MARCH 18 Bid Results: HPCo molasses=P8,480; Sagay B=P1,640; Ursumco A=P1,100 & B=P1,407; First Farmers A=P1,000 (partial) & B=P1,200; BISCOM A=P1,149, B=P1,661.05 & molasses=P8,519 (last bidding for CY ’09-’10 on March 16)

March 11 & 12 Bid Results: Vicmico – failed bidding; Hawaiian B=P1,785 & molasses=P8,480; Passi A=P1,185.10 & B=P1,900; Sonedco B=P1,658 & molasses=P8,482; First Farmers B=P1,825 & molasses=P8,500CAB A=P1,180 & B=P1,752.81; Ursumco A=P1,180 & B=P1,645.41; La Carlota A=P1,185, B=P1,775 & molasses=P8,500.

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Victorias City celebrated the highlight of its Kadalag-an Festival yesterday to commemorate its conversion into a component city. Though I now reside in Bacolod, I still have a special place in my heart for Victorias because I spent majority of my life there.

Victorias is where I grew up. It is where I learned how to read and write. It was in the Our Lady of Victory parish school that I underwent my pre-school education under the tutelage of Mrs. Mangco, a retired teacher who never got tired of teaching.

My elementary years were spent in St. Mary Mazzarelo School and Don Bosco. At that time, both boys and girls mingled at St. Mary from Kinder up to Grade 2. From Grade 3 up to Grade 6, St. Mary was exclusively for girls. The boys moved to Don Bosco from Grade 3 onwards.

We graduated from Don Bosco in 1985. World sugar prices crashed and Negros, being a monocrop economy, bore the brunt of the crisis. Many families in the rural areas were displaced. Negros became known as a land where malnourished children roam the streets. Many families suffered hunger but it was not as severe as media portrayed it.

Many mills had to close. Vicmico survived because its prawn and bangus diversification projects buoyed its finances. Some Vicmico employees lost their jobs. Several of my classmates were unable to proceed to college. I had to work in the machine shop of Tito Roming Sanchez during the day so that I could help pay for my tuition at La Salle College – Vicmico Extension where I studied in the evening.

It was in Victorias where I eventually found the love of my life and where we raised our four children. Circumstances compelled us to relocate in 2003 but fond memories from thirty years of living in Victorias will always remain with me.

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It was at the turn of the new millennium that Victorias became a component city by virtue of the approval of the bill authored by Kako Lacson. Mayor Severo Palanca was at the helm of Victorias then.

The presence of Vicmico, reputedly the largest refinery in Asia in those years, helped qualify Victorias for cityhood. Shortly after Victorias became a city, Vicmico suffered a huge financial crisis until it was eventually taken over by its creditors. The economy of Victorias was also adversely affected.

Victorias, like Vicmico, is now back on its feet. Under the leadership of Mayor Vero and, from 2001 to 2004, her elder sister Tia Ediong Bantug, the city made leaps and bounds. Tio Vero is still the mayor and will likely remain mayor after this election which will already be his last term.

I recall that, under the previous administrations, the public plaza was neglected. It was bare of grass, the fountain was dirty and filled with frogs, and it was littered with wrappers, cigarette butts and batad shells.

Go to Victorias now and you will see an artfully landscaped plaza with skating rink, miniature waterfalls and ponds with gold fish. The old gym gave way to a more spacious structure which was a pet project of Tia Ediong. The old public market was transformed into the modern Victorias Commercial Center.

The cane fields beside the highway near Crossing Vicmico gave rise to the massive sports and recreational center complete with swimming pool. The coliseum has already hosted several PBA games, a testament to the technical capacity of its equipment.

Victorias Commercial Center, City Cemetery, Gawahon Resort, new slaughterhouse, numerous housing projects – you name it. The projects and programs of Mayor Vero and Tia Ediong can be found everywhere in Victorias. No wonder Victoriahanons love the Palancas and Bantugs very much.

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Victorias got its name from Our Lady of Victory, the city’s patroness. When the town was still at the mouth of Malihao River in what is now Daan Banwa, Moro pirates in their vintas attacked the settlement. The people were horrified and fled.

All of the sudden, the Blessed Mother appeared with San Isidro Casimiro at her side to block the way of the attacking Moros. This repelled the Moro attack and saved the town. In thanksgiving, the settlement was named after the Blessed Mother as The Lady of Victory who triumphed over the Moros.

To Mayor Vero and the other city officials, may you have many more victories for our kasimanwas. To Pare Vincent “Itek” Roa, may you have a victorious return to your former place at the city council. To all Victoriahanons, Gob bless and more power to you all!

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Congratulations to my son Raphael, for winning the gold medal in 100m Breaststroke at the recently concluded regional palaro games in Kalibo, Aklan. Thank you very much to Coach Deo Lanza and Coach Ricky Tordillas of Panaad for training my son. May your unselfish efforts in continuously training Rap bear fruit in the coming Palarong Pambansa in Tarlac next month. Salamat gid sa inyo nga duha.

(For reactions and suggestions, email bbacaoco@yahoo.com.)