History and Government
Unlike other municipalities, there are no legends to speak of about the origin of the name Pilar. The municipality’s name however, is derived from its Patron Saint, Nuestra Señora Del Pilar. On the other hand, the municipality’s Poblacion or Baliwag is named after a merchant from Baliuag, Bulacan who settled early in the place engaging in commerce. The first settlers of Pilar were Tinguians from the provinces of Kalinga and Apayao.
In 1866, during the administration of Governor Don Joaquin de Paat y Parella, a pueblo was organized in the southwestern portion of Abra due to the necessity of establishing a Roman Catholic mission. The new pueblo was named Villavieja. Formerly, it was barangay Bollilising, an interior territory. First to become the gobernadorcillo of the town was Don Pedro Manuel Laoeng. Villavieja covered the territory now occupied by the municipality of Pilar, San Isidro and Villaviciosa including the southwestern part of Luba. In 1884, due to the very extensive area covered by Villavieja, a new pueblo called Pueblo de Lumaba was established at Barangay Lumaba upon order of Governor Jose Diaz y Sala, a native of the place. Jose Prada Malaquiem was the first Gobernadorcillo of the new town then thickly populated by Tinguians. Pueblo de Lumaba covered the erstwhile portion of Villavieja town starting from San Juan, Baliwag and Maliplipit down north to San Marcial and Dalimag.
In 1885, Juan Valera succeeded Jose Prada Malaquiem as Gobernadorcillo. The center of government was transferred to a terrain west of Lumaba just accross the Sinalang River. The place was called Poblacion del Pilar in honor of its patron saint Nuestra Señora del Pilar. The people of the town, however, called the place Naguillan. As the seat of the new government, a presidencia, a military barracks, a church, and a school were constructed. Henceforth, the place was called Pilar.
In 1895, during the incumbency of Lorenzo Anioay of Villaviciosa, the town of Naguillan was completely burned. In spite of the efforts of President Fortunato Sotelo of Dalit, Pilar to reconstruct the site with his personal money, the government center was never put in place again. Building scattered villages within the land they tilled, the people preferred to stay where they evacuated.
In 1903, the pueblos of Villavieja and Pilar were merged to form the new town named Villa Pilar, through Act No. 1001, in accordance with the policy of the Philippine Commission towards consolidation. In the same year, due to cultural reasons, the town of Villaviciosa was created out of the Tinguian barangays east and north of Villa Pilar. From 1901 to 1923, the seat of government of the town, now plainly called Pilar, was volatile. The practice of elected municipal presidents of establishing the seat of government in their respective barangays was done ten times within a period of 23 years. The practice ended only in 1924 when Governor General Leonard Wood, through the intercession of the incumbent Provincial Governor Virgilio Valera, ordered the transfer of the seat of government permanently to its present site, the Poblacion.
The chief executives of the municipality were: Don Pedro Manuel Laoeng (1866), Juan Valera (1885-1888), Victorio Astudillo (1889-1890), Elelio Bandayrel (1893-1894), Namerto Valera (1895), Enrique Valera (1896-1897), Lorenzo Anioay (1901), Daniel Bosque (1902), Juan Benauro (1903-1904), Edilberto Paking (1905-1906), Fortunato Sotela (1907-1909), Ramon Valera (1910-1912), Rafael Dalligos (1913-1915), Roman Venus, (1916-1919), Benedicto Sotelo (1920-1922), Anselmo Balleras (1923-1925), Claudio Almazan (1926-1928), Marcelino Sotelo (1929-1934), Angel Domingo (1946), Gervacio Sotelo (1946), Pedro Berona (1946), Lucas Lactao (1934-1937), Jesus Domingo (1938-1943), Marcelino Sotelo (1945-1951), Saturnino Dumag (1952-1959), Marcelino Sotelo (1960-1963), Conrado Berona (1964-1965), Juan Valera (1965), Antonio Valera (1965-1967), Jesus Valera (1968-1971), Orlando Sotelo (1972-1982), Demetrio Berona (1983-1986), Gerardo Balleras (OIC, 1987) and Rolando Somera (1988-1998). At present, the municipal mayor is Demetrio Beroña.
Pilar is politically subdivided into 19 barangays, namely: Poblacion, Patad, Maliplipit, Tikitik, Narnarar, San Juan East, San Juan West, Kinabiti, Bolbolo, Dintan, Villavieja, Ocup, Dalit, Brookside, Pang-ot, Nanangduan, Nagcanasan, Gapang and South Balioag.
The municipality of Pilar is situated 32.74 km. south of the capital town of Bangued, bounded on the north by the municipality of San Isidro, on the east by the municipality of Villaviciosa and on the west and south by the province of Ilocos Sur.
The municipality's total land area is 10,045 has. charaterized by a topography which is generally hilly characterized by sloping mountains and hills upon which small valleys are nestled making the temperature relatively cool. Climate is characterized by two distinct seasons - rainy from May to October and dry from November to April.
The first settlers of Pilar were Tinguians from the provinces of Kalinga and Apayao. However, the present population of 9,183 is generally Ilocano, a principal reason why Tinguian customs and traditions are not normally practiced and observed in the place. The proximity of Pilar to the province of Ilocos Sur is the reason why Pilar is predominantly inhabited by Ilocanos. Major dialects are Ilocano and Tinguian. Religious groups/sects existing in the municipality include: Roman Catholic, Iglesia ni Cristo, 7th Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses and Pentecosts. A part of the population still practice old pagan beliefs and traditions.
As of the 1995 Census of Population, Pilar has a population of 9,183, a total number of households of 1,711 with an average household size of 5.36 and a population growth rate of 1.57%. Comparing it with 1990 data, the increase in 1995 from 1990's population of 8,569 is 7.2%. The total number of households in 1990 is 1,510 increasing to 1,711 in 1995 with an equivalent increase of 13.3%. The average household size of 5.3 in 1990 remained the same in 1995. The annual population growth rate however increased from 1.2% covering the year 1981-1990 to 1.57% covering the year 1990-1995.