The 100 Years of Lola Toning

By Dr Ellen Alegrado-Chavez

Then I heard the voice of the Lord, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for me?’ I answered, ‘Here I am. Send me!’ (Isaiah 6:8)

My grandparents, Domingo Acapulco Barloa and Antonina Campugan, were public school teachers in the town of Misamis, Misamis Occidental, Mindanao. (It became Ozamiz City in 1948 – Antonina was an orphan, born in Carcar, Cebu. Raised by relatives, she moved from one to another according to their resources and spent her adolescent years in nearby San Fernando. She entered the Daughters of Charity in Manila with her cousin who became Sister Felicidad Camomot DC. However, before long, she came home to take care of an ailing uncle. She also finished her schooling and went to Misamis to teach. That’s how she and Domingo met. They fell in love, got married and made a major decision when they opted to quit their jobs and relocate to Barrio Molicay, away from the poblacion, where they went into farming. They spent the rest of their lives there. Antonina, known to all as ‘Inang’ or ‘Lola Toning,’ celebrated her hundredth birthday on 10 May last year.

Good shepherds

Inang Toning started catechism and adult kindergarten classes in Molicay in 1930 while her husband, ‘Tatang Inggoy’ or ‘Lolo Inggoy’ when he got older, built a chapel on a piece of their land. It was here that they held the classes. As well as teaching, they prepared couples who were having their children baptized and instructed children who were making their First Holy Communion. In addition, they enabled couples who were living together to celebrate the Sacrament of Matrimony.

In those early years the priests in Misamis were Jesuit missionaries, among them Father Thomas Gallagher and Father Gabriel Font. In 1939 the Columbans took over, Father Peter Fallon becoming parish priest. He was one of four Columbans killed by the Japanese in Malate in February 1945 during the Battle of Manila. Among the Columbans who worked in the parish over the years were Fr Francis McCullagh and his classmates Fr Francis Chapman who died in March this year aged 90 and Fr Patrick Cronin who became first Bishop of Ozamiz in 1951. Others with whom Inang Toning worked were Fr William Hennessey, Fr James Lillis, Fr Michael Breen and Fr Seán Lavery, all gone to their reward. Still happily working in different places are Fr Con Campion, Fr Seán McGrath, Fr Aodh O’Halpin and Fr Kevin McHugh, to mention but a few.

Catechist by blood

But Inang Toning wasn’t a ‘one-person show.’ From the beginning she trained young women in whom she saw the potential to be catechists. They worked voluntarily not only in Molicay but in the neighboring barrios of Capucao, Gutocan Daku, Gutocan Diyot, Viray, Labo, Embargo, Calabayan, Liposong and Panta-on, to name only some.

In 1973 diocesan priests took over from the Columbans in the Cathedral parish. (Now they are in charge of all but one parish in the Archdiocese of Ozamiz.) Around this time my grandparents donated another piece of their land for a school. It is still thriving and is named Domingo A. Barloa Elementary School after Lolo Inggoy who passed away in 1975. Lola Toning continued to teach catechism in the school up to 2000.

Her hundred years

On 10 May 2003 Lola Toning turned 100. Relatives and friends hosted a grand celebration for the occasion. Columban District Superior Father Neil Collins celebrated the Holy Mass. Among those present was Columban Sister Regina Bernad, known to all as ‘Sister Inday,’ who was once Lola Toning’s student. The Bernads are one of the oldest families in the cathedral parish. The numerous families comprising the Barloa clan sang some choral numbers as did groups such as the Sacred Heart of Jesus Apostolate and the Cofradia del Sto Niño.

God blessed Tatang Inggoy and Inang Toning with two children. One is my mother, Mrs Dulce B. Alegrado, a retired public school teacher who has spent most of her time helping Ozamiz City Cathedral Parish under Archbishop Jesus A. Dosado CM. She’s still active in the Catholic Women’s League, the Sagrado Corazon de Jesus and the Cofradia del Santo Niño, in which she has served as president for several years now.

‘Spiritual’ descendants

Their only son is Architect Henry C. Barloa, based in Manila, active in the first 400 core devotees of San Lorenzo Ruiz. He has served the Church for free in the designing and restoring of many churches including those in Clarin, Archdiocese of Ozamiz, Kolambugan, Diocese of Iligan, Pagadian Cathedral and the Shrine of La Virgen del Triumfo de la Santa Cruz in Cotta, Ozamiz City.

I am the eldest of Lola Toning’s grandchildren but she, an orphan, has countless ‘spiritual’ descendants in those whom she taught as a catechist and in those taught by the many catechists she trained.

Worker of God

On 14 October 2003 at 10:15 in the evening Lola Toning answered the call of our heavenly Creator after receiving the Last Sacraments. She left behind a legacy of service to the Lord through her descendants. In God’s glory are hopes that just as ‘a sturdy oak eventually falls to give way for young trees to take root, such is a person of great character who succumbs to death to be resurrected in the youth and vigor of the descendants.’

Mr & Mrs Domingo and Antonina Barloa, Tatang Inggoy and Inang Toning, Lolo Inggoy and Lola Toning, responded to the mission. We pray that there will be more like them, ready to make themselves available to spread the Good News, the Word of God. God never asks about our ability or inability, just our availability.