Magsaysay Park of Tacurong City

Magsaysay Park of Tacurong City

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

The park of the city has metamorphosed into what it is today with panoramic landscape accentuated by manicured hedges and shaded by the old acacia trees and palmettos. During the 60’s, the park had a skating rink as its landmark and a few meters away, fronting the west was the stage with basketball court in front. Both the skating rink and the basketball court were used by the farming residents to dry their palay and corn. Free movies were also shown at the plaza, sponsored by the drug merchants, almost one every two months.

 

During the time of the late mayor Jose Escribano, weekends were for amateur singing contests. To add life to the young town which was newly-weaned from Buluan, the vocational schools such as  Aumentado Fashion School, later renamed Grimaldo Fashion School and Parisienne Academy were encouraged to hold fashion shows to showcase the creations of their students who took up dressmaking. Among the favorite models were Didith Ulangkaya, Daisy Villalobos and Charlie del Campo.

 

Jose Escribano later built a swimming pool, the first in the area that covered Isulan, Esperanza, Lambayong and Koronadal, to encourage the influx of weekend picnickers. To make Tacurong more lively, a musical band, Firebrand, was put up, composed of the local firemen to make use of their free time. The band which was permanently quartered at the back of the stage hired a singer from Manila, Lito, whose signature songs were those of the Bee Gees.

 

For easy accessibility to his constituents, Escribano held office at the town plaza, beside the swimming pool which occupied a quarter of the total space of the plaza. It was then called, “Tacurong Resort” which helped in making the town popular in the province.

 

The swimming pool was the first touristic landmark of Tacurong. Today the whole area of what used to be “Tacurong Resort” is the home base of the military Task Force assigned to protect the city.

 

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Ms. Flor de la Rosa: Untold Story of a Sacrificing Woman of Tacurong City

Ms. Flor de la Rosa: Untold Story of a Sacrificing Woman of Tacurong City

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

Despite her advancing age, beauty could still be discerned on her calm face. After more than fifty years, not only was I fortunate to meet her but had an intimate conversation with her at close range after a hearty breakfast hosted by Nita and Nito Bernardo at their home, and to whom I am so gratified for such opportunity. It was my first time to hear her speak with the typical melodious Visayan tone and delicate voice.

 

Her family used to live in New Iloilo, a sitio of Tantangan which was then part of Tacurong. Today, it is occupied by Jaime, a younger brother, and his second family.  The late mayor of Tacurong,  Jose Escribano was always around when there were affairs in Tantangan. During the time, Flor, who at 19 was a student and about to finish a course in education. It was during one of the occasions in Tantangan that the mayor could have noticed the pretty Flor who was always invited during public occasions. While she was studying in Cotabato city, a bodyguard of Escribano discreetly followd her to make sure that no guy would attempt to court her. The mayor also resorted to “courtin” Flor’s mother and enticed her to put up a business in Tacurong. She was a dressmaker in New Iloilo, then and her husband was managing the logging company of a rich relative in Parang, but on a meager wage.

 

A building was put up then in Tacurong with the ground floor occupied by the Dainty Refreshment which Flor’s parents managed and the second floor was allotted for the whole family. The establishment became famous for its halo-halo and cake which competed with those of the Angelita’s. And, to ensure that it would earn much as expected, the bus terminal was relocated in the vicinity, from its former location in front of the Tacurong Pilot School. For 24 hours, the Dainty Refreshment was open and that was how the de la Rosa family was able to earn substantially.

 

The late mayor had the reputation of getting what he wanted by all means, but not in the case of Flor, for it took him 4 long years to finally get what he wanted. Courting went as far as Manila where Flor continued her studies. When she finally graduated, she taught at the New Iloilo Elementary School, moving on to Tantangan, and when the Dainty Refreshment was opened, she was transferred to Tacurong with the instigation of the late mayor. The principal then of the Tacurong Pilot School was Mr. Abadilla and the District Supervisor was Mr. Llavore. At the Tacurong Pilot School she taught Science and Pilipino subjects. Out of gratitude, Escribano built a building that was later used by the Home Economics pupils.

 

Flor confided that due to emotional pressure, she resigned from her job and went to Manila, although, she feared for the safety of her family who might earn the ire of the late mayor. But as she could not stop him from courting her, she finally softened a bit and accepted her fate…finally, going back to Tacurong to be with her family. While in Tacurong, she would occasionally show herself up in public to assist the mayor during special occasions. That was how she got to be known as the “mayor’s secretary”.

 

When she went back to Manila again, she finally told Escribano once and for all, that she wanted to end their affair and threatened to enter the convent if he won’t concede. It was at this juncture that she saw the good side of the brusque mayor…who begged her not to proceed with her plan, but for them to maintain a platonic relationship. She agreed and the arrangement encouraged her to be with her family in Tacurong again to help manage the Dainty Refreshements, the earnings from which practically sent her siblings to school.

 

During one of her trips to Manila, she met Gregorio Aragona but who used the family name, “Soncuya”. They eventually got married and settled in his hometown, Sara (Iloilo). At one time, her sister, Bernardita who was living in the United States, had a need for a trusted caretaker of her child. Flor viewed it as an opportunity to visit the United States, so she asked Bernardita to let her do the job. In no time, she flew to the States as a tourist and took care of her niece. When she was no longer needed to take for her niece, she took jobs discreetly as she had no legal papers. For 18 years of her stay in the United States, her status did not change as she declined to bite the options to become an American citizen, beside her passport indicated her status as “married”.

 

Meanwhile, her husband took in a lover which came to the attention of Flor only much later. What triggered their separation was the reply of her husband to one of her queries if he had been missing her to which he replied, “please come home and bring the bacon”. Such blatant reply immediately made Flor decide not to go home, as she felt that her husband was just after her earned dollars. Despite her decision, she could not hold herself from sending money to him when he got sick.

 

In year 2000, she went back to the Philippines but dropped by Iloilo to visit relatives and also surprised her late husband’s lover. As she did not harbor any hatred in her heart, she even gave the widowed lover of her husband, three thousand pesos…her gift to their two children. She then, proceeded to New Iloilo in South Cotabato to be with her mother. But not long after, she decided to buy a house in Tacurong City where she now lives with a trusted aide.

 

While in the city, she faithfully attended the early morning Mass every day. Later, she was enticed to join the Marian Movement of Priests (MMP) which prays the Holy Rosary after the Mass. She was in the middle of this hectic devotion when she met a friend who introduced her to another spiritual passion, and this time, as a member of the Servants of the Holy Trinity, a healing ministry and prayer group whose main base is in Negros Occidental. She joined her friends, Lina Lacanafrancia and Margie Calansag during their pilgrimage to the movement’s base on what the pilgrims consider as the “holy mountain” of Escalante where a “prayer house” is located, and where an image of the Holy Child Jesus in enshrined. She was also brought to the “holy mountain” of Calinog to visit another shrine. From then on, her small group would make an almost monthly visit to Escalante, while that for Calinog, they do during the Holy Week. The two shrines have become beneficiaries of her benevolence, as with the shrine of Our Lady of the Holy Candle in Tacurong.

 

Ms. de la Rosa is the eldest in the family raised by hardworking couple, Salvador and Fe. Her siblings are Elsie, Salvador, Jr., Manuel, Rodolfo, Aurea, Bernardita, Corazon, Jaime, Ricardo, and Lorena. Their grandfather on their mother side had a German blood, while their grandmother had Chinese. On their father side, their grandfather was an Ilocano who married a mestiza, and who belongs to the Navarro clan.

 

She has no regrets for not having a child of her own, for she presumes that her being in such situation prepared her for motherly missions – for her family and other people. Before we parted our ways, she confided that during her high school days in Notre Dame of Marbel, she was often chosen to play the role of the Virgin Mary during Marian processions.

 

Up to the time that I was writing this blog, I could not believe that I had been talking to Ms. Flor de la Rosa and even kissed her check…..she, who was the misunderstood woman in my youth, although, with a celebrated status, and whose life today is devoted to Jesus and Mary.

 

 

Si Jose Escribano…dating meyor ng Tacurong (Sultan Kudarat, Mindanao, Philippines)

Si Jose Escribano…dating meyor ng Tacurong

Ni Apolinario Villalobos

 

Bago naging meyor si Jose Escribano ay nagkaroon na ng iba pa ang bayan namin na dating baryo ng Buluan. Hindi gaanong natandaan ang unang mayor, pero sa pagkabanggit sa akin ng isang matandang nakausap ko ay isang “Guerrero” daw. Ang mga baryong mauunlad nang panahong yon maliban sa Tacurong na ang dating pangalan ay Pamansang, ay San Manuel at San Pablo kung saan karamihang nakatira ay mga Ilocano.

 

Dayo naman si Jose Escribano na galing sa Igbaras, Iloilo. At nang panahong yon pa rin, ang ibang pamilyang dayuhan na naaalala ko at itinuturing na mga Kristiyanong pioneer ay ang mga, Lapuz, Paraico, Bernardo, de la Cruz, Paclibar, Ballena, Nicolo, Palmes, Catudan, Velasco, Valdez, Guillermo, Panes, Pauya, Subaldo, Arzagon, Grimaldo, Garcia, Barroquillo, Limbungan, Lucentales, Cordero, Betita, Magbanua, Cordero,Travilla, Saludes, Rapacon, Pernato, Dayon, Cajandig, Besana, Lagon, Gomez, Custodio, Arendon, Albenio, Aniversario, Ferrer, Fajardo, Collado, Cargo, Rapacon, Sotto, Dajay, at Purisima.

 

Nakagisnan ko na lang na meyor si Escribano (mas popular na tawag sa kanya), dahil inabot ko siya noong dekada sisenta. Kung pumunta ako sa tambakan ng munisipyo upang mamulot ng tinggang pangselyo (sealing lead) ng mail bags na galing sa Post Office ay nakikita ko siya sa balkonahe ng lumang munisipyo na humihitit ng tabako. Wala akong kamuwangan sa pulitika noon kaya hindi ko nabigyan ng kahalagahan ang kanyang pagka-meyor dahil tuwing makikita ko siya sa balkonahe ay tinatawag ko lang siyang “Escribano”. Kumakaway naman at ngumingiti pa.

 

Nang mag-elementaray na ako ay nalaman ko na ang kanyang pagkatao…. mabagsik pala siya. Ang mga magnanakaw na nahuhuli ay pinapakain ng tae sa inudoro ng kubeta ng munisipyo. Nilulublob ang ulo nila sa inudorong pinagamit muna at hindi ini-flush. Mahilig din siyang manapok on-the-spot ng mga may kasalanan, kahit pulis.  Kaya siguro noong maliit pa ako ay wala ako halos nalamang may mga nakawan sa amin. May nagkuwento sa akin na ang hindi lang niya mapakialaman noon ay si “ tatay Usteng (Aguilar)” na nakatira sa baryo Rajah Muda.

 

Noong panahon din niya nagkaroon ng mga sintu-sinto sa amin, sina Juan, Aida, at Alip. Minsan ay nakita kong may inutusan siya upang bigyan ng biscuit si Juan. Noong panahon ding yon, tuwing Linggo ay may “amateur” (singing contest) sa plaza. Lahat ng contestant ay may regalo agad na isang supot ng tinapay na donation ng Garcia Bakery. Dahil walang kuryente, ang pailaw ay galing sa isang generator na ang ingay ay mas malakas pa sa boses ng kumakanta. Ang may boses na disintunado ay binabatingtingan upang tumigil na pero may regalong isang supot na tinapay. Ang palaging nananalo noon ay isang babaeng may apelyidong “Betita”. Kalaunan ay nakilala rin ang galing nina Grace Perales, at Eufemia Alcon.

 

Nagpagawa si Escribano ng swimming pool sa isang bahagi ng plaza namin. Wala naman masyadong gumagamit maliban sa Kastilang si “Mr. Fernandez” dahil talaga palang atleta ito at swimming ang linya niya, at magaling pang mag-dive. Pinagawa ang swimming pool para sa kasiyahan ng mga mamamayan. Ang mga kinuha niyang bumbero ay marunong tumugtog ng mga instrumento ng combo na kanyang itinatag at pinangalanang “Fireband”. Nagkaroon ng dalawang combo, at ang isa ay dumayo pa sa mga beer house at night club sa Manila. Sa panahong yon sila nakapag-recruit ng mga babaeng mang-aawit mula sa Maynila na dinala sa bayan namin. Isa sa mga dinala nilang singer ay si Helen.

 

Sikat ang bayan namin dahil sa “Fireband”  at magagaling na mga singers tulad ni Lito  na ang kinakanta ay mga pinasikat ng mga grupong “Bee Gees” at “Animals” (nagpasikat sa awit na “House of the Rising Sun”). Palagi silang iniimbita upang tumugtog sa mg kapistahan, at nakakarating pa sa Cotabato City. Malaking bagay ang kinikita nila sa pagtugtog dahil allowance lang naman ang binibigay sa kanila bilang mga bumbero. At upang lubusang mapakinabangan ang combo, nagpatayo rin si Escribano ng “night club” (sa panahon ngayon ay category lang ng beer house) sa palengke malapit sa katayan (slaughterhouse). Dahil sa night club na ang tawag ay “Kayumanggi”, napilitan ang mga nagtitinda sa palengke na panatilihing malinis at walang amoy ang bahaging yon ng palengke na dating tinatambakan ng basura.

 

Nang maghanap si Claudio Estante, ang nagtatag ng DSW sa bayan namin ng magiging assistant niya, sa opisina ni Escribano siya pumunta upang humingi ng reference. Halos lahat ng tinanong niya ay ako ang binanggit kaya ako ang nakuha. Nakilalal ako sa opisina ng meyor dahil tuwing may operation-Linis ang school namin sa paligid ng palengke ay palaging ako ang nagko-coordinate sa opisina ng meyor. Dahil diyan, pwedeng sabihing nakatulong ang opisina ni Escribano sa pagsimula ng informal kong career dahil nang panahong yon ay nasa third year college pa lang ako.  Ang sentro ng evacuation noon dahil sa labanan sa pagitan ng mga “Black Shirts” (Muslim) at “Ilagẳ” (Christians), ay ang bayan namin. Taga-consolidate ako ng listahan ng mga evacuees na dinadala sa DSW Regional Office sa Davao, at ang trabaho ko ay tuwing Sabado lang at Linggo pero hanggang gabi naman at ang ilaw na gamit ko ay “petromax”. Nang panahon ding yon namayagpag si “Toothpick”, lider ng mga “Ilagẳ”. Marami rin akong mga classmate na “Ilaga” na ang pagkakakilanlan ay ang malakas na amoy ng “X-7”, mumurahing pabango na may halong isang bagay upang maging agimat at upang maging epektibo ay tuwing Biyernes lang sila kung maligo.

 

Nang ideklara ang Martial Law ay nasa fourth college year na ako. Pinatawag ni Escribano lahat ng mga estudyante ng mga eskwelahan sa bayan namin upang i-meeting sa plaza. Ang layunin niya ay magpaliwanag tungkol sa Martial Law. Ang hindi niya alam ay may isang babaeng kalaban si Marcos na napapunta sa bayan namin at nangampanya laban sa Martial Law pero naipit dahil inabot ng deklarasyon kaya hindi makalabas, pero ako ang gumawa ng paraan upang makalusot sa mga outpost hanggang makabalik siya sa Maynila.

 

Nang nasa plaza na ang lahat ng mga estudyante, nagsimula na siyang magpaliwanag pero nalabuan ang lahat. Ang masama, nang magtanong siya kung sino ang gustong magtanong, ako ang itinulak ng mga kasama ko dahil nagkataong nakapuwesto kami sa harap ng stage. Dahil wala akong magawa ay nagsimula na akong magtanong subalit nawala ako sa sarili at nakalimutan kong meyor ang kaharap ko dahil panay pagbabara ang ginawa ko sa bawa’t paliwanag niya. Ang isang close-in bodyguard ay hindi yata nakatiis kaya lumapit sa kanya at nagbulong pero narinig ko pa rin, na ang sabi ay: “ano, mayor tapuson ko na ini?” (ano, mayor tatapusin ko na ito?), na ang tinutukoy ay ako. Pero narinig ko naman ang sagot sa kanya ni Escribano na, “indi… kilala ko pamilya sini” (huwag… kilala ko ang pamilya nito). Ang tiyuhin ko kasi ay vice-mayor niya. Magtatanong pa sana ako, pero biglang may nagpaputok kaya nagkagulo na. May humila sa akin mula sa stage at halos pagapang kaming lumayo. Mula noon sinundan na ako mula sa bahay hanggang sa eskwelahan ng isang “PSG” ni Marcos. Ang grupo pala ng “PSG” ay nangupahan sa bahay lang ng mga Guillermo malapit sa school namin.

 

Bago ako umalis sa amin ay pinatay ang municipal judge namin, si Judge Wenceslao Valdez, sa loob ng simbahang Katoliko. Isa siya sa mga mahigpit na kalaban ni Escribano. Matagal ang imbestigasyon subalit bandang huli ay lumabas din ang resulta na nagturo kay Escribano bilang may pakana. Nahuli din daw ang inatasan o “triggerman” na bumaril.

 

Ngayon, 2016, ang bayan namin ay isa nang maunlad na lunsod sa pangangasiwa ni Mayor Lina Montilla. Wala na ang swimming pool at gumanda na rin ang liwasan. Bago na ang bulwagang panlunsod, subalit hindi giniba ang dating munisipyo na nasa likod lang nito kaya ang inudorong pinaglulubluban ng ulo ng mga magnanakaw ay nandoon pa rin.