Tacurong: The Cosmopolitan City of Southern Mindanao
…thanks to Mayor Lina Montilla’s Compassionate Administration
By Apolinario Villalobos
The tag of Tacurong City, “Limpyo Tacurong”, means “Clean Tacurong”. This is an offshoot of the Resolution 021-6th SP, Series of 2014 that created the “LIMPYO KALOG” PROGRAM primarily authored by Hon. Psyche Sucaldito, with co-authors: Hons. Joselito L. Cajandig, Benjamin P. Fajardo, Jr., Welson U. Ferrer, Cirilo Y. Flores, Rodrigo P. Jamorabon, Ariel Ferdinand M. de la Cruz, Jose Remos P. Segura, and Paulino R. Ledda . The resolution was necessitated by the onset of dengue fever during the time, making the cleaning of canals/waterways and street potholes with stagnated water as targets. The resolution also called for the participation of residents and stall owners in the market and whose trades required water, such as fish and meat vendors, carinderias and beauty salons. The ordinance enjoined practically, all Tacurongnons to keep their premises generally clean, hence, also required the cutting of grasses that mosquitoes use as breeding grounds during the rainy season.
When I visited the city lately, particularly, the wet market, I was impressed by the sight of a buko juice vendor sweeping the area around his pushcart and table for the plastic tumblers and juice jar. He also neatly stacked empty green buko shells and their trimmings inside the pushcart. Beside him during the time was also an ambulant fish ball vendor who was picking up barbecue sticks and plastic tumblers that he deposited in a garbage bag positioned not far from his cart.
When I entered the wet market, I was equally impressed by the generally clean fish and meat sections, and was further surprised because even the stalls for the fresh fish such as mudfish, catfish, tilapia, and gourami, did not give out a foul smell! The floor was of course, wet but not “flooded” with water from the concrete stalls, as the latter were constantly wiped by the vendors.
What I observed were manifestations that the “LIMPYO KALOG” has been consistently implemented. A “bonus” for the shoppers is the utmost courtesy of the public market personnel such as, gate overseers and the public toilet attendants. The city administration is also very humane as regards the collection of the daily local market tax imposed on vendors. I found out that the “arkabala” that the vendors pay is very affordable at 5 to 10 pesos. The incumbent mayor, Lina Montilla clearly understands the situation of the small business folks who try to make both ends meet in order to survive. In this regard, one can find old women selling wild vegetables such “kulitis” (local spinach), kangkong, lupô, and small snails, that they gather from rice fields, or children selling banana blossoms, the proceeds from which may not even be enough to buy rice that could feed a family of four for two days…yet, they persist in doing their honorable trade rather than beg.
The city is not rich compared to her contemporaries. It is for this reason that much-desired projects take some time to be realized. But, what is important at the moment, though, is the peaceful co-existence of the Muslims and Christians, be they neighbors or vendors. The city has even taken an extra step that gave her a compassionate image – by welcoming tricycle drivers from the neighboring towns of Quirino, Buluan, Lambayong, Tantangan, and Isulan. This is the reason, perhaps, why hospitals, clinics, barber shops, restaurants, groceries, and beauty parlors pockmark the length of avenues and the public market, as they also serve the residents of the mentioned towns that surround the city. All are manifestations of “goodwill” for which the city has been known for…or simply put, the city of Tacurong is not selfish…or shall we call it, economic strategy?
The influx of shoppers from neighboring towns could be observed during market days such as Wednesday and Saturday during which all alleys of the market are filled with farm produce from as far as Esperanza, Bagumbayan, Isulan, Lambayong, Buluan, Quirino, New Iloilo and Tantangan, and marine products from General Santos City, Davao, and Zamboanga. The air is filled with intermingling of dialects such as Hiligaynon, Cebuano, Ilocano, Maranao, Iranun, Maguindanaoan, and of course, Tagalog. Haggling is encouraged by vendors themselves, as most of them had to dispose of their wares at noon time. Interestingly, prevalent is the use of “’gâ”, the contracted form of “palanggâ” or “pangga” which in Tagalog means, “mahal”, and in English, “love”. When one haggles in the market, he or she says, “pila ni ‘gâ ?” (love, how much is this?)… or if one asks a friend if he or she has taken her meal, the question is, “nakakaon ka na, ‘ga?”the word is used with honest brotherly and sisterly connotation, without even a faint trace of carnal desire.
Tacurong City’s strategic location at the crossroads of South Cotabato, North Cotabato/Davao, and Maguindanao, has not just made her as some sort of the nucleus of the region’s commerce, but has also given her an impression as the COSMOPOLITAN CITY OF SOUTHERN MINDANAO.