Bansalan is indeed memorable to me. Although I am now residing in Quezon City, my heart is still in Bansalan which I consider my second home next to Tudela, Cebu where I was born.
I love Bansalan because my parents were one of the first settlers who contributed to the development of the town until their parting moments. Formerly called Miral, my parents Andres Metilla and Modesta Suralta settled in this community through the Sacada, a government program offering lands to the landless people of the Visayas and Luzon. Together with my mother's brother Aquilino Suralta and cousin Pelagio Estrada, they were given 12 hectares each of virgin forests just about two kilometers away towards the upper side from the present center of the town along the national highway.
As far as I can recall, the other first settlers were the Batals, Donesas, Viacrusis and Nebradas among others. This was sometime in 1938. This writer arrived Miral in 1949 together with my elder brother Juanito from Quezon City where I studied high school. My first glimpse and impression of Miral was a backward community–the main highway going to Cotabato was rough and dusty, the houses were improvised without water system much less electricity.
The bus we rode on was rickety and from the place where we disembarked, we have to walk to the interior through trails, passing corn fields and mini forests climbing up and down lying whole logs obviously remnants of the newly opened kaingin. However, being a nature lover it did not take me a long time to adjust and love the ambience of its mild temperate climate atmosphere - lush, fresh, exotic and bountiful.
When we arrived in my father's house, I was reminded of Tarzan's adventures I saw only in films– the floor was made out of cut logs, the walls and roofs were barks of trees and the surroundings were assorted wild trees teemed with monkeys, kalaw birds, wild cats (melo), tarsiers, monitor lizards (halo), parrots, monkey eating eagles, kagwangs (flying lemurs), wild pigs, and many others. On evenings, we could hear the hooting of the owls, the barking of the wild deer, the lovely sing-songs of the cicadas and crickets. I loved also the cool evenings, moonless and or in full moon contemplating on the silhouette of the towering trees as the fruit bats passed by. To recall, the trees around were fully laden with fireflies in their flickering tiny lights, reminiscent of Christmas trees and the birth of Jesus Christ.
Coming from the city where fruits and vegetables were expensive, I yelled with joy upon seeing the abundance of fresh and large bananas, tiesa, mabolo, caimitos, pomelos, avocados, jackfruits, mangoes, papayas, lanzones and pineapples among many others. It was my first time to taste the exotic durians and marangs, known for having the “smell like hell but tastes like heaven”. I enjoyed picking the berries of coffee and when I went around the farm with the corn almost seven feet high with its large ears, eager, I immediately picked some young ones, grilled them and ate with young coconuts with gusto.
Our worst problem however, was the source of water. We have to hike more than two kilometers to Bugak in Miral River, morning and afternoon daily just to fetch water for drinking and for cooking. Before going back home we have to take a bath and or wash our clothes. The water was indeed so clean you can even drink the running water right from the river. I could still remember Miral River's water gushing so loud it can be heard audibly even a hundred meters or more away. For light, we used gas or oil lamp. Traveling in the night, we used sulo made out of bundled dried coco fronds or bundled fine dried twigs. To produce fire, we used two splits of dried bamboo with fine fully dried coco fiber underneath as a fire starter. The split bamboos were then rubbed briskly until it produced sparks that will make the coco fiber burn. Most houses at that time were built with the posts placed on top of flat stones. Reason, no typhoon and the fast and easy rotting of the wood can be prevented.
Unknown to people of Visayas and Luzon, was the storing of rain water from the roofs of houses on galvanized tanks used for drinking and other purposes. Miral was a sitio under the municipality of Sta. Cruz. Sta. Cruz at that time was considered the largest municipality in the whole country comprising of Cogon, Digos, Mati, Padada, Matanao, Miral, Kialeg, Dolo, Marber and other barrios. My father was appointed the first Barangay captain and he initiated the establishment of the Catholic Church with its Patron Saint patterned after our birthplace, Tudela, Cebu.
As the leader of the barrio, he also helped in the establishment of the elementary school and the former wet market (daang palengke) which was located in the property of our eldest brother, the late Glecerio Metilla in what is now known as Lily Street. When Miral was separated as a municipality, its office was temporarily held in the house of Mr. Parawan who was appointed as an OIC. This was just in front of Bansalan Elementary School. The Municipal government and the market were then transferred to the present site which was donated by Engr. Guillermo Viacrusis.
After the liberation from World War II, new migrants settled in Miral. Some of them were our first town doctor, Dr. Arches, the father of our current Mayor Mayong Arches, the Guinoos who had the first saw mill, electric plant and cinema house, another Guinoo, Ampoloquio ,Esguerra and Arriaga who operated corn and rice mills, and de Castro and a certain Azon who had carenderias. Other physicians who later established their clinics were the Villamins, the Centenos and the Zarsonas. Transportation operators were the Escobars and Barcenas plying Miral, Digos and Davao and sometimes to Kidapawan.
There were also fashion schools operated by the Capacios and the Barredos. The first private high school established by Mr. Nazareno, which is still existing up to now is the Nazareth High School. The first Municipal Mayor was the late Ramon delos Cientos who later became a governor and just before I left for Manila, Dr. Elvira Villamin took over.
We should not leave out Miral's aborigines, the Bagobos. The first Bagobo teacher who already passed away is Mr. Andagos Ayo, who was assigned in Linawan when I was still in Dalawinon. Durcas Loma of Anonang who is the niece of the late Mr. Ayo is now Head Teacher of San Jose High School in Carmona, Cavite. She finished her secondary education in Nazareth High School. I talked to her about ABW and of course she is excited to be a member. I also requested her to write about her ancestors, their habits, customs and rituals. Her daughter Rapunzel is presently head of one of the departments of the main office of the Development Bank of the Philippines in Makati. Any one who knows Durcas? My late elder brother Engr. Juanito Metilla was the one who constructed the first Bansalan Elem. School and the first Boy Scout Headquarters.
I remembered my father was the first to be awarded Coffee Grower of the Year under the auspices of the Municipal Government during the administration of the late Mayor Ramon de los Cientos. However, I am not sure if there is still a record in their books of events. In 1950 to 1951, I was hired as an emergency teacher assigned first in Cayapunga and later transferred to Mabila, Sarangani Island. In 1952, after I finished ETC I was again hired as a temporary until I passed the Civil Service Exam to establish Dalawinon Primary School.
When I was sent to Dalawinon, there was no school but just a list of potential Grade 1 pupils. I held the class temporarily in a small chapel. Challenged, I was able to acquire a two-hectare school site donated by Mr. Canas, Mr. Opimo and Mr. Jose. With the help of the Municipal government, I was able to put up a semi-permanent 2-room building, followed my pupils up to Grade IV. In Grade V, they enrolled in Bansalan Elem. School, took up the entrance exam and fortunately most of them were assigned in Section 1 with a few in Section II. I learned that what I started is now complete Dalawinon Elementary School.
Through the initiative of Mr. Joseph Guinita who was the Municipal Secretary at that time in 1999 during the 47th Araw ng Bansalan, I was one of the awardees as Most Outstanding Bansaleno for achievements in the fields of horticulture and allied plant arts together with Jay Sonza for Radio and Television, Jojo Adlawan for Music as one of the artists in Miss Saigon, Henrylito Tacio for Print Media as international science writer for the Reader's Digest and other publications, Mr. Batal for developing the Bansalan Dam and water supply and Mr. Arches for Business and Industry.
Now, I'm glad that most Bansaleno ex-pats are now professionals and earning in dollars and Euro but most of all their hearts are still in Bansalan. I want to praise these “high tech” young ones who organized the ABW (Association of Bansalenos Worldwide) through the internet. I understand, Edwin Bibera with some of his friends and associates started the idea with a purpose of developing Bansalan as a high tech town in general. Kudos also to Leila Noel-Rispens who is very much involved upgrading the lifestyle and literacy of people not only in Bansalan but even in developing countries. My question now is: Where are the tarsiers, the kalaws and most especially the kagwangs? Can we still revive them? Where is now the exotic land of promise that was once Miral? The answer is in our hands, heart and soul.