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.


The First and Last Book of Mr. Ricardo G. Paloma…The Cordillera Tourism Master Plan


…The Cordillera Tourism Master Plan

By Apolinario Villalobos


Mr. Ricardo G. Paloma, “Tatang” to his subordinates is well-remembered for his patience, thoroughness, and flow charts. He is so systematic that anything that had got to do with PAL operations were covered with a flowchart so that mishandling of passengers, baggage and cargoes can be easily pointed out along the way – from the time plane tickets were cut up to the time the passenger has left the airport terminal; from the time a baggage has been checked-in to the time it has been claimed at the destination; and from the time a cargo has been accepted for shipment up to the time it has been claimed by the consignee. Even phone calls were monitored together with the length of time involved in attending to the callers and from such transactions, their “requirements” should be noted and taken up during sales meetings.


He was also engrossed in the state of the Philippine tourism industry, particularly, on how PAL could contribute to its development. In this regard, the Tours and Promotions Information Center at the Terminal 4 (formerly, Domestic Airport) was set up and headed by Mr. Vic Bernardino as Manager, with pioneer staff, Ed Buensuceso, Mayee Santos-Cuenco, Thelma Villaseἧor, John Fortes, Reggie Constantino, and Alex Enrile. The TOPIC Magazine was used as research and information tool to promote local tourism, with Alex Enrile as the Editor. I was fortunate to have taken over the job of Alex Enrile as Editor when he left for the United States. I just joined PAL for barely a yera then, with Tablas station as my first assignment. Later on, the PALakbayan Tour Program which “segmentized” the traveler according to his needs was conceptualized and sold as a tour package, both to the domestic and international tourists. He was also regularly consulted by the Department of Tourism which earned him the recognition as, “Mr. Tourism”.


I did not know that ever since I started contributing my poems and essays to the dailies and magazine even while in Tablas, Mr. Paloma had instructed his secretary, Bill Trinidad to clip and collect them. I came to know about what he did when he summoned me to his office on his last day as SVP-Finance, an extended job after he retired as VP-Sales, Philippines. I found him and Bill packing up. While I was taking coffee that he, himself prepared, he opened an attaché case and showed me the contents – original copies of clippings that caught me by surprise. I did not even know that my materials were published because I had no time to check them. As a consolation, he had them copied and gave me the duplicates. He also gave me his first Parker pen which was given to him by his wife, according to him.


Several months after he left PAL, I was surprised when his driver visited me in my new office at S&L Building, along Roxas Boulevard in Ermita, because during the time, our Tours and Promotions group was integrated into the International Sales-Philippines which was under Mr. Rene Ocampo and later on, Mr. Archie Lacson as RVP-Philippines and Guam, after a brief stint with the Metro Manila Sales which was then, under Mila Limgenco as Senior Asst. Vice-President. The driver told me that Mr. Paloma was in the car parked at the egress of the building and he would not like to come up, so I went to him only to know that he was inviting me to a lunch at the French Baker at the Greenbelt Park, across the Vernida Bldg. where we used to hold office. He was aware of my diet so he chose his favorite Frenchy bakeshop-cum-restaurant, just to be sure that I would have my salad.


Over the lunch of salad and bread downed with coffee, he asked me if I had the time to edit some documents for him, to which I immediately said yes. With that, he gave me a brown envelop with documents. When he brought me back to S&L, he told me while smiling that more are coming to which I said, no problem. From then on, at least once a week, he would have me fetched at my office for lunch at the French Baker in Makati. The driver would also deliver to me batches of documents for editing.


After a lull of about two weeks he fetched me again for lunch after which he showed me a neatly bound book, “The Cordillera Tourism Master Plan”. What he told me while handing me the book and which I could not forget was, “you inspired me to do this”.


He had three copies made, one for me with a dedication, another copy for the Department of Tourism, and the third copy for his library at home. Many months transpired and our lunch became infrequent, only to learn that he was sick. My fault was that I did not find time to visit him….only at his wake. To compensate for my irresponsibility, I made a poem and essay for him. Both saw print in the PALiner. I know that those who know Mr. Paloma will agree with me that he was a great employee who started from the ranks as a porter, PAL ever had…our one and only “Tatang”.


Anna Bermudo: Kindness Behind a Pretty Face

Anna Bermudo: Kindness Behind A Pretty Face

By Apolinario Villalobos


When I took a respite at a Jollibee joint in Divisoria, particularly, corner of Sto. Cristo St., due to my heavy packs, I found out that I needed a separate bag for some items intended to be given to one of my friends in Baseco. It was then, that I noticed one of the crew who was cleaning tables. I told her my problem, without much ado, she left and when she came back, she had a paper bag which was just what I needed. Her prompt assistance impressed me, despite her doing something else during the time. She practically dropped everything and attended to me, although, customers were beginning to crowd the room.

Jolibe Div

My appreciation for such kind act, made me ask her permission if I can share it with friends. She shyly hesitated, but I had my chance to take her photo quickly, when she began to clean my table. She thought I was joking when I aimed my cellphone/camera for a quick shot. I found the photo to be hazy when I checked it at Baseco, so I came back to the burger joint. Luckily, I found her having a late breakfast in a sidewalk food stall near Jollibee. I practically begged her to allow me to take a clearer photo, explaining to her that what I am doing is for the benefit of others who might be inspired by people like her. Fortunately, she conceded and even cooperated by giving information about herself.

Jolibe Div 1

Although merely, a high school graduate, she courageously left her hometown in Zamboanga to seek a “greener pasture” in Manila several years ago. She had no chance of pursuing her studies, as she had been helping her family by sending whatever amount she could afford from her wage when she found a job. I could see that her right attitude has earned her a well-deserved job in the world-renown Filipino burger outfit which is also acknowledged for its fairness in dealing with employees.


Anna is pretty, an attribute that could land her a much better-paying job in cafes that could be double or triple compared to what she is earning in Jollibee. But I could surmise that despite temptations from friends, that always happen to pretty girls from the countryside, she opted to work in a family-oriented establishment. Her clean and smooth face is not covered even by a thin swipe of rouge, and she wears no jewelry, not even a single stainless ring. Her simplicity has accentuated her pretty face…. that veils an innate kindness.





Rene Pastrana: Grocery Store Manager Who Can Melt the Anger of an Irate Customer

Rene Pastrana: Grocery Store Manager Who

Can Melt the Anger of an Irate Customer

By Apolinario Villalobos


One morning, when I purchased some goods at Isetan grocery store along Recto Avenue in Quiapo, I had an unfortunate experience that almost spoiled my day. Rather than talk to any of the rank-and-file staff, I looked for the store manager, whom I found to be Rene Pastrana. Before I could blurt out my complaint, he broke the ice by asking with a smile, what he can do to make my shopping comfortable. His stance immediately pacified me. After relating to him my dissatisfaction, he gave me an assurance that he will do his best to patch up the “loophole” in their operation.


What touched me was his unabashed confiding that he knows what to do because he started his career as a “merchandiser”, which actually, was the focus of my complaint. Instead of anger, what I felt was sympathy while listening to his story. It could be a ploy on his part to divert my focus, with which he was successful. On the other hand, I selfishly thought, that his story could be another blog material that could inspire aspiring Filipinos.


According to Rene, he left his island-province of Marinduque after graduating from high school. When he arrived in Manila, he immediately looked for a job, with a plan to proceed with his college studies by all means. He fortunately found a job as a “merchandiser”, which sustained his studies, until he finished Computer Science.


His diligence in job, pushed him along his career path with unusual expediency until he became manager of Isetan’s grocery store, charged with its overall operation. He has been in the job for the past twenty years, his earnings from which have also helped his family back home, in Marinduque.


Rene could well be considered as a self-appointed “ambassador” of his province in his own way because he does not hesitate to promote it as a veritable tourist destination every time he gets the chance. This he did to me, when he shared touristic information about the island. His effort proved helpful to me, as what I knew about the island have all been updated, especially, about the islets with resorts.


In appreciation of all his effort to pacify me and giving me updates on Marinduque, I told Rene to count me as among the convinced patrons of Isetan grocery from then on. He practically “captured” another patron for their grocery because of his amiable and brilliant sales technique not found in sales training manuals…I know that, because, I have also been a “sales person”, myself.





Anna…ang eleganteng food vendor sa Roxas Boulevard (Manila)

Anna…ang eleganteng food vendor sa Roxas Boulevard

Ni Apolinario Villalobos



Masasabi kong elegante si Anna dahil sa sinasabi sa Ingles na “regal bearing” niya habang nagtitinda ng kape, kendi, at mumurahing sandwich sa isang bahagi ng Roxas Boulevard. Lalo akong nagulat nang walang pangingimi niyang sabihin na ang inabot niya ay Grade One. Hindi na siya nakapagpatuloy ng pag-aaral dahil tumulong siya sa kanyang mga magulang. Isa siyang Tausug, taga-Jolo at ang asawa naman niya ay isang Samal na nagtatrabaho bilang part-time security guard, ibig sabihin, ay “on standby” para magrelyibo o pumalit sa umabsent o aabsent na guwardiya. Lumalabas ang likas na talino ni Anna sa mga sinasabi niya habang nag-usap kami.


Una ko siyang napansin nang lumapit siya sa ilang bikers na nagpapahinga at omorder sa kanya ng sigarilyo. Lalong napaaliwalas ng hindi nawawalang ngiti ang likas niyang ganda na pilit lumulutang kahit pinapawisan siya. Kapansin-pansin ang maraming bikers na nagpapahinga at may isang umamin na matagal na nilang suki si Anna sa kabila ng kakaunti nitong paninda dahil mabait daw. Ikinuwento ni Anna na ang ginagamit niyang maliit na kariton ay regalo sa kanya ng isa niyang suking biker.


Dahil ang pinag-usapan namin ay tungkol sa buhay-buhay, ini-share niya na sa kabila ng maliit nilang kita, ay napapag-aral pa nilang mag-asa ang dalawa nilang anak…isa sa college at isa sa high school, samantalang ang panganay nila ay may sarili nang pamilya. Nakatulong ng malaki ang mura nilang upa sa bahay kasama ang kuryente at tubig, sa halagang Php2,500, dahil mabait daw ang may-ari. Sa San Andres Bukid sila nakatira na mararating sa loob ng ilang oras na lakaran mula sa Roxas Boulevard. Hindi din daw maiiwasang magalaw niya ang bahagi ng puhunan niya upang magamit kung may emergency, subalit kahit kaunti lang ang paninda ay pinipilit niyang pumunta sa Roxas Boulevard upang magtinda tulad nang Linggong yon nang mag-usap kami.


Sa mga Muslim Filipino, ang mga Tausug, tulad ng mga Maranao ay kilala bilang mangangalakal. Sila yong mga dumadayo sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng Pilipinas na karamihan ay nagtitinda sa palengke at bangketa kahit kakaunti ang kalakal. Mapapansin din na kahit sa iisang bilao lang nakalatag ang mga paninda, ang nagtitinda ay maayos ang bihis. Sa murang edad sila ay sinasanay na sa ganitong uri ng pagkikitaan kaya may mapapansing mga tin-edyer pa lang ay may mga sarili nang puwesto. Matiyaga sila kahit ang kinikita sa maghapon ay barya-barya. Ayon na rin kay Anna, ang gusto nila ay kumita ng maayos upang magkaroon ng tahimik na pamumuhay, dahil ayaw nila ng gulo kaya sila pumunta sa Maynila.