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.