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.


John Patrick Aggabao…the tireless OIC of the Tacurong PNP

John Patrick Aggabao…the tireless OIC

Of the Tacurong PNP

By Apolinario Villalobos


The OIC of the Tacurong PNP starts the day of his Team with a formation during which he tirelessly briefs them about their obligations and responsibilities to the public. As the members of the Police Force stands at ease, he reminds them about their obligations and responsibilities as maintainers and preventers of crimes. And, to be effective in these duties, they should be vigilant and must take note of the unusual observed activities which may not require apprehension. Along this line, those assigned to patrol cars should not close the windows and avoid playing music on their cellphone during their cruise. Extra care should be observed in making apprehensions to avoid the accusation of being brutal. To make the serving of warrants to their subjects, all members of the Force shall be deputized to carry out such responsibility, instead of such being confined to a “warrant officer”. Those are just a few of the reminders that he tirelessly mentions during their formation so that they shall be deeply entrenched in the consciousness of his colleagues.


The briefing also includes reports by the heads of the different administrative units, including the custodian of the blotter. The formation culminates with the physical exercise of the scheduled members for the day.


Before the arrival of OIC Aggabao, many have been apprehensive on the kind of guy that would be assigned in the city, especially, because it was learned that he was young…not yet forty. But when he finally reported for duty, those who were apprehensive were relieved because they found him to be affable… friendly and with an easy smile.  He is so trusting that there are some days when he could be seen walking alone, as his own way of contributing to the foot patrolling effort of his contingent.


During our early morning meeting over a cup of coffee, thanks, to Bogz Jamorabon, he mentioned his commitment to really do his best in assisting the likewise, young mayor, Lina Montilla. He must have been aware of the early apprehensions before his arrival so that he made a resolve to really prove his worth as a “people’s police” and his colleagues’ “partner” in their endeavor to maintain peace and security in the city. The clear manifestation of the latter’s desire is his sharing of his knowledge and experience as regards their dangerous profession.



Charlie Kris Limbong…16 years old, nagtitinda para may panggastos sa pag-aaral

Charlie Kris Limbong…16 years old, nagtitinda para may panggastos sa pag-aaral

Ni Apolinario Villalobos


Si Kris ang binanggit ko noong anak ni Bai Weng na nai-blog ko, at polio victim sa murang gulang pero nagsikap upang mamuhay ng normal hanggang makapag-asawa. Siya ang binanggit kong nagtitinda ng “walis tambo” tuwing Sabado at Linggo upang may panggastos sa pag-aaral. Dahil sa kahirapan sa buhay, patigil-tigil ang kanyang pag-aaral. Sa kabila ng lahat ay sinikap niyang matapos ang elementarya at ngayon sa gulang na 16, siya ay nasa First Year High School na ng Virginia Fajardo. National High School. Third Honor ang nakuha niya nang magtapos ng elementarya.


Noon ko pa gustong makilala si Kris kaya papunta-punta ako sa puwesto ng kanyang nanay na si Bai Weng upang matiyempuhan sana bago siya maglibot sa palengke at commercial area ng Tacurong upang magbenta ng “walis tambo”. Nagulat pa ako nang malaman ko na nakakarating pala siya sa Isulan para lang magtinda ng walis. Sa pagkakuwento ng kanyang nanay, hindi na umaasa sa kanila si Kris dahil pati toothpaste at sabon niya ay siya na rin ang bumibili mula sa kanyang kinikita.


Nang muli akong mamasyal sa puwesto ni Bai Weng ay hindi ko alam na siya pala ang kumakain ng kaning tutong at ang ulam ay kaunting burong isda. Akala ko ay kostumer na estudyante. Narinig ko pa siyang sumabay sa awit na naririnig mula sa isang radio at napahanga ako sa ganda ng kanyang boses. Nang maghanda na siyang umalis at inabutan ni Bai Weng ng isang plastic bag na may mga tsitserya ay nagtanong ako kung saan niya ititinda. Nang sumagot na sa eskwela ay biglang pumasok sa isip ko na baka siya ang sinasabi ni Bai Weng na anak niyang “negosyante”….siya nga!


Sa tuwa ko ay kinunan ko agad silang mag-ina ng retrato at hiningan ng pahintulot upang mai-blog…pumayag naman. Ayaw daw niyang galawin ang naipon niyang pera dahil gagamitin niya sa mga gastusin sa paaralan. Ang kikitain niya mula sa mga ititindang tsitserya ang gagamitin  niya para sa mga agaran o immediate niyang pangangailangan. At, kailangan pa daw niyang bumili ng isa pang pares ng pantalong uniporme. Dahil uuwi pa siya sa Griῆo ay hindi ko na  masyadong inabala, subalit, nagkasundo kaming magkikita uli sa puwesto ng kanyang nanay.


Kung ang ibang kabataang Pilipino ay tulad ni Kris, sana ay walang gaanong problema ang ating bansa. Mapalad din ang mga magulang ni Kris sa pagkaroon ng mga anak na responsable dahil lahat silang magkakapatid ay walang bisyo.


Kris and Bai Weng

SERAFIN P. BERNARDO….his journey from Passi, Iloilo to Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat (Part 1)

SERAFIN P. BERNARDO…his journey from Passi, Iloilo to Tacurong, Sultan Kudarat (Part 1)

By Apolinario Villalobos


The ancestral family of  Serafin P. Bernardo is from the Negros province, particulary, Victorias, but settled in Passi, Iloilo which they, henceforth, considered as their hometown. He had a penpal, Ciloy Levita who invited him to check Tacurong for himself if it would suit his adventurous plan to settle in Mindanao. During the time, the undeveloped territory of Tacurong extended as far as San Felipe of Tantangan. In 1946, when the WWII just ended, he finally visited Tacurong to check and went as far as the area that is now covered by Kalandagan and Carmen after which he left again for Passi where he was working as Chief of Police.


In 1948, he came back to Tacurong with his family in tow, Elisa Panizales, the wife, and three children, Nenita, Nonito, and Judith. When they arrived in Cotabato, the family took a “ferry” that brought them to Buluan. During the time, visitors with plenty of luggage usually disembarked at Buluan which had some sort of a “pier”. Those with a few luggage went as far as Sapakan, bordering Ligwasan Marsh and crossed the river to Tinumiguez, then proceeded to Lambayong which was well developed ahead of Tacurong.


Among the prominent families in Lambayong then, were the Guerreros and Luceros. The only road from Lambayong that ended into a foot trail that branched into several, was a portion of what is now Alunan highway.  For this reason, old Hispanic houses could still be found in the area, prominent among which is the Rapacon residence. The areas encompassing what is today’s downtown were either rice fields or marsh lands. When they arrived in Tacurong, Serafin bought a lot along Mabini St. where he build a big house behind which he built another smaller house that the Levitas occupied. Later he bought another lot near MINPROCOR, particularly, along Quezon Ave. St. which was given to the said family.


Serafin’s  youngest daughter, Judith and son, Nonito, recalled that their father purchased 5 hectares of land in an area which was then called “Mangilala” (referred today as the one covered by Carmen and Kalandagan), followed by two more parcels of 5 hectares each. Purchases were also made beside the property by his only sister, Angelica, married to Felix Villalobos, and his youngest brother, Serafin Bernardo, Jr.


Later, the 15 hectares were sold, with the proceeds used to purchase lands in what is now New Passi, but which was originally referred to by settlers as “Katil”. It was purchased from DATU KANDELAYANG KAMSA. The purchase was witnessed by DATU KUDANDENG AND DATU LUMINOG. It covered more than 100 hectares of land. With the purchase sealed, he went back to Passi to invite relatives to settle in the place. That was how the Pauyas, Palomos, Parreῆos, Pamposas, Pamas, Palabricas and many more got settled in the area which they aptly named, “New Passi”. According to Tomas Pauya, he came with a group in 1954. Arriving at Lambayong, they hiked up to New Passi…he was very young then, and got enrolled in the New Passi Elementary School when his family arrived. He recalled a classmate, Lagrimas Pamposa as their consistent “First Honor”.


Later, the families of French, Garcia, Aguilar, Cunningham, Cordero, Panes, and many others came but settled in the adjacent area, now called Rajah Muda. Many families including those of Jarell and  Braga, also came and settled in Baras and Upper Katungal. As roads from the fast developing Tacurong were constructed, more settlers from Iloilo came and settled at Lower Katungal, Upper Katungal, Baras, New Passi and Rajah Muda. The more adventurous settlers went up to Magon and further on to Tacub where they intermarried with the Bla’ans. An area which is now part of South Cotabato was also settled by Ilonggos, hence, aptly named, “New Iloilo”. The Eastern portion of Tacurong got settled by Ilocanos while those in the North, by other settlers from the various towns of Iloilo.


Serafin also purchased some lands around the Dulawan Estate, the downtown area, and Dadiangas (today, General Santos City). Meanwhile, other areas near New Passi, Rajah Muda, Baras, Katungal, and Lagao were also initially settled by the Garcias and Montillas. The development brought about KENRAM (due to the early produce – kenap and ramie) and ALACor (Ala Corporation). Today, a portion of Lagao is politically recognized as Barangay JC Montilla which is covered with African palm plantations. According to Nonito Bernardo, the Dulawan Estate, included Kapingkong, Tambak, Palumbi, Udtong, and Katitisan.  Lambayong shares the border with Tacurong City’s Barangay Griῆo (formerly, Gansing). An airport station was opened at KENRAM with a short runway for commercial flights utilizing DC-3s.  It was closed when the Surallah station was opened.


The first mayor of Tacurong was Mr. Soriano and a photo has recorded his first meeting with the Council and officials. Serafin was among the Councilors. The development of Tacurong was hectic as shown by the organization of FACOMA (Farmers Cooperative and Marketing Association), a farmers’ cooperative with Serafin Limbungan as the first President. At the time, bridges were built along with roads that finally linked Tacurong with Marbel (today, Koronadal City), Isulan leading to Cotabato City and Surallah, as well as, Lambayong and Buluan. Today, the road to Buluan leads all the way to Davao, Kidapawan, Bukidnon, and Cagayan de Oro. Nonito Bernardo also recalled that during election campaigns, they would go to as far as San Felipe in Tantangan, as the latter was still within the political territory of Tacurong. The lone lady and most popular political figure during the time was Amalia Pabilona.


Ms. Nenita Bernardo recalled that when they studied in Marbel during the early 1950s, they hiked the distance from Tacurong to the said town as there was no public transportation that plied between them, then. They would hike to Marbel on Sundays with their provisions loaded on a cart pulled by a carabao. On Fridays, they would hike back to Tacurong for the weekend. For their convenience they boarded in Marbel.  With them making the trek were Lucia Paladin, Rafael and Delfin Pama, the Dasmariῆas siblings, Gelacio and Usting Panes.


Serafin served as Vice-Mayor in Tacurong for three consecutive terms, finally, retiring from politics to devote his time to farming. He would still wake up at 3:00AM, a habit that he did not change, roll several tobacco cigars for the day, and read what he could find around – magazines and even old issues of newspapers with the aid of an antique kerosene lamp.  Before sunrise, he would be ready to go to New Passi with his adopted son, “Digol” (Rodrigo) driving the “pick up”. He delighted in talking to relatives and farm hands the whole day in the farm. One of them recalled how during planting seasons, everyday he would  bring dried fish to be roasted on coals, while those who were not planting rice seedlings would cook “apan-apan”, kangkong sautéed in ginamos (salted krill paste).  Before dusk, he would be driven back home by Digol.


The Sultan Kudarat Electric Company (SUKELCO) building was among his investments in the downtown area  aside from other residential lots, including the more than 700 square meters at Mabini St. where the ancestral house stands. They were purchased with the produce coaxed from the farm. The SUKELCO building is now owned by the said cooperative. As a clarification on his acquisitions, the proceeds for their purchase came from the produce of his farms in New Passi and Baras, which today are planted to African palms.


As Vice-Mayor of Tacurong, his wage was not even enough for the dole outs that he made.

I have heard so many stories about his benevolence, such that relatives and acquaintances would trek to their home at Mabini St. to seek financial assistance which he readily gave. His early morning sojourns to his farm was stopped by the onset of a crippling rheumatism that affected his knees. From then on, the only opportunity for him to savor the outdoors was when he was brought to the terrace on a wheelchair where he waved back at friends who passed by. He finally rested at the age of 102.




The Unsung Heroism of Teachers

The Unsung Heroism of Teachers

By Apolinario Villalobos


Teachers become the second parents of children as they step inside the school campus. I do not want to dwell on their wage as everybody knows that despite the adjustment, still, it is not commensurate to their effort and time spent in school. Weekends sometimes see them in school sprucing up their rooms to make them conducive for the learning of their young wards. If they are lucky, they get support by way of budgeted “allowance” from their superiors for the aforementioned expense which oftentimes is not enough so that they are forced to shell out their scrimped savings.


I know of teachers who are supporting in their own affordable way, pupils who go to school without breakfast. They include these unfortunates in their packed lunch or sandwiches. Those assigned in far-off or remote schools, with some beyond several hills and swift rivers, had to spend for the fuel of their “single motorcycles”. Some viewers of my blogs are teachers and they told me that they are also spending for their own teaching materials…actually, a traditional practice that include even the purchase of floor wax, brooms and dust pans.


They may have been able to collect simple jewelries…hard-earned investments, but according to my teacher-friends, it took them several years to complete the payment made on installment basis. On school days, they have to wake up at dawn to prepare breakfast for their family, leave home for school before 6 or 7AM, stay in school till 5:00PM or beyond, tackle the flood during rainy months on the way home, immediately attend to their family upon arriving home, and work on their modules till late in the evening for the next day. Due to bad traffic, many would arrive home as late as 9:00PM.


Many teachers become spinsters and bachelors because of their dedication to their job. Some say, they have no time for the “loving-loving”. Worse, many also develop TB due to unhealthy condition in their workplace. The consolation that they get from their job, especially, if they are handling kids is the loyalty and devotion from them. These brought about common statements from their pupils, “….sabi ni Ma’am…”. “…ayaw ni Ma’am niyan…”. etc.


I remember my teachers in Tacurong Pilot Elementary School, such as, Mrs. Paradero, Mrs. Sucaldito, Mr. Jordan, Mr. Barber, Ms. Davala, Mrs. Amar, Mr. Palencia, Mrs. Ramos, Mrs. Domider. In NDTC Boys Department such as, Mr. Elmer Festin, Mr. Jamorabon, Ms. Uy, Mr. Cabiles, Ms. Hojilla, Ms. Palabrica, Mr. Gabertan. In NDTC college department, such as, Mrs. Lechonsito, Mr. Canzana, Ret. Judge Jacosalem Makilala…..and many more. (I hope viewing schoolmates and classmates can help me out recall names….please add.)


Alas! Without “Ma’am” and “Sir”, where would I be?

Michelle Jordan Fobar…beauty and brains combine (Pride of Sultan Kudarat State University, Tacurong City)

MICHELLE  JORDAN FOBAR…beauty and brains combined

Pride of Sultan Kudarat State University (Tacurong City)

By Apolinario Villalobos


Here’s another young talented Tacurongnon…MICHELLE JORDAN FOBAR, who at 21 years of age is oozing with artistic skills, especially, sketching as shown by some of her works. She is a member of the KATAHUM Group of Artis and on her fourth year in her Bachelor in Industrial Technology, majoring in Architectural Drafting. She lives at barangay Ledesma in Tacurong City and daughter of proud parents, Alphonse Fobar and Consuelo Jordan. She is the second in the brood of three siblings. She has been consistently garnering honors in arts during her elementary and high school days.


Aside from sketching, she also writes poems in English and Filipino…and, meekly admitted as a “silent musician”.

John Rey Posadas Aliwalas…young portrait artist and pride of Tacurong National High School

JOHN REY POSADAS ALIWALAS…young portrait artist

and pride of Tacurong National High School

By Apolinario Villalobos


John Rey Aliwalas is 16 years old, who lost his mother at a young age and whose father, Jeffrey, drives a tricycle to support him and a sibling. He is the eldest and his sketches have helped him a lot through his studies as a Grade 11 student at Tacurong National High School. The loss of his mother inspired him to to sketch. When his friends discovered his talent, they encouraged him to go on which he did until he found a courage to sketch the portrait of the current mayor of Tacurong City, Honorable Lina Montilla who happily accepted the gift.


John is a consistent honor student who also joins dancing and singing competitions. He confided that he is a self-taught video editor.