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.




Lagrimas Pamposa…the Unsung Intellectual of Tacurong City

Lagrimas Pamposa….the unsung

Intellectual of Tacurong City

by Apolinario Villalobos


Her family arrived from Passi Iloilo to settle in Tacurong city in 1951, particularly in a corner lot of what is Malvar St. today, but which was sold not long after they settled for good in what is now the barangay of New Passi. She finished her Grades 1 to 4 in Tacurong Elementary School, today, Tacurong Pilot School. She was in Grade 5 when they transferred to New Passi Elementary School, today, Elisa P. Bernardo Elementary School, and which during the time had a 10-room building including the office of the principal who was Pio Sustiguer at the time. When she graduated (1955-56), she was the class valedictorian. As she could recall, when Mr. Sustiguer was transferred to the Rajah Muda Elementary School, Mr. Aguacity took over his post as Head Teacher. Those who spearheaded the school later were Elsa Bernardo and her husband, Jaime Tolentino. Ms. Pamposa also recalled Mrs. Emma Bernardo, as among the teachers during her time.


In high school she entered the then, parochial school of Notre Dame for Girls where she graduated also, as valedictorian, while their salutatorian was Azucena Hojilla. Their honorable mention was Florinda Pabunsan, who is now the College Dean of the Quezon Colleges of Tacurong City.


For her college education, Ms. Pamposa entered the Notre Dame of Marbel, today, Notre Dame of Marbel University. She took Bachelor of Sciend in Elementary Education and was again the class valedictorian when she graduated in 1966. The salutatorian was Leonor Palabrica Arzagon-Pagunsan, and who later taught at Notre Dame of Tacurong Boys’ Department, and during the latter part of her career, went back to Notre Dame of Marbel as President.


After her graduation, Ms. Pamposa went back home to New Passi in 1966 to teach Grade Four in her alma mater and later transferred to Baras Elementary School. Before her retirement age, she tried her luck in Cavite where she found job as Principal of the Basic Education at Southern Luzon College which has been integrated later into the AMA Education System. She left the school in April 16, 2016.


After a short rest, she was urged by their class salutatorian, Florinda Pabustan to join the Quezon Colleges of Tacurong City, formerly, Lyceum of Southern Philippines, and where she was the College Dean. Ms. Pamposa was given a post as BSEEd Chairperson.


Today, Ms. Pamposa lives with a niece in her home along the main road of New Passi. She commutes every day from her home to Quezon Colleges in the city, early in the morning and back home late in the afternoon. When I met her for an interview, she doesn’t look her age of 71 as she spritely moves around. Amazingly, she still receives an invitation or two from educational institutions to be part of their teaching force, an indication that to date, those who know her still acknowledge her intelligence. She confided that she never stops her learning endeavor every time there is an opportunity that comes her way….despite her being in a barrio and her age!



The Elisa P. Bernardo Elementary School in New Passi, Tacurong City

The Elisa P. Bernardo Elementary School

In New Passi, Tacurong City

By Apolinario Villalobos


It was a scorching afternoon when I was invited by Judith Bernardo to New Passi, a barangay at the foot of Magon Hill, after we met at a party, hosted by a cousin. I deemed it another adventure, so I accepted her invitation as I was curious about her project or donation for the school named after their mother, Elisa Panizales Bernardo. As I had still time to be spent in the area, I thought it would be a worthwhile trip.


From the city of Tacurong, we drove over the paved highway, turning left at the junction where the San Lorenzo Ruiz parish church was located, just across the Cordero mango grove. Both sides of the road were shaded by the thickly-foliaged African palms. Very noticeable was the fast development of Baras, where the Bird Sanctuary and the Jarell Resort are located, as well as, Upper Katungal. Practically, houses of indigenous materials stood proudly side by side with colorful concrete ones which were made more interesting by their contemporary architecture. I even noticed a lodging inn with an obviously western block design. Very noticeable, too were the number of small convenience stores (sari-sari stores) and small stalls filled with wet market commodities, that lined both sides of the tidy road. Their presence manifested the affluence of the residents.


We dropped by the Barangay Hall of Baras where Judith delivered donated sets of aprons needed for a certain project. I learned that she has been engrossed in various projects in Baras and New Passi for several years now. When we reached New Passi, we went straight to the site at the back of the Principal’s office where a two-burner stove of concrete and bricks was being constructed. It was intended for the feeding program of the school for the children of poor farmers, and which was initiated by Judith’s elder sister, Nita. As a background, the feeding program was conceived by Nita when she learned about the heavy absences every Monday and Friday. She was told by the principal at the time, Charlie Braga, that many students are impoverished, so that most of them would go to school without taking breakfast at home. From then on, Nita regularly donated I sack of rice which volunteer mothers and teachers cooked into gruel.


On the other hand, the sight of teachers and mothers cooking gruel on makeshift stove on the ground made Judith decide to have a sturdy stove made for them. The design is such that combustible wastes except those made of rubber and plastic could be used as fuel. She personally looked around for able masons who could undertake the construction.


Adjacent to the school is a small parcel of rice field donated by the late Serafin Bernardo to the school so that it would be able to generate an income for projects. Since the time of Charlie Braga as principal, it was well-maintained.  Incidentally, Mr. Braga has been transferred to the neighboring school of Baras as a promotion. He was also responsible for the picturesque landscape of the school, the main avenue of which is lined with hardwood trees. Pockets of flower gardens are also distributed throughout the campus.


The other concern of both Judith and her sister, Nita is the lack of library. There had been plans for its construction but unexpected problems would always crop up. On our way back to the city, Judith confided her wish that someday the project would be realized, but realistic that I am, I told her that assistance from concerned sectors is necessary, First, a structure had to be built and second, books are needed to fill the shelves. The project would surely involve a considerable amount. I confided that I have the same wish….but with a hope that benevolent hands would “touch” the school someday.





May Isang Roger…

May Isang Roger…

By Apolinario Villalobos


May isang Roger (hindi tunay na pangalan) akong nakilala sa barangay na aking dinaanan. Napansin ko kasi ang isang magandang resort na pang-international and kalibre. Nang magtanong ako ay binanggit ang pangalan niya kaya hinanap ko. Ang nakilala kong may-ari ay naka-short ng maong at t-shirt na kupasin at may mga butas, parehong halatang binili sa ukayan.


Ayon sa kanya, hindi siya degree-holder dahil kapos sa pera ang kanyang mga magulang. Magsasaka ang kanyang tatay at may maliit na tindahan naman ang kanyan nanay. Pagtatanim at pag-aani ng palay ang kanyang kinalakihang trabaho at isa pang kapatid na lalaki na si Zaldy (hindi tunay na pangalan). At kahit sa baryo ipinanganak at lumaki, hindi naging hadlang ang kanyang katayuan sa kanyang pinangarap na maginhawang buhay pagdating ng tamang panahon.


Wala siyang diplomang pinagmamalaki , pero proud siya dahil ang kanyang kapatid na babae ay naging degree holder at nagkaroon ng mataas na puwesto sa isang government agency, at tatawagin kong Myrna (hindi tunay na pangalan). Hindi rin siya naiimbitahan sa mga pagtitipon sa bayan dahil ang mga barkada niya ay tulad din niyang mga taga-baryo. Lahat silang magkakapatid ay nagsikap sa abot ng kanilang makakaya upang mapakinabangan ang kapirasong lupang kanilang nililinang. Ang buong pamilya nila ay nagsiksikan sa isang maliit na bahay na unti-unting dinugtungan upang magkaroon ng kaluwagan sila sa pagkilos sa loob lalo na sa pagtulog.


Hindi siya nasiraan ng loob nang pumanaw ang kanilang mga magulang, at sa halip ay pinag-ibayo pa niya ang kanyang pagsisikap bilang panganay sa mga lalaking magkapatid. Sinubukan niyang mag-buy and sell ng palay at nagtagumpay naman hanggang makapagpatayo ng gilingan (rice mill) at makabili ng trak ng panghakot ng mga palay. Lalo pa siyang nagtagumpay nang makapag-asawa ng isang masinop at magaling humawak ng pera. Sa pag-usad ng panahon nagkaroon sila ng mga anak na naigapang nilang mag-asawa upang lahat ay makatapos ng kolehiyo.


Dahil ang kanilang baryo ay nasa paanan ng burol kung saan ay natuklasan ang isang bukal, naisipan niyang magpatayo ng isang maliit na resort na sa kalaunan ay lumaki at lumawak ang nasasakupan. Nagkaroon ito ng mga overnight facilities at mga fish pond na ang inaaning tilapia, hito at dalag ay binebenta rin sa mga taong hindi naliligo sa resort. Sa kabila ng pagiging busy ay nagawa pa niyang tumakbo bilang Barangay Chairman at nanalo naman. Lalo pang naging tanyag ang kanyang resort dahil sa kanyang katayuan bilang opisyal. Sa kabila ng natamong tagumpay, hindi nakitaan ng kayabangan si Roger. Naka-tsinelas pa rin siya palagi, naka-maong na short pants at t-shirt na binili sa ukayan.


Bilang pasalamat sa natamong tagumpay, regular na nag-aambag si Roger sa isang parukya (parish) na nag-iipon ng pera na magagamit sa pagpapatapos ng simbahan.