The Elisa P. Bernardo Elementary School in New Passi, Tacurong City

The Elisa P. Bernardo Elementary School

In New Passi, Tacurong City

By Apolinario Villalobos


It was a scorching afternoon when I was invited by Judith Bernardo to New Passi, a barangay at the foot of Magon Hill, after we met at a party, hosted by a cousin. I deemed it another adventure, so I accepted her invitation as I was curious about her project or donation for the school named after their mother, Elisa Panizales Bernardo. As I had still time to be spent in the area, I thought it would be a worthwhile trip.


From the city of Tacurong, we drove over the paved highway, turning left at the junction where the San Lorenzo Ruiz parish church was located, just across the Cordero mango grove. Both sides of the road were shaded by the thickly-foliaged African palms. Very noticeable was the fast development of Baras, where the Bird Sanctuary and the Jarell Resort are located, as well as, Upper Katungal. Practically, houses of indigenous materials stood proudly side by side with colorful concrete ones which were made more interesting by their contemporary architecture. I even noticed a lodging inn with an obviously western block design. Very noticeable, too were the number of small convenience stores (sari-sari stores) and small stalls filled with wet market commodities, that lined both sides of the tidy road. Their presence manifested the affluence of the residents.


We dropped by the Barangay Hall of Baras where Judith delivered donated sets of aprons needed for a certain project. I learned that she has been engrossed in various projects in Baras and New Passi for several years now. When we reached New Passi, we went straight to the site at the back of the Principal’s office where a two-burner stove of concrete and bricks was being constructed. It was intended for the feeding program of the school for the children of poor farmers, and which was initiated by Judith’s elder sister, Nita. As a background, the feeding program was conceived by Nita when she learned about the heavy absences every Monday and Friday. She was told by the principal at the time, Charlie Braga, that many students are impoverished, so that most of them would go to school without taking breakfast at home. From then on, Nita regularly donated I sack of rice which volunteer mothers and teachers cooked into gruel.


On the other hand, the sight of teachers and mothers cooking gruel on makeshift stove on the ground made Judith decide to have a sturdy stove made for them. The design is such that combustible wastes except those made of rubber and plastic could be used as fuel. She personally looked around for able masons who could undertake the construction.


Adjacent to the school is a small parcel of rice field donated by the late Serafin Bernardo to the school so that it would be able to generate an income for projects. Since the time of Charlie Braga as principal, it was well-maintained.  Incidentally, Mr. Braga has been transferred to the neighboring school of Baras as a promotion. He was also responsible for the picturesque landscape of the school, the main avenue of which is lined with hardwood trees. Pockets of flower gardens are also distributed throughout the campus.


The other concern of both Judith and her sister, Nita is the lack of library. There had been plans for its construction but unexpected problems would always crop up. On our way back to the city, Judith confided her wish that someday the project would be realized, but realistic that I am, I told her that assistance from concerned sectors is necessary, First, a structure had to be built and second, books are needed to fill the shelves. The project would surely involve a considerable amount. I confided that I have the same wish….but with a hope that benevolent hands would “touch” the school someday.







In Tacurong City

By Apolinario Villalobos


I knew him since high school days as a hardworking student who consistently exerted an effort to be part of various extra-curricular activities due to his oozing self-confidence. Volunteerism was innate in his character as he likewise, unselfishly did his best to contribute for the success of projects in which he was involved. He even tried the terpsichorean group when he joined our Choreographers’ Club under the tutelage of Mrs. Ching Romero and Mrs. Leonor Pagunsan. Among those whom I could recall who were members aside from me and Ed were, Homero Palatolon, the late Hernanie Baclaan, Domingo Cargo, Ruel Lucentales, Ed Collado, Ming Barnachea, Jaime de la Rosa, Baltazar Subando, the late Jaime Mariῆas, Leo Villalobos, Cirilo Baldonado, Pedrito Oani, Ramon Laforteza, Rommel Angel, and Eduardo Nanalis.


Upon graduating from college , he worked for the newly-opened Metrobank in our town and also tried teaching, but finally, decided to open the first-ever speech clinic for the whole region of southern Mindanao that includes the provinces of South Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat and cities of General Santos and Koronadal, as well as Tacurong which was yet, a town then. The clinic was based in the latter, with the structure seemed to float in the midst of newly-opened subdivisions and rice fields, far from downtown. Clearly, it was a financial risk on his part, but he went ahead because he wanted to help the young of the region improve their communications skill.


His hard-earned savings went to the initially, box-type structure that housed the speech clinic, the procurement of several units of desk-top computers and high-tech gadgets to ensure an effective tutorial program. The project was a dream- come- true for Ed, as he loved public speaking. He did not pursue masters in any field related to the trade that he chose, learning the ropes by self-study, instead.


Despite the distance from the downtown area, the speech clinic grew in popularity by word of mouth. Electric power was also intermittent during the time, so that the comfort of students was jeopardized. Nevertheless, both students and proprietor persisted. In time, the clinic trained local talents as well as those from neighboring areas, and who were sent by their respective school to compete in inter-school public speaking competitions….and almost always, they would come home victorious.


Ed confided that their family love food and cooking so that when he saw an opportunity to diversify, he chose catering and hosting of social activities. He expanded the speech clinic facilities to include a pictorial corner in the garden, a big banquet area and air-conditioned mini-auditorium fitted with high-tech gadgets. Locals and patrons from neighboring towns were delighted so that in no time, the ANGEL’S FOODS AND PALOMADO SPEECH COMPLEX became deluged with reservations. Families, as well as, students who graduated from the different schools in the city also held their reunions in the complex. Even government agencies that held seminars found the facilities amenable, as could be gleaned from their comments.


When I visited the complex lately, summer classes for kids were ongoing. From the auditorium I could hear youthful voices with American accent delivering elocution pieces. Ed, himself, opened the classes with initial amplified tutorials.


When finally, we had a serious chat in his office, he told me about his long list of reservations and his schedule of procurements for the things that he would need to satisfy the requirements of patrons whose reservations were made months ahead of their scheduled activities. The whole of May is filled with scheduled activities. He spoke in slowly-spoken words and low-tone because of a stroke that made him bed-ridden for several months. The unfortunate occurrence bloated his monthly personal expense by more than Php20,000 due to the drugs that  he needed for recuperation and maintenance of a feeble health. Instead of pitying him, I admired his persistence to walk slowly on his own, without even the help of a cane, while his left hand limply rested on his side.


But the most that I admire in his person is his big heart because of the extended family that he maintains, and consisting of relatives, the young ones of which, being sent to school as far as Davao city. To reciprocate his kindness, they help him in the operation of the food and speech clinic complex.


The Most Benevolent must have let him live longer because of his advocacy founded on unselfish compassion!

Use the God-given Talent Properly and for the Benefit of Others



By Apolinario Villalobos


If God gave you the talent to invent gadgets, come up with what are useful to make life comfortable. If He gave you the talent to sing…make others happy, instead of singing to yourself inside the bathroom. If He gave you the talent to write and which you have discovered, perhaps, inadvertently, help others to discover theirs, and write what are relevant and helpful….do not foment misunderstanding among readers by coming up with lopsided information or exposes.


Today, the counterpart of the print media journalists are the so-called “bloggers”, those who write on the cyberspace sites, most particularly, on facebook which is the most popular. Unfortunately, many of the so-called “bloggers” use their talent for purely bashing intent. They post photos and short write-ups which most often contain or imply negative messages about a person, entity, or the government. Blogging, especially, visuals of untoward crime-related incidents could help in solving cases, but not the photos with short captions that present only one side. There is nothing wrong with posting negative comments, but such should be “balanced” with the blogger’s suggestions on how what he observed to be bad can be transformed into something good… an opinion for which he is entitled.


Many so-called bloggers have obviously are abusing the free opportunity offered by the IT sites purportedly for the benefit of humanity. Many of them feel great just because they have posted just anything to solicit attention to their site. Blogging should be viewed as an advocacy to share the good that others have done to inspire others, as well as, the bad to caution others but with accompanying precautions on how to avoid them or at the very least, suggestions based on the writer’s opinion.


If the blogger is from a small community, in all probability, there is a chance that he could get in touch personally with people who are the subject of his blogs. There is nothing wrong with introducing himself as a blogger followed by expressing his intention to help to correct what he views as wrong. If the blogger believes that he has a “mission” that is why God gave him such kind of talent, by all means, he should be serious about it. But if his intention is just to become known by bashing others, then he should be reminded by the “Golden Rule” – do not do to others what you do not want others would do to you.

My Great Friend, Jimmy…altruistic to the end

My Great Friend, Jimmy…altruistic to the end

By Apolinario Villalobos


When we are at the lowest ebb of our life that include days we spend in bed due to an ailment, the natural thing to do is for us to exert an effort  to show our best. But there are some who make cover-ups, apprehensive that others will know their situation. By being honest, however, does not mean that help is being solicited. We can even gain respect and admiration, by showing others our endurance during such trying times. The respect and admiration, as the fruits of our effort are sweeter, than the casual reaction from others whose view of our real situation is obstructed by hypocrisy.


Jimmy was a friend who used to hold a high executive position in a trading company. Even before I started blogging, he was well-informed about my small projects in Tondo and Divisoria as he was a regular donor. We met at the Mary Johnson Hospital in Tondo many years back, where he visited a staff of his office, while I visited the daughter of a friend from Baseco compound who was confined due to dengue. His sincere friendship punctuated by his giving me his business card made me divulge to him my real identity, but implored him to keep it to himself. I explained that I do not reveal my identity to those whom I extend a little help that I could afford, so that I had been known to them by another name.


He failed to save much needed cash for his retirement because much of what he earned went to friends who sought his financial help.  To make the story short, when he resigned due to a prolonged ailment, he was left with an almost depleted savings. Every time I visited him, we would talk about his friends who became successful in their jobs. His statements were always ended with “ I am thankful that they made it…”. Truth is, he had been instrumental for their success. Some were his subordinates whom he pushed with deserved promotions and guaranteed referrals. Some were given financial assistance as a start-up for a small business.


The cancer in his bones resulted to his losing weight considerably which practically changed his physical appearance. Despite the transformation, he could still muster a smile, as if nothing had changed. He was financially handicap, but he did not cover it up.  When he became bedridden, the first to go was his car, followed by his studio-type condo, after which his nephew accommodated him in his home in Malabon. His wife with whom he had no child, left him for a Chinese boyfriend she met in a casino.


Jimmy gained much respect because of what he showed, aside from reaping admiration from neighbors and friends who visited him daily. The disease that physically emaciated him did not change his image that had been exuding an aura of contentment.  He passed away two months ago (January 2017). After his cremation, I was invited by his nephew and his wife for a dinner at their home after which an envelope was handed to me. It contained PHP3,730.00, balance of his savings and with it was his passbook. Outside the envelope was his simply handwritten note, “God be with you always in all you do”.

The Writer

The Writer

By Apolinario Villalobos


A true writer should be sensitive to the feelings of others, be they read as expressly written or viewed as shown through actuations. He should be able to develop any form of literary expression out of spoken words or written “bullet statements”. With facebook as an example, an adept writer should be able to develop a poem out of the comments on a certain posted photo. Comments about the photo are the “thoughts” of the facebook owner who posted it and a poem that is developed out of them by a writer should be rightly attributed to him….the writer being just the “editor”.


The writer should not constrain himself from writing the name of the source of the thoughts in the byline of a literary expression, be it a poem or an essay. Many people are frustrated writers and poets. They have thoughts that float in their mind, but they just do not know how to capture them. They may enumerate the words down but they do not know which to put ahead of the rest, which of them to comprise the content, and which word to end their presentation. This is where the writer-friend comes in….lend a hand….put substance to the words or discerned thoughts that are not yet expressed but are expected, as feelings are universal and interpretations vary only according to situation, but words are the same.


Some people show signs of literary talent but are shy to let them out. Their latent talent is discerned through the kind of words that they use in making comments on facebook posts or in the way they use them. These are the people who should be given utmost understanding. In the end, if the effort has made somebody happy, exert more of it….help many more shy people. This is what a “writer” should do…encourage others to express themselves.


Happy Friendship Day!



By Apolinario Villalobos


Friends are people and as such have different characters, as no two persons are alike, not even twins. And, because of the varying characters of friends, they can be classified into several kinds:

  • Friends who use their “friends” for selfish motives.
  • Friends who boost their ego at the expense of their “friends”.
  • Friends who are actually “enemies” in disguise.


There are no permanent friends, as in a group, any “friend” can sow distrust resulting to a break-up. There may be reconciliation, but whatever fracture that resulted could not be totally healed. In Tagalog it means, “may lamat na ang samahan”.


As a simple precaution, in any “friendly” relationship, there should be restraint in revealing the total self. Only the arrogant will reveal to a “friend” about his fat bank account in order to give an impression of his being a superior financial-wise. Only the arrogant will reveal to a “trusted” colleague about his sexual escapades to prove his machismo. And, only the arrogant will reveal to a business associate the total expanse of his clout or connections to prove that he is powerful.


Making friends is a risky endeavor as one might accidentally connect with any of the three kinds mentioned above. In making friends, make sure that resulting detrimental situations can be handled. However, if you are any of the three mentioned above, PLEASE….change your ways, because, although, your would-be victims may not be aware of your intention, there is SOMEBODY who knows everything!

LEONIDA…the reason why I endure life in this world

LEONIDA…the reason why I endure life

in this world

By Apolinario Villalobos


She is my elder sister, deaf and mute since birth, and is more than seventy years old. I cannot imagine myself dead ahead of her. She is the reason why I kept on telling classmates before, that I will not settle down with a family of my own as foremost in my mind was take care of her until she dies.


Despite her handicap, she took care of us, her younger siblings, nephews, nieces, and their children. We communicated through a sign language that only our family understands. It was she who developed my love for vegetables, as she would gather saluyot, kulitis and lupo from the yet, grassy, town plaza which was in front of our house. Sometimes she would gather wild mushrooms beside the fence at the back of our house. She would simply cook them with whatever onion, ginger, and tomatoes that can be found in our kitchen. She would boil thickly sliced green jackfruit, for us to be dipped in soy sauce which constituted our lunch when there was no rice to cook.


Her intelligence and curiosity are such that she is fond of browsing through magazines including the comic magazines of the yesteryears. She would collect them in several boxes. Had we thought of keeping them, we could have been rich because a copy of “Hiwaga” komiks today costs not less than Php200. While she was doing her own collection of komiks, I collected my own pages of newspapers used as absorbent protection of dried fish in boxes that our parents ordered from Iloilo and Cebu to be sold in our small stall in the market. I was not yet of school age at that time during which she would observe me as I scribbled on the ground using a twig, the words that I copied from the dried-fish smelling papers, especially, “Purico”, a very popular brand of lard.


When we got completely orphaned, she joined me and an elder brother, in washing bottles and pasting of labels on them for Panay Vinegar, the first business entity, though, home-based, in our town. It was located in our ancestral house that we rented out to a Chinese businessman who treated us, as members of his family. I was in my first year high school then, during which we would stay late at night, especially, if orders were overwhelming, as they would come from store owners in neighboring towns. That was how we earned money.


Later, she was taken in by our late elder sister, Erlinda (Mary to us and her friends) a teacher at the former Sambulawan Elementary Schhol (today, President Quirino). She practically took care of her four children, May anne (Inday), Toto, Neneng, and Nonoy until they got families of their own, as she spent more time with them, than with us. Both my elder sister and my brother-in-law, Ciriaco (Ciring), are gone.


When I was yet with PAL, she was the reason why I would always come home even for a short while. I would take the first flight for Davao, transfer to an aircon van upon arrival for our place which takes 3 hours to reach, and after lunch would leave again for Davao to catch up with the first available flight back to Manila – on the same day. I felt that was all she wanted – see me even for just a short time. An important gift to her is a copy of the glossy Mabuhay magazine which she would lovingly caress upon receipt, open the pages and gawk at the photos.


She is also among the reasons why I believe in the wisdom of God for having brought me back to the point in my life where I made a decision to take care of her, to reaffirm it…after several disastrous living-in relationships, and which further made me ponder that my family is NOT limited to my blood relations but the rest of His creatures who I can touch. Where she is now living comfortably is her comfort zone, from which I could not take her away, as she would be emotionally distressed.


It took time for me to decide to finally bring out her story. But I am forced by the circumstance that some people cannot accept their great fortune of having normal and successful siblings and children, and loving wife, and presently enjoying the laughter of their grandchildren. I want them to compare their situation with mine. I cannot even settle down again as I might be unfortunate to get a partner who will not accept my elder sister. That is how I am simply looking at my life. Had my sister been normal and happily settled with a family of her own, I could be somewhere else, most probably in a depressed area, living with the people with whom I feel most comfortable.