the value and meaning of the sacraments of confession and confirmation.

Bishop Nel knows his priests well and the different difficulties being encountered in the various parishes. Indeed, he knows by heart his flock in Bauko that they were yearning for an additional priest to help them in the pastoral care (since Bauko is one of the largest mission stations with 22 BECs). But due to the scarcity of priests he cannot grant this request immediately. Instead, the wise Bishop accommodated guest priests who want to spend their pastoral exposure in the vicariate. Considering all the parishes, he chose Bauko for Fr. Edwin Beley to spend his two weeks exposure opportune to help in the preparation for Upper Bauko confirmation. The Upper Bauko lay leaders, the ever faithful catechist, Melicia Cadsi, the energetic secretary Nida Bagta, Fr. Edwin and I made the preparation felt spiritually among the people amidst the seemingly insurmountable difficulties. Lectures on the bible, sacraments and church teachings were given to the people in a manner that they can really understand. It was during the preparations that I came to realize the significance of the date the bishop planned - a Pentecost Sunday.

The people were overwhelmed with joy and excitement as they waited for the bishop on May 15, 2005. He arrived alone around seven thirty in the morning. He was amazed to see a huge crowd preparing for the mass and the confirmation. He was impressed by the old women dressed in blue (CWL: Catholic Women’s League) practicing lively songs for the celebration and by the confirmants ready for procession. He was met warmly by the old and young confirmants dressed with their native attire with his hands outstretched to give them his priestly blessing. He went around the mission compound but fixed his attention to the ongoing repair of the church building that entailed more financial assistance for its completion.

He approved the use of the chapel despite the ongoing construction with the wisdom that it was spacious. It was high time for the Upper Bauko people to see, feel and appreciate their efforts after more than ten years of labor and sacrifices. Father Johnny Sumalileng made the humble beginnings of the construction. Father Sammie Maximo continued it, employing all his resources and his talent in music to earn more for it. His sincere motivation which is to complete the construction for a better place of worship made the people more responsible and active.

Bishop Nel opened his homily with a happy birthday as I did in the introduction of the mass since that Sunday is believed to be the birth of the church, a Pentecost Sunday. His homily revolved in three themes, namely: the church, sacraments especially confirmation and the importance of the bible.

He cited a vivid explanation of the sacrament of confirmation. In baptism, we were reborn with Christ. In confirmation, we affirm our baptismal vows through the grace given to us by the Holy Spirit. He made use of the Pentecost experience of the apostles to deepen the experience of the people amidst the prevailing economic crisis. He enunciated how the risen Christ breathed to the apostles the Holy Spirit and how they were reinvigorated to go to the whole world and proclaim the kingdom of God. The bishop consequently exhorted them, especially the confirmants to move on as a church in owning and spreading the Word to the world.

The last confession and confirmation administered by Bishop Nel in Upper Bauko,
just the day before his demise

“The church is not the chapel itself. The church is first the people. Hence, the chapel is a sign that there is a church alive in your community. The huge chapel you have now signifies a greater sacrifice. It is not Fr. Johnny’s, Fr. Sammie’s, Fr. Marcs’ or mine. It is yours.” He left a big challenge about justice. “As a church, be channels of justice and not instruments of corruption. Don’t pretend to be blind and deaf. It is not because other people see it as practical but it does not always mean moral. Since he shared about his inclinations to Biblical Apostolate, he exhorted them to read their bibles. “The bible is your basic guide as church in your journey. Ignorance of the bible is ignorance of Christ.”

After the striking homily he delegated me to help him in administration of the chrism oil to the 260 confirmants. Indeed, it was a very beautiful Pentecost experience for all of us. The day was graced with good weather and rich testimonies. The great joy and fulfillment had motivated him again to thank the people after the communion. It was then a timely occasion for him to say my goodbye to them since he gave me a new parish assignment. “This will be Fr. Marcs’ goodbye to all of you”, the bishop announced.

This is another significant insight for me that seem to relate well with the date he proposed long before we prepared for the confirmation. It was his last mass to celebrate. It was his last confirmation to administer and it was his good bye to all of us. His mission as a Shepherd and Lamb was climaxed on Pentecost Sunday with the Bauko people. I am made to believe that the challenge he left among the Bauko people is not for them alone but for all of us. The message is clear among the Bauko people but I hope it will not be kept in their hearts only as a memory but to intensify their mission. Blessed are the Upper Bauko people.

Many say, he lived a short life as a bishop. But I say, the Memory he left us will make his presence felt in us even longer as we move on and fulfill our Mission - to shepherd one another to Christ.

Bishop Claver once said in his homily during the ordination of Bishop Nel, “And we pray for ourselves too, that we will be truly shepherds to one another in the spirit of the Lamb of God who is also the Good Shepherd.” Truly if we have that vision we are assured of our direction. Our life as well as our faith revolves in many things we cannot fully understand, the Mystery. Just like Bishop Nel, let us be firm in our faith and our mission. Let us entrust everything (especially those that our mind cannot comprehend) to God who knows what is best for all of us. For sure Bishop Nel is now in Majesty with his God who called him after his being a shepherd and lamb here on earth.

The theme song describes well his life. “He has called me to shepherd his flock. He has touched my heart to serve his people. He has set his words and deeds that I will follow. Shepherd and Lamb once slain to bring new life to the world...”

Bishop Nel enunciated clearly His motto, Pastor et Agnus (Shepherd and Lamb) in his book and we testify he did live it. The motto is inspired by St. John’s Good Shepherd account (10:11). “It is a shepherding according to the way of Christ. It is not to be privileged, honored and served but to give one’s life in loving service that others may have life and have it more fully.”

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Post by yang-ew on Fri Sep 04, 2009 12:49 pm

There was a reason why the Lord allowed everyone to be in this world and a reason for Him to take back the life He gave us.

by: Remy Wigwigan Federspill[/size]
Utah, USA[/size]
Bp. Nel and his sister Remy hugging each other
during his bishop ordination

According to the story of my parents, Eduardo and Edwiga Wigwigan, Bishop Nel was born in the family hideout in Taliwaga, Sabangan Mt. Province. The Sabanganians ran from the town to the mountains they selected as hiding places the moment they heard that some group of Japanese soldiers are headed to their town. Both my parents were filled with fear; they had two children and a baby who is due at any moment. The unborn child was Bishop Nel. My parents let my eldest brother and eldest sister go with some relatives in their hideout while my mother and father hid in their own hideout. According to my father, he never felt fear in his life. Mostly he feared for his family. He never prayed to “Kabunian” the way he prayed that night. He said that he prayed that if one member of his family is going to be killed that night, He (means Kabunian or God) might as well take them all but he said further in his prayer that the unborn baby deserves life because God let him be conceived. God must have a reason why He let the baby be conceived.

My father entrusted Bishop Nel to God while Bishop Nel was still in my mother’s womb. Bishop Nel became an offering to God by my parents because our parents believed he was a special blessing from God while he was not yet born. He innocently came out in this world without any knowledge of the beauty and danger around him.

When Bishop Nel was walking from Teng-ab to save his life he was on his own with the help of missionaries, no parents, relative or friend to feel how much pain he had, how much desire he would like to live but he is an obedient man, I know it for the fact that not only did my parents understand and obeyed God’s will when it comes to life, my brother accepted God’s call that night. It was time for him to go.

No more manong Obispo to update us on some signs of the times, no more manong to guide us in our spiritual life, no more manong to visit and come to pray with us in our nightly prayer, no more manong to share and care and no more manong to smile and cry with us… but we have now a manong who can do all and who can be everywhere when we need him.

He is a brother full of humbleness; he is never arrogant of what he knows. He maybe strict and diplomatic because of his great respect to the feelings of others even if at times his jokes are misunderstood. He loves those who do not like him, he cares for those who forget the Lord, and he gives chance to those who refused to see themselves and patience to those who do not listen.

He was gifted with a smile that was an asset to draw people near him. He has snappy, smart decisions that made him gain friends and later on benefactors and means for his priestly goals. His whole person is coated with unselfish love. He is always putting people first before himself. He put his parishioners first before his family, his friends wish before his own, his priests needs before others needs. It was all for them and not his.

Ever since I knew my brother, I’ve never seen him not praying. There is always a time in the day that he was quiet and prays aside before and after meals and during nightly prayers. When he came for a few days vacation when he was in the seminary, he came to pray the rosary with us at home even if they already prayed in the convent with the seminarians.

In one of our conversations when he accompanied my children to the United States he said that he is so happy that I continue to pray the rosary in my own house and that my sons are joining me in the rosary. He told me that when he was in the seminary he prayed the rosary a lot when he was so homesick. The rosary made him focus to the Blessed mother rather than thinking of going home. We learned from our mother that praying the rosary is relieving stress and soothing unhappy feelings.

Maybe because we see and accept that the rosary is not just beads but that every bead as we touched it is feeling God through the life of the Blessed Virgin, her son Jesus and the promise of life everlasting.

I hope that this sharing of who my brother Bishop Nel is to me will inspire all readers of his memorabilia, keep God alive in their life. I will certainly make my brother alive in me and my family by always thinking, remembering, feeling and following the person he was and the life, principles and values he lived.*

Our Heartfelt Gratitude
Galleo-Wigwigan family

Our hearts could not express our heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of you for the love and care that you have shown to our brother-Bishop Nel.
I remember what Bishop Brasseur told me once when I was in college, “Don’t you dare to say that he is your brother anymore, not you alone but everybody’s brother!”
I’m sure that our dear Bishop Nel, whom you loved, cared and respected is so pleased with your awesome expressions of love to him more so that he is now gone. I guess the only lesson I learned from this is how great is the love, respect and the togetherness or strength of everyone in prayers... that will conquer all. That’s why I appreciate that even though we are far from each other we are still connected because of prayers. We pray a lot, which we learned from our parents.

Bishop Nel with the
Bontoc Scripture Society
By: Elizabeth T. Longid

Bishop Nel with Elizabeth Longid during the SVS Kick-Off
home coming celebration on October 2004.
“Khawis nan suma-a kasin isnan Alma Mater School tako…”

Athousand words may not be enough to describe a man who, during his lifetime, played a very important role in the lives of many. The news of the sudden demise of the Most Rev. Cornelio Galleo Wigwigan, current chairman of the Bontoc Scripture Society (BSS) came as a shock to many of which the BSS was not spared of.

Bishop Nel was not only a figure in the Roman Catholic Church but in the wider community as well. I first met Bishop Nel in March 1992 when the Bontoc Scripture Society (BSS) was being organized. The BSS was conceived aimed to translate the Holy Bible in the Central Bontoc dialect. It was composed of respectives of the main churches of Bontoc od which Bishop Nel, who was then the Parish Priest of Sta. Rita Catholic Church was elected as its founding Vice-Chairman with Bishop Robert Lee O. Longid of the Philippine Episcopal Church as its founding Chairman. It was in the course of our work that I came to personally know Bishop Nel as a hardworking and dedicated servant of the Lord. Despite the different church affiliations of the BSS members, he worked harmoniously with the group working for one Vision and one Mission – that is to spread God’s word in our native tongue to our people particularly in all the barangays of Bontoc, Sadanga and Sabangan municipalities. However, due to some unforeseen events, including the transfer of Father Nel to Lagawe, the translation work was stalled.

It was in July 2001, that the BSS was reorganized to translate the Old Testament into our Bontpc language. With the full support of the Most Rev. Francisco F. Claver, Bishop Nel was tasked to continue the work with BSS. An office space at the Sta. Rita, Rectory adjacent to the office of the Bishop Nel was provided as office of the BSS. Bishop Nel was not only the chairman of the BSS who comes to regularly check on the progress of translation work, but at all times, he was like a father in a household, who would come and remind us of our functions and even check if we had taken our snacks. He would ask for his convent boys to bring down some coffee and patopat for the BSS staff.

At one time, he called our attention because we would sometimes forget to put off the lights in the especially on weekends. The staff of the BSS had had their share of the love and care of a Pastor in the person of Bishop Nel. At one time, when we were on a seminar at the Summer Institute of Linguists in Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya, we chanced ti see him in a grocery store and with out us asking, he ordered for a gallon of ice cream which he graciously gave us and further encouraged us to do best our work.

On a person level, I last talked with Bishop Nel on April 26, 2005 at Teng-ab when we toured some guests from St. Luke’s Medical Center thereat. We chanced on him talking with two nuns and came up to greet us and gave our visitors an overview of the buildings in Teng-ab. With that, he asked Fr. Vincent Sagandoy to tour us around the building in Teng-ab.

It was also a very fortunate time to br with him during the kick-off program of the Diamond Jubilee celebration of Saint Vincent’s School. Looking at the crowd, he said, “Gawis tay angsan nan inmali. Ngem, into nu next year no agcelebrate tayo, saan to nga umanay ti grounds tayo.”

During his wake at the Sta. Rita Cathedral, people from all walks of life came and paid tribute to a man revered as a Pastor, Leader and Friend. Looking at the people who attended his burial, I immidiately reconciled this with his words during the SVS Kick-off program when he said, “Gawis tay angsan nan inmali…” Yes, Bishop Nel, many came to pay their last respect for you. We will miss you physically but we will never forget you in our hearts. Whatever achievements the BSS will reap in the next few years to come, we owe it all to you and the others.

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Post by yang-ew on Tue Sep 15, 2009 10:42 pm

Dear Bishop Nel,

God gives, and God takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord

This is the first time I am writing you a letter, and I had to do a lot of thinking to do so forty days after you left for the great beyond.

I remember when you first came to be our Parish Priest in 1989. You came unobtrusively to us at a time when Bontoc Parish was priestless for some time. And you set out guiding us, working with us and showing us how to go about building Basic Ecclesial Communities. In no time, you were “Fr. Nel” to us, promoting brotherly love, understanding and open-mindedness.

We rejoiced with you on your Silver Jubilee as priest in 1991. You broke the Bread and Life with us and shared your life with us for almost twelve years. You initiated programs to give meaning to the gospel message in our puroks and in the parish and encouraged us to be self-reliant. You were a friend to all, young and old. You showed us God’s love by listening to us when we were sad or burdened, helping us, accompanying us, teaching us, and even “wasting time” with us to show that we could count on you as a friend.

We rejoiced when you were chosen and later ordained and installed as Vicar Apostolic of Bontoc-Lagawe in July, 2004. Somehow, knowing the vast responsibilities of the office, we were a little apprehensive; we were worried about your health. We prayed that your heart would be strong enough to withstand the pressures.

Maybel Amongan, Florence Antonio & Bp. Cornelio

In the last week of April this year, I was tasked to invite you to write a weekly column for the Northern Philippines Times as Bishop Ikoy did with the Skyland News. You said we will talk about it later. But that later never came as in the early morning of may 16, we were stunned by the news that you were gone.

As quietly as the day you came into our lives, you left. With all the strength you could muster, and a heart about to snap, you walked to the Bontoc General Hospital where you collapsed and surrendered your life to God. The doctor said you slipped away so calmly. Bishop Nel, it was 6:15 in the morning when most were just rising from their sleep! Is that the time and the way bishops died? I read that Cardinal Sin passed away at 6:15 in the morning of June 21. I just am not so sure what time pope John Paul died last April. We never imagined it would be so soon. We felt sadness at the inexorability of time and the inevitable passing of friends.

Bishop Nel, you left only good memories, and these, we will treasure. But your passing away is reason enough for us to continue loving life and living, a reason enough for us to continue to strengthen our BECs and not give in to anxiety for you will continue encouraging us to stand up again when we falter.

The muted lights of the cathedral towers during your wake glowed with the general sadness felt by all. On May 26, your birthday, a day we always celebrated with Maybel and Lilia (they also celebrate their birthdays on that day, remember?), your friends from far and near came to pay their respects and be with you for a brief and final moment. The Sta. Rita Cathedral, the “Ato” of almost a century of Bontoc Christians – a lot had gone on here, a lot of coming and going, became the final resting place of your earthly remains, where friends can come to pray, and to remember, beneath the loving eyes of the Sacred heart of Jesus.

The “why” in our minds have somehow settled down. But we continue to pray, and we are consoled that you are now among God’s Beloved. The Lord, in his infinite goodness has spared you from all the pains and the worries of this earthly dwelling. We are happy for you as the Lord will raise you up on eagle’s wings to the eternal life He promised.[/font]

Bishop Nel, thank you for everything. We’ll still be friends!

Florence Antonio
Altar Ministry-Sta Rita Cathedral
Bontoc, Mt. Province


You Are Alive In Our Memory Forever

Ammann Family:
Daniel, Nicola, Hannah and Tabea

The moment we learned about your sudden death, dear Bishop Cornelio, we could not believe that you have gone so early. Now, some time later, we still can not imagine that you are not any longer around there in Bontoc. Since we have so many very alive memories with you and we’ll never forget them, like: When we first arrived in Bontoc, in the year 2001. You were the one who helped us prepare our House Blessing, since we were so inexperienced in your culture. Later on you helped us very often to understand better, what is going on in Bontoc like where to find a doctor, whom to ask to get this or that. And so we became friends. You were ordained Bishop of the Vicariate of Bontoc/Lagawe. We were happy for you and we’ll never forget the day of your ordination. What impressed us most was your being Pastor and Lamb at the same time, you are like a mother caring for your people, open to learn and share in simple ways. We are very grateful for the time we worked with you together and we thank our God, that we had that moment with you. We’ll never forget what you told the people during our farewell-mass on the day of our despedida. We remember how you took Hannah with you in your car, chatting with her, listening to what she was telling you about the mountains of Switzerland. We thank you for all your goodness. You gave our family your open heart, even if we were strangers about your culture. We pray for you and we’ll always remember you as alive and among your people in the Vicariate of Bontoc-Lagawe.

Goodbye Bishop Cornelio

John and Judit Escher, Marianne Hübscher, Fr. Martin Jäggi, Bruno Hübscher
and the children Nadine and Lukas Hübscher

We have been working together with you as parish-priest of Barlig (Fr. Martin) and as newly arrived lay-missionaries to the Vicariate of Bontoc/Lagawe. You wanted to have a cultural exchange with us in which we can learn from each other and widen our horizons.

With our professional backgrounds we contribute some inputs and ideas and we are invited to experience church-life in this part of the world with its rich and unique culture.

We deeply regret that you had to go so soon. It was a short but rich and good time, in which we could meet you personally. Talking and being together with you was always a pleasure and we learned a lot from your visions and concerns.

But now, you are dead. John and Judit joined you on your last journey from Teng-ab to the hospital, where you died on May 16. They were impressed by your calm aura during your last two hours of this life.

With your blessing we continue our commitment.


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Post by yang-ew on Thu Jan 14, 2010 9:50 pm

[font=Impact]Remembering Bishop Nel:
Pastor et Agnus

By: Robert Mangangey

The Shepherd and Lamb”- A motto so beautifully coined in Latin that once hung imposingly over the altar of the Sta Rita Cathedral to the full view of any churchgoer. When the Rev. Cornelio G. Wigwigan was ordained bishop and installed by the Papal Nuncio to the Philippines as Apostolic Vicar of the Bontoc-Lagawe Vicariate, he chose and coined this motto that would guide him as he started to shepherd his flock in the Vicariate.

As a shepherd, he resolved to reach out to all nooks and corners of the Vicariate catering to their singular and collective spiritual needs. He realized and saw that there are still so many in the vineyard that needs to be guided towards the light of Christianity. And he accepted this challenge just as when he administered confirmation rites at Sadsadan, Bauko, for a hundred children just a day or two before his demise.

But just being a shepherd is far from complete. So, like Christ Himself, he has to be a lamb. He felt the need to be a Christ who was sacrificed if only to bring back to the fold of His Father’s kingdom all those who went astray. Bishop Wigwigan saw so many who went astray, and his mission, like Christ, was to bring them back to the Christian vineyard. But just ten (10) months and two days (2) days after his installation as Apostolic Vicar, God summoned him to His heavenly home.


Eng’r. Leonard Leyaley, Dir. Robert Mangangey, Bishop Cornelio Wigwigan, [/color]

[color=black]Fr. John Wageners, Judge Joseph Patna-an, Retired Tres. Roy Miranda,
Mr. Eusebio Litilit and Bro. Perigrino Pagat

His choice of Pastor et Agnus as his guiding motto may have been influenced by his seminary life, notably at the San Carlos Major Seminary in Makati City. When he was fourth year in Theology, he was already acting as pastor shepherding his co-seminarians coming from the old Vicariate of Mountain Provinces. He was tasked to see to it that his younger brothers will live up to their vocations thus uphold the seminary code of discipline and spirituality. In so many instances, he served even as the repository of all sorts of problems- spiritual, academic and even personal. His undying commitment to serve surpassed conveniences. At no instance was he seen or heard evading such referrals, but instead, patiently and warmly offered himself to those who need his advice. At this stage of his priestly formation, he was already a shepherd in action and lamb in obedience.

At one instance, in their meeting at the St Vincent’s convent bishop Nel told this writer that “you need not be a priest to serve God” perhaps insinuating this writer’s failure to pursue with his sacerdotal vocation. What a consoling statement from a brother giving strength in serving our people. This was followed by several statements of similar connotations at different times, even acknowledging the role of the DILG in serving our people in this province.

Times New Roman']Recalling his ordination to the priesthood on December 26, 1966 at his hometown Sabangan, he was pronounced by the ordaining bishop: Tue es sacerdos in aeternum secundum ordinem Melchizedek- You are a priest forever according to the Order of [i]Melchizedek
. The order of Melchizedek is offering sacrifice with bread and wine symbolizing Christ’s body and blood. But as he offered the Holy Eucharist, he is both the shepherd and the lamb. A shepherd, because he co-offers the Holy Eucharist with his flock to the Father. And as a lamb, he represents Christ at the altar sacrificing himself as the victim, the lamb to his Father.

Many of his flock wondered how time passed-why he had to be that way! He knew this, for he was aware of his physical conditions. But being committed to his mission, he didn’t mind so much that he was willing to sacrifice himself as a lamb.

Yes, pastor et agnus – he would have done more with this motto guiding him in his bishopric function as Apostolic Vicar of the Vicariate. But God knows better, and so He called him on May 16, 2005 to His kingdom. He has shepherded enough though in so short a time. But the task he did in laying down his life summarizes all. He was that energetic shepherd and the meek and non-complaining lamb that offered himself to His Father for the sake of his flock. And as the finishing touches of his tomb at the altar of the Sta Rita Cathedral were in place, many marveled as to who their next shepherd would be. But to Bishop Nel, he is surely the shepherd who will always be remembered.

Thousands mourn for Bishop Wigwigan’s loss

BONTOC, Mountain Province. "Nan layad mi mifuweg ken sik." This message could easily be read above the main altar of Sta. Rita Cathedral during the funeral service for Bontoc-Lagawe Vicariate Bishop Cornelio G. Wigwigan, who died last may 16 and was laid to rest last may 26, coinciding with his 63rd birthday.

The remains of Most Reverend Wigwigan was buried at the left altar inside the Sta. Rita Cathedral here at 12 noon. Funeral rites was officiated by Archbishop Antonio Franco, DD Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines. Coincidentally, the Vatican representative was the same church official who solemnized the ordination and installation of Msgr. Wigwigan on July 14, 2004 to shepherd the Apostolic Vicariate of Bontoc-Lagawe.

Archbishop Franco disclosed that Bishop Wigwigan was reluctant to be ordained as bishop. The first Igorot Kankanaey bishop jokingly told this writer that many church leaders who are nearer their graces are mostly bishops. This strong belief among the local Catholic priests must be the reason why they are not enthusiastic or in a hurry to accept a higher position, it happened to first bishop Emiliano Madangeng, a native of Ifugao who succumbed from a lingering illness and it also happened to Bishop Wigwigan, they pointed out.

Bishop Wigwigan is a native-born of Sabangan, Mt. Province. He received his early education at the Saint Joseph Catholic School in Sabangan. His teacher, Mrs. Loreto Liclic said that Bishop Wigwigan was a studious, jolly, good and honest pupil and that he graduated as valedictiorian.

He is better remembered for his laudable missionary works in the Cordillera Region. Thousands of catholic faithful of Bontoc-Lagawe Vicariate are praying that the next bishop would continue the evangelization of other mountain tribes who

By: Ben Moga
Montanosa Press Club Inc.

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Post by yang-ew on Sat Mar 13, 2010 1:03 pm

“Let the little children come unto me,” Jesus said and these same words were often times uttered by Bishop Nel. His love to the children especially to the little ones had been manifested in many forms. Having worked with him for several years, I personally witnessed his loving care and concern to the children.

His snap visits at the Saint Vincent Elementary department were heralded by the arrival of his small blue beetle. Then the children would crowd around him, their young voices resounding as they clamored for his attention. Often, their focus of interest was his rounded stomach as they playfully caressed it. The good bishop would then tease them, gently touch their heads and listen to their childish responses. And as the Bishop exited, he would honk his car, wave to the children playing on the grounds eliciting warm shouts of goodbyes from them.

I once witnessed an orphan, a loner who came late and was sitting behind the school gate. Bishop Nel playfully asked him some questions, tapped his shoulder and a while later off run the little boy happily into the classroom.

Aside from this encounter, he set time to join the faculty in-service training and planning at the beginning of the school year to ensure that we would implement a holistic curriculum which should make a difference in the formations of our school children. His concern paved way for the leveling of the SVS school ground, thus, optimizing the space for the children’s playground. Part of this dream was to install a mini park in the garden where it could be provided with children’s stuff. he, too, would give inspiring words to the children’s choir and encourage their BEC community participation.

Days before his death as we were going up to Teng-ab, he pointed to a curve along the road overlooking “Tay-ok” which is a part of the mission lot. He commented that it should not be used privately considering that it is an ideal turning point of vehicles. He planned to see Gov. Maximo B. Dalog in the future to request if it could be converted into a mini-children’s viewpoint because of its beautiful location. We pray that this dream will become a reality.

A father to his flock, Bishop Nel in his short span of life has been also a father to the young generation. Indeed, his good examples made him larger than his mortal life.

Maggie M. Fanusan
PTA President
Saint Vincent´s School

Pinpinhud da-a obispo Cornelio

My first encounter with Bishop Wigwigan was during a wedding mass in one of the barangays in Lagawe. He was then assigned as parish priest that time to our parish church in Lagawe. Being an ordinary plain house wife, I did not disclose myself to be involved in the charismatic studies which I immensely loved and enjoyed. I became an active member and coordinator of LSS that Bishop Wigwigan supported.

His out pouring support to the Life in the Spirit Seminar-LSS most especially his concern to the youngsters was proven when we had a seminar in Paracelis. Many of the youths would like to join but our problem was the ride. Without our knowledge the good Bishop Wigwigan provided two rides for us to use and so all who wished to join were accommodated. He even prepared us cooked food to take, he said, “Ala-en yu daytoy ta balun yu ta awan ti mabisinan dyay dalan”. He did not like us to starve on our way to Paracelis. Indeed, he was right because on our way came the pouring rain which forced us to stop for sometime until the rain subsided.

These were gestures of the bishop that touched me. His sincerity, humility and generosity spoke of his real person: I really admire his less talk and more action asset. He taught me values that every time I make decisions or plan things I’m reminded of him and seemingly it helped me organize my thoughts. He would always stress on one way to follow. Do it in action and live accordingly.

We will surely miss you in our midst. Pinpinhud da-a obispo Cornelio.

Milagros Ngipol
Life in the Spirit Seminar
Lagawe, Ifugao


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Post by yang-ew on Wed May 16, 2012 10:13 am

Remembering Bishop Cornelio "Nel" Wigwigan on his 7th Death Anniversary.

Let's keep his memories alive within us by making Saint Vincent's School a better place in shaping students to competence and to proper Christian education.

Let us continue to support Bishop Nel Run as one project to raise fund for the building of the new SVS Elementary School

Help build the Bishop Nel's Building of Saint Vincent's Elementary School. Your kind donation count so much. IYAMAN! Ipey-as Kabunyan nan bindisyon ken chatako am-in!

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