Francis Lama Torres…blazing his way to the top

FRANCIS LAMA TORRES…blazing his way to the top

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

Here’s the story of a country boy, born of a big family at the foot of the Dagoma mountain range and raised by struggling parents who depended on the earnings of their father as a photographer. He is practically blazing his way to the top without let up.

 

I had my first glimpse of Francis Lama Torres, the guy whom many Notre Dameans and Tacurongnons have been mentioning as an excellent event host. That was during the first institutional reunion of the Notre Dame of Tacurong College several years ago, during which I was the “voice” of the college alumni, Carlo Romero for the high school, and City Mayor Lina Montilla, for the elementary. I was very much impressed by his fluency in English and local version of Hiligaynon.

 

Several months ago, during the birthday party of a cousin, Hazel, her close friend, Bing told me that she found somebody whom she found to be an excellent host. The guy whom I mentioned earlier and the one whom Bing mentioned were, I found out, to be the same.

 

The next time our paths crossed was when I visited a restaurant known for its indigenous dishes, the FUDZ RESTO, along the highway fronting the Notre Dame of Tacurong College. He was manning the cashier’s drawer. I learned from Cathy, the supervisor of the food outlet that Francis and her son Daryll are business partners and the resto is their first venture. I learned later still, from Cathy that some of their offerings are cooked at home by Francis, himself, early in the morning and which he brings to the restaurants on his way to his nearby office, the Sultan Kudarat Electric Cooperative, Inc. (SUKELCO). And, most admirable is his lending a hand at the FUDZ Resto during his lunch break!

 

Francis currently holds the position of Manager of Area 2 Services Department, but previously, was the entity’s Administrative Services Manager. Still, previous to those jobs, he also taught at the NDTC for 4 years. As an Area 2 Manager of SUKELCO, Francis covers Bagumbayan, Isulan, Esperanza, as well as, Lambayong and its 4 barangays, Matiompong, Katitisan, Kapingkong, and Tambak.

 

 

He shared that he is from the beautiful barangay of Masiag, Babumbayan, having been born there in September 18, 1978. He finished his elementary  at the Masiag Central School and high school at the Notre Dame of Masiag, but finished his college at the Notre Dame of Tacurong College.  His father, Francisco E. Torres, Sr., is a photographer who started his craft as a teen-ager while his mother, Candelaria Dapitan Lama, is a typical housewife and a doting mother to him and his 8 siblings. He is next to the eldest, a priest  assigned in Thailand,  while their youngest is taking up Social Work at the Notre Dame of Tacurong College. Francis and his brothers fittingly accorded their parents with a special gift by jointly hosting their Ruby wedding anniversary.

 

While in high school, he has developed his skill in public speaking and when he studied at the Notre Dame of Tacurong College, it was further honed by Felizardo Lazado, one of the faculties who used to administer the school museum and a writer in his own right who continues to express himself through blogs in the internet today. From then on, he has been tapped to host events and his popularity as such spread even after his graduation. While with the SUKELCO, he kept on hosting various events, both of local and national level.

 

Our short conversation revealed his long-ranged vision for Tacurong, his adopted home. He shared his bright ideas on how the tourism industry of the city could be further developed by utilizing what are already on hand, hence, all doable. His vision goes beyond his course, Bachelor of Science in Commerce (Banking and Finance) enhanced by his Masters in Business Administration, as clearly, his mind is also set on community development, as well.

 

I could surmise that the guy could go further, having proved that one need not graduate from a big university to be an achiever, especially, because he loves challenges, as he admitted that he prefers field work to that of an office-confined one.

 

The Trail to Masiag from Bagumbayan (Sultan Kudarat)…profile of the Filipinos’ endeavor to survive

The Trail to Masiag from Bagumbayan (Sultan Kudarat)

…profile of the Filipinos’ endeavor to survive

By Apolinario Villalobos

(PHOTOS BY RENE AQUINO, Administrative staff – Masiag Annex/BNHS)

 

 

The winding and muddy ribbon of trail shown in the accompanying photos leads to the Masiag Annex of the Bagumbayan National High School. Bagumbayan is a young municipality of Sultan Kudarat province. It is peopled by those from the older towns of Isulan, Esperanza, and Tacurong, with some purportedly, to be current migrants from the Visayas. During the middle of ‘70s, Bagumbayan figured as one of the most affected areas in Cotabato, caught in the midst of altercation between the Islamic “Black Shirts” and Christian “Ilaga”. And, Masiag then, was dotted by huts of farmers which were distributed kilometers away from each other. At the height of evacuation, Bagumabayan was listed as among the origins of both displaced Christian and Muslim families, aside from Esperanza, Lambayong, Tinumiges, Udtong, Katiko, Buluan, Datu Paglas, and unknown sitios beside the Ligwasan Marsh.

 

When Claudio Estante opened the Department of Social Welfare office in Tacurong to cover the Sultan Kudarat province, the primary purpose was to serve the evacuees, I was the lone staff initially hired and the branch was under Region XI based in Davao City, with Agrinelda Miclat at its helm as Director, but today, due to expansion program of the agency, the branch is under Region XII. As we were overwhelmed by the burden of statistics gathering and relief distribution, additional personnel were hired from Notre Dame, and which included, Ruel Lucentales, Renato Hingco, Dominador Lictawa, Mildred Palabrica-Balili and a little later, Felizardo Lazado. Teddy Lapuz volunteered his services for the organization of displaced youth. Soon afterwards, full time Social Workers were sent by the Regional Office to augment the workforce of the Welfare Aides and the lone Youth Welfare volunteer.

 

The trails today are not what we used before when we visited Bagumbayan, as they were more of ruts impressed by wheels of carts and sleds drawn by carabao or water buffalo. Relief distribution was concentrated at Esperanza, but occasionally, on “clear” days, distribution effort was extended up to Bagumbayan to reach out to those who refuse to leave their farm. From where we were posted with military escorts, intermittent exchange of volleys of shots could be heard. Several times, Esperanza and Bagumbayan were cordoned off which practically deferred the travel of buses and private vehicle to Cotabato City for days. DSW was closely in touch with the 12th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army at Isulan for updated news on the situation of the towns surrounding Tacurong. There were days that we would encounter jeepneys loaded with casualties and wounded. The two hospitals in Tacurong – Tamondong and Eugenio were always full as they admitted both Christian and Muslim patients.

 

Today, with relative peace that envelops the province of Sultan Kudarat, the local government is exerting much effort in reaching out to those who have gone beyond the last frontier, particularly, toward the slopes of Mt. Dagoma which is profusely covered with forest of hard wood that draw illegal loggers. An aging former lawmaker even admitted on TV that he had been holding on to his logging concessions in that area for a long time in a desperate effort to explain his tremendous wealth, perhaps to convince the people that he did not dip his fingers into the coffers of the government as did some of his colleagues who were involved in “pork barrel” scams.

 

Teachers and office staff of the Masiag Annex are from the Main Bagumbayan National High School. They practically trek their way to their assigned post, rain or shine. Those with single-engine motor bikes are fortunate, though. These altruistic teachers do not hesitate to sacrifice part of their measly wage to buy instruction materials needed to be effective in their vocation. Situations such as shown in photos have necessitated the use of “habal-habal”, motorcycles used as some sort of a commuter service for an affordable fee.

 

For the resourceful Filipinos in Mindanao, what has been kindled by an endeavor for survival has definitely laid down the foundation for progress…as Mindanao is full of such opportunities. Meanwhile, the  Bagumbayanons  and Masiagnons are patiently treading along the trail towards the fulfillment of one!