The Propagation of Catholicism in Tacurong
And How It Became the Nuestra Seῆora de La Candelaria Parish
By Apolinario Villalobos
Before Tacurong became a parish, the Mass held at the makeshift chapel was celebrated by priests from Marbel (today, Koronadal City) and Cotabato City. The propagation of Catholcism in the struggling town whose political development began as a sitio of Buluan, was hastened by the opening of the Notre Dame campus for boys by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) and girls by the Dominican (OP) nuns. The church stood between the mentioned campuses. The priests’ convent doubled as office and quarters for the Director of the Notre Dame for boys and the parish priest. On the other side of the church was the convent of the Dominican nuns. The Mass for the boys and girls was celebrated separately. Much later, when the Oblates of Notre Dame (OND) arrived, a convent for them was built beside the stage of the the Boys’ department.
The Nuestra Seῆora de la Candelaria became the patroness of Tacurong upon the recommendation of Mrs. Josefina Lechonsito who was enthralled and impressed by the Virgin’s image at Jaro, Iloilo. Mrs. Josefina Lechonsito was among the pioneer and well-loved teachers of the Notre Dame Boys’ and later, the College Department. Her suggestion was considered and soon as if on cue, prominent families, such as the Montillas, Lapuzes, Tulios, Velascos, Talmadges, French, Jarrels, Garcias, Espinosas, Lechonsitos, and many others pitched in their resources for the establishment of the parish foundation and the transformation of the church into what it is today. The bell was donated by Don Vicente and Doῆa Salud Garcia, Don Juan Garcia and his wife, Mrs. Maria Montilla, and Mrs. And Mrs. Roberto Tulio. The four massive posts for the bell tower were donated by Mr. Menandro Lapuz. A little later, other families joined the enthusiastic movement that led to the formation of civic and religious organizations.
The Knights of Columbus, Jaycees, Cursillo-Samaria, Legion of Mary were organized, as well as, their counterparts for the youth and students such as Student Catholic Action (SCA), CHIRO, The Encounterers’, and Columbian Squires. To ensure the consistency of the effort, senior high school students of the Notre Dame Girls Department were required to conduct catechism at the Tacurong Pilot Elementary School. The catechism was conducted even during school breaks and to encourage the attendance of the children, free cookies were given them, as provided by the Garcias who owned the first bakery in Tacurong. Much later, the PREX was also organized and whose effort was felt even in other parts of the province. Today, church groups are organized for specific purposes such as those for the family and youth, in accordance with the Vatican’s direction.
The early activities that involved seminars for the recruits of the SAMARIA and CURSILLO were alternately held at vacant rooms of the Boys and Girls Department. When enough fund was collected, a SAMARIA HOUSE was built at the back of the church. It was later used by Theology students of the College department for some of their activities. The other activities of the groups were held at Tamontaka in Cotabato City. During seminars, the “working committee” was always led by Mrs. Dominga Espaῆa who did the budgeting for the food and Mrs. Bonoc Cajandig who led the prayer before meals and taking care of the utensils.
The Girls Department of Notre Dame had their own organist during their Mass while the Boys Department had Ms. Tan, a pretty teacher as its own. When the Training Department (Elementary) was opened, separate Masses were also held for the pupils and their singing was conducted by Ernesto Cajandig. On the other hand, convent assistants, Agustin Carvajal, Romeo Balinas, Noel Niervo, and two other colleagues, as well as, members of the Knights of the Altar assisted the parish priest or his assistant in celebrating the Mass in the barrios. They were driven on the hardy jeep by a certain de los Reyes who also tinkered with the noisy generator every time it conked down. Agustin Carvajal also served as the soloist of the parish choir during the time, providing accompaniment with his guitar if the organist was not around.
During the fiesta for the patroness, “live” personification of the Virgin Mary enlivened the procession. Among those who played the role of the Virgin Mary were a certain Mojado, one of the pretty Tarrosa sisters who are known for their long hair, Concepcion Betita (Cainglet). The Notre Dame band with its few instruments provided the solemn processional hymns.
The feast for the patroness is held every February 2 and Tacurongnons are wishing that it should be consistently held without much fanfare and less expenses that would definitely come from their pockets. For the procession, simply decorated float for the image of patroness should be enough, with the CHURCH ACTIVITIES REVOLVING around her, and the feast not taking several days to celebrate to maintain solemnity that veils her.
IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT WHAT IS BEING CELEBRATED, IS THE GLORY OF THE RECOGNITION GIVEN TO THE PATRONESS AS THE BEARER OF THE CANDLE THAT SYMBOLIZES THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD AND THOSE WHO ARE SEEKING THE PATH THAT LEADS TO SALVATION…NOT ANY DELICACY, FLOWER, BIRD, MUSIC, ETC. IF SOME SECTORS WOULD LIKE TO RIDE ON THE POPULARITY OF THE PATRONESS, THEY SHOULD DO THEIR CELEBRATION OUTSIDE THE CHURCH PREMISES, SO AS NOT TO TAINT THE RELIGIOSITY OF THE FEAST.
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
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….
(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:
YOU ARE, INDEED, GREAT!
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!
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.)