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.

Marawi….Oh, Marawi!

Marawi…Oh, Marawi!

Ni Apolinario Villalobos


Marawi…Oh, Marawi!

Sa ‘yong sinapit, kami’y nakikidalamhati

Nagkagutay-gutay dahil sa mga nag-umpugang lakas

Kaya ngayon, animo ay kalansay na lamang ang mababakas.


Lunsod ng marangyang kultura

Kamaranawang niyayakap ay Islam

At ang iba naman ay ang Kristiyanismo

Subalit nagkakaunawaan kaya walang gulo.


Hindi nagpagapi sa mga Kastila

At kahit sa iba pang mga banyaga

Dugo ng mga magigiting ay dumanak –

Mga bayaning Maranaw, hindi mahahamak!


Nagsimula sa Gitnang Silangan

Adhikaing sa Marawi’y pinagpilitan

Islam nga kung ituring, pero di tanggap

Dahil sa karahasan nito na di mapaglingap.


Maute Group ang nagpasimula

Na sa lunsod ay unti-unting naglipana

At  nagpataranta sa mga naninirahan doon

Nagulat sa mga ratatat at dagundong ng kanyon!


Kalunos-lunos ang mga eksena

Dinig sa mga radyo at TV, lahat ay nakita

Na ikinagulat at nagpayanig sa mga Pilipino

Pangyayaring hindi inasahan, mistulang dilubyo!


Di pinansin kumalat na kuwento

Tungkol sa napansing kilos ng ibang tao

Marami ay dayo, naglipana sa buong lunsod

Na sa daloy ng pamumuhay sila’y nagpatianod.


Nang magkaroon ng perhuwisyo

At sa kapulisan ay dumagsa ang reklamo

Noon lang nalamang di tsismis ang kumalat

Dahil buong Marawi ay nasa loob na ng lambat

Kaya nang kapulisa’y magsikilos…huli na ang lahat!

Tacurong then, and today…

Tacurong then, and today…

By Apolinario Villalobos


When I was born in Tacurong in 1954, the most popular area was the plaza with a swimming pool, a skating rink and a multi-purpose court in front of a stage. 80% of the streets were not cemented. The public market was dilapidated. The whole town was not completely lighted despite the presence of the cooperative power supplier. There were only 3 clinics. There was no rotunda where the traffic from Marbel, Davao, Lambayong, and Isulan converged. Notre Dame College was lighted in the evening by an age-old generator at the back of the old wood-structured convent. The Catholic church was not filled with wooden benches. There was a lone mosque at the Apilado subdivision. The only reputable resort was the Lacson Resort at Calian. The only decent barbecue outlet was the Mauring’s (Pernato). There were 4 dilapidated movie houses, Real, Nonoy, Ideal, and Prince.


Today, there may be no movie theaters but the Tacurongnons are not bored because of hi-tech entertainment gadgets. I went around the city and found that only a few of short streets are not cemented, and which may not take a long time to be covered with concrete. Big canals are being constructed. There are malls so that the locals need not go to Gensan or Davao or Marbel, although there is a slight difference in prices. Decent restos have mushroomed all over the city, even at unexpected corners of barangays. Hospitals and clinics including derma, ortho and dental have likewise mushroomed. The Notre Dame College has developed tremendously and additionally, there are now plenty of colleges, both public and private, as well as, high-end prep schools.


Today, the young Tacurongnons are updated in their fashionable outlook. The city plaza has assumed an exotic image. There are a number of resorts, foremost of which is the Monte Vicenteaux Resort….plus, a nature reserve, the Baras Bird Sanctuary. Fashion parlors are everywhere. Food items in the market are cheap and plenty due to the influx of commodities from neighboring cities and towns.


The local government is lenient in its policies which is an advantage to small entrepreneurs, resulting to the mushrooming of small and medium businesses. Market marshals who are on guard 24/7 are very helpful to shoppers. The fish and meat sections of the wet market do not stink.


One can have a decent lunch of pastil or patil and boiled egg, with free soup – all for Php20. The dirty ice cream sold around the city has at least four flavors to choose from including durian. Four scoops on a small cone is Php5…served in a bread as sandwich is Php10.


The Tacurongnons are multi-lingual so that strangers need not worry about miscommunication, as even vendors can speak good English and Tagalog.


What more can a Tacurongnon ask? Why not just help in making the city become more lively and exude with a warmer goodwill. Let us not ask for the moon in view of the small budget that the local government is trying to make use to the fullest in realizing the most needed and relevant projects.



The Philippine Brassware

The Philippine Brassware

By Apolinario Villalobos


The Maranaos of Lanao find brass as a good object on which they express themselves artistically. Be it on lampstands, “gong”, plant holders, jars, ash trays, and food trays, the Maranao brass artist whose deft hands have been made sensitive by years of experience, imprint his personal expression of the “okir” and “naga” art forms.


Synonymous to the southern culture which in itself is exotic, the brassware is usually considered as an object that could enliven any living room, office, restaurant corners, or hotel lobby. Those who visit Marawi City, Jolo, Zamboanga City or Cotabato City, always see to it that they have purchased a brass item to be brought home as a souvenir. Not only are the brassware kept for their decorative value, but also for their cultural significance.


While brass handicraft is a waning source of income for some families in other Muslim provinces that have become outlets and showcases, in southern Lanao, particularly, Tugaya, locals still consider it their source of income. Here, some of the artisans still use the crude centuries-old foundry and casting methods. Despite the crudeness of the craft in Tugaya, the cottage industry is struggling for its perpetuation.


It is said that the craft was brought to Tugaya by a local trader, Maruhom Maulia, who got the knowledge from his trading trips to Tampasok, Sabah, where brass and bronze items were manufactured. Eventually, while at Tugaya, he fell in love and married the Sultan’s daughter.


According to Dr. Manitua Saber, an authority on Islamic arts, the techniques used by the artisans of Tugaya are similar to those being used in Bali, Sumatra and Brunei. Furthermore, he said that the technology could have found its way to Southeast Asia by way of China or India, in 1,000 A.D.


There are two processes practiced by the Maranao artisans, such as, the stamping and drip wax techniques. It is interesting to note that the tools which the artisans use are also made by them, usually out of the local materials.


In the stamping technique, brass plates are incised using a home-made “compass” to determine the size of the expected design.  Several plain plate tied together are etched or punched with intricate designs of “naga” or “okir”, or both, before they are formed into the desired item. Brassware produced out of this method, are cheaper compared to the drip wax technique which is more tedious, as it involves more time and processes. The latter, actually, revolves around the “mold” technique, and being crude, needs several phases to complete the process.


The brassware comes in many forms and uses. Those who are not familiar with the use of the items, would resort to just one thing – use them as decorative accessories in homes and offices. It is not surprising therefore, to find homes whose tables in the living room are accented with brass betel nut containers, open flat iron, small gongs or kulintang set and urns.

In Pasay City, brass and bronze items from the small ash trays and betel nut containers to big jars and urns can be found at the Philtrade Center, beside the World Trade Center, along Roxas Boulevard. Similar items can also be found in the Ermita district of Manila and the Islamic Center in Quiapo.


Baras Bird Sanctuary Revisited (Barangay Baras, Tacurong City, Mindanao)

Baras Bird Sanctuary Revisited

By Apolinario Villalobos


The last time I visited the Baras Bird Sanctuary was during the successful celebration of the Bird Festival 2017 last May. Lately, I visited it again but it was some kind of a reunion with college buddies, Rey Malana, the owner of the avian reservation park and Charles del Campo who was with his second wife, Neneng. When we arrived, the park wardens were busy with the laying down of new tiles for the pathway that wound around the bamboo and “kakawate” grove. Mr. Malana, himself, showed as around while pointing to interesting birds, some of which belong to very rare species. While going around, we had to cover our head with salakot to protect us from bird droppings.


Overhead, branches of trees and leaning bamboos lush with foliage and twigs were dotted with nests. Birds of various species were oblivious of our presence. Egrets were either on the ground while the rest were minding their nest. Fallen bamboos were left to rot to maintain an ambience akin to a forest. Meanwhile, a few feet away from the pathway, the brownish Upper Katungal or Kapingkong River continued rushing toward the Ala River.


After our tour, Rey treated us to a film showing that featured a documentary about the sanctuary. I was personally amazed at how the city and Baras with its Bird sanctuary were beautifully presented, especially, from the bird’s eye view.


Rey confided that he has been a nature lover ever since he observed the regular homing of egrets to the bamboo grove of their farm. To keep the avian park well-maintained, the city government has granted it a subsidy. Working in tandem with Rey in keeping the birding hobby and nature awareness in Tacurong alive is Ms. Emelie P. Jamorabon of the city tourism office. She surprised me with her thorough knowledge of the birds that have found home in the swamps around the city, as well as, the Bird Sanctuary itself. When I paid her a visit, she excitedly opened a site in the internet about the birds of Tacurong posted by avid birdwatchers who regularly visit the city.


Both Mr. Malana and Ms. Jamorabon are hoping that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) could further help the city government in preserving the identified homing areas of endemic and migratory birds, especially, the almost three hectares Baras Bird Sanctuary. Another identified area is a swamp within a private land in Carmen, which according to Ms. Jamorabon will be developed into a subdivision.


Those who are interested to visit Tacurong, the gateways are Davao, General Santos and Cotabato cities. The staff of the City Tourism Office on the second floor of the City Hall, and the receptionists, as well as, the park wardens of the Baras Bird Sanctuary are more than willing to assist for quick tours.

Ang Makabagong Anyo ng Tacurong na Pinatingkad ng Pagtutulungan

Speech delivered during the June 12/Independence Day celebration of Tacurong at the grounds of the City Hall….




Ni Apolinario Villalobos


Ang Tacurong na dating baryo ng Buluan at may pangalang “Pamangsang” ay mabilis ang pagpaimbulog tungo sa pag-unlad. Animo, siya ay isang taong nagmamadali sa paghakbang tungo sa isang inaasam na layunin…at hindi naman nabigo dahil ngayon ay kitang-kita ang mga resulta ng kaunlaran na tinatamasa. Kabi-kabila ang mga itinatayong mga gusali upang maging mall at paupahan. Lahat nang yan ay dahil sa pagtutulungan ng mga residente at mga dumadayong mangangalakal na galing pa sa ibang bayan na nakapaligid sa lunsod.


Nakatulong din ang pagpupunyagi ni Ms. Emilie Pasaporte Jamorabon ng City Tourism Office na sa kabila ng maliit na pondo ay nagawang makapag-conceptualize ng Bird Festival, and ikatlong festival ng lunsod. Walang maipagmamalaking tradisyonal na tourist spots ang Tacurong, maliban sa Bird Sanctuary ng Baras, Monte Vicenteaux Resort ng New Passi, iba pang maliliit na resorts na nakakalat sa iba’t ibang purok at barangay, at mga specialty restaurants. Ang kakulangan ng mga likas na atraksiyon ay napunuan naman, at sobra-sobra pa ng likas na magandang ugali na pinapakita ng mga Tacurongnon sa mga dumadayo…yan ang “goodwill”.


Hindi mapag-imbot o selfish ang Tacurong, at walang ibang dapat pasalamatan diyan kundi ang butihing mayor, si Lina Montilla, sampu ng iba pang mga opisyal – vice mayor, Dr. Joseph George Lechonsito at mga City Coucilors.  Patas ang mga ordinansang ginagawa. Walang pinipili sa mga binibigyan ng pagkakataon upang mabuhay nang maayos….yan ang diwa ng sama-samang pagbalikat ng mga gampanin tungo sa pag-unlad.


Mababaw ang katagang “pagbabago” para sa Tacurong dahil kung tutuusin ay walang dapat baguhin, sa halip ay dapat paunlarin pa, dahil maunlad na . Kailangan lang naman kasi ang pagbabago ng isang bagay kung ito ay masama o hindi kaaya-aya…na wala sa imahe ng lunsod kahit katiting man lang. At, yan ang “nakakabilib”, kung gagamitin ko ang salitang makabago….at, yan pa rin, ay dahil sa masugid na pagtutulungan ng mga Tacurongnon.


Hindi lang iisa ang kulturang umiiral sa buong lunsod ng Tacurong. Ang Ilokano, Ilonggo, Cebuano, Pangasinense, Maranao, Iranum, Maguindanaoan, Bikol, Waray, at Tagalog ay iba’t ibang kulturang maituturing subalit nasa hanay na pangrehiyon o regional…at lahat ay nag-uunawaan…walang hidwaan o kontrahan. Dito lang sa atin may subdivision na sa gitna at hindi kalayuan sa mga bahay ng mga Kristiyano ay may mosque. Dito lang sa atin may simbahang Katoliko na may mga estudyanteng Muslim. Dito sa atin ang mga Ilokano, Bikol, Waray at Tagalog na animo ay mga Ilonggo kung magsalita ng Bisaya. Ang pinag-uusapan natin dito ay iba’t ibang tradisyon, na sa kabila ng pagkakaiba ay may pagkakaisang nakatuntong sa pundasyon ng magandang samahan. Bihira ang kalagayan natin dito sa Tacurong na dapat ay ating ipagmalaki…na guto kong tawaging “cosmopolitan” o “sophisticated”.


Hindi tayo dapat mangamba o matakot sa anumang banta na pilit nagpapadiskaril ng direksyon na tinatahak ng lunsod. Ang bantang yan ay dapat pang magpaigting ng ating magandang samahan. At, dahil ito ang huling term ni mayor Lina at iba pang mga Konsehal, ang panawagan ko ay magtulungan tayo sa pagbalikat ng mga gampanin ng mga papalit sa kanila. Huwag nating pairalin ang pulitika na nagsisilbing salot na sumisira ng magandang samahan pati ng magkakapamilya.


Magkaisa tayo tungo sa pag-unlad pa ng ating lunsod na nag-iisa lang!…ipagmalaki natin na tayo ay mayroong Tacurong, na ang pangalan ay hinango sa “talakudong”, isang malapad na katutubong sombrerong nagsisimbolo ng proteksiyon sa lahat na handang makipagtulungan at walang mapag-imbot na hangarin.


Magbuklod-buklod tayo at sa iisang boses ay sumigaw ng SULONG TACURONG!