Buluan (Maguindanao)…taking leaps and bounds towards progress

Buluan (Maguindanao)…taking leaps and bounds towards progress

By Apolinario Villalobos


Buluan is cruising the fast lane towards progress. Practically, development is in full swing. The first to be developed are the once grassy depressions on both sides of the highway. The once grassy lands have been converted into beautifully landscaped walkways or “boulevard”. The highway is literally swept clean of debris as early as 6AM. A sidewalk café outside a business establishment has also added sophistication to the once rock-littered sidewalk.


A little further up northeast is the Buluan bridge from which a refreshing view of the chocolate-colored swift Buluan river can be had. The river was the major commercial artery then, of the town used by the Visayans, Ilocanos and Tagalogs when they came as early as the 1930s to settle in Sambolawan (today, President Quirino), Mangelen, San Emmanuel, and Tacurong.


Buluan could very well be tagged as the most sliced municipality of the Philippines as it used to be an enormous piece of land surrounding Lake Buluan, also among those that comprised “old” Cotabato province. It became a town when President Manuel Roxas signed the Executive Order 82 on August 8, 1947. The first to get “weaned” from her is Tacurong which became a separate town on August 3, 1951. Columbio followed suit, as it became a town in 1961, and then, by Lutayan.


Buluan was made part of Maguindanao on November 22, 1973, during which President Quirino was sliced off the western coast of the lake, with the latter made part of the province of Sultan Kudarat. On April 7, 1991, Buluan’s northern portion was further sliced, out of which the municipality of Gen. S. K. Pendatun was formed. On December 30, 2006, the municipalities of Mangudadatu and Pandag were formed out of the 16 barangays…the two new towns getting 8 barangays each.


Buluan became the capital of the province of Maguindanao necessitating the building of a capitol which is still under construction as of this writing. The current municipal mayor, Lorena D.  Mangudadatu holds office at the Municipal Hall, while the governor, Toto Mangudadatu holds his own temporarily at the Rajah Buayan Silongan Peace Center.


Buluan, together with Lutayan, supplies the neighboring towns and the city of Tacurong with fresh water fishes such as mudfish, tilapia, gourami, taruk, bagtis, and shrimp. The excess of these fishes, especially, mudfish are filleted and dried under the sun. As for delicacies, Buluan is known for its “tinagtag” and “panyalam”.


From Davao City  and Cotabato City, Buluan can be reached on buses and aircon vans, while those coming from General Santos city can take similar conveyances for Tacurong city from which they could transfer to tricycles for the 15-minute ride.



13TH of November is KALIMUDAN FEST 2017’s day for the Job and Business Fair, Women’s Congress and the presentation of the candidates from the different municipalities vying for the MUTYA NG SULTAN KUDARAT 2017. The Honorable Governor, PAX MANGUNDADATU, was the keynote speaker that marked the start of the whole day affair.

The Charisma of Sultan Kudarat Gov. Pax Mangudadatu and the Inspiring Message in His Speech During the BHW Day (November 9, 2017)

The Charisma of Sultan Kudarat Gov. Pax Mangudadatu

And the Inspiring Message in His Speech During the BHW Day (November 9, 2017)

By Apolinario Villalobos


I almost missed my chance to meet Sultan Kudarat Governor, Pax Mangudadatu when my schedule on November 9 got mixed up. Had Lotlot Espinosa, not called me about my promise to join her for the Barangay Health Workers’ (BHW) Day at the Capitol Gym, I could have opted for  two other appointments. The celebration was among those lined up for the more than one month celebration of the Kalimudan Festival 2017…the 19th year.


Inside the imposing Capitol Gym, the BHWs of the different municipalities including those of Tacurong City represented by the Baras Sanctuary, were already jam-packed on the lower level of the bleachers. The groups were colorfully distinguished by the color of their t-shirts. The honorable governor was already almost halfway from finishing his speech when we entered and considered myself lucky to have caught up with his speech filled with historic details about the province. The portion of his speech that first caught my attention was his declaration of utmost GRATITUDE to the Christians for coming during the 1900’s and helped a lot in educating the indigenous inhabitants, especially, the Muslims.


He called on the Sultan Kudaratnons to be TOLERANT in view of the multi-cultured character of the populace. He was practically appealing for UNITY despite differences in religion. He unabashedly mentioned his humble beginnings, practically, struggling to be where he is now, but adding that what he is today, including the political mandates, he owed to God. He underlined his hatred of illegal drugs, thankful that the nation has Duterte as President. But what made his speech very remarkable was his emphasis on the Oneness of God, whatever He is called in various religions which practically struck me. Later, when I sat beside him at the presidential table on stage, I noticed his Masonic ring.


While those seated at the presidential table started to enjoy their lunch, the governor kept on looking around until he stood up, went to the lectern and over the microphone, asked the Jollibee representatives to see to it that everybody was given a packed lunch. I heard a story about his giving his portion of lunch to the guy seated not far from him when he noticed that he has not gotten enough on his plate. With what I have personally witnessed that lunchtime inside the gym, the story about his benevolence has been confirmed.


Before he left the building, he approached the different groups, and that was when I saw how close he is to his constituents. Despite his little more than 70 years of age, he spritely shook hands and gamely allowed himself to be photographed in their company…the sight was overwhelming! For me, he should be appropriately called, the “Bapa of the Masses” (uncle of the masses).


The smile never left his serene face which made him more close to his Rural Health Workers. While looking at him obviously enjoying their company, his soft voice as we conversed a few minutes back, lingered in my mind. I contented myself taking occasional photos and from a short distance, let ecstatic health workers/volunteers savor the special moment with him as for the others to come are for his other constituents…the elders and PWEDs, the artists, etc.


I am praying for your health, Bapa Gov Pax!…More power to you!

SERAFIN P. BERNARDO….his journey from Passi, Iloilo to Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat (Part 1)

SERAFIN P. BERNARDO…his journey from Passi, Iloilo to Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat (Part 1)

By Apolinario Villalobos


The ancestral family of  Serafin P. Bernardo is from the Negros province, particulary, Victorias, but settled in Passi, Iloilo which they, henceforth, considered as their hometown. He had a penpal, Ciloy Levita who invited him to check Tacurong for himself if it would suit his adventurous plan to settle in Mindanao. During the time, the undeveloped territory of Tacurong extended as far as San Felipe of Tantangan. In 1946, when the WWII just ended, he finally visited Tacurong to check and went as far as the area that is now covered by Kalandagan and Carmen after which he left again for Passi where he was working as Chief of Police.


In 1948, he came back to Tacurong with his family in tow, Elisa Panizales, the wife, and three children, Nenita, Nonito, and Judith. When they arrived in Cotabato, the family took a “ferry” that brought them to Buluan. During the time, visitors with plenty of luggage usually disembarked at Buluan which had some sort of a “pier”. Those with a few luggage went as far as Sapakan, bordering Ligwasan Marsh and crossed the river to Tinumiguez, then proceeded to Lambayong which was well developed ahead of Tacurong.


Among the prominent families in Lambayong then, were the Guerreros and Luceros. The only road from Lambayong that ended into a foot trail that branched into several, was a portion of what is now Alunan highway.  For this reason, old Hispanic houses could still be found in the area, prominent among which is the Rapacon residence. The areas encompassing what is today’s downtown were either rice fields or marsh lands. When they arrived in Tacurong, Serafin bought a lot along Mabini St. where he build a big house behind which he built another smaller house that the Levitas occupied. Later he bought another lot near MINPROCOR, particularly, along Quezon Ave. St. which was given to the said family.


Serafin’s  youngest daughter, Judith and son, Nonito, recalled that their father purchased 5 hectares of land in an area which was then called “Mangilala” (referred today as the one covered by Carmen and Kalandagan), followed by two more parcels of 5 hectares each. Purchases were also made beside the property by his only sister, Angelica, married to Felix Villalobos, and his youngest brother, Serafin Bernardo, Jr.


Later, the 15 hectares were sold, with the proceeds used to purchase lands in what is now New Passi, but which was originally referred to by settlers as “Katil”. It was purchased from DATU KANDELAYANG KAMSA. The purchase was witnessed by DATU KUDANDENG AND DATU LUMINOG. It covered more than 100 hectares of land. With the purchase sealed, he went back to Passi to invite relatives to settle in the place. That was how the Pauyas, Palomos, Parreῆos, Pamposas, Pamas, Palabricas and many more got settled in the area which they aptly named, “New Passi”. According to Tomas Pauya, he came with a group in 1954. Arriving at Lambayong, they hiked up to New Passi…he was very young then, and got enrolled in the New Passi Elementary School when his family arrived. He recalled a classmate, Lagrimas Pamposa as their consistent “First Honor”.


Later, the families of French, Garcia, Aguilar, Cunningham, Cordero, Panes, and many others came but settled in the adjacent area, now called Rajah Muda. Many families including those of Jarell and  Braga, also came and settled in Baras and Upper Katungal. As roads from the fast developing Tacurong were constructed, more settlers from Iloilo came and settled at Lower Katungal, Upper Katungal, Baras, New Passi and Rajah Muda. The more adventurous settlers went up to Magon and further on to Tacub where they intermarried with the Bla’ans. An area which is now part of South Cotabato was also settled by Ilonggos, hence, aptly named, “New Iloilo”. The Eastern portion of Tacurong got settled by Ilocanos while those in the North, by other settlers from the various towns of Iloilo.


Serafin also purchased some lands around the Dulawan Estate, the downtown area, and Dadiangas (today, General Santos City). Meanwhile, other areas near New Passi, Rajah Muda, Baras, Katungal, and Lagao were also initially settled by the Garcias and Montillas. The development brought about KENRAM (due to the early produce – kenap and ramie) and ALACor (Ala Corporation). Today, a portion of Lagao is politically recognized as Barangay JC Montilla which is covered with African palm plantations. According to Nonito Bernardo, the Dulawan Estate, included Kapingkong, Tambak, Palumbi, Udtong, and Katitisan.  Lambayong shares the border with Tacurong City’s Barangay Griῆo (formerly, Gansing). An airport station was opened at KENRAM with a short runway for commercial flights utilizing DC-3s.  It was closed when the Surallah station was opened.


The first mayor of Tacurong was Mr. Soriano and a photo has recorded his first meeting with the Council and officials. Serafin was among the Councilors. The development of Tacurong was hectic as shown by the organization of FACOMA (Farmers Cooperative and Marketing Association), a farmers’ cooperative with Serafin Limbungan as the first President. At the time, bridges were built along with roads that finally linked Tacurong with Marbel (today, Koronadal City), Isulan leading to Cotabato City and Surallah, as well as, Lambayong and Buluan. Today, the road to Buluan leads all the way to Davao, Kidapawan, Bukidnon, and Cagayan de Oro. Nonito Bernardo also recalled that during election campaigns, they would go to as far as San Felipe in Tantangan, as the latter was still within the political territory of Tacurong. The lone lady and most popular political figure during the time was Amalia Pabilona.


Ms. Nenita Bernardo recalled that when they studied in Marbel during the early 1950s, they hiked the distance from Tacurong to the said town as there was no public transportation that plied between them, then. They would hike to Marbel on Sundays with their provisions loaded on a cart pulled by a carabao. On Fridays, they would hike back to Tacurong for the weekend. For their convenience they boarded in Marbel.  With them making the trek were Lucia Paladin, Rafael and Delfin Pama, the Dasmariῆas siblings, Gelacio and Usting Panes.


Serafin served as Vice-Mayor in Tacurong for three consecutive terms, finally, retiring from politics to devote his time to farming. He would still wake up at 3:00AM, a habit that he did not change, roll several tobacco cigars for the day, and read what he could find around – magazines and even old issues of newspapers with the aid of an antique kerosene lamp.  Before sunrise, he would be ready to go to New Passi with his adopted son, “Digol” (Rodrigo) driving the “pick up”. He delighted in talking to relatives and farm hands the whole day in the farm. One of them recalled how during planting seasons, everyday he would  bring dried fish to be roasted on coals, while those who were not planting rice seedlings would cook “apan-apan”, kangkong sautéed in ginamos (salted krill paste).  Before dusk, he would be driven back home by Digol.


The Sultan Kudarat Electric Company (SUKELCO) building was among his investments in the downtown area  aside from other residential lots, including the more than 700 square meters at Mabini St. where the ancestral house stands. They were purchased with the produce coaxed from the farm. The SUKELCO building is now owned by the said cooperative. As a clarification on his acquisitions, the proceeds for their purchase came from the produce of his farms in New Passi and Baras, which today are planted to African palms.


As Vice-Mayor of Tacurong, his wage was not even enough for the dole outs that he made.

I have heard so many stories about his benevolence, such that relatives and acquaintances would trek to their home at Mabini St. to seek financial assistance which he readily gave. His early morning sojourns to his farm was stopped by the onset of a crippling rheumatism that affected his knees. From then on, the only opportunity for him to savor the outdoors was when he was brought to the terrace on a wheelchair where he waved back at friends who passed by. He finally rested at the age of 102.




John Rey Posadas Aliwalas…young portrait artist and pride of Tacurong National High School

JOHN REY POSADAS ALIWALAS…young portrait artist

and pride of Tacurong National High School

By Apolinario Villalobos


John Rey Aliwalas is 16 years old, who lost his mother at a young age and whose father, Jeffrey, drives a tricycle to support him and a sibling. He is the eldest and his sketches have helped him a lot through his studies as a Grade 11 student at Tacurong National High School. The loss of his mother inspired him to to sketch. When his friends discovered his talent, they encouraged him to go on which he did until he found a courage to sketch the portrait of the current mayor of Tacurong City, Honorable Lina Montilla who happily accepted the gift.


John is a consistent honor student who also joins dancing and singing competitions. He confided that he is a self-taught video editor.



The Muslim Filipino Pastil/Patil and the Japanese Sushi

The Muslim Filipino Pastil/Patil and the Japanese Sushi

By Apolinario Villalobos


The pastil/patil is a one-dish meal wrapped in banana leaf. It is topped with shredded chicken cooked in soy sauce and plenty of vegetable oil. A variation is the use of fresh water fish such as dalag (mud fish) and tilapia as topping. It is a popular meal ni southern Mindanao, particulary, Cotabato provinces, Zamboanga and Jolo. Today, however, the indication of the presence of a Muslim community in any place around the Philippines are the stacks of this banana leaf- wrapped meal in a store. High grade white rice is used in this dish and the shredded chicken is cooked for hours. What is nice about this dish is the cheap price per wrap at Phpq10 which has not been “updated” for more than 10 years, making it the popular poor Mindanaoan’s meal.


Similar in appearance is the Japanese sushi, although, much smaller in size and requires an intricate  preparation. The price of each sushi depends on the variety – the kind of food wrapped and put on top of the rolled Japanese rice. Unlike the pastil/patil, only the rich Filipinos can afford the Japanese sushi, for the cost of the cheapest piece is equivalent to the price of one kilo high grade rice.

Abrazo Rustico Resto Cafe…Italianish oasis in Tacurong City

Abrazo Rustico Resto Café

…Italianish oasis in Tacurong City

By Apolinario Villalobos


When a facebook friend, Macmac Albenio Delfin referred to me a resto café with an Italian sounding name, I was intrigued. The name he mentioned was Abrazo Rustico Resto Café which when I checked, found it to be within what the Tacurongnons refer to as “Dragon area”, the name being that of a gasoline station-cum-convenient store-cum open-air café. But the Abrazo is an air-conditioned cozy enclave fronting the highway and a few steps from the aforementioned station.


I was hoping that after an unfortunate experience in another coffee shop with a name that I would rather forget, this time around, I would be lucky enough to have a better encounter. Just the same, as I had my lesson, I did not expect so much from the service crew of Abrazo.


Fortunately, I was more than satisfied when I opened the door and was greeted by the smiling guys at the counter. The café was unpretentiously simple, yet cozy. Compared with other cafes, Abrazo is small which however, has become an advantage as it made the atmosphere assume a homey ambiance. I immediately ordered my favorite coffee mix – cappuccino which came thick in consistency, with accompanying two tube sachets of branded muscovado sugar…another plus for health-conscious customers.


Looking around, I was impressed immediately by the miniature antique typewriter safely entrenched in a frame on the wall. Practically, the interior was Italian, even the food offerings. I found out later that Abrazo is popular among students of the nearby VMC, as in a little while, three students came to make an order of pizza and one of the joint’s popular mixed cool drinks. As I observed the satisfaction on the faces of the young customers, I asked their permission for a photo to which they obliged. During that quick visit I failed to meet the owner and resolved to come back in the afternoon to try my luck. At that juncture, I opened up myself to the café staff by revealing to them that I was a blogger, although, they have already permitted me to take photos of the joint without much ado, a show of pride for their coffee shop.


When I came back early in the afternoon, two of the staff were talking to a young petite and pretty lady, who I found later found to be the owner. My effort finally paid up! And, I was more than rewarded when I found out that the two gentlemen who just finished their coffee were officers of a reputable bank in Isulan and Tacurong City….proof enough that indeed, Abrazo was a class by itself. The gentlemen gave me their permission to post their photo that I took, but I opted to withhold their name.


The owner of Abrazo assumes a facebook name as IRE YSABELLE and I want to maintain her identity as such. What’s important to me at the time was my having touched base with her to express my admiration for her guts in venturing into an arena overflowing with cutthroat competition as the city is literally dotted with various kinds of food outlets from the traditional “pastilan”, carinderia, “batchoyan”, “barbecuehan” and open-air cafeterias.


I assumed however, that her courage is enflamed by her penchant for Italian foods, foremost of which is the pizza and java beverages that the joint’s barista yummily concocts. Simply put, she is fond of Italian foods, a variation of Mediterranean cuisine. Her fondness is shown by Abrazo’s various food and drink offerings that customers may not tire of coming back. By the way, customers who want to relax while tapping on their smartphone or laptop may be glad to know that wi-fi access is free!…check out “Abrazo Rustico” on fb to find more about this joint operated and staffed by energetic young-blooded Mindanaoans.