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.





The Versatile and Environment-friendly BANTILLO STOVE

The Versatile and Environment-friendly


By Apolinario Villalobos


The versatile stove invented by Mr. Alex Bantillo Sr. of Tacurong City can be fed with rice husk, wood, or charcoal. The ingenious stove was conceptualized and designed when Mr. Bantillo opened a restaurant in Tacurong city with an operating cost that, as part of the plan, should not eat up a big portion of the earnings. Raw materials and manpower are out of the question as they are basics in such kind of trade. After a series of afterthoughts, he decided to ponder on the aspect of cooking fuel. Among the products of the city is the charcoal. On the other hand, the city is surrounded with rice fields and rice mills. Firewood is also abundant.


Based on the three locally-available and likewise, abundant traditional fuel, he thought of designing a stove that could be fed with any of them. His design is such that the emitted smoke is filtered, hence, the emission of carbon dioxide is minimized…making the contraption nature-friendly. As regards the rice husks, practically, big heaps are belched out by rice mills. Charcoal and firewood on the other hand are from planted trees and felled forest trees to give way to rural development. In principle, the stove shall also serve as an incinerator as it can also be fed with combustible household waste.


At a glance, the stove of Mr. Bantillo looks like an ordinary box as practically, no smoke is emitted. And, only the big cauldron of broth sitting on one of the burners could make one suspect that it is a stove. According to Mr. Bantillo, he has already received orders for units of his stove from his appreciative customers. He confided, though, that as much as possible, acceptance of orders is controlled as he might not be able to catch up with the demand.


The Bantillo stove is a prominent feature of the operation of the Alex Pata chain that covers the cities of Tacurong (two branches), Koronadal and Isulan. Those interested should better have a close scrutiny of the stove by visiting any of the Alex Pata outlets, for better appreciation and eventual filing of order.


A Simple Celebration…

A Simple Celebration…

By Apolinario Villalobos


When I visited the children of my elder sister who passed away followed by her husband, one of them remarked about the wedding anniversary of their parents on that day. Right then and there I decided to help them commemorate the occasion with a very simple celebration. I purchased a 3-kilo chicken to be cooked as adobo, two kilos each of mudfish and catfish to be broiled; turnip (singkamas), pineapple and radish for salad to be garnished with sweet onion and sprinkled with palm oil vinegar; and, sweet potato to be boiled as snacks in the afternoon to be downed with a cocktails of melon, avocado and papaya.


Being Sunday (21 May), the family of Joy, with husband, Junjun, and children, Marianne, Brianne and Zian Josh came for a visit from Polomolok (South Cotabato). Joy is the eldest daughter of my niece, Mary Anne who works in Canada in the company of her other daughter, Micah. Completing the family were Jonathan, and Nonoy and his wife, Bingbing.


On that Sunday morning, everybody had something to do. Junjun took charge of the broiling. Jongjong, the husband of my niece, Neneng, cooked the adobo, the no-frills way that he knows best as a retired soldier – only soy sauce and vinegar as flavors. The rest of the children, Nicole, Kate, Kris and Joy prepared the salad. My deaf and mute elder sister, Nida, took care of Joy’s youngest child, Zian Josh. The rest of the children, Chubs and Johnhon were on standby for errands.


The highlight of the celebration was the visit to the grave by the children at the Shangri-La Memorial Park as a gesture of respect and love, complete with the lighting of a candle and a gift that consisted of a bouquet of orchid from the family garden. My sister loved to raise orchids and other rare plants when she was still alive.


What we had was a kind of celebration that I would like to implant in the mind of my sister’s children – no taint of unnecessary luxury, but simple honesty of affordability….none of ice cream, barbecue, fried chicken, sandwiches, cakes, or pancit, the usual simple fare. I would like to make them understand that a celebration does not necessarily mean sumptuous food.





A Call from the Youth of the Land…Let Harmony Breed World Peace!

A Call from the Youth of the Land…

Let Harmony Breed World Peace!

By Ed Palomado


Let harmony breed peace the world over…yes!…give it a chance! That is our call, we, the youth of the land to you, our elders and parents with differing advocacies and views that have been splitting the world into segments of disparity. The world is a sphere and should have insured the smooth flow of relationship among men as there are no corners that serve as hindrances…that is why God made it as such.


We did not ask to be born into a world beset with chaos due to mere differences in the color of our skin and the diverse tongues that are supposed to bind the world together. Add to them cultures and traditions that have differing propensities.


We did not ask to be born into a world quivering on a foundation weakened by uncertainties as to what the future would bring. In the meantime, more innocent newborn are being brought forth as the hands of time tick with reminders about our hazy destiny. Where should we go from where we stand today?…yes!…where, beloved elders and parents?


Greed has pathetically overshadowed humane principles, having been fed by the unrelenting selfishness of many world leaders. And, pride has blinded the same arrogant leaders who do not give a damn while treading on the path leading toward aspired success that must be had at all cost. They failed to see the rights of others that they trampled to make their covetous desire come true. We, the youth are among the trampled, a misfortune that have cut short a life that could have made us savor what lies ahead of us.


Why must we, the youth, suffer for all of these?

Why can’t there be even a bit of tolerance for all the differences that ensued when God created humanity?

Why can’t tolerance be observed as a show of respect to what others believe in?

Why can’t there be just music instead of the cracking guns that spit forth death?

Why can’t there be love instead of hate?

And, why can’t we extend a hand of compassion, instead of one gripping a gun?


If we let tolerance prevail, there would be understanding…if we let love overcome our hate, there will be compassion….and, if we give harmony a chance, there will be a soothing and delightful tranquility, as everything would just fall into their proper places with synchrony that shall bring forth peace!


So, now I am asking again…why not give peace a chance to rule the world?


(An oratorical peace composed by Ed Palomado for a student in his speech clinic, and which I edited.)


Nimfa Gromio Castillo: Nag-night Class noong High School Hanggang Abutin ang Pangarap na Maging Titser

Nimfa Gromio Castillo: Nag-night Class noong High School

Hanggang Abutin ang Pangarap na Maging Titser

Ni Apolinario Villalobos


Kalimitan, kapag sinabing “night school student”, inaasahan nang nagtatrabaho siya sa araw. At, yan ang nangyari kay Nimfa G. Castillo na dahil sa pagtiyagang maipagpatuloy ang pag-aaral ay nakaraos din hanggang makarating ng kolehiyo at makatapos ng Bachelor of Elementary Education at nag-specialize sa Filipino. Ipinakita ni Nimfa na pwedeng pagsabayin ang pagtrabaho at pag-aaral. Mapalad siya at ang Notre Dame of Tacurong Boys High School ay nagbukas ng ganitong pagkakataon para sa mga may pangarap sa buhay.


Maganda ang pinili niyang kurso dahil malawak ang nasasaklaw nito, bukod sa pagtuturo sa mga bata. Noon kasing lumipat siya sa Cotabato City ay nabigyan siya ng pagkakataong maging tagapagsalita ng ahensiyang may kinalaman sa “4Ps” ng gobyerno. Isa siyang tagapagpaliwanag ng programa at dahil sa ginawa niya ay marami siyang nakausap na mga nanay na umasa sa programa upang kahit papaano ay madagdagan ang badyet nila sa gastusin ng isang anak man lang, sa eskwela. Ang iba sa kanila ay nagtitiyaga sa ugali ng mga asawang iresponsable, na ang iba ay “nag-aalaga” sa kanila ng walang humpay na pagbugbog. Ang mga kuwento nila ang lalong nagbigay ng inspirasyon kay Nimfa upang paigtingin ang paghubog sa mga batang tinuturuan niya.


Nagkurus ang landas namin sa facebook nang pumasok ang request niya para sa koneksyon namin na tinanggap ko naman agad. Subalit hanggang doon na lang kung hindi ko na-check ang kanyang facebook kaya nalaman kong teacher pala siya. Tuwang-tuwa naman ako dahil kabilang ang mga titser sa mga kinabibiliban ko.


Sa kanilang school ay nagko-coach siya ng elocution sa mga batang may potential na pinapadala nila sa mga paligsahan. At, para sa mga materyal na magagamit naman ay palagi din siyang kumukunsulta kay Ding Lazado na dati niyang teacher sa Notre Dame. Nakapagpanalo na si Nimfa ng pambato ng school nila na tinuruan, gamit ang isang isinulat ni Ding Lazado.


Angkan ng mga madasalin ang kinabibilangan ni Nimfa na nakatira sa New Isabela, isang barangay ng Tacurong at nagtuturo sa isang private prep school.  Kamag-anak din niya si Amor Taganas na  assistant ng kura paruko ng San Pedro Calungsod parish. Pareho silang tahimik lang kung magtrabaho, kimi, at mapagpakumbaba.


Kung paghubog ng ugali ng bata ang pag-uusapan, dapat ang titser na maghuhubog ay kakikitaan ng mga ugaling kailangan ng bata upang maging makabuluhang mamamayan ng bansa habang lumalaki siya….at yan ang pinapakita ni Nimfa. Pareho kami ng pananaw na dapat ang sistema ng edukasyon ay maibalik sa dati….kung saan, nagagamit uli ang mga libro at ang layunin ng mga ito ay upang makatulong sa mga bata, hindi magpakuba o magpahirap dahil sa dami ng binibitbit tuwing papasok sa eskwela.


Retro: Tacurong at a Glance during the 50’s up to the early 70’s

Retro: Tacurong at a Glance

During the 50’s up to the early 70’s

By Apolinario Villalobos


While Tacurong was gaining momentum towards progress as a town many years back, I remember what we enjoyed as simple luxuries when I was a kid.


Easily recalled was the Polar ice drop sold by the Valencia family. Hundreds of the cooling popsicles were loaded on the first tripper bus, Cotabato Bus Company (CBC) that left Cotabato City at dawn. After a grueling dusty travel over unpaved and potholed highway for four hours or more, the boxes filled with sticks of ice drop secured in plastic bags and protected by layers of newspapers and crushed ice and salt would finally arrive at the terminal where the patriarch of the Valencias was on hand to receive them. While some of the boxes went straight to their home where they were made more secure with packs of crushed ice, the rest went to the north entrance of the market where the ice drops were sold by the Valencia children, Remy and Fernando, while the youngest, Bobot, was spared the task as he was very young, then.


During the early 70’s an honest-to-goodness home-based ice drop business was opened by the Panes family, in front of the Notre Dame. Students would flock to their store during break time while those who preferred to sit the break period out, spent their time at the Sara’s Store where soft drinks, bread and biscuits were sold.


If we wanted to enjoy our snacks comfortably, we went to “Angelita’s Halu-Halo “where the best chiffon cake and halu-halo were served. The halu-halo’s fame has spread even to neighboring towns. The cool delicacy was served in a big bowl or tall glass with fruits in season, boiled banana, yam jam and leche flan. The joint was operated by the couple, Angelita and Pacio Palmes, helped by their children, Marites and Rene, as well as, relatives.


A few meters away, fronting the bus terminal was the Dainty Refreshment specializing in cakes, pastries with coffee and soft drinks as “downers”. There were days when the establishment served meals. It was owned and personally operated by Flor de la Rosa during her days off, as she worked as Secretary of Mayor Jose Escribano during on weekdays.


Inside the market, beside the stalls that sold tobacco and betel nut was the “Laspe’s La Paz Batchoy”. The owner brought with him his love for this Ilonggo delicacy when he joined a group of migrants from La Paz, Iloilo, to seek their fortune in Tacurong. I enjoyed gawking at the owner cut strips of meat with a sharp set of scissors. One of his daughters was my classmate in elementary, Dioleta, a sprinter who always won in track and field during athletic meets.


For oriental foods, we would go to the two Chinese restaurants, one beside the Ideal Theater, and the other between Nonoy and Prince theaters. They served, of course, as there were no other choices, the best chop suey and Chinese noodles (pancit) either sautéed or with broth – with plenty of cabbage, chayote and spring onion, as the carrot was considered a luxury, hence, scarce. The two restaurants had lodging rooms on their second floor that catered to salesmen who frequented our town.


And, of course, for the grilled chicken, locals flocked to the “Mauring’s Chicken Barbecue” owned by the Pernatos. As with other family-operated establishments, members of the family pitched in. The culinary tradition has been handed to two children who are now operating their respective barbecue restaurant using the ingredients that their parents used in the marinade.


The entertainment was provided by four “cinemas” – Real Theater in front of the north gate of the Market, Prince Theater fronting the sourtheast corner of the plaza, the Ideal Theater on the east side of Alunan Highway, and Nonoy Theather, fronting the Ulangkaya building. The cinemas provided wooden tick-infested seats. As they were not sound-proof, the dialog of the actors could be heard out in the street. We were amused then, by the moans of actors when erotic films were shown. Those with “added sexy scenes” were advertised with hand-written, “Plus-Boom” (plus bomba), as the erotic films were then called, “bomba films”.


An ice plant provided our town and the surrounding areas with the very important commodity as it was also used by fish vendors. The downtown outlet of blocks of ice was owned by the Sanque family. The Mariἧas family got their ice from the Sanque outlet for the ice cream that they prepared to be sold around the town, in which one of the sons, Jaime also helped. Later on, another ice cream maker opened his home-based “factory” which was peddled by a high school classmate, Rogelio Gallega.


The office supplies and a handful of books were sold by the Goodwill Bookstore. First class fabrics were sold in a market stall by the Sandigs, and motorcycles were the exclusive goods of the Paragas family. Even with a small town such as our place, there was already an agent for insurance policy – Felipe Lapuz who was the local manager of Philam Life.


Later, better hotels were opened, such as the one operated by the couple, Menandro and Prax Lapuz, located near the town plaza; and, Edgie Hotel owned by Eddie Lopez that occupied the east end of the commercial building where Ideal Theater was also located. The entrance of the hotel was right beside the Uy store, owned by the father of my classmate in elementary, Jimmy Uy who later married Elsie Dajay, another classmate.


There were no beerhouses then. Those who would like to get tipsy, went to the carinderia of the Gialogos inside the market where the stalls of the dried fish were also located. The Gialogos sold the freshest/sweetish and the best “bahal” (day-old) coconut sap wine (tuba), served on “Bols” jars. Finger foods were grilled tilapia, mudfish, gurami, and catfish. Some days, the elder Gialogo would cook “dinuguan” (pork innards cooked in ginger and pig’s blood). The son, Ernesto who was also a classmate, continued the carinderia tradition, minus the tuba, with his restaurant in front of the Notre Dame campus.


Much later, as Mayor Escribano loved music, he opened the Bayanihan Club near where the market/public toilet was located. The “unit 1” of the The Fireband provided the entertainment, with singers Helen, Lito and sometimes, Femy Alcon and Grace Perales, consistent winners in the “amateur” singing contest. The “unit 2” of the Fireband during the time, played at a popular night club in Pasay City….that was how the two bands became self-liquidating, as the players who doubled as town firemen had no fixed wage. The band got “caught” by the sweeping camera during the filming of a Fernando Poe, Jr. film….I forgot the title of the film


As a further manifestation of his love for the good life, the mayor opened the first “resort” in the middle of the town – inside the plaza, complete with an elevated swimming pool to the delight of a Spanish immigrant, Mr. Fernandez as he was fond of swimming and had the prowess for board diving. The facility also provided the mayor with a comfortable office as it was shaded by plenty of trees. What was nice about the mayor was that, he allowed the drying of rice and corn grains on the basketball court and the circular skating rink of the town plaza.


The medical services were provided during the time by the Baroquillo and Ventura clinics, later joined by the Tamondong Hospital. The biggest stores were those of the Suana’s, Lee Kay Kee, Paciente’s and Rapacon’s. Dental Services were provided by Dr. Casipe and Dra. Tabuga. Later on, an optical clinic was opened by Dra. Pareἧas, beside which the first boutique, Noeleen’s, was also opened by Nenita Astillero-Bernardo.


Today, the City of Tacurong is making big leaps as big establishments compete with each other in filling up commercial voids that used to be swampy patches of land.

The Blissful Family of Luis and Paciencia Garcia of Tacurong City

The Blissful Family of Luis and Paciencia Garcia

of Tacurong City

By Apolinario Villalobos


The couple, Luis and Paciencia Garcia (Tatay Luis and Nanay Pacing) opened the first bakery in our town during the 1950s. It had a big wood-fired oven fed by big chunks of wood, usually, “enyam” or “bignay” and acacia which grew in abundance throughout the extent of the town. I would play on stacked logs in front of the bakery in the afternoon before finally making it home from the dried fish stall of my parents in the market. Practically, every able-bodied member of the family took part in its operation, especially, in manning the counter and the cash box. The Garcias were close to our parents and sometimes our mother would linger awhile in front of the bakery on her way to the market, to chat with both Nanay Pacing and Tatay Luis. In my desire to earn at an early age, I peddled their pan de sal around the town at dawn before I went to school, using a box of Darigold, a popular brand of milk during the time. I was in Grade Three at the time.


During the regular Sunday singing contest held at the town plaza, courtesy of the late mayor, Jose Escribano, paper bags of bread from the bakery were among the prizes. The judges were so strict that at the hint of an off-key, the contestant was disqualified at the sound of a bell. A Levita girl with her golden voice was the consistent winner. The couple also used to donate cookies for the yearly “Flores” celebration held every May. The cookies were served as snacks to the kids who participated in catechetical sessions during which Marian songs and prayers were taught. At the height of evacuation to our town of families displaced from the surrounding areas during the 70’s, they gave the local office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) specially-discounted price for the bread that the agency purchased.


Tatay Luis had the opportunity to delve into the local politics with successful attempts, but he did not pursue this particular calling, as it got stinky, the height of which was the assassination of the town judge inside the church while he was attending the Sunday Mass. Free from the political clutch, Tatay Luis and Nanay Pacing devoted their time instead, to religious and civic activities of the town, especially, during fiestas.


All members of the Garcia family are achievers, successful in their chosen career and enjoying the fruit of their labor, except for one whose advocacy brought her to her untimely demise. She was Marlene (Esperat), the youngest in the brood, and who worked for the government, particularly, as the Action Officer of the resident Ombudsman of the Department of Agriculture, but left it posthaste, when she discovered unbecoming activities. She later found a niche in the field of journalism, both broadcast and print. In her paramount desire to help her country, she later exposed the anomalies that she stumbled upon at the cost her life. She was murdered, obviously, by a hired killer right inside her home. It took more than 5 years before the Ombudsman finally filed a solid case against the suspects, the then, Agriculture Secretary Luis “Chito” Lorenzo, Undersecretary Joselyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante and three others.


Practically, the Garcia siblings were popular campus personalities at the Notre Dame Boys and Girls Departments, what with their strong personality characterized by inherent leadership quality that made them shine in scholastic and extra- curricular activities. The family was known for their closeness that brought them together almost every year during a reunion, in which cousins were also in attendance. Other special occasions were also reasons for them to be together. That was how the good-natured though strict patriarch and the jolly matriarch brought up the family. The eldest of the brood, ultra-active, Valmie, with her crown of thick curly hair, was always the life of any occasion as she let out her antics and biting, though, funny remarks.


I was fortunate to meet Bong (Larry) and Pangkek at Dagat-dagatan, Malabon many years back when I visited another town mate, Judith Bides-Ramiscal who excitedly told me that they were neighbors. After having told of their address I immediately surprised them with my visit. My path crossed with that of Valmie’s during the 50th foundation anniversary of our school, the Notre Dame of Tacurong. At the closing ceremony of the reunion highlighted by a community dancing on the school grounds, she was among the alumni who gleefully bumped shoulders to the beat of the festive music, still the spritely gal that she was during her high school days.  We were practically exchanging shouts of greeting above the din of the ear-splitting non-stop disco sound. And, the next time we again met after many years, was via the internet – the facebook. That social medium also got me  touched base with her younger brother, Bong.


The Garcias have definitely impressed the mark of their own legacy on the hefty foundation of the City of Tacurong while she was going through the challenges from simple politics gone stinky and threats of cultural unrest. And for that, Valmie and her siblings have their courageous and generous father, Luis, as well as, jovial mother, Paciencia, to thank!