August 21, 2013

Iponan's Patron Saint: San Guillermo

Iponan is just one of Cagayan de Oro's many barangays. I've lived in this part of the city for more or less seven years. Like most towns in the country we have our own patron saint, San Guillermo in which our annual fiesta is held in his honor. I'm not a huge fan of fiestas though, they weren't the same way they used to be. however my interest was revived when I read about the city's legends of San Guillermo.

I was in our school library that day when I chance upon an extremely old book. Within it were stories and legends from Cagayan de Oro, all pages type written. Of course I searched for ones that is related to where I was currently living then. I wasn't disappointed, the barangay of Iponan has its own share of tales:

Then as now each barrio had its patron saint and a feast was held every year in honor of the saint. One day, the people of Iponan and Opol called a gathering and decided to exchange their patron saints.  Thus, San Guillermo, the patron saint of Iponan, would be transferred to Opol, and San Nicolas to Iponan.  The people were mutually agreeable to this arrangement. 
The appointed day of the exchanged of the images came.  The people of Opol carried the status to Iponan without any difficulty.  It seemed as though San Nicolas was not reluctant to leave Opol.  On the hand, the people of Iponan could not carry it slowly.  When the bearers reached the boundary of Iponan, where the principal road to Opol, suddenly the image became very heavy.  Hundreds of men helped to carry it, yet it remained very heavy.  The people tried hard to carry it, but to no avail.  One of them decided to return the image to Iponan.  Immediately without difficulty two persons were able to carry it, for it felt light as cotton.  When they found out that it was no longer heavy immediately, they went back on their way, so that the image could be brought to Opol.  However, the same incident occurred:  it gradually became heavier, and as soon as it arrived the boundary of Iponan even a hundred strong men could not carry it. 
The people of Iponan tried to effect the exchange many times since, both sides had agreed to it.  But all their efforts were futile, since the image of San Guillermo was unbearable each time they reached the boundary of Iponan and Opol.
That's not all, the attempt to move that image of the saint was done once more during the war:
During the Second World War, a certain Iponan was very much worried about the image of San Guillermo fearing that it might be destroyed and bombed.  He tried to transfer the image to Ganitoan a neighboring barrio; but he could not carry it for it was heavy.  So he just left it there.  The church where the image was placed was bombed and burned by the Japanese soldiers, after the war however the image remained unscathed.
Here's a positively hilarious one:
Some Japanese soldiers shared to their prisoners that it was very difficult for them to enter Iponan, because they saw many soldiers there at night, and the whole barrio was very bright, as though lighted by electricity.  The Japanese soldiers were afraid to attack Iponan, when in fact, there were only 9-10 soldiers stationed there. 
Lastly here's a tale about how, during the olden days, a conflict took place between the Moros of Lanao and the people of Iponan and San Guillermo's helping hand:
One day, Cagayan de Oro was the target of a Moro attack from Lanao. These Moros had to pass by Iponan. So despite their few numbers, the able-bodied men of this place prepared for the encounter. In the ensuing fight, the invaders were defeated due to numerous casualties they suffered. Even the people of Iponan were surprised at the result of the battle. 
Because there was no more trouble from the Muslims, people of Iponan once again began peacefully to earn their living. In their business ventures, many of them reached as far as Initao. There they heard a story about the Muslims: they did not return to Cagayan de Oro because they were afraid of a well-known warrior of Iponan known as “San Guillermo”. The people of Iponan were surprised upon hearing it, but just kept silent.

One day, a man from Iponan was on his way to Initao. On the road he met four Muslims selling tobacco.  One of them approached the man and asked where he came from. The man did not deny and answered he was from Iponan. 
So you are from Iponan.  Now I have something to ask you and only tell me the truth, my friend,” said the Muslim.
What is it?” said the man.
Is San Guillermo still alive?  If he is still alive we will not return to Cagayan de Oro anymore, because we are afraid of him.
What San Guillermo are you talking about?” replied the man.
Don’t tell me a lie, my friend.
I will tell the truth,” said the Muslim.
You know when the Moros were about to attack Cagayan de Oro, there was a small man, with a long beard, with a sword and was riding on a horse.  He led the warriors and killed many of my companions. That was the reason why we are afraid of him even if he was a small man. So, if he is still alive, we will not return to Cagayan de Oro."
The man from Iponan fearing that the Muslims might return to Cagayan de Oro City told them that Guillermo was still alive.
Since then, the people of Iponan believed that San Guillermo would protect them at all times.
Aside from these stories, I have also discovered a news item of the saint and the tragic Sendong flood that took over the city during 2011.
...they believed San Guillermo made a miracle and saved their village from the wrath of “Sendong”, which affected 80 percent of the area.
“At the height of the flood that occurred at dawn in some areas of the city, a resident saw a mysterious bearded man in the river, who was believed to be San Guillermo. The man was trying to prevent the flood from entering our barangay. That is why the flood happened only in the morning, giving the residents time to prepare and evacuate, as compared to other affected areas where thousands died because it happened while they were sleeping,” he said...
So who is this saint really? It's actually Saint William of Aquitaine. He was duke and had a colorful military career and was even called as the ideal knight. However, he gave up the sword and became dedicated himself to God. Now here's the best part, he founded the monastery of Gellone which these days is known as Saint-Guilhem-le-D├ęsert. He's called San Guillermo since the Spanish equivalent of the saint's name is Guillermo de Tolosa.

A soldier? Check.
Surrenders his life to God? Check.


  1. May I know the book that you have read and where could it be possibly accessed? Because we need the history for our history subject.

    1. Hello, the book I read was in the Xavier University Library in Cagayan de Oro.