Buluan (Maguindanao)…taking leaps and bounds towards progress

Buluan (Maguindanao)…taking leaps and bounds towards progress

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

Buluan is cruising the fast lane towards progress. Practically, development is in full swing. The first to be developed are the once grassy depressions on both sides of the highway. The once grassy lands have been converted into beautifully landscaped walkways or “boulevard”. The highway is literally swept clean of debris as early as 6AM. A sidewalk café outside a business establishment has also added sophistication to the once rock-littered sidewalk.

 

A little further up northeast is the Buluan bridge from which a refreshing view of the chocolate-colored swift Buluan river can be had. The river was the major commercial artery then, of the town used by the Visayans, Ilocanos and Tagalogs when they came as early as the 1930s to settle in Sambolawan (today, President Quirino), Mangelen, San Emmanuel, and Tacurong.

 

Buluan could very well be tagged as the most sliced municipality of the Philippines as it used to be an enormous piece of land surrounding Lake Buluan, also among those that comprised “old” Cotabato province. It became a town when President Manuel Roxas signed the Executive Order 82 on August 8, 1947. The first to get “weaned” from her is Tacurong which became a separate town on August 3, 1951. Columbio followed suit, as it became a town in 1961, and then, by Lutayan.

 

Buluan was made part of Maguindanao on November 22, 1973, during which President Quirino was sliced off the western coast of the lake, with the latter made part of the province of Sultan Kudarat. On April 7, 1991, Buluan’s northern portion was further sliced, out of which the municipality of Gen. S. K. Pendatun was formed. On December 30, 2006, the municipalities of Mangudadatu and Pandag were formed out of the 16 barangays…the two new towns getting 8 barangays each.

 

Buluan became the capital of the province of Maguindanao necessitating the building of a capitol which is still under construction as of this writing. In the meantime, the current municipal mayor, Esmael Mangudadatu holds office at the Rajah Buayan Silongan Peace Center. The Sangguniang Panlalawigan on the other hand, holds office at Simuay (Simway).

 

Buluan, together with Lutayan, supplies the neighboring towns and the city of Tacurong with fresh water fishes such as mudfish, tilapia, gourami, taruk, bagtis, and shrimp. The excess of these fishes, especially, mudfish are filleted and dried under the sun. As for delicacies, Buluan is known for its “tinagtag” and “panyalam”.

 

From Davao City  and Cotabato City, Buluan can be reached on buses and aircon vans, while those coming from General Santos city can take similar conveyances for Tacurong city from which they could transfer to tricycles for the 15-minute ride.

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Poem

This poem is dedicated to those who are exerting effort to maintain peace, unity, and understanding among the Filipino people, as well as, the sanctity of their heritage as one nation, despite diversities in religion and culture and in the face of the current adversities.

 

Pilipinas

By Apolinario B Villalobos

 

 

Mga luntiang islang magkakahiwalay

Mga katutubong iba-ibang pananalita

Iyan ang Pilipinas, watak-watak sa paningin

Subali’t iisa ang adhikain, iisa ang damdamin.

 

Halos gutayin ng pabago-bagong panahon

Kasama na diyan ang mga pag-uga ng lindol

Nguni’t buong tapang na iniinda ng mga Pilipino

Animo’y kawayan, sumasaliw sa hagupit ng bagyo.

 

Mula sa Batanes, hanggang Tawi-tawi

Mga katutubo’y nagbubuklod- iisang lipi

May isang kulay, matingkad, hinog sa panahon

Nagkaisa-  magkaiba man ang damit, salita at relihiyon.

 

Mayabong na sining at mayamang kultura

Taas-noong maipamamalaki, saan mang bansa

Hindi nagpapahuli, lumalaban, hindi nagpapaiwan

Sa ano mang uri ng patas na paligsahan o tunggalian.

 

Inang Pilipinas, mahal nating bayan

Huwag nating hayaang siya’y tapak-tapakan

Huwag hayaang mayurakan, iniingatang dangal –

Nang kung sino – Pilipino man o banyagang hangal!

 

Mga Pilipino tayo, kailangang magbuklod

Nang sa unos ng buhay matatag, ating pagsugod

Walang kinikiling na pag-imbot sa puso ng bawa’t isa

Nag-uunawaan, nagkakaisa – sa buong mundo, ating ipakita.

 

Mapalad tayo sa pagkakaroon nitong bansa

Na kung wariin, mahirap pag-ugnayin at mapag-isa

Subali’t ito ang itinadhana sa atin ng Poong Maykapal

Kaya’t buong puso nating arugain ng masidhing pagmamahal.

 

 

Abrazo Rustico Resto Cafe…Italianish oasis in Tacurong City

Abrazo Rustico Resto Café

…Italianish oasis in Tacurong City

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

When a facebook friend, Macmac Albenio Delfin referred to me a resto café with an Italian sounding name, I was intrigued. The name he mentioned was Abrazo Rustico Resto Café which when I checked, found it to be within what the Tacurongnons refer to as “Dragon area”, the name being that of a gasoline station-cum-convenient store-cum open-air café. But the Abrazo is an air-conditioned cozy enclave fronting the highway and a few steps from the aforementioned station.

 

I was hoping that after an unfortunate experience in another coffee shop with a name that I would rather forget, this time around, I would be lucky enough to have a better encounter. Just the same, as I had my lesson, I did not expect so much from the service crew of Abrazo.

 

Fortunately, I was more than satisfied when I opened the door and was greeted by the smiling guys at the counter. The café was unpretentiously simple, yet cozy. Compared with other cafes, Abrazo is small which however, has become an advantage as it made the atmosphere assume a homey ambiance. I immediately ordered my favorite coffee mix – cappuccino which came thick in consistency, with accompanying two tube sachets of branded muscovado sugar…another plus for health-conscious customers.

 

Looking around, I was impressed immediately by the miniature antique typewriter safely entrenched in a frame on the wall. Practically, the interior was Italian, even the food offerings. I found out later that Abrazo is popular among students of the nearby VMC, as in a little while, three students came to make an order of pizza and one of the joint’s popular mixed cool drinks. As I observed the satisfaction on the faces of the young customers, I asked their permission for a photo to which they obliged. During that quick visit I failed to meet the owner and resolved to come back in the afternoon to try my luck. At that juncture, I opened up myself to the café staff by revealing to them that I was a blogger, although, they have already permitted me to take photos of the joint without much ado, a show of pride for their coffee shop.

 

When I came back early in the afternoon, two of the staff were talking to a young petite and pretty lady, who I found later found to be the owner. My effort finally paid up! And, I was more than rewarded when I found out that the two gentlemen who just finished their coffee were officers of a reputable bank in Isulan and Tacurong City….proof enough that indeed, Abrazo was a class by itself. The gentlemen gave me their permission to post their photo that I took, but I opted to withhold their name.

 

The owner of Abrazo assumes a facebook name as IRE YSABELLE and I want to maintain her identity as such. What’s important to me at the time was my having touched base with her to express my admiration for her guts in venturing into an arena overflowing with cutthroat competition as the city is literally dotted with various kinds of food outlets from the traditional “pastilan”, carinderia, “batchoyan”, “barbecuehan” and open-air cafeterias.

 

I assumed however, that her courage is enflamed by her penchant for Italian foods, foremost of which is the pizza and java beverages that the joint’s barista yummily concocts. Simply put, she is fond of Italian foods, a variation of Mediterranean cuisine. Her fondness is shown by Abrazo’s various food and drink offerings that customers may not tire of coming back. By the way, customers who want to relax while tapping on their smartphone or laptop may be glad to know that wi-fi access is free!…check out “Abrazo Rustico” on fb to find more about this joint operated and staffed by energetic young-blooded Mindanaoans.

Manila Metropolitan Theater…its history and story of neglect

Manila Metropolitan Theater

…its history and story of neglect

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

A country without a cultural landmark is like a basket that can’t hold water. Nothing is left to stand for the past, be it significant or not. Events just happen and forgotten, and for this, the people’s culture suffers. Many countries, though how small they are, have won the respect of powerful ones because of their rich past, made tangible by whatever remains.

 

The Philippine’s rich past has made its people look for an outlet which took form in plays, songs, poems, paintings, sculpture and other artistic expressions. The admixture of the eastern and western influences, have surfaced in all these expressions. Foreign influences which left their respective sediments in the country nourished cultures which are distinctly different from each other. These are however, consolidated by the Filipinos in a compromising effort to have just one that could be identified with them.

 

That was the benevolent intent which was magnified during the administration of Ferdinand Marcos. The theater was then, beginning to gain momentum in its effort for revival, as plays and concerts were again held, but unfortunately cut short when the feisty president was deposed.

 

Despite its sorry state today, it is important that Filipinos know how such neglected important landmark came to be.

 

The Metropolitan Theater that sprung up on a area of 8,293.58 square meters at Liwasang Bonifacio (formerly, Lawton plaza), embodies the several periods that saw the metamorphosis of the country. The unpretentious environment in which the expressionistic framework of the theater took shape is just a stone’s throw from the Bonifacio monument that stands witness to rallies of disgruntled students and workers. It is also a few steps from Mehan Garden, once a popular recluse of Manilans on weekends. Today, Mehan Garden is part of the Universidad de Manila campus.

 

Its colorful and massive façade reflects its mute desire to stand firm and solid despite the challenges posed by turbulent years that rocked its structure more than five decades ago. The month of February in 1945 saw the crumbling of its roof as a result of bombings and shelling by the Allied Forces during the liberation of Manila. Its walls however, withstood the barrage of both the allies’ and enemy’s fires.

 

But the theater’s story before the dark years of WWII was something else. It was full of struggle and challenges that just strengthened its foundation. In 1924, with an appeal from Mayor Earnshaw, an area of 8,293.58 square meters was leased  by the government of Manila to the Metropolitan Theater Company, represented by Horace Pond, Antonio Milian, Leopoldo Khan, Manuel Camus, Enrique Zobel and Rafael Palma. The land then was used as a flower market of Mehan Garden. It was an untrimmed and not so pleasantly landscaped area that gave way to the theater.

The concerted effort of various communities of Manila that comprised of Americans, Chinese, Spanish and Filipinos, bolstered the hope of the crusading artists. A magazine, Manila’s Philippine Magazine, carried encouraging write ups on the proposed theater in its effort to gain support from its readers. Stocks were sold by the Philippine International Corporation at Php100.00 and Php50.00 to raise the needed fund which was one million pesos.

 

The project inspired many artists. Almost everybody was concerned and did not hesitate to offer help. One of these early sympathizers was Juan M. Arellano, a leading architect of the era, and who was sent to study in the United States with Thomas W. Lamb, an expert in theater construction. His sojourn in the United States marked the birth of a unique theatrical design which stood for the Filipino’s artistic traits. A brother of Arellano, Arcadio, contributed his skill in decking the structure which took form shortly after the cornerstone was laid in 1930.

 

What took shape was what the Phlippine Magazine editor, A.V.H. Hartendorp called modern expressionism. Flagstone paths were cut across lawns greened by tropical creepers and shrubs. On each side of the rectangular theater were pavilions separated from the main hall by open courtyards.

 

The theater’s façade truly expressed the richness of the Malay culture imbibed in the ways of the Filipinos. Colorful were the glasses that made up the big “window” and the tiles on both side of the façade. Philippine plants in relief added exoticness to the theater’s face which was crowned with traditional Muslim minarets. Additional oriental accent was provided by shapely sculptured figures of two women who seemed to be preparing to take flight.

 

The theater’s interior equaled the exterior’s magnificence – wide marble staircase, mural paintings by Amorsolo and modern sculptures by Francisco R. Monti. The latter was an Italian sculptor, who practiced his trade in the country in the early 1930s. To give a feeling of spaciousness, boxes were eliminated. Relief figures cast shadows on the proscenium. Elongated lamps of translucent glass in the shape of bamboo stalks filled up the empty wall on both sides of the hall. The translucent stalks pointed to the ceiling that burst with a cornucopia of mango fruits and leaves.

 

The auditorium’s facilities were excellent, although the seating area could only accommodate 1,670, quite small for a fast-growing city like Manila. Its lighting, acoustics, air-cooling system and dressing rooms were all excellent and almost faultless. However, there was no understage and the orchestra pit was too narrow.

 

Dramatic Philippines was responsible for the showing of outstanding plays that made the theater famous. Very active members were Francisco Rodrigo, Emma Benitez and Narciso Pimentel. The theater’s stage was also grace by the zarzuela queen, Atang de la Rama.

 

Even when the country wallowed in the misery of subordination by a foreign power during the WWII, the theater continued to draw art lovers. It was used by members of the Volunteer Social Aid Committee (VSAC) as a front in raising funds for the underground movement against the Japanese. This group of artists likewise acted as secret mail carriers for Manilans who would like to get in touch with relatives detained at Capas and Cabanatuan. These Manila girls, some of whom were Conchita Sunico, Helen Benitez and Pilar Campos, went to the extent of spending for their own clothing materials which were then designed by Matilde Olmos, the best modiste of European clothes during that time.

 

The scarred Met which lost its roof during the liberation of Manila in February 1945 held on to what remained. Unfortunately, the transition period did not give much impetus to those who were previously active in theatricals. Of the several establishments housed by the Met, only the Magnolia Rendezvous, an ice cream kiosk held firm. Meanwhile the building underwent painful changes from a boxing arena into a cheap motel and gay bar, basketball court, garage and warehouse, until finally, into a home for half a hundred of displaced families.

 

It was in such a sorry state when a new breed of artists surfaced and made an appeal to the government to help salvage the Met. Their plea awakened the public from its long indifference and sheer neglect of a priceless heritage. Trouble between the artists and a group of enterprisers ensued when the latter proposed its demolition to give way to a modernistic commercial complex. A petition was submitted to the National Historical Institute to stop the sacrilegious hand and recognize the theater as an historical landmark.

 

The timely mediation of Mrs. Imelda Marcos gave assurance to the artists’ victory over their destructive opponents. The Met was finally restored to its pre-war grandeur and has been called the Manila Metropolitan Theater.  Its seating capacity was increased from 1,670 to 1,709.

To augment its finances, galleries that fringed the outer structure were rented out to shops that sell handicrafts, restaurants, studious and a night club. Bigger rooms on the second floor were furnished for receptions and meetings. Even the auditorium was leased to a movie company which showed three-dimensional films whenever the theater was free. Once again, shows and concerts were held.

 

The recovery of the theater was, however, short-lived. The emergence of the modern Cultural Center of the Philippines, Folk Arts Theater, modern cinema theaters and other cultural and artistic venues signaled again its slow deterioration. Groups of concerned artists joined hands to prevent its continued relapse to no avail….until, finally, it is back to its former state of gross neglect that we woefully see today. To protect it from intruding street dwellers, the periphery of the structure is fenced with board on which are pasted scenes of its former glory.

 

 

 

The Bird Festival of Tacurong City (May 12-13, 2017)

The Bird Festival of Tacurong City (May12-13, 2017)

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

The just concluded Bird Festival of Tacurong City, held on May 12 and 13 has been a resounding success with several travel bloggers and prominent personalities who are nature lovers in attendance. A contingent from ABS-CBN from Davao City also covered the duration of the affair which included activities such as forum on birdwatching and nature conservation at the Notre Dame of Tacurong College, photo exhibit at the bridge area of Fitmart, bazaar, and art exhibit highlighted by actual application of tattoo on willing visitors, by local tattoo artists at the parking ground of the sanctuary.

 

The Baras Bird Sanctuaty is located in the barangay of Baras which is a few-minute drive from the downtown area. Owned by Rey Malana and subsidized by the city government, it is situated along the eastern bank of Kapingkong River. Bamboo groves and madre de cacao trees or “kakawate”, many of which are more than 50 years old provide home to the indigenous and migratory birds from mainland China and neighboring Southeast Asian countries. But, dominant among the avian population is the locally known “tagak” or heron.

 

The sanctuary started as an ordinary “farm” of the Malana family with bamboo groves providing shade to the long stretch of the river bank. When Rey who took care of the property observed the steady arrival of birds which eventually enhanced the increasing population of the indigenous ones, he decided to protect them.  Foremost of his restrictive policies is the non-entry of vehicles beyond the entrance shaded with the branches of trees and bamboos creating an impression of a tunnel. This is necessary to prevent the disturbance of the bird, especially, the nesting ones.

 

Due to the popularity gained by the sanctuary, thanks to the discreet visit of bloggers who shared their experience among their followers, the local government under the stewardship of Mayor Lina Montilla, initially, provided support. Later, the local tourism office headed by Ms. Emilie Jamorabon, tried hard how to harness the popularity to boost their tourism effort. With the early festivals having shown encouraging results, Ms. Jamorabon sought support from friends for the rest of the festivities that followed.

 

The avian festival has decidedly boosted the tourism program of the city which to date is already gaining ground due to the mushrooming of inland resorts located along the peripheries of the downtown area, most especially, in Baras and New Passi, home of the internationally-known Monte Vicenteaux Resort. According to Ms. Jamorabon, more plans are being conceived to encourage birdwatchers from other parts of the country to visit Baras. Among the plan is the putting up of viewing posts and accommodation facilities that would follow the concept of “nature tourism”.

 

The Baras Bird Sanctuary, is the first-ever community- protected avian haven in southern Mindanao. It provides a serene oasis in the midst of vast palm oil plantations that stretch from Montilla, Katungal, up to New Passi. From the air, the canopy of the palm trees looks like a stretch of dark jade panorama….no wonder the winged creatures found solace among the branches where they built their nests to mark their well-chosen home!

 

The Bankerohan Public Market of Davao City

The Bankerohan Public Market of Davao City

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

Literally, “bankerohan” has a connotation as a place where boatmen converge as “bankero” means “boatman”. Appropriately, the public market is located by the bank of the main river that traverses the city. As in any Philippine community and historically, the river or a coastal village are considered as the center of trading. Unfortunately, lately, Bankerohan, the bustling riverside trading community of Davao City, gets inundated during the worst onslaught of heavy rains without let up for days.

 

Unlike other cities, Bankerohan has maintained its typical Oriental bazaar atmosphere to which the city dwellers have melded well. Spread throughout its periphery, various products from neighboring towns are sold side by side with local delicacies, prominent among which is the “puto maya”. The delicacy is actually two kinds of sticky rice, the white and the “tapul” which has a delectably purple color partner. The two varieties of rice are steamed separately. “Puto maya’s” is best eaten with “sikwate” (hot chocolate with thick consistency) prepared and cooked in “hornio”. While it slowly cooks to the right consistency, a half-submerged “baterol” (wooden stirrer) is rolled between the palms to keep the preparation from going into a rolling boil. A serving of “puto maya” costs Php10, while a cup of “sikwate” can be had for Php15.

 

If the durian is in season, a whole ripe fruit can be purchased from any of the stalls and eaten on the spot, for Php30 while marang would cost as low as Php20. Other local fruits that fill the fruit stalls are big-sized guava, golden pomelo, rambutan, papaya, several varieties of papaya. Durian preserves such as candies, jams and jellies also fill the shelves of the fruit stalls. Vegetables and marine products are strictly controlled to maintain their prices, as well as, those of rice and corn grits.

 

As dusk falls, makeshift stalls for used clothing begin to dot the area near the Mercury Drug Store. Practically, all kinds of clothing merchandise are priced between Php10-20. Hectic trading activity reaches its climax as midnight approaches. But, the traders do not fold up their stalls until 6AM hoping for the coming of last-minute buyers.

 

In the evening, the market resonates with warbles from wannabe singers who try their best to garner a “10” verdict from videokes that are the come-ons of carinderias. Everybody enjoys for as long as the no-smoking policy is observed. Aside from the videoke machines, the carinderias also pride in their cheap foods displayed in trays. Prices range between Php15 to Php35, with the vegetable dishes being the cheapest and those of beef and pork the more expensive. Grilled fish, especially tuna belly, head, and its innards are also available which go well with the beer or tuba (coco wine).

 

From Bankerohan, the cheap hotels along Claveria are a few meters away. Public transportations can be taken at several designated jeepney stops distributed around the market, so that strangers need not worry. And, most especially, there is nothing to fear while commuting from this busy section of the city to any part, even the suburbs, as taxi drivers of Davao City are the most trustworthy in the whole Philippines!

The Consistency of PAL-Davao in Maintaining the Airline’s High Quality of Service Standards

The Consistency of PAL- Davao in Maintaining

The Airline’s High Quality of Service Standards

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

Davao station of Philippine Airlines is considered as the hub of its operation in Mindanao and lately, its scope extends to the neighboring Asian countries. As I have worked with the said company for a little more than twenty years and left it during the early years of the new management’s take over, I can very well say that I have an idea of what had been and what are being done as regards the customer satisfaction which fortunately has been maintained due to the consistency of the airline’s high standards.

 

According to Mr. Vic Suarez, the new Head for Mindanao Sales Area, the airline will not compromise its high standard by scrimping on other aspects of operations as some sort of an offsetting, most especially, by offering low fares, except the seasonal promos. High quality of service can only be assured if there is enough manpower that can attend to the requirements of customers. As can be observed, all ticketing offices and the check-in counters at the airport terminals are adequately manned by equally vibrant personnel of Macro-Asia. Mr. Suarez is supported by Ma. Leana Sanga, Secretary; Edgardo Ramos, Staff Assistant; and Ricardo Ambrosio, Sr. Market Planning Analyst.

 

If international cuisine has its “fusion” dishes concocted based on different cultural influences, PAL has its “fusion service”. It is my own terminology and I came up with it in view of the harmonious co-operation of service providers and the held-over organic PAL employees. As in Manila, this unique and harmonious fusion of effort is also found in the operation of PAL in Davao. The ticketing office at the Davao airport is manned by the organic PAL employees, while the check- counters, load control, and the Mabuhay Lounge are manned by the young staff of Macro-Asia. Behind them, such as the Airport Service Manager, Ms. Ludy Bagares and the Customer Service Officers are all organic PAL employees. Helping them out in the overall operation is Excellent, the manpower agency that provided the aircraft cleaning crew, janitorial and porter service.

 

The Customer Service Officers who have spent a good number of years with PAL are Leonilo Abella, Ernie Adrias, Archie Batu, Karlo Respicio, Marlon Rosales, Allen Dizon, Art Migalben, and Anthony Paradela, with the last four mentioned also handling Cargo.

 

The Macro-Asia Supervisors are  Charlie Erojo, Erwin Tongco, Dennis Tiamson, Rommel Covarubias and June Dalisay. The Passenger Services Agents is Ruben Maglaya; and Cargo Service Agents, Ben Arcayan and Julbert Nolasco. The ramp area is handled by the Ramp Service Agents, Ruel Catao, Cyril Pollaris and Joel Montales, while the Ramp Equipment Repairman is Lambert Lazaro.

 

Ms. Bagares expressed that so far, their operation is smooth and without any hassle as the traditional and high PAL standards are maintained to ensure that the customers get the commensurate worth of what they paid for to reach their destination safely.

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