DR. JOSE BENJAMIN B. UNTALAN…first dermatologist of Sultan Kudarat

By Apolinario Villalobos


If one hears the word “derma” or “dermatologist”, what comes to his or her mind is the sophisticated line of medicine with select patients such as the rich. It connotes pretty and smooth face without fine lines…but, that is true many years back. Today, “derma” means total skin care not necessarily with the use of expensive lotions and oils as affordable products have proliferated the market.


On November 20, Dr. Jose Benjamin B. Untalan assisted by his dentist wife, Dr. Maggie Reginaldo and young son who is also a medical practitioner, Dr. Janjan, attended to hundreds of senior citizens of Tacurong city at the office of the OSCA. Affording him additional assistance were volunteer senior citizens who prepared the list of beneficiaries as early as 8:00AM. Most medicines given to the seniors were from the family’s clinic, dispensed free of charge, while the rest were donations from the Philippine Dermatological Society. The medical outreach was in commemoration of the World Skin Day in collaboration with the OSCA and the Senior Citizens Federation of Tacurong City.


Dr. Ben Untalan has practically went through insurmountable trials and difficulties before he realized his dream to serve his fellowmen. He chose the special field of dermatology when he observed that this is what his province lacks, as the rest of practitioners were surgeons, internists, optometrists, or pediatricians. His early days of practice saw him treading roads towards almost inaccessible communities. The choice made him the “first dermatologist in the province of Sultan Kudarat” trained by the SPMC, one of the 11 accredited institutions for such field. Other titles he earned are: FPDS (Fellow of Philippine Dermatological Society); DPBD (Diplomate, Philippine Board of Dermatology); FPSV (Fellow, Philippine Society of Veneriologists).


Reared by a midwife mother and a physician father, Dr. Ben grew up with compassion deeply-etched in his heart. He could have pursued a profession that could make him amass wealth in a short period, but he opted for one that could force him to be generous oftentimes. Such compassionate generosity even pushed him further…serve the seniors, many of whom are underprivileged.


The boyish-looking doctor is highly idealistic which I observed when I had a breakfast with his family a year ago. With his son, Dr. Janjan silently listening to our discussion, we touched various subjects. We did not realize that we have spent almost 3 hours for the supposedly quick breakfast as they still had to leave for their clinic. It was my first time, too, to have such kind of breakfast, as I normally abhor conversation over meals.


Dr. Ben’s idealism founded on compassion was put to fore on November 20, 2017 when he gamely reported for “duty” during that particular medical mission outreach project despite aching knees due to depletion of collagen that provides lubrication so that a slight bending made him wretch in pain…but he persisted until the last patient has been served.


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.


Footprints of a Friend…

Footprints of a Friend….

(Tribute to Ruel Lucentales)

By: Apolinario B Villalobos


When we were young

He said, “I will be great someday”

I said, “I have the same dream.”

He was diligent in his studies

And even excelled in other fields

Despite odds that limited our quest

That we hurdled to satisfy our needs.


After graduation in college

He said, “I want to raise a family”

I said, “Go ahead, get a wife oozing with beauty and sanity.”

He got a beauty and both raised two children

Who grew to be caring and responsible

Making them both happy and they did not ask for more.


When we met again

He said, “Somehow, I will try my best to help others”.

I said, “That, I hope to see”.

He was braving the danger along the way

As he visited settlements of evacuees.

With him was a jolly entourage clad in blue chalico –

Brave men and women, pride of then Region XI’s DSW.


When he was to be promoted

He said, “Friend, I will be transferred to Manila, what do you say?”

I said, “Go ahead, consider it as part of your destiny”.

Then I saw him on TV braving the thick ashfall of Mt. Pinatubo.

Skipping meals and being away from his family for days

Became just part of daily routine enjoyed by him –

And all these he did without a single complaint.


When told about our class reunion in August 21, 2010

He said to a classmate, “Ed, I will surely be part of our homecoming in Notre Dame.”

Ed said, “You must, as the rest are expecting you to be there.”

Others were told and were elated that at last, he could make it, come what may.

He was excited, of course, to meet classmates last seen more than twenty years ago.


But, a slight twist of his destiny changed all these

When on a fateful day he breathed his last

The day that bore his final footprint on the sands of life

That bore witness to his greatness –

As a struggling youth with a dream

As a patient brother to his siblings

As a loving husband to a beautiful wife

As a doting father to two caring children

As a worker who cares for his colleagues and those in need

As a man who did not fail to look back

To his footprints while on his way to greatness

To fulfill his destiny…


To you Ruel, our friend, our brod, we say:


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!



Pagpupunyagi (Kuwento ng buhay ni Elmer Festin)

Happy Fathers’ Day!



(Kuwento ng Buhay ni Elmer Festin)


By: Apolinario B Villalobos


Ang landas ng buhay na ating binabagtas

Mahirap tahakin lalo na kung tayo’y nakayapak –

Mga lubak na hindi mapansin ay ating natitisod

Matatalas na batong di maiwasan ay nayayapakan

Pati tinik ng dahong mariang sumusugat sa ating talampakan.


Ang taong hindi handa sa pagtahak nitong landas

Sa ilang hakbang pa lamang niyang magawa –

Kahihinaan na ng loob at pangangatugan na ng mga tuhod

Hindi malayong babalik sa pinanggalingan

Di kaya’y mangingipuspos at sasalampak na lamang sa daan.


May isang taong sa murang gulang ay naglakas-loob

Nagpakatatag at taimtim na nagdasal sa Panginoon

Na harinawa sa paglisan sa sinilangang Bantoon, isla ng Rombon

Patnubayan siya sa kanyang paglayag at tatahaking landas

Bigyan din ng malinaw na pag-iisip at katawang malakas.


Masakit iwanan ang isang bayang tulad ng Bantoon

Islang animo’y tuldok sa mapa ng Romblon

Di man pansinin, ito’y mahalagang itinuring

Ng mga Kastilang dumating noong unang panahon sa ating bansa

Kaya’t sa aklat ng ating kasaysayan siya’y naitala.


Ito ang kuwento ng buhay ni Elmer Festin

Isang taong may ngiting agad mapapansin

Napadpad sa Cebu kung saan siya’y nahikayat

Suungin ng buong tapang, masalimuot na buhay –

Na wala namang pag-atubili at matatag niyang hinarap.


Ilang taon din siyang dito ay nagturo

Naglinang ng dunong ng mga kabataan

Hanggang sa siya ay kawayan ng kapalaran

Na nangako sa kanyang sa dakong katimugan

Siya ay makakatamo ng pinapangarap na kasaganaan.


Dala ay kakaunting pera na sa bulsa ay kakalog-kalog

Pilit winaglit ang pag-aalala at takot sa dibdib na kakabog-kabog

Hindi rin alintana ang mga tuhod na nangangatog

Siya ay naglakas-loob na pumalaot at tumango’ sa tawag ng kapalaran –

Ipinasa-Diyos na lamang, magiging bunga ng kapangahasan.


Sa Notre Dame, sa Tacurong siya ay napadpad

Paaralang sa bayang ito ay pinagkakapitagan

Limang mga gusali nang panahong iyon ang kanyang nadatnan

Pinangangasiwaan ng mga pare at madre na Oblates of  Mary kung tawagin

At katulad ni Elmer, pagtulong sa kapwa ang sinusunod na adhikain.


Nakitaan siya ng kakaibang sigla sa pagturo

Dahil hindi lang sa mga aklat, mga estudyante niya ay natuto

Naibahagi rin niya ang kaunti niyang kaalaman

Pati sa gymnastics na para sa mga estudyante’y bagong larangan

Kaya napasigla niya ang dati’y matamlay na kapaligiran.


Anupa’t si Elmer ay nakilala hindi lang sa loob ng Notre Dame

Dahil ang galing niya sa pagturo, sa iba ay nakatawag pansin

Kaya nang magkaroon ng Polytechnic Institute sa bayang ito

Binuksan nila para sa kanya ang kanilang pinto

Upang makibahagi sa kagalingan ng kanyang pagturo.


Sa bago niyang malawak na kapaligiran at hitik sa iba’t ibang halaman

Lalo pang sumidhi ang kanyang hangad na makahubog ng kabataan

Hindi naman nasayang ang marangal niyang adhikain

Dahil taos-pusong pasasalamat ay kanyang naramdaman at natanggap

Mula sa mga estudyanteng binigyan niya ng pag-asa ang mga hinaharap.


Natupad ang pangarap ni Elmer na maibahagi ang kanyang kaalaman

Napatunayan niya na kakapusan sa pera ay hindi hadlang

Hindi rin nasayang ang kanyang pagpunyagi magmula pa sa kanyang kabataan

Kahi’t sa pagtahak niya sa landas ng buhay siya’y nakayapak lamang

Dahil alam niyang sa dulo nito’y mayroong walang hanggang kapayapaan.



(Si Mr. Festin ang nagbigay ng pagkakataon sa may-akda upang mahasa niya ang kanyang kakayahan sa pagsulat. Hinirang siya ni Mr. Festin bilang patnugot ng “The Green Ember”, pahayagan ng high school department ng Notre of Tacurong noong 1966, kahi’t siya ay nasa first year pa lamang. Ang tiwala at dagdag kaalaman sa pagsulat na ibinigay sa kanya ni Mr. Festin ang naging kasangkapan niya sa pagharap sa mga pagsubok ng buhay. Kulang ang mga kataga ng tula upang maipadama ng may-akda ang taos-pusong pasasalamat.)

elmer festin

Emma (tula para kay Emma P. Jamorabon)


(para kay Emma P. Jamorabon)

Ni Apolinario Villalobos


Sa mga mata niyang animo ay nangungusap

Walang katapat na kasiyahan ang mababanaag

At sa matinis niyang boses, ang kausap na nagagalit

Huhupa, sa damdami’y nag-uumapaw na pagngangalit.


Mapagmahal na kabiyak, inang walang katulad

Sa mga kaibigan ay mapagbigay, kahit siya’y kapos

At handang magsakripisyo sa abot ng makakaya niya

Kapalit na pagtitiis ay buong puso niyang hindi alintana.


Mga huling yugto ng kanyang buhay na nauupos

Inalay sa mapagmahal na Inang Mariang sinandalan

Kaya kahit sa pagkaratay, hirap man siya sa paghinga

Katiwasayan ay maaaninag sa mala-birhen niyang mukha. 


Sa kanyang maaliwalas na pamamaalam sa mundo

Ipinahiwatig niyang sa Diyos tayo ay dapat magtiwala

Dahil sa buhay nati’y Siya lang ang nakakaalam ng lahat

Lalo na ang mitsa nito’t sinding may taning ….

Kung hanggang kaylan lamang sapat.


(Alay ng nagmamahal na pamilya, mga kaibigan at naging estudyante, lalo na ang NDTC Boys’ High School Batch ’70.)



Faded Photographs

Faded Photographs

By Apolinario Villalobos

(Photos from the family library of Ed Collado)


A picture can paint a thousand words, so goes the line of the son, “If”. And, faded photographs can bring memories that for the present are testimonies of how successful people struggled in the past. Faces exude aura of innocence…with their eyes that eagerly stared at the camera, unwary of what the future held for them.


Ed Collado’s mother was among the pioneer teachers of Tacurong Pilot Elementary School while his father was the District Supervisor who painstakingly visited schools in the barrios connected to the town of Tacurong by foot trails winding through rice, corn, and sugar cane fields. Other teachers I could recall during their time were, Mr. and Mrs. Jordan, Mr. and Mrs. Gatumbato, Mrs. Domider, Mrs. Paradero, Mrs. Sucaldito, Mrs. Ramos, Mrs. Lechonsito, Mrs. Del Campo, Mr. Barber, Ms. Davala, Ms. Paclibar, Ms. Ines, Ms. Paragas, Mrs. Lucentales, Mr. Palencia, while the Principal was Mr. Ben Nicolo. According to Ed, her mother took the pains in keeping photos taken during her time in Tacurong Pilot School.


Children of prominent families went to the school in slippers and shoes with socks, while the rest were barefooted. Free snacks consisted of gruel made from yellow corn grits. Those who failed to bring cups or bowls ate their share using pad paper folded origami style in the shape of a cap.  If there were extra bags brought by the Peace Corp Volunteers, the grits were distributed among the pupils to be brought home. Aside from yellow corn, those that were regularly donated to the school was bulgur wheat, oat meal, and powdered milk.


When I was in Grade Four, Ikea Seki comet appeared which became visible at dawn for almost a week. I could vividly recall the event as the appearance happened during our Boy Scout camping on the track and field of the school. During the time, we almost lost a good friend, Baltazar Subando when he fell from the “monkey bridge” built for the contest among the troops. Among the schoolmates I could recall were, Febe and Lilieth Ancheta, Betty Cu, Rodina Ballena, Ninfa Loot, Gloria Sangke, Catalino Ines, Nonito Bacus, Jaime Bides, Angel Collado, Apolonio de la Peἧa, Cornelio Alegre, Jaime Mariἧas, Elsie Dajay, Homero Palatolon, Hernanie Baclaan, Domingo Cargo, Eleanor Fajardo, the late Chrito Lacanaria, Rey Mijares, Julius Lechonsito, Jimmy Uy, Dani Pendatun, the late Reynaldo Mosqueda…(more names to be added as recalled).


In High School, we became Notre Damians who wore khaki pants with green stripe on the side.  On very special occasions, the Dominican Sisters of the Girls’ Department allowed joint activities with the Boys’ Department during which the musical talents of the students from both departments were exhibited. Ed Collado, Ted Lapuz, and Virgilio Guillermo provided music to the dancing girls, such as Rodina Ballena, Ninfa Loot, and others.


Debating Club was among the most popular organizations in the Boys’ campus aside from the Choreographers’ Club. The members of the Debating Club such Jovino Morte, Cirilo Baldonado, Andres Jordan Jr., Rommel Angel, Nonie Amar, Antonio Hojilla, Eduardo Palomado, Rodolfo Gallega, Virgilio Guillermo, Ed Collado, Felizardo Lazado, Leo Villalobos, Jose Lim III, a certain Cabico, were coached by Mr. Gabertan. The Choreographers’ Club on the other hand had Mrs. Ching Romero and former Ms. Leonor Palabricas as advisers, with the members such as, Dominador Barnachea, Homero Palatolon, Cirilo Baldonado, Ruel Lucentales, Domingo Cargo, Hernanie Baclaan, Eddie Travilla, a certain Nanales, and Ed Collado. The Choreographers’ Club had one successful fund-raising show, the “Rainbow of Rhythmn”.


Today, those caught in the historic frame of time are successful in their chosen fields. Some are entrepreneurs, overseas professionals, military officers, engineers, nurses, and educators.