The Grim Prospect of Exploiting Ligwasan Marsh and Tampakan

The Grim Prospect of Exploiting

Ligwasan Marsh and Tampakan

By Apolinario Villalobos


Ligwasan Marsh is touted to be very rich in mineral deposits and natural gas, even deuterium. But then, since time immemorial, the marshland has been home to indigenous freshwater fishes of Mindanao…their breeding area, to put it straight. It also offers relief to flooded areas in central Mindanao by serving as some sort of catch basin. If it gets exploited and got drained of its resources, the simplistic conclusion would be: even the lowly tilapia and mudfish would be procured in Bulacan and Batangas in Luzon! How can fish and fresh water plants survive the pollution from chemicals and eventual disturbance from drilling equipments?


If ever fish farms would be establish by entrepreneurs for the breeding to sustain the supply of indigenous freshwater fish for local consumption, the choking effect to the consumers will be the same as prices would be dictated not only by big fish farmers but also, by the middlemen. Eventually, high-tech foreign fish farmers would trek into the Promised Land and form corporate conglomerate with local partners…a sure ball for the creation of “cartel” So, we go back again to the issues of “unequal opportunity”, unfair labor practices of foreign employers, etc. At the end, who reaps the “blessings”?….of course, foreign investors who send back their earnings to their country. Meanwhile, polluted water flows to rivers and streams down to the coastal waters of Mindanao…gain for our long-ranged devastation.


On the Tampakan Open-pit mining project, aside from the pollution of water resources and soil, farmers shall be displaced from their farms. A B’laan family has been massacred for fighting the aggression on their ancestral domain. Definitely, not only will the displaced tribal families suffer from the consequences that will result to pollution but also those who live on the plains and who depend on the river system for the irrigation of their farms and water supply for their livestock and homes.


The crucial choice now is between the direct benefits that financiers shall reap and the uncertain benefits for the communities due to corrupt practices. Another choice is between the 15-20 years short-term employment benefits and the perpetual damage to the land that shall affect generations to come.

The Tampakan Open-pit Mining in South Cotabato (Mindanao)…a virtual hell if pushed through


…a virtual hell if pushed through

By Apolinario Villalobos


Tampakan is located in South Cotabato and has been in the midst of controversy since many years back because of the interest of Saggitarius Mining, Inc. (SMI) to mine its mineral deposits. At a glance, the following are what the issue is all about:

  • It could be the biggest mining project in the country with a pegged financing of USD5.9billion.
  • It is believed to be the world’s largest gold prospect to date.
  • Tampakan site is believed to contain 2.94 billion tons of minerals that include copper at 15million tons of copper and 18 million ounces of gold.
  • The value of production for twenty (20) years is USD37billion.
  • The site covers an aggregate area of about 10,000 hectares that include (Tampakan) South Cotabato, (Columbio) Sultan Kudarat, (Kiblawan) Davao del Sur, and Malungon (Sarangani).
  • Henry Sy of the SM Group is interested in investing in the project.
  • SMI is being controlled by the Alcantara family (“Sagittarius Mines Inc., the owner of the Tampakan project, used to be 62.5-percent owned by Glencore while the remaining 37.5 percent was owned by Indophil Resources NL, which is, in turn, controlled by the Alcantara group through Alsons Prime Investments Corp. (Apic). Glencore’s exit allowed the Alcantara group to consolidate its control of the Tampakan project by exercising its right of first refusal.”)
  • The Tampakan mining site is located only 50 kilometers from General Santos, the hub of commerce in South Cotabato, with its international-standard port and airport; Koronadal and Tacurong City are near Columbio and between them flows the Buluan River which is the outlet of the Rio Grande de Mindanao which partially flows to Ligwasan Marsh.
  • The project is expected to realize Php1trillion.


The open-pit mining at Tampakan shall virtually turn the covered areas into hell, what with the displacement of farmers, pollution of all the rivers, streams that eventually towards the bays, and the open pit itself which according to Secretary Gina Lopez herself, is equivalent to 700 football fields, and much much much worst, shall not be covered after the operations!


In view of the above, Minadanaoans who live around the area should unite to block the project and provide DENR Secretary Lopez with a “noisy support”. The mining operation if pushed through shall spell the damnation of practically the whole of southern Mindanao because of the harm from its pollutants – chemicals and exhaust fumes. We do not need this kind of investment!


Ang Bayan Kong Polomolok

Ang Bayan kong Polomolok

By Sheche Dorilag-Bernardo


Halimuyak ng iyong paligid aking naamoy t’wina,

Sa bawat paligid kahanga-hanga ang aking nakikita,

Puno, bukirin, talon at mga prutas, sagana dito

Kaya halina dito sa bayan kong Polomolok, halina kayo!


Mga mamayan ng bayan ko ay iba-iba,

Ilonggo, Tagalog, Bisaya at B’laan ang makikita,

Subali’t magkaiba man sa mga pananalita

Mga puso at isip naman ay nagkakaisa.


Ang bayan kong Polomolok ay kaiba

Napapaligiran ng malawak na taniman

Ng matamis at makatas – masarap na pinya,

Bukod -tanging  uri, dito lang matitikman.


Magagandang estraktura dito’y makikita,

Liwasan, mall, palengke, municipal hall

At simbahan na lahat ay  kaaya-aya,

Pinakamayamang bayan ng South Cotabato,

Na karamiha’y mga Romano Katoliko.


Sa paligid ay mayroon pa ring mga gubat,

Mga burol at luntiang kabundukan

Sa hindi kalayuan ay ang Mt. Matutum,

Kung saan ay marami pa ring mga B’laan.


Dito ako lumaki at nagkamulat ng isipan,

Kaya habang buhay ay di ko kakalimutan

At ang natanim sa aking isipan dahil sa kanya –

Magkaiba man ang mga kultura

Ay pwede palang magkaisa!



In commemoration of the National Indigenous People’s Month/October



By Apolinario B Villalobos


Gentle people of South Cotabato –

Epitome of strength who moves with agility

But graceful enough to sway with the wind

With innocent smile easily parting their lips

And laughter that crease their gentle face.


Fortunate people, contentedly they live –

In the fastness of green, rivers, hills and valleys

By God’s will, long- hidden from lowlanders

Which did them good, but then time came –

The haze was parted, and finally, they were seen.


Clothed in patiently – pounded fibers

And woven into the smooth cloth – t’nalak

The men stand proud in the earth-colored garb

While women looking regal in their vivid dress

Seen from afar, they seem to float in the breeze.


People of the rainbow, these people are –

And placid that made them prey to the greedy

But to them, God is kind, made them secured

From harm that only the heartless could inflict

And nature’s wrath, to them could easily wreak.


Straight from their heart, to God they pray

Sincere praises are mumbled by betel-red lips

No pretensions in their offered dances

Pleadings are for their safety and health

That for them are well- cherished wealth…



(The T’boli is one of the indigenous tribes of the Philippines, found in the southern part of the archipelago, particularly, South Cotabato province, island of Mindanao)





I Can’t Change Everything…

I Can’t Change Everything…

By Sheche D. Bernardo

(the poetess is from Polomolok, South Cotabato, Mindanao (Philippines)


I cannot change everything

Persons, animals and things are having their own changes in life.
If a man is sad I cannot change him into happy person.
Even the chirp of the birds I cannot maximize their loud chirp everywhere,
The roar of lion and tiger I cannot change by its demand to minimize their sound.

I cannot change the life of a beggar to renew his or her life to normal,
And also the sky up there, I cannot change its floating moves above.
I cannot change the weather if it is rainy day into sunny day.
I cannot change the persons who have a blue eyes,
because he made us with unique in the eyes of God.

God can only change us, not me.
All I can change is my future not my good conduct at you.
And there is no reason to change myself on you.
It’s because you have been part of my life since then.

Sheche D Bernardo

Pag-ibig sa Dulo ng Bahag-hari…natagpuan ni Thelma

Pag-ibig sa Dulo ng Bahag-Hari

…natagpuan ni Thelma

(para kay Thelma Pama- Arcallo)

ni Apolinario Villalobos


Makulay ang pag-ibig na kanyang natagpuan

Pangakong ligaya ay tila walang katapusan

Pangako na kanya nang nararamdaman

At pati ginhawang hindi matatawaran.


Sa paraisong animo ay dulo na ng bahag-hari

At sa piling ng mga katutubo – mga T’boli

Landas nila ay nagtagpo, animo’y hinabi

Pinatatag ng pagsubok, lalong sumidhi.


Parang t’nalak na hinabi ang kanilang buhay

Masinsin ang pagkahabi, ‘di basta bibigay

Dahil subok, t’nalak ay talagang matibay

Tulad ng sumpaan nilang ‘di mabuway!

Thelma Pama





Bahag-hari – rainbow

T’boli- natives of South Cotabato

T’nalak – T’boli cloth made from abaca fibers

lalong sumidhi – became stronger

masinsin –  finely and delicately woven

mabuway – soft and easily bends; weak


Fr. Joseph Borreros and his Journey through Life

Fr. Joseph Borreros and his Journey through Life

…from a struggling student assistant

to an Orthodox priest, and educator with Divine guidance

By Apolinario Villalobos


As a youth, he was among the wave of adventurous migrants from Panay Island, particularly, Dao, Capiz who came to Cotabato. He found his place in the Tacurong Pilot School as a Grade Six pupil in 1961. His family lived in the market of the town which that time was just weaned as a barrio of Buluan. He continued his studies at the Magsaysay Memorial Colleges of the same town. In college, he took up a pre-Law course at the University of San Agustin in Iloilo City but failed to pursue it when he succumbed to a sickness.


He went back to Tacurong and took up Bachelor of Arts in Notre Dame of Tacurong College. To support his studies, he worked as a janitor and later as Library Assistant in the same school. That was during the directorship of Fr. Robert Sullivan, OMI, a kind Irish priest. After his graduation, he taught at the Notre Dame of Lagao in General Santos, South Cotabato for three years.


In 1973 he got interned at the Marist Novitiate in Tamontaka, Cotabato City, and professed temporarily in 1975 during which he was assigned as a Marist Brother at the Notre Dame of Marbel Boys’ Department (Marbel is now known as Koronadal City). From Marbel, he was sent back to the Notre Dame of Lagao.


In 1976, he left the religious congregation of Marist Brothers, but was taken in by Bishop Reginald Artiss, CP, the bishop of Koronadal, to assist in the establishment of the Christian Formation Center which was located at the back of the cathedral. For two years, he went around the parishes and diocese covered by the authority of Bishop Artiss in training members of the Kriska Alagad, Lay Cooperatos, as well as, in establishing Basic Christian Communities.


As Bishop Artiss perceived his potential as a cleric, he was sent to the Regional Major Seminary of Mindanao in Catalunan Grande, Davao City. Fortunately, due to his extensive and intensive pastoral formation background, he was privileged to skip subjects related to it. After four years of theological studies at the said seminary, he was ordained as a priest on April 1, 1982 by Bishop Guttierez, DD, of Koronadal. His first assignment was the parish of Sta. Cruz , formerly politically under South Cotabato, but today, that of Sarangani Province.


In 1985, he was a “floating” priest, awaiting appointment as Superintendent of Diocesan schools and temporarily established his residency at Our Lady of Parish in Polomolok, South Cotabato with the late Fr. Godofredo Maghanoy. The following year, he was finally designated to the mentioned position which he held for three years.


In 1989, he went on a study leave to take up Masters of Science in Educational Management at the De La Salle University in Manila which he finished in 1991. Two years later, he was about to finish his Doctorate in Religious Education pending the completion of his dissertation under the guidance of Bro. Andrew Gonzalez, FSC, but failed to do so due to an important and life-turning decision….to have a family and develop a Non-Government Organization. Driven by his new-found advocacy in life, he worked as Coordinator of the Community Volunteers’ Program under the Council of People’s Development, a Pastoral NGO of Bishop Labayen for three years in Infanta, Quezon.


From 1995 to 2004, he was with the Philippine Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (PhilDHRRA) as a Monitoring Officer of the projects in governance. While with the said NGO, he studied Orthodoxy theology on his own, a week after which, he was consecrated by His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew at the Orthodox Cathedral located at Sucat, Paraἧaque, Metro Manila.


He was inspired to bring along his former 61 parishioners in Maricaban, a depressed area in Pasay City when he presented himself and his family to Fr. Philemon Castro, parish priest of the Annunciation Orthodox Cathedral in Paraἧaque. Like him, he found his former flock to be also journeying spiritually. After several months of catechism, they were accepted to the Orthodox Church. They were further accepted by the former Metropolitan Nikitas Lulias of Hongkong and Southeast Asia.  A little later, Fr. Joseph was ordained to the Minor Orders as “Reader”, for which he started to render regular duty at the Cathedral on Sundays which did not affect his NGO-related activities.


He was asked to leave his NGO responsibilities in 2004, in exchange for which he was sent to Greece to serve as a full worker in the Ministry – live with the monks of the Monastery of St. Nicholas of Barson in Tripoli, southern Greece. Afterwards he was sent back to the Philippines to do catechesis in different mission areas, particularly, in Laguna, Sorsogon and Masbate.


In 2006, he was ordained to the Orthodox priesthood and assigned under the Omophorion of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople which is presently headed by His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, Successor to the Apostolic Throne of St. Andre, the first-called apostle.


In 2009, he did mission work in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato. Until today, he carries the same responsibilities but the area expanded to include SOCSKSARGEN area (South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos), as well as, Davao del Sur.


To date, he was able to firmly establish three communities, such as: Holy Resurrection Orthodox Community in Lake Sebu; St. Isidore of Chios Orthodox Community in San Guillermo, Hagonoy, Davao del Sur; and Apostles St. Andrew and James Orthodox Community in Kisulan, Kiblawan, Davao del Sur.


Aside from taking care of the Sacramental life of the faithful, his mission work also includes values formation of students. Two particular schools that are benefiting from this are the Marvelous College of Technology, Inc. in Koronadal City, and Pag-asa Wisdom Institute in Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat where he also serves as Principal. According to Fr. Joseph, the two institutions are community-centered, privately-owned, mission-oriented and most especially, cater to the less in life but with a strong desire to overcome their socio-economic barriers.


Fr. Joseph and his family live at the Theotokos Orthodox Mission Center in Surallah, and which also serves as the nucleus of his mission works. His life is typically austere as shown by the structure that accommodates his flock during worship days. The same character also defines the rest of the “chapels” throughout the areas that he covers. But since there are other things that his Mission needs, he unabashedly appeals to the “mission-minded souls to help in their capacity, sustain, strengthen, so that it will grow with flourish for the glory of God”.


Fr. Joseph, as an ordained Orthodox priest has been given the name, “Panharios”.


For those who are interested to reach out to Fr. Joseph, his address is at:

Theotokos Orthodox Mission Center

120 Dagohoy St., Zone 5

Surallah, South Cotabato




Cellphone: 09165433001