The San Pedro Calungsod Parish Church of Tacurong City
By Apolinario Villalobos
My curiosity about the new San Pedro Calungsod parish was triggered by the information about it from Bogz Jamorabon last year. Then I came across the photo-posts of Ruoma “Amor” Maluyo Taganas in his facebook. The photos from exactly a year ago, as it was taken during December, too, showed kids waking up and preparing for the Misa de Gallo and their unguarded moments while resting and taking catnaps. For me, their recorded unguarded moments were manifestations of heartfelt sacrifice. They are the members of the Knights of the Altar of San Pedro Calungsod Parish.
To date, the San Pedro Calungsod parish church is yet, a structure of massive and imposing concrete circular wall within which is the worship area with an altar, several chairs and benches, and covered with rubberized tarpaulin. Though frugally initiated, the effort to put up the foundation can be considered monumental, as the parish has just been established only in October 23, 2014 to serve the faithful who live far from the city, and in barangays such as Montilla, Lachica, the Upper and Lower Katungal, Baras, New Passi, and New Isabela. The parish is politically within the jurisdiction of Barangay New Isabela.
Admirably, the church leader, Amor lives “on the other side” of the city, San Emmanuel which is part of the parish of Our Lady of the Holy Candle, and far from the San Pedro Calungsod. I learned that he patiently motors his way to the parish from his home using a “single” motorcycle. Sometimes, we cannot really tell when the call of devotion would come as it did to Amor and to answer such call, he might be scrimping on some personal needs to save for the fuel of his motorcycle.
The land on which the church stands has been donated by the Notre Dame Educational Association Foundation-Tacurong. The area covered by the parish is partly agricultural, being filled with pockets of African palm, corn, rice, plots of vegetables, as well as, residential, shown by newly-developed subdivisions sliced from lands that saw good old days as rice and corn fields. Not far from it is Tacurong’s famous wildlife sanctuary for migratory birds, the Baras Bird Sanctuary operated by Rey Malana with the financial assistance of the city government. A little farther still, is another tourist landmark of the city, the Vicenteaux International Resort in New Passi, operated by Roger Bernardo, a self-made barrio guy who, through dint of hard work and frugality was able to etch his name in the city’s political landmark and contributed a lot to its economic development.
The parish provides a “short cut” passage to Banga and Surallah, towns of South Cotabato. Surallah is the gateway to T’boli, a tribal community which is among the country’s touristic come-ons for culture enthusiasts. Providing the natural western boundary with Isulan, site of the Sultan Kudarat Provincial Capitol, is the Kapingkong River which many locals prefer to call Katungal River. It connects with the Rio Grande de Cotabato and used to teem with crocodiles, but today, only their cousins, the “bayawak” can be found along the banks dense with tall tropical grass and occasional trees. But they may not last for long because they are being hunted for food.
When I visited the parish church with only Amor aware of my arrival, I found volunteers decorating the Mass area for the Misa de Gallo with the bemoustached Fr. Diosdado A. Esguerra, DCC, himself, who was simply clad in t-shirt, denims and slippers. He was a picture of humility and whose fatherly affection to his volunteers was obvious. He melded with them well, as I even thought that he was not the parish priest, had not Amor told me. On the other hand, Amor exudes similar humility duplicated by his prudence, as he does not talk if not spoken to.
The parish is aptly named after the young Filipino saint, San Pedro Calungsod who only had a palm leaf with him to symbolize the coming of the Christian Faith to a Pacific island that he and other Catholic missionaries visited. The faithful of the new parish on the other hand, are one in singing the “Hallelujah” for the realization of their dream…to have a church not far from their home.
I am calling on balikbayan Tacurongnongs to include in their itinerary a visit to the San Pedro Calungsod Church, if they plan to visit T’boli, birdwatch at the Baras Bird Sanctuary and later proceed to the Vicenteaux International Resort in New Passi for a refreshing dip in the pools of spring water. A visit would give them an idea on what to sincerely offer to San Pedro Calungsod. The church is on the left side, after the traditionally called “Crossing Rajah Muda”, if one takes the “short cut” to Banga and Surallah.