The Making of the Notre Dame of Tacurong College Museum

The Making of the NOTRE DAME


By Felizardo “DING” L, LAZADO

ANYONE who chooses to see something – a thing of the past that has something to say about the present and future, then, he is one rare kind of person of social interest. A family that still keeps the belongings and holdings of its great ancestors and never attempt to let them go in any way is a house built on the rocks of perpetual heritage. If you believe that that there are no useless things here on Earth and everything is useful , then, in this world of ours there is nothing to throw away except feces, urine, domestic wastes and other biodegradables.

I FOUND myself in the shadow of this aweful but awesome and amazing world of saving legacies. And if you go with me, I am sure you got a good guess of what I am talking about. This is concernment in museology. It is not all about curating antiques, artifacts and artworks as many would have viewed it that way. Museology is an interesting field of anything collected anytime for use all the time. As long as an object indicates a story to tell and significance to show, it deserves a space in the museum or better still it deserved to be spared. But museum is not always a big building ornately structured and designed. It can just be a corner, a room in the house, or a house itself if it dearly holds rare, unique and even a run-of-the mill – pieces of collections.

The house of a friend, Bot Villalobos is one of this kind, a unit in a subdivision somewhere in Cavite , Artifacts carefully shelved along the walls were aesthetically scaled. A side table drawer was almost full of wristwatches of all kinds. The cupboard beneath the stove was a caveful of multi-sized earthen jars (kolon) , one of which contained cooked ” tambalang nga dagmay” which he served to me. The most unique was the ” inupong nga humay” displayed on a coffee table in the living room. That small bundle or sheaf of palay was given by a farmer friend from Ifugao’s rice terraces for good luck and prosperity.

And, museum is not all Picasso, da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Fall of Rome, Alexandria and Granada, hegira, or ruins of Parthenon. I was able to obtain a few pieces of rocks from the debris of Berlin Wall from my lady professor at Silliman University. Allegedly, she had them picked up onsite when the Berlin Walls was knocked down. She was there while pursuing a doctoral degree on anthropology

The Notre Dame of Tacurong College ) NDTC Museum was put up without a hint and dint of the above. There was no aforethought of museology. This museum which is now called NDTC Tri-people Musuem was an offshoot of my sheer foolish imagination which later in educational forum I called  “teaching strategy”…or was it? The Jesuit evaluator during our PAASCU accreditation evaluation confirmed to me during an interview that what I did was not a teaching strategy.,,”If ever you consider it a strategy that is something inimical to teaching”. We both laughed. ” But your strategy has paid up for your efforts, you have this one great museum in this part of Mindanao” the Jesuit concluded with a grain of consolation.

” Bring to the class ANYTHING FILIPINO, ANYTHING OLD” (AFAO) . Simple was that instruction but definitive and conclusive for compliance among my students in History 1 (Philippine History) and Humanities 1 (Art Appreciation) for them to earn a perfect 10 points for P (project) in AQRP , equivalent to a 40 % component of the final grade in any subject taken. That began in 1995, the year I was busy for the Talakudong Festival revival.

One male fruit vendor/ student from Isulan ( who would  drive his tricycle from Isulan early morning for his classes and back home at noontime this time, fully laden with assorted fruits bargained from his “suki” (favourite wholesaler) at Tacurong Public Market), proudly  unwrapped before me a small object. ” Sir, ari special AFAO gid ning akon (here sir, is my special AFAO) . The whole class laughed when he further said, “onto ni sang lolo ko nga ginkuha ni lola sang napatay siya. Kanugon kuno sang onto kay mahal pa naman ini”. (It is the false denture  of my grandfather who died, and which was kept by my grandmother, as she thought it to be expensive, to be just thrown away.) I told him, “Take it back home with you, as that might scare other collections. Your lola needs your lolo’s false teeth than any other”. I motioned to him to take back the controversial item. “Ti ang grade ko sir? “. (“how about my grade sir?”).  “Sigi perfect 10 kana” (“don’t worry, you will get perfect 10”).

Running it from 1995 to 1998. the AFAO project has become a byword among my students. One time I caught one guy shouting : “Ay ABAW”, (oh, my!) referring to AFAO. Submitted projects became an array of collectibles and collections. Trending in campus, AFAO has even made some teachers feverish too, thus dozens more of personal items were turned in that swelled up the room. Worthy of mention were 3 pairs of old patadyong (native Visayan tube skirt with geometrical pattern), and kimono (sheer blouse made of piἧa fibers with butterfly sleeves), and 3 pieces of “sinukla” from Mrs. Josefina Lechonsito’s late mother. Ricardo Jamorabon Jr, gave his personal baby’s crib. Rev. Antonio Pueyo while he was still a Parish Priest in Cotabato City sent in a big bronze crucifix and elegant rosary beads which he said was once owned by a Catholic lady but turned them to him when she married General Salipada K. Pendatun. Five big boxes were left to the museum by Bishop Colin Bagaforo when he moved to Cotabato City to assume his new post as Auxiliary Bishop of Cotabato. Most of the artifacts were “santos” (holy images). “rosaritos” (rosary beads), as well as, other sacramental and clerical habits. The Bishop’s collections occupied one room of the ground floor and labeled “ecclesiastical collection”. Opposite room was assigned to several Muslim brasswares including kulintang (brass xylophone) and “agong” from the former Sultan Kudarat governor Pax Mangudadatu.

Verbally but encouragingly, Sr. Leonor Pagorogon, OP, Phd. then the College President instructed me to put up exhibits on June 12, 1998 in connection with the CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION OF THE PHILLIPINE REVOLUTION. So came the unprecedented preparation. Presentable and exhibitable and truly expressive of anything Filipino, anything old were all moved to the exhibit area – the college lobby. To make the exhibit validly significant and reflective of the centennial celebration, the miniatures of the evolution of the Philippine flag and framed pictures of the early revolutionists including Bonifacio and Aguinaldo formed part of the rush works. My sons. Glenn and Ron and one working student put the final touches on the eve of Exhibits Day.

The opening came the morning after but since it was a national holiday, the influx of visitors from other towns, especially, students was observable on the second day. The exhibit was run for two straight weeks with MOVERS (Museum Organization of Volunteers, Errands of Responsible Students) on the watch line. The MOVERS was organized at the height of the preparation. When the exhibit ended, the MOVERS themselves moved all the items to the Sullivan Hall – a two- story building that in itself was also “antique”. The moving signalled the birth of the museum.

The two-story Sullivan Hall, was without the necessary facilities to be called a museum. Here came my big problem. If I had to resort to requisition, I was sure I would only be told “no budget “..that I didn’t like to hear. I put all the responsibilities upon me as I silently shout…COME WHAT MAY I WOULD BUILD THE MUSEUM MY WAY ! I told nobody as nobody has ever told me to stay in the museum in the evening.

At day time during my vacant periods I roamed around the campus – spotting anything useful and loadable – in the garbage area, carpentry shop, stock room beside the gymnasium. Late sundown after supper to the museum I went my way to spend the night.. Like a nocturnal owl and a thief in the night I focused my attention on my “operation”. Sensing that silence now reign the evening hours, like a cat I stealthily moved around …pulled and dragged whatever item I could move inside the museum. Flashing lights indicated that a security was on the roving time. I had to look for cover to elude the Blue Guard. Then on weekends – Saturdays and Sundays I did carpentry works. I picked up pieces of assorted nails at carpentry when there was no carpenter visible. I bought a hammer and a saw so that nobody at home would ever wonder where have all the saw and hammer gone ifever needed.

On June 30,1998, the NDTC MUSEUM was given official recognition, as Sr. Leonor Pagorogon OP, PhD. signed my appointment as First Curator and a certificate was issued recognizing me as Founder of the NDTC MUSEUM. A respite from museum-related activities came when I accompanied the Talakudong contingent to Davao City to join the Kadayawan Festiva in mid-August of the same year.

My exit from the museum which was brought about by my retirement in 2008 saw the entrance of equally energetic Dr. Edgar Gonzales who took over as the new curator. Under his administration, the museum made three good projects: 1) The ground floor was fully renovated with modern facilities; 2)  A decent fund was obtained from the NCAA for the procurement of other facilities and training; and,  3) The museum was renamed NDTC TRI-PEOPLE MUSEUM.

For over a decade of curatorial work, 13 years to be exact, museology has taught me more meanings of life and more learning from love of USEFUL AND USELESS THINGS. In my retirement speech, I humbly mentioned the time when I was a nocturnal owl, a thief in the night, a stealthily moving cat, a scavenger, a carpenter, an AFAO strategist, not a teaching strategist, inventor of the new 3 Rs – Remake, Retake, Reshape…I DID ALL THAT for my contributions to the meaningful NDTC Vision Mission and my commitment to the promotion of cultural heritage.I would like to thank all my students/alumni and fellow teachers who in one way or the other have helped me build the NDTC MUSEUM.

The Venerable Metamorphosis of Notre Dame of Tacurong College

The Venerable Metamorphosis

of Notre Dame of Tacurong College

By Apolinario Villalobos

The school that started with a couple of buildings divided into small rooms has proudly metamorphosed into a proud educational institution today, and with a determination, more than ever to excel. The once flood-prone swampy grassland, now pockmarked with modern structures was donated by Mr. Sabas Buenacosa. The institution’s humble beginnings saw sides of pathways planted to acacia trees and aratiles for their shade, and the basketball court patiently built by members of the pioneering faculty, with its thin concrete layer of cement that withstood years of ball dribbling before a thicker one was laid.

The makeshift stage fronting the basketball court was later improved to have a sturdier roof and a stock room. Other enhancements that followed were the Administration office, the two-storey wooden structure that housed the library on the ground floor, and small auditorium on the second floor, an annex building for additional classrooms, the convent of the Oblates of Notre Dame (OND) sisters, and the Training Department (elementary) – all of them further lent a more academic look to the amor seco grass-carpeted campus.

The pioneering teachers were always around to lend a hand for anything that called for the improvement of the school. Effort was on gratis, as the school was still struggling financially to be able to survive. At the helm of all this effort were the parish priest, Fr. Elino Isip and Fr. Robert Sullivan, the school Director. The noisy generator of the parish convent, provided limited electricity in the evening for college classes and activities, especially, basketball on weekends. There were other priests who came before and after them, but the transformation of the school was more felt and became more visible during their time.

Teachers who taught in high school also did the same in college when the latter was opened to welcome eager students who came from as far as Buluan, Lambayong, Esperanza, Maganoy, Isulan, Tantangan, and New Iloilo. Most of the students from the neighboring towns were accommodated by Mrs. Pacing Sara in her home with its several extensions. She was fondly called by Notre Damians as “nanay Pacing”.

Unselfishly dispensing their duties as teachers were Mr. Ricardo Jamorabon who handled PMT and ROTC aside from academic subjects, Mr. Alfonso Romero, Mr. Rafael Sespeῆe, Mrs. Gloria Canzana, Mrs. Ching Romero, Ms. Nenita Bernardo, Mrs. Josefina Lechonsito, Ms. Azucena Hojilla, Mrs. Emma Jamorabon, Mrs. Leonor Pagunsan (who later became President of Notre Dame of Marbel University), Mr. Elmer Festin , Mr. Fermin Roca, and Mr. Plaridel Batucal. Mr. Marcelino Doῆa did his best as high school principal, then. The small band that provided marching tunes during parades and field demonstrations was under the baton of Mr. Cantil and Mr. Tirado.

When the Training Department was opened, Mrs. Trinidad Concepcion took the seat as its principal till the so many years that followed. She was assisted by the able teaching force that included, Mrs. Leticia Romero, Mrs. Lydia Raῆido, Ms. Violeta Subaldo, Mr. Ernesto Cajandig, and Mr. Tim Castaniaga. Because of them, we now have a mayor, Lina Montilla, as well as her siblings Roncal and Lino who preceded her at the helm of the city, successful medical practitioners, Dr. Carlo Romero, Dr. Leo Villalobos, and many more, aside from businessmen, and farmers who contributed to the development of Tacurong.

Mr. Leonardo Ninte, as the librarian, did his best to catalog donated books from the United States, through the effort of Fr. Robert Sullivan, Fr. Haslam, and Fr. MacGrath. The science laboratory with antiquated equipment was administered by Ms. Nenita Bernardo who chose to be part of the just- established school, rather than give in to the invitations from schools in Iloilo. She saw to it that field trips should not go beyond the town to avoid taxing the students with expense. Researches, then, were frequently conducted in swamps and streams, a kilometer or two from the campus, particularly in New Isabela, to gather specimens. On the other hand, Mr. Ric Jamorabon tried his best in converting a box-type structure into a militaristic “armory” – with all its wooden replica of rifles and real, albeit, old automatic Browning automatic rifles needed for demos on dismantling and assembly of their parts. Not a few fingers got hurt in the effort during the required demo as part of the ROTC drill. Mr. Jamorabon also coached the school’s basketball team.

Mr. Juanito Canzana, aside from pitching in when the Pilipino teacher in college failed to show up, was the ever-patient Registrar, putting the school records in order. Supporting him in the administration office were Mrs. Emma Jamorabon as the Administrative Secretary who also taught Physical Education to the college students, as well as, the rudiments of typing which proved very useful later on with the onset of computerized information technology. Mrs. Fely Subaldo on the other hand, made use of her patience in cashiering, and Mr. Plaridel Batucan took charge of accounting.

To further the school’s effort in putting the institution in the mainstream of artistic competitiveness, Kayumanggi Dance Troupe was organized. Talents of teachers and students were pooled in coming up with repertoire of indigenous dances, with “singkil”, as the centerpiece. The opportunity brought to fore the dancing skill of Ernesto Cajandig and the Subaldo sisters, as well as, the singing prowess of Agustin Carvajal. Not to be outdone, Mrs. Ching Romero and Mrs. Leonor Pagunsan put up the high school’s Choreographers’ Club. Mr. Elmer Festin meanwhile, organized the Debating Club for the high school and college, as well as, put up “Green Ember”, the high school organ.

The courses offered in college were Bachelor of Arts with choices of major and minor subjects in English and History, Bachelor of Science in Commerce, Bachelor of Science in Education, and Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. Scheduled “practice teaching” of BSE and BSEEd students were considered big events, observed even by classmates, who added jitters to the would-be teachers. Some of these practicumers comprised a part of the school’s teaching force later on, such as: Gaudencio Garcia, Ding Lazado, Domingo Salanap, Teresa Neri, and many more.

Graduates who also excelled in their chosen field, just like the teachers, were Erlina Diaz who became the principal of Notre Dame of Isulan, Ruel Lucentales who became Assistant Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare until the time of his demise, Domingo Cargo who got connected with National Food Authority and currently with the Commission on Audit, and Renato Hingco who worked with the Department of Budget and Management in Legaspi City and later as Corporate Secretary of the Bicol University. A graduate in high school, Virgilio Guillermo, also showed excellence later by becoming an Assistant Secretary of Labor during the time of Blas Ople, as Secretary. Later, Veo, as he was called by friends, became the Regional Director of the National Manpower and Youth Council (now, TESDA) of Bicol. A special mention goes to Felizardo Lazado who, despite his heavy teaching load, was able to work on the concept of Tacurong’s only festival – Talakudong. During the early years of its celebration, he was an active member of the city’s festival steering committee. This he did, aside from dispensing additional responsibilities as administrator of the NDTC museum. When he left for the United States, his responsibilities for the festival were turned over to City Councilor Bogz Jamorabon, another proud product of Notre Dame, as the Talakudong Festival’s Committee Chairman.

Another alumnus of this institution who discreetly shares an effort to put the city in the map of tourism is Rey Malana, a nature lover, who converted an inherited property in Barangay Baras, into a bird sanctuary – the only one of its kind in the whole province of Sultan Kudarat. He sacrificed personal gain in favor of the popular clamor and his love of nature, by maintaining the original setting of the fertile farm along the swift banks of Kapingkong River, which would have become a cornfield. The bamboo grooves and a wide patch of indigenous trees were left untouched for the benefit of homing Philippine egrets and seasonally migrating kinds from neighboring countries in Asia.

I could recall a frequent visitor of the campus – Mr. Fructuoso Buenacosa, “Lolo Putoy” or “Tiyo Putoy” to the youngsters. He was the town’s “walking historican”. He never missed a visit to the library, every time he was in the campus. We loved to ask him how the swampy land along the highway was transformed into a plaza, or when the town’s Pilot School was established, or when the first movie theater was opened, etc. His encyclopedic knowledge on the town’s transformation was later compiled into a small book. He, like the other benefactors of the school and parish were fondly remembered for their unselfish acts: Mr. Mending Lapuz who donated the first four posts of the church’s belfry, the structure being an integral part of the school campus, and Mr. Nonito Bernardo who was actively involved in the building of the original parish building where the school’s directors reside, as well as, its current renovation. No less than the bishop of Cotabato, leads the throng of thankful parishioners and alumni in giving due recognition to Mr. Bernardo.

Students and teachers will not forget, too, the ever-energetic lone security “force” of the whole campus, Mr. Juanito Panes. He rendered duty straight for the whole week, making rounds and could still etch a smile on his face. His lanky build did not deter him from facing off with intruders at night, which happened several times. As the generator was turned off after college classes, all he had was a flashlight to light his way around the campus and a piece of stick while checking rooms and corners of the campus.

Those are sweet reminiscences….

And, nothing is sweeter than remembering also the days when high school students would walk in groups on their way to school and the college students on their way home in the dark, with streets lighted only by stray lights from open windows of homes …when parade was a grand event not only for students but also for the whole town…and, singing the “Notre Dame Hymn” and the “Notre Dame March” gave students an ecstatic feeling!

Notre Dame of Tacurong College was a big family, then… still is… and will surely be, in days to come!