Retro: Tacurong at a Glance
During the 50’s up to the early 70’s
By Apolinario Villalobos
While Tacurong was gaining momentum towards progress as a town many years back, I remember what we enjoyed as simple luxuries when I was a kid.
Easily recalled was the Polar ice drop sold by the Valencia family. Hundreds of the cooling popsicles were loaded on the first tripper bus, Cotabato Bus Company (CBC) that left Cotabato City at dawn. After a grueling dusty travel over unpaved and potholed highway for four hours or more, the boxes filled with sticks of ice drop secured in plastic bags and protected by layers of newspapers and crushed ice and salt would finally arrive at the terminal where the patriarch of the Valencias was on hand to receive them. While some of the boxes went straight to their home where they were made more secure with packs of crushed ice, the rest went to the north entrance of the market where the ice drops were sold by the Valencia children, Remy and Fernando, while the youngest, Bobot, was spared the task as he was very young, then.
During the early 70’s an honest-to-goodness home-based ice drop business was opened by the Panes family, in front of the Notre Dame. Students would flock to their store during break time while those who preferred to sit the break period out, spent their time at the Sara’s Store where soft drinks, bread and biscuits were sold.
If we wanted to enjoy our snacks comfortably, we went to “Angelita’s Halu-Halo “where the best chiffon cake and halu-halo were served. The halu-halo’s fame has spread even to neighboring towns. The cool delicacy was served in a big bowl or tall glass with fruits in season, boiled banana, yam jam and leche flan. The joint was operated by the couple, Angelita and Pacio Palmes, helped by their children, Marites and Rene, as well as, relatives.
A few meters away, fronting the bus terminal was the Dainty Refreshment specializing in cakes, pastries with coffee and soft drinks as “downers”. There were days when the establishment served meals. It was owned and personally operated by Flor de la Rosa during her days off, as she worked as Secretary of Mayor Jose Escribano during on weekdays.
Inside the market, beside the stalls that sold tobacco and betel nut was the “Laspe’s La Paz Batchoy”. The owner brought with him his love for this Ilonggo delicacy when he joined a group of migrants from La Paz, Iloilo, to seek their fortune in Tacurong. I enjoyed gawking at the owner cut strips of meat with a sharp set of scissors. One of his daughters was my classmate in elementary, Dioleta, a sprinter who always won in track and field during athletic meets.
For oriental foods, we would go to the two Chinese restaurants, one beside the Ideal Theater, and the other between Nonoy and Prince theaters. They served, of course, as there were no other choices, the best chop suey and Chinese noodles (pancit) either sautéed or with broth – with plenty of cabbage, chayote and spring onion, as the carrot was considered a luxury, hence, scarce. The two restaurants had lodging rooms on their second floor that catered to salesmen who frequented our town.
And, of course, for the grilled chicken, locals flocked to the “Mauring’s Chicken Barbecue” owned by the Pernatos. As with other family-operated establishments, members of the family pitched in. The culinary tradition has been handed to two children who are now operating their respective barbecue restaurant using the ingredients that their parents used in the marinade.
The entertainment was provided by four “cinemas” – Real Theater in front of the north gate of the Market, Prince Theater fronting the sourtheast corner of the plaza, the Ideal Theater on the east side of Alunan Highway, and Nonoy Theather, fronting the Ulangkaya building. The cinemas provided wooden tick-infested seats. As they were not sound-proof, the dialog of the actors could be heard out in the street. We were amused then, by the moans of actors when erotic films were shown. Those with “added sexy scenes” were advertised with hand-written, “Plus-Boom” (plus bomba), as the erotic films were then called, “bomba films”.
An ice plant provided our town and the surrounding areas with the very important commodity as it was also used by fish vendors. The downtown outlet of blocks of ice was owned by the Sanque family. The Mariἧas family got their ice from the Sanque outlet for the ice cream that they prepared to be sold around the town, in which one of the sons, Jaime also helped. Later on, another ice cream maker opened his home-based “factory” which was peddled by a high school classmate, Rogelio Gallega.
The office supplies and a handful of books were sold by the Goodwill Bookstore. First class fabrics were sold in a market stall by the Sandigs, and motorcycles were the exclusive goods of the Paragas family. Even with a small town such as our place, there was already an agent for insurance policy – Felipe Lapuz who was the local manager of Philam Life.
Later, better hotels were opened, such as the one operated by the couple, Menandro and Prax Lapuz, located near the town plaza; and, Edgie Hotel owned by Eddie Lopez that occupied the east end of the commercial building where Ideal Theater was also located. The entrance of the hotel was right beside the Uy store, owned by the father of my classmate in elementary, Jimmy Uy who later married Elsie Dajay, another classmate.
There were no beerhouses then. Those who would like to get tipsy, went to the carinderia of the Gialogos inside the market where the stalls of the dried fish were also located. The Gialogos sold the freshest/sweetish and the best “bahal” (day-old) coconut sap wine (tuba), served on “Bols” jars. Finger foods were grilled tilapia, mudfish, gurami, and catfish. Some days, the elder Gialogo would cook “dinuguan” (pork innards cooked in ginger and pig’s blood). The son, Ernesto who was also a classmate, continued the carinderia tradition, minus the tuba, with his restaurant in front of the Notre Dame campus.
Much later, as Mayor Escribano loved music, he opened the Bayanihan Club near where the market/public toilet was located. The “unit 1” of the The Fireband provided the entertainment, with singers Helen, Lito and sometimes, Femy Alcon and Grace Perales, consistent winners in the “amateur” singing contest. The “unit 2” of the Fireband during the time, played at a popular night club in Pasay City….that was how the two bands became self-liquidating, as the players who doubled as town firemen had no fixed wage. The band got “caught” by the sweeping camera during the filming of a Fernando Poe, Jr. film….I forgot the title of the film
As a further manifestation of his love for the good life, the mayor opened the first “resort” in the middle of the town – inside the plaza, complete with an elevated swimming pool to the delight of a Spanish immigrant, Mr. Fernandez as he was fond of swimming and had the prowess for board diving. The facility also provided the mayor with a comfortable office as it was shaded by plenty of trees. What was nice about the mayor was that, he allowed the drying of rice and corn grains on the basketball court and the circular skating rink of the town plaza.
The medical services were provided during the time by the Baroquillo and Ventura clinics, later joined by the Tamondong Hospital. The biggest stores were those of the Suana’s, Lee Kay Kee, Paciente’s and Rapacon’s. Dental Services were provided by Dr. Casipe and Dra. Tabuga. Later on, an optical clinic was opened by Dra. Pareἧas, beside which the first boutique, Noeleen’s, was also opened by Nenita Astillero-Bernardo.
Today, the City of Tacurong is making big leaps as big establishments compete with each other in filling up commercial voids that used to be swampy patches of land.