LUBUAGAN, Kalinga – The remains of two pioneer Belgian priests in the province were transferred through the Kalinga custom galis from the Catholic cemetery at Belalaw, Mabilong in this municipality to the Billiet-Cornette Shrine built at the St. Peter’s Church ground at Poblacion, Lubuagan.
The transfer of the bones of Fr. Francisco Billiet and Fr. Enrique Cornette was accorded church rites with a mass officiated by Bishop Prudencio Andaya, Jr. of the Apostolic Vicariate of Tabuk and with Kalinga rituals performed by Lubuagan elders.
Fr. Billiet and Fr. Cornette were missionaries of the Congregatio Immaculati Cordis Mariae or the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Fr. Billiet came to Kalinga in 1920 and served as the first parish priest of Lubuagan that also covered Pasil, Tinglayan, and Tanudan. Fr. Cornette arrived in 1937.
They were most remembered for Christianizing natives, making Lubuagan during their time as the citadel of Catholic faith in Kalinga. They also opened the St. Teresita’s School and College where thousands of i-Kalingas were educated.
As part of their humanitarian mission, they also distributed relief goods and free medicines to the barrios.
Fr. Billiet was the first resident missionary-priest of Kalinga in 1925. Friendly and with a great heart, he visited most the barrios. His deep sense of understanding and missionary zeal won for him the respect and love of the Kalinga people especially the papangat (leaders).
Fr. Billiet had vast collections of Kalinga tales, wrote an unpublished Kalinga dictionary and also co-authored the book “Kalinga Ullalim.”
An authority on Kalinga language and culture, he was made an honorary citizen of Kalinga in 1961.
He died on June 4, 1971 with his wish that he be buried on Kalinga soil.
Fr. Cornette was described as a selfless man – one who cared for others. Such was his life and those who knew him testified he was a good priest. He died on Jan. 31, 1971 in Ableg when his jeep fell in a ravine down the Pasil River.
The long planned shrine for the pioneer CICM missionaries in Kalinga was realized through the facilitation of the Augustinian priests assigned in Lubuagan.
The resources used to construct the shrine and sacrificial animals butchered during the rituals were all donations. – Peter A. Balocnit