Itinerant vendor of coco midrib trays in Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat (Mindanao, Philippines)….
Ang Nanay naming Matapang at Mahilig Mag-ampon
Ni Apolinario Villalobos
Ang pangalan niya ay Angelica pero ang palayaw niya ay “Ica”. Bunso siya at nag-iisang babae sa kanilang magkakapatid. Mabait siya pero matapang dahil kahit maliit ay marunong humawak ng itak kaya sa palengke noong maliit pa ako, kung saan may puwesto kami ng tuyo pero nalugi kaya nauwi sila ng tatay namin sa paglatag sa lupa ng ukay-ukay, ay pinangingilagan siya.
Naalala ko noong nasa Grade 1 ako, nagkagulo sa isang inuman ng tuba malapit sa puwesto namin dahil sa isang lasing na nagwala. Daanan ang puwesto namin papunta sa inuman ng tuba, kaya halos naglaglagan ang mga tuyo dahil sa dagsa ng mga taong nagtakbuhan. Sa inis ng nanay namin, kinuha ang itak na nakatago sa ilalim ng bangko at sinugod ang nagwawalang lasing. Nang makita siya ay parang nahimasmasan dahil kilala pala siya nito. Lalong natakot ang lasing nang makita ang itak na hawak ng nanay namin. Ang may-ari naman ng puwesto ay hindi mahagilap dahil tumakbo daw at nagtago, kaya ang nanay namin ang nag-utos sa lasing na linisin ang mga kalat tulad ng nabasag na mga maliit na garapong kung tawagin ay “Bol” na ginagamit sa pag-inom ng tuba. Ang “Bol” ay tatak ng garapong galing sa America noon at ang dating laman ay minatamis yata. Antigo na ito ngayon at mahal kung bilhin sa antique shop.
Nang kumandidato ang nakakatanda niyang kapatid bilang Vice-Mayor, pati ang pamilya namin ay nadamay sa mga intriga. Sa inis niya ay nag-research kung sino ang nagpasimuno ng isang intriga at nang malaman niya ay sinugod sa bahay at hinamon ng away sa kalsada. Binantaan din niyang huwag nang dumaan sa tapat namin at huwag na huwag daw magpakita sa kanya. Nagkaroon ng problema ang intrigera dahil ang bahay namin ay nasa tapat lang ng plasa kaya kung may libreng sine, ay nagtatakip ito ng turban sa ulo at mukha upang hindi makilala ng nanay namin na mahilig ding manood ng libreng sine. Ayaw makialam ng nanay namin sa pulitika at ito ang itinanim niya sa aming isip dahil para sa kanya na naunawaan din namin, sisirain lang ng pulitika ang magandang samahan ng magkakamag-anak at magkakaibigan na ang isip ay nakatuon sa hangad na makaupo sa puwesto sa anumang paraan.
Isang gabi ay nakita ko sila ng tatay namin na nagbibilang ng mga lumang pilak na perang Kastila na matagal na nilang naipon. Kinabukasan pinalitan ng kumpare nila ang mga pilak na pera ng bago. Pambayad pala sa naipong utang na dahilan kung bakit wala nang nagdatingang bagong stock ng mga tuyo galing sa Iloilo. Nalaman ko ring marami pala silang pinautang ng paninda na hindi nabayaran kaya nalugi ang negosyo. Sa bagay na ito, hindi ko nakitaan ng tapang ang nanay namin upang maningil dahil sa awa sa mga umutang…mga kapos din daw kasi tulad naming. Hindi nagtagal, ibinenta nila ang puwesto namin.
Noong ukay-ukay na ang ibinenta ng magulang namin, sinubukan din nilang dumayo sa ibang bayan. Isang gabing dumating sila galing sa dinayong tiyangge, may kasama silang buntis. Sa kuwentong narinig ko isinama nila ang babaeng nakita nilang palakad-lakad sa palengke ng Tulunan, ang dinayong bayan nang araw na yon, dahil baka daw “ihulog” ng babae ang anak niya. Ang “ihulog” ay “ilaglag”sa Tagalog o sa Ingles ay i-“abort”. Pero dahil bata pa ako ang na-imagine ko ay ang gagawin ng babae na “ihuhulog” ang anak niya sa bangin! Inampon namin ang babae hanggang sa manganak. Nang umabot na ang anak niya sa gulang na apat na taon ay pinayagan siya ng nanay namin na bumalik sa Tulunan.
Isang beses naman, nang naghuhugas ako ng mga reject na tuyo upang matanggal ang namuong asin ay may nakita akong batang apat na taong gulang lang yata, umiiyak sa tabi ng public toilet. Nag-iisa lang siya at ayaw sumagot sa mga tanong ko kaya sinundo ko ang nanay ko. Isinama niya ang bata sa puwesto namin at inutusan ang kuya ko na maghanap ng pulis sa palengke upang sabihan na may batang “napulot” at nasa puwesto namin. Hanggang magsara na kami ng puwesto, ay wala pa ring kumuha sa bata kaya isinama na namin sa pag-uwi. Araw-araw siyang isinasama sa puwesto upang makita ng kung sino mang nakakakilala. Nang magdesisyon ang nanay naming ampunin na ang bata ay saka naman siya nakita ng tiyuhin. Sa pag-uwi nila ay sumama kami ng nanay ko at nagdala pa kami ng maraming tuyo upang pasalubong sa mga magulang. Nakatira pala sila sa bulubundukin ng Magon malapit na sa boundary ng South Cotabato, kaya napasabak kami ng “hiking” na inabot din ng ilang oras dahil napakadalang pa ang mga sasakyan noon. Nakabalik kami sa palengke bandang hapon na. Inihatid kami ng tatay ng bata dahil sa bigat ng pinabaon sa aming maraming bayabas at guyabano.
Nang umuwi naman ang nanay namin galing sa Bantayan Island (Cebu) mula sa pagdalo sa pista ng nagmimilagro daw na Sto. Niἧo, may kasama siyang isang batang babae na ulila at limang taong gulang. Naging kapamilya namin ang bata hanggang sa siya ay isinama uli sa Bantayan noong mag-sasampung taon gulang na. Hindi na siya naisama pag-uwi ng nanay namin dahil nang makita daw ang bata ng isang tiyahin ay binawi. Wala namang nagawa ang nanay namin kundi ang umuwing luhaan.
Hindi lang tao ang nakahiligang ampunin ng nanay namin dahil nang minsang umuwi siya ay may napulot siyang tuta na nangangalkal sa basurahan ng isang bakery na nadaanan niya. Hindi pa ako nag-aaral noon kaya naging kalaro ko ang tuta hanggang sa ito ay lumaki. Ang pinaka-puwesto ng aso tuwing gabi ay ang balkonahe namin. Isang umaga ay nakita namin siyang patay at kagat pa ang leeg ng isang asong patay din at ang bunganga ay umaapaw sa laway, palatandaang ito ay isang asong ulol. Nakaakyat pala sa balkonahe ang asong ulol at kung hindi napatay ng aso namin ay malamang na kami ang nabiktima pagbukas namin ng pinto nang umagang yon.
Kung buhay ang nanay namin ngayon, malamang ay naipagpatayo namin siya ng isang maliit na “halfway home” para sa mga gusto niyang ampunin kahit pansamantala, pati na rin siguro ng isang maliit ding “pet shelter”. Pero masaya na rin ako dahil alam kong inampon din siya doon sa “itaas”.
Fr. Joseph Borreros and his Journey through Life
…from a struggling student assistant
to an Orthodox priest, and educator with Divine guidance
By Apolinario Villalobos
As a youth, he was among the wave of adventurous migrants from Panay Island, particularly, Dao, Capiz who came to Cotabato. He found his place in the Tacurong Pilot School as a Grade Six pupil in 1961. His family lived in the market of the town which that time was just weaned as a barrio of Buluan. He continued his studies at the Magsaysay Memorial Colleges of the same town. In college, he took up a pre-Law course at the University of San Agustin in Iloilo City but failed to pursue it when he succumbed to a sickness.
He went back to Tacurong and took up Bachelor of Arts in Notre Dame of Tacurong College. To support his studies, he worked as a janitor and later as Library Assistant in the same school. That was during the directorship of Fr. Robert Sullivan, OMI, a kind Irish priest. After his graduation, he taught at the Notre Dame of Lagao in General Santos, South Cotabato for three years.
In 1973 he got interned at the Marist Novitiate in Tamontaka, Cotabato City, and professed temporarily in 1975 during which he was assigned as a Marist Brother at the Notre Dame of Marbel Boys’ Department (Marbel is now known as Koronadal City). From Marbel, he was sent back to the Notre Dame of Lagao.
In 1976, he left the religious congregation of Marist Brothers, but was taken in by Bishop Reginald Artiss, CP, the bishop of Koronadal, to assist in the establishment of the Christian Formation Center which was located at the back of the cathedral. For two years, he went around the parishes and diocese covered by the authority of Bishop Artiss in training members of the Kriska Alagad, Lay Cooperatos, as well as, in establishing Basic Christian Communities.
As Bishop Artiss perceived his potential as a cleric, he was sent to the Regional Major Seminary of Mindanao in Catalunan Grande, Davao City. Fortunately, due to his extensive and intensive pastoral formation background, he was privileged to skip subjects related to it. After four years of theological studies at the said seminary, he was ordained as a priest on April 1, 1982 by Bishop Guttierez, DD, of Koronadal. His first assignment was the parish of Sta. Cruz , formerly politically under South Cotabato, but today, that of Sarangani Province.
In 1985, he was a “floating” priest, awaiting appointment as Superintendent of Diocesan schools and temporarily established his residency at Our Lady of Parish in Polomolok, South Cotabato with the late Fr. Godofredo Maghanoy. The following year, he was finally designated to the mentioned position which he held for three years.
In 1989, he went on a study leave to take up Masters of Science in Educational Management at the De La Salle University in Manila which he finished in 1991. Two years later, he was about to finish his Doctorate in Religious Education pending the completion of his dissertation under the guidance of Bro. Andrew Gonzalez, FSC, but failed to do so due to an important and life-turning decision….to have a family and develop a Non-Government Organization. Driven by his new-found advocacy in life, he worked as Coordinator of the Community Volunteers’ Program under the Council of People’s Development, a Pastoral NGO of Bishop Labayen for three years in Infanta, Quezon.
From 1995 to 2004, he was with the Philippine Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (PhilDHRRA) as a Monitoring Officer of the projects in governance. While with the said NGO, he studied Orthodoxy theology on his own, a week after which, he was consecrated by His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew at the Orthodox Cathedral located at Sucat, Paraἧaque, Metro Manila.
He was inspired to bring along his former 61 parishioners in Maricaban, a depressed area in Pasay City when he presented himself and his family to Fr. Philemon Castro, parish priest of the Annunciation Orthodox Cathedral in Paraἧaque. Like him, he found his former flock to be also journeying spiritually. After several months of catechism, they were accepted to the Orthodox Church. They were further accepted by the former Metropolitan Nikitas Lulias of Hongkong and Southeast Asia. A little later, Fr. Joseph was ordained to the Minor Orders as “Reader”, for which he started to render regular duty at the Cathedral on Sundays which did not affect his NGO-related activities.
He was asked to leave his NGO responsibilities in 2004, in exchange for which he was sent to Greece to serve as a full worker in the Ministry – live with the monks of the Monastery of St. Nicholas of Barson in Tripoli, southern Greece. Afterwards he was sent back to the Philippines to do catechesis in different mission areas, particularly, in Laguna, Sorsogon and Masbate.
In 2006, he was ordained to the Orthodox priesthood and assigned under the Omophorion of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople which is presently headed by His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, Successor to the Apostolic Throne of St. Andre, the first-called apostle.
In 2009, he did mission work in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. Until today, he carries the same responsibilities but the area expanded to include SOCSKSARGEN area (South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos), as well as, Davao del Sur.
To date, he was able to firmly establish three communities, such as: Holy Resurrection Orthodox Community in Lake Sebu; St. Isidore of Chios Orthodox Community in San Guillermo, Hagonoy, Davao del Sur; and Apostles St. Andrew and James Orthodox Community in Kisulan, Kiblawan, Davao del Sur.
Aside from taking care of the Sacramental life of the faithful, his mission work also includes values formation of students. Two particular schools that are benefiting from this are the Marvelous College of Technology, Inc. in Koronadal City, and Pag-asa Wisdom Institute in Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat where he also serves as Principal. According to Fr. Joseph, the two institutions are community-centered, privately-owned, mission-oriented and most especially, cater to the less in life but with a strong desire to overcome their socio-economic barriers.
Fr. Joseph and his family live at the Theotokos Orthodox Mission Center in Surallah, and which also serves as the nucleus of his mission works. His life is typically austere as shown by the structure that accommodates his flock during worship days. The same character also defines the rest of the “chapels” throughout the areas that he covers. But since there are other things that his Mission needs, he unabashedly appeals to the “mission-minded souls to help in their capacity, sustain, strengthen, so that it will grow with flourish for the glory of God”.
Fr. Joseph, as an ordained Orthodox priest has been given the name, “Panharios”.
For those who are interested to reach out to Fr. Joseph, his address is at:
Theotokos Orthodox Mission Center
120 Dagohoy St., Zone 5
Surallah, South Cotabato
The Venerable Metamorphosis
of Notre Dame of Tacurong College
By Apolinario Villalobos
The school that started with a couple of buildings divided into small rooms has proudly metamorphosed into a proud educational institution today, and with a determination, more than ever to excel. The once flood-prone swampy grassland, now pockmarked with modern structures was donated by Mr. Sabas Buenacosa. The institution’s humble beginnings saw sides of pathways planted to acacia trees and aratiles for their shade, and the basketball court patiently built by members of the pioneering faculty, with its thin concrete layer of cement that withstood years of ball dribbling before a thicker one was laid.
The makeshift stage fronting the basketball court was later improved to have a sturdier roof and a stock room. Other enhancements that followed were the Administration office, the two-storey wooden structure that housed the library on the ground floor, and small auditorium on the second floor, an annex building for additional classrooms, the convent of the Oblates of Notre Dame (OND) sisters, and the Training Department (elementary) – all of them further lent a more academic look to the amor seco grass-carpeted campus.
The pioneering teachers were always around to lend a hand for anything that called for the improvement of the school. Effort was on gratis, as the school was still struggling financially to be able to survive. At the helm of all this effort were the parish priest, Fr. Elino Isip and Fr. Robert Sullivan, the school Director. The noisy generator of the parish convent, provided limited electricity in the evening for college classes and activities, especially, basketball on weekends. There were other priests who came before and after them, but the transformation of the school was more felt and became more visible during their time.
Teachers who taught in high school also did the same in college when the latter was opened to welcome eager students who came from as far as Buluan, Lambayong, Esperanza, Maganoy, Isulan, Tantangan, and New Iloilo. Most of the students from the neighboring towns were accommodated by Mrs. Pacing Sara in her home with its several extensions. She was fondly called by Notre Damians as “nanay Pacing”.
Unselfishly dispensing their duties as teachers were Mr. Ricardo Jamorabon who handled PMT and ROTC aside from academic subjects, Mr. Alfonso Romero, Mr. Rafael Sespeῆe, Mrs. Gloria Canzana, Mrs. Ching Romero, Ms. Nenita Bernardo, Mrs. Josefina Lechonsito, Ms. Azucena Hojilla, Mrs. Emma Jamorabon, Mrs. Leonor Pagunsan (who later became President of Notre Dame of Marbel University), Mr. Elmer Festin , Mr. Fermin Roca, and Mr. Plaridel Batucal. Mr. Marcelino Doῆa did his best as high school principal, then. The small band that provided marching tunes during parades and field demonstrations was under the baton of Mr. Cantil and Mr. Tirado.
When the Training Department was opened, Mrs. Trinidad Concepcion took the seat as its principal till the so many years that followed. She was assisted by the able teaching force that included, Mrs. Leticia Romero, Mrs. Lydia Raῆido, Ms. Violeta Subaldo, Mr. Ernesto Cajandig, and Mr. Tim Castaniaga. Because of them, we now have a mayor, Lina Montilla, as well as her siblings Roncal and Lino who preceded her at the helm of the city, successful medical practitioners, Dr. Carlo Romero, Dr. Leo Villalobos, and many more, aside from businessmen, and farmers who contributed to the development of Tacurong.
Mr. Leonardo Ninte, as the librarian, did his best to catalog donated books from the United States, through the effort of Fr. Robert Sullivan, Fr. Haslam, and Fr. MacGrath. The science laboratory with antiquated equipment was administered by Ms. Nenita Bernardo who chose to be part of the just- established school, rather than give in to the invitations from schools in Iloilo. She saw to it that field trips should not go beyond the town to avoid taxing the students with expense. Researches, then, were frequently conducted in swamps and streams, a kilometer or two from the campus, particularly in New Isabela, to gather specimens. On the other hand, Mr. Ric Jamorabon tried his best in converting a box-type structure into a militaristic “armory” – with all its wooden replica of rifles and real, albeit, old automatic Browning automatic rifles needed for demos on dismantling and assembly of their parts. Not a few fingers got hurt in the effort during the required demo as part of the ROTC drill. Mr. Jamorabon also coached the school’s basketball team.
Mr. Juanito Canzana, aside from pitching in when the Pilipino teacher in college failed to show up, was the ever-patient Registrar, putting the school records in order. Supporting him in the administration office were Mrs. Emma Jamorabon as the Administrative Secretary who also taught Physical Education to the college students, as well as, the rudiments of typing which proved very useful later on with the onset of computerized information technology. Mrs. Fely Subaldo on the other hand, made use of her patience in cashiering, and Mr. Plaridel Batucan took charge of accounting.
To further the school’s effort in putting the institution in the mainstream of artistic competitiveness, Kayumanggi Dance Troupe was organized. Talents of teachers and students were pooled in coming up with repertoire of indigenous dances, with “singkil”, as the centerpiece. The opportunity brought to fore the dancing skill of Ernesto Cajandig and the Subaldo sisters, as well as, the singing prowess of Agustin Carvajal. Not to be outdone, Mrs. Ching Romero and Mrs. Leonor Pagunsan put up the high school’s Choreographers’ Club. Mr. Elmer Festin meanwhile, organized the Debating Club for the high school and college, as well as, put up “Green Ember”, the high school organ.
The courses offered in college were Bachelor of Arts with choices of major and minor subjects in English and History, Bachelor of Science in Commerce, Bachelor of Science in Education, and Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. Scheduled “practice teaching” of BSE and BSEEd students were considered big events, observed even by classmates, who added jitters to the would-be teachers. Some of these practicumers comprised a part of the school’s teaching force later on, such as: Gaudencio Garcia, Ding Lazado, Domingo Salanap, Teresa Neri, and many more.
Graduates who also excelled in their chosen field, just like the teachers, were Erlina Diaz who became the principal of Notre Dame of Isulan, Ruel Lucentales who became Assistant Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare until the time of his demise, Domingo Cargo who got connected with National Food Authority and currently with the Commission on Audit, and Renato Hingco who worked with the Department of Budget and Management in Legaspi City and later as Corporate Secretary of the Bicol University. A graduate in high school, Virgilio Guillermo, also showed excellence later by becoming an Assistant Secretary of Labor during the time of Blas Ople, as Secretary. Later, Veo, as he was called by friends, became the Regional Director of the National Manpower and Youth Council (now, TESDA) of Bicol. A special mention goes to Felizardo Lazado who, despite his heavy teaching load, was able to work on the concept of Tacurong’s only festival – Talakudong. During the early years of its celebration, he was an active member of the city’s festival steering committee. This he did, aside from dispensing additional responsibilities as administrator of the NDTC museum. When he left for the United States, his responsibilities for the festival were turned over to City Councilor Bogz Jamorabon, another proud product of Notre Dame, as the Talakudong Festival’s Committee Chairman.
Another alumnus of this institution who discreetly shares an effort to put the city in the map of tourism is Rey Malana, a nature lover, who converted an inherited property in Barangay Baras, into a bird sanctuary – the only one of its kind in the whole province of Sultan Kudarat. He sacrificed personal gain in favor of the popular clamor and his love of nature, by maintaining the original setting of the fertile farm along the swift banks of Kapingkong River, which would have become a cornfield. The bamboo grooves and a wide patch of indigenous trees were left untouched for the benefit of homing Philippine egrets and seasonally migrating kinds from neighboring countries in Asia.
I could recall a frequent visitor of the campus – Mr. Fructuoso Buenacosa, “Lolo Putoy” or “Tiyo Putoy” to the youngsters. He was the town’s “walking historican”. He never missed a visit to the library, every time he was in the campus. We loved to ask him how the swampy land along the highway was transformed into a plaza, or when the town’s Pilot School was established, or when the first movie theater was opened, etc. His encyclopedic knowledge on the town’s transformation was later compiled into a small book. He, like the other benefactors of the school and parish were fondly remembered for their unselfish acts: Mr. Mending Lapuz who donated the first four posts of the church’s belfry, the structure being an integral part of the school campus, and Mr. Nonito Bernardo who was actively involved in the building of the original parish building where the school’s directors reside, as well as, its current renovation. No less than the bishop of Cotabato, leads the throng of thankful parishioners and alumni in giving due recognition to Mr. Bernardo.
Students and teachers will not forget, too, the ever-energetic lone security “force” of the whole campus, Mr. Juanito Panes. He rendered duty straight for the whole week, making rounds and could still etch a smile on his face. His lanky build did not deter him from facing off with intruders at night, which happened several times. As the generator was turned off after college classes, all he had was a flashlight to light his way around the campus and a piece of stick while checking rooms and corners of the campus.
Those are sweet reminiscences….
And, nothing is sweeter than remembering also the days when high school students would walk in groups on their way to school and the college students on their way home in the dark, with streets lighted only by stray lights from open windows of homes …when parade was a grand event not only for students but also for the whole town…and, singing the “Notre Dame Hymn” and the “Notre Dame March” gave students an ecstatic feeling!
Notre Dame of Tacurong College was a big family, then… still is… and will surely be, in days to come!