The Blissful Family of Luis and Paciencia Garcia of Tacurong City

The Blissful Family of Luis and Paciencia Garcia

of Tacurong City

By Apolinario Villalobos


The couple, Luis and Paciencia Garcia (Tatay Luis and Nanay Pacing) opened the first bakery in our town during the 1950s. It had a big wood-fired oven fed by big chunks of wood, usually, “enyam” or “bignay” and acacia which grew in abundance throughout the extent of the town. I would play on stacked logs in front of the bakery in the afternoon before finally making it home from the dried fish stall of my parents in the market. Practically, every able-bodied member of the family took part in its operation, especially, in manning the counter and the cash box. The Garcias were close to our parents and sometimes our mother would linger awhile in front of the bakery on her way to the market, to chat with both Nanay Pacing and Tatay Luis. In my desire to earn at an early age, I peddled their pan de sal around the town at dawn before I went to school, using a box of Darigold, a popular brand of milk during the time. I was in Grade Three at the time.


During the regular Sunday singing contest held at the town plaza, courtesy of the late mayor, Jose Escribano, paper bags of bread from the bakery were among the prizes. The judges were so strict that at the hint of an off-key, the contestant was disqualified at the sound of a bell. A Levita girl with her golden voice was the consistent winner. The couple also used to donate cookies for the yearly “Flores” celebration held every May. The cookies were served as snacks to the kids who participated in catechetical sessions during which Marian songs and prayers were taught. At the height of evacuation to our town of families displaced from the surrounding areas during the 70’s, they gave the local office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) specially-discounted price for the bread that the agency purchased.


Tatay Luis had the opportunity to delve into the local politics with successful attempts, but he did not pursue this particular calling, as it got stinky, the height of which was the assassination of the town judge inside the church while he was attending the Sunday Mass. Free from the political clutch, Tatay Luis and Nanay Pacing devoted their time instead, to religious and civic activities of the town, especially, during fiestas.


All members of the Garcia family are achievers, successful in their chosen career and enjoying the fruit of their labor, except for one whose advocacy brought her to her untimely demise. She was Marlene (Esperat), the youngest in the brood, and who worked for the government, particularly, as the Action Officer of the resident Ombudsman of the Department of Agriculture, but left it posthaste, when she discovered unbecoming activities. She later found a niche in the field of journalism, both broadcast and print. In her paramount desire to help her country, she later exposed the anomalies that she stumbled upon at the cost her life. She was murdered, obviously, by a hired killer right inside her home. It took more than 5 years before the Ombudsman finally filed a solid case against the suspects, the then, Agriculture Secretary Luis “Chito” Lorenzo, Undersecretary Joselyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante and three others.


Practically, the Garcia siblings were popular campus personalities at the Notre Dame Boys and Girls Departments, what with their strong personality characterized by inherent leadership quality that made them shine in scholastic and extra- curricular activities. The family was known for their closeness that brought them together almost every year during a reunion, in which cousins were also in attendance. Other special occasions were also reasons for them to be together. That was how the good-natured though strict patriarch and the jolly matriarch brought up the family. The eldest of the brood, ultra-active, Valmie, with her crown of thick curly hair, was always the life of any occasion as she let out her antics and biting, though, funny remarks.


I was fortunate to meet Bong (Larry) and Pangkek at Dagat-dagatan, Malabon many years back when I visited another town mate, Judith Bides-Ramiscal who excitedly told me that they were neighbors. After having told of their address I immediately surprised them with my visit. My path crossed with that of Valmie’s during the 50th foundation anniversary of our school, the Notre Dame of Tacurong. At the closing ceremony of the reunion highlighted by a community dancing on the school grounds, she was among the alumni who gleefully bumped shoulders to the beat of the festive music, still the spritely gal that she was during her high school days.  We were practically exchanging shouts of greeting above the din of the ear-splitting non-stop disco sound. And, the next time we again met after many years, was via the internet – the facebook. That social medium also got me  touched base with her younger brother, Bong.


The Garcias have definitely impressed the mark of their own legacy on the hefty foundation of the City of Tacurong while she was going through the challenges from simple politics gone stinky and threats of cultural unrest. And for that, Valmie and her siblings have their courageous and generous father, Luis, as well as, jovial mother, Paciencia, to thank!



Marlene Garcia-Esperat and the Plight of other “Whistle Blowers”

Marlene Garcia-Esperat

and the Plight of Other “Whistle Blowers”

By Apolinario Villalobos


When I saw the photo of the late Marlene Garcia-Esperat who was murdered because she exposed the anomalies at the Department of Agriculture, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of devastation and palpitated with anger. She was so young and unfortunately, her ideals cut short her dreams. She exposed the anomalies at the Department of Agriculture which was then under Secretary Luis “Chito” Lorenzo whose cohorts were his Underscretary Joselyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante and three more personalities, involving the purchase of millions of pesos worth of fertilizer.


Marlene made the exposế when she left the Office of the Ombudsman where she was the Action Office of the resident Ombudsman of the Department of Agriculture.  Not long after, she was silenced by a hired gunman right inside her home on the fateful 24th day of March, 2005, as she was obviously, unprotected. She should have been moving around with a security because of her exposếs, but she was not. At the time of her death, she was living with her family in the City of Tacurong, her birthplace. The proud parents are Luis and Paciencia Garcia.


The “whistle blowers” risk their career and security of their family after making the painful decision to spill out the proverbial beans of anomalies that they accidentally discover. Some of them make the crucial decision on their own volition while others had to be coaxed into cooperation, and even intimidated by eager prosecutors. Promises of security and financial assistance are made by the government, but are unfortunately, short-lived as the “agreement” had to be “renewed”.


Sandra Cam who stands out among the “whistle blowers” organized them for the convenience of the NGOs which are helping them. Also, to make them cohesive every time they make demands in one voice. Unfortunately, the last time that this group was heard was when Cam surfaced during the celebrated hearings of de Lima at the Senate….perhaps, only because, de Lima is her mortal enemy. The big question is where are the rest of them? Have they finally recanted their statements in exchange for big sums or unfortunately, silenced forever?


The “whistle blowers” are actually witnesses, who got tagged with such reference because they are supposed to have blown the whistle to alert the government about certain anomalies. But, for how long can they blow the whistle with the kind of government that we have? The expense for their protection is dependent on the budget of the concerned agencies, but the approval of which is also dependent on the whims of the Senate. Worse, the approval of the protection sometimes is granted long after witnesses has put their security in jeopardy when they divulged information at the hearing venue.


How many more Marlene Garcia-Esperats will make a sacrifice to make the government realize the loop-holes of its “witness protection program”? How could the Duterte administration use this program to enhance his drive against illegal drugs if prospective witnesses have lost their trust in such program? What is their chance of still standing alive and kicking after his six-year term? …AND, WHAT IS THE GOVERNMENT’S DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE DOING ABOUT IT?


The Majestic “Banig” of Basey, Samar


The Majestic “Banig” of Basey Samar

The traditional art of mat weaving continues to flourish in this old town whose name has become synonymous with woven sleeping mat, or “banig.”

And the practice of this ancient art, which has been handed down from one generation to the next, recently took a new turn as demand for the product increases.

This is because use of the banig has expanded. Where once the age-old mat was used solely for sleeping, it now adorns modern walls or ceiling panels. It has been turned into bags, throw pillows, framed decors, as well as place mats and furniture matting.

The people in Basey had been weaving mats long before the Spaniards came, it was said. The tradition went on with almost all, if not all, of the womenfolk here learning the art of weaving at an early age. The weavers are locally known as…

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Borobangkaso Islet (Masbate, PH)

No Juan Is An Island

“Islands are metaphors of the heart, no matter what poet says otherwise.” – Jeanette Winterson


Island-hopping is probably one of the primary things you got to do when you live in an archipelago of 7, 107 islands dotted with gorgeous shoreline.


Living in the Philippines my entire life has made me a beach lover. Ironically, I am not an avid fan of swimming in the open sea. I just love walking and bumming around the beach despite the sweltering heat of the sun. You see, the sun and I get along pretty easy.


Seemingly floating around the Masbate Strait is a small island, which features a distinctive rock formation that looks like a pile of books from afar, as its centrepiece. Borobangkaso Islet is one of the stop-over if you happen to do an all-day island-hopping in Ticao Island, Masbate Province.


From among the places we did see during that…

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Burias Island (Masbate, PH)

No Juan Is An Island

Not all those who wander are lost. — J.R.R. Tolkien


Seven thousand, one hundred seven islands (7, 107) – that is how plenty one can choose from when visiting the Philippines. Of these islands, a great number of them are undiscovered and pristine beaches. For the past months of my “wanderlusting”, I have been keen on discovering/re-discovering these “off the beaten” destinations.


One of the greatest surprise is an island in the province of Masbate called Burias Island and its islets.An island made up of 2 municipalities (Claveria and San Pascual), it is one of the three major islands of the province. Imay not have set foot on mainland Burias during my recent visit, but, I was given the chance to see and experience the magnificent smaller islands of Burias that includes Dapa, Sombrero and Tinalisyan.


The beauty of Burias is best travelled (and experienced) by boat and a night…

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Pol Saulog at Magno Padua…mga bukod-tanging kaibigan sa Cavite


…mga bukod-tanging kaibigan sa Cavite

Ni Apolinario Villalobos


Nakilala ko si Manong Pol nang tumira ako sa isang subdivision sa Cavite. Sa simula ay simpleng batian lang ang aming ginagawa tuwing kakain ako o uminom ng beer sa kanyang “native style” na restaurant sa labas ng aming subdivision. Mahilig siyang magluto ng mga pagkaing Kabitenyo subalit hindi niya ako inaalok ng mga ito dahil nalaman niyang vegetarian ako. Nakilala ko rin ang kanyang mga anak at asawa na naging malapit sa akin. Hindi ko binigyang pansin ang tikas ng kanyang personalidad sa simula sa kabila ng artistahin niyang mukha. Nagulat na lamang ako nang malaman ko sa ibang kaibigan niya na lumalabas pala siya sa pelikula ni Ramon Revilla kasama ang isa pang kaibigan ko sa lugar ding yon na si Ding Santos.


Hindi palasalita si Manong Pol kaya karamihan ng mga kuwento tungkol sa kanyang buhay ay sa kanyang mga kumpare ko nalaman. Napansin niya ang pagiging galante ko noon sa inuman kaya pinayuhan niya akong maghinay-hinay sa paggastos sa alak at piliing mabuti ang mga taong gustong makipagkaibigan sa akin. May laman ang kanyang sinabi at napatunayan ko makalipas ang maraming taon. Nagsilbi siyang “kuya” ko sa lugar namin, at ang samahan namin ang nakatulong upang respetuhin din ako ng mga nagrerespeto sa kanya.


Maaga ako noong pumasok sa opisina na nasa Roxas Boulevard, sakop ng Ermita. Madaling araw pa lang ay nasa highway na ako at nag-aabang ng masasakyag dyip. Madalas akong madaanan nina Manong Pol at ng kanyang asawa na araw-araw namang pumupunta sa Maynila kaya nai-aangkas nila ako sa kotse nilang Mustang, isang collectible na edition. Ibinababa nila ako sa mismong harapan ng S&L Building kung saan ako nag-oopisina.


Bukod sa restaurant sa labasan namin, may tindahan pa rin sina Manong Pol sa kanilang bahay na katabi ng subdivision namin, kung saan ako umuutang ng kaha-kahang beer na nilalatag ko sa mga kaibigan tuwing mag-inuman kami. Nagtapat siya minsan na ako lang ang pinagbubuksan niya ng tindahan kahit alanganing oras tuwing ako ay tatawag upang umutang ng beer. Sinabi din ito sa akin ng mga kumpare niya na hindi niya pinagbibigyan kahit sa tagal na ng kanilang samahan.


Nang panahong yon, kailangan kong makisama sa mga taong nakatira sa paligid ng subdivision namin dahil sa katungkulan ko bilang presidente ng homeowners’ association. Sa pagkakataong ito ko nakilala din si Magno Padua, na nirerespeto sa lugar namin. Bukod sa kanya ay nakilala ko rin ang kanyang mga kapatid na sina Tomas, Budjo, Emo, Tura at  Millie. Namayapa na sina Tomas, Emo, at Millie. Noong buhay pa ang nanay nina Magno, ipinaghahanda niya ako ng hiniwa nang malalaki na patola na niluluto niya sa  bawang. Ang ulam ay masarap sa kabila ng payak na pagkaluto sa bawang, lalo na ang sabaw na manamis-namis pa.. Masipag magtanim ang magkakaptid ng gulay na binibenta din nila sa palengke ng Zapote kaya sagana ako sa gulay tuwing pupunta ako sa kanila.


Dahil ako ay dayo sa lugar na tinirhan ko malaking bagay ang nagawa ng pakipagkaibigan ko sa mga nabanggit. Kung anong respetong ipinakita sa kanila ay ipinakita at pinadanas din sa akin ng mga naging kaibigan kong nakakakilala sa kanila. Marami rin akong natutunan sa kanila lalo na sa pakikisama sa ibang tao, higit sa lahat ay ang pagpapairal ng ugali sa paraang walang kayabangan. Napansin ko na sa mga kasayahan, kalimitan ay nasa tabi lamang sila at hindi nagbabangka o nagpapasimula ng kuwentuhan. Kung uminom man ng alak ay yong tipong, pang-sosyal, hindi laklak.


Parehong biyudo sina Manong Pol at Magno, magkasing-edad sa gulang na mahigit sitenta pero matitikas pa rin. Nagkikita kami ni Manong Pol kung siya ay masumpungan ko sa tinitirhan ng kanyang anak, dahil nakatira na siya ngayon sa isa pang bayan ng Cavite mula noong mamatay ang asawa niya. Si Magno naman ay pinapasyalan ko tuwing may panahon ako dahil hindi kalayuan ang tinitirhan niya mula sa amin.


Ang mga tinukoy ko ay halimbawa ng mga taong hindi ko makakalimutan dahil sa maganda nilang asal kahit hindi nakatuntong ng kolehiyo. Lutang na lutang ang bukod-tangi nilang pagkatao kahit sa umpukan dahil sa ugali nilang higit pa sa ilang nakatapos sa malalaking unibersidad…kaya dapat tularan.