18 March 2010

We spent a whirlwind day traveling Mindoro on rocky roads from Concepcion to Mamburao to Sablayan back to Concepcion. It was from an early tuna festival activity at 7 in the morning to visiting Sablayan villages affected by climate change. Mindoro is the seventh-largest island in the Philippines. It is located southwest of Luzon, and northeast of Palawan. It is one of the biggest rice granaries in the Philippines and we were there to see how dry it was this summer.

Not having rain since December, these rice seedlings will die if not irrigated soon

Not having rain since December, these rice seedlings will die if not irrigated soon

Deep cracks in the rice fields not far from the San Jose airport

Deep cracks in the rice fields not far from the San Jose airport

We were brought to Sablayan by Lito Tiongson of WWF Philippines. He brought us to Barangay Lagnas where the roads were getting massively eroded during heavy monsoon rains in the past years. The irrigation system re-allocated the water flow from the main river system to some rice fields and habited lands now useless to anyone but quarry operators.  Many river beds these summer months look like this:

Dry irrigation system. But come the monsoon rains, the flood waters go haywire

Dry irrigation system. But come the monsoon rains, the flood waters go haywire

Main roads have not chance against the strength of water. Some Sablayan roads feel like the hot and dry Australian outback

Main roads have no chance against the strength of the monsoon rains. Some Sablayan roads have eroded and are destroyed like this.  It felt like the hot and dry Australian outback

Viewed from the highway bridge, river banks have eroded drastically. But notice the dikes beside the rice paddies?

Viewed from the highway bridge, river banks have eroded drastically. But notice the dikes beside the rice paddies? Flood waters need to be out of the roads and led into the fields

An aerial view of how much the river has taken up the land from the fields

An aerial view of how much the river has taken up the land from the fields

The waters used to be 700 meters away from this woman to the left. Now the land where her house sits is in danger of being eroding from two sides. From the rice fields and from this road

The river bank used to be 700 meters away from this woman to the left. Now the land where her house sits is in danger of being eroded from two sides – from the rice fields 100 meters from her right and from this road. Come every rainy season, this dry field becomes a raging flood plain

This is how her environment looks

This is a 180° panorama of how close her house is now to the eroding road and river bank

Then we visited a really sad village where the flood waters brought in a huge amount of mud into peoples houses, the local church and the local high school.

We have heard so much about rising water levels. Have we heard about rising earth levels? In Barangay Victoria, we have. The earth has risen from mud flow that came from soil from the barren mountains mixed with eroded fields

We have heard so much about rising water levels. But have we heard about rising earth levels? In Barangay Victoria, it happened. The earth has risen from mud flow that came with the monsoon rains with soil coming from the barren mountains mixed with soil from the eroding fields

Barangay Victoria has an abandoned church which still has pictures on the wall of the stations of the cross. The Psalm still written in Tagalog on the blackboard in front near the altar “Dyos ko, ako’y ipagtanggol at iligtas, Panginoon.” Lord, protect and save me, oh Lord. This was a heartbreaking sight.

Now abandoned, one meter of mud has washed into this local church in Barangay Victoria

Now abandoned, one meter of mud has washed into this local church in Barangay Victoria. Now cracked in the dry summer heat, the mud has turned to fine dust that permeated everything, everywhere.

An even sadder prospect is this high school which also has a meter deep mud encased inside the classrooms

An even sadder prospect is this high school which also has a meter deep mud encased inside the classrooms

This woman apologized to us that her kids were dirty. Her family squats in this abandoned school room where they moved to because her husband found work here tilling the rice fields

This woman apologized to us that her kids were dirty. Her family squats in this abandoned school room where they moved to a few years back because her husband found work here tilling the rice fields

But there is ground water to irrigate the rice fields. The mountains are too acidic and reforestation is a challenge as seedlings now refuse to grow

Notice the bare mountains? The soil is too acidic and reforestation is an ongoing challenge as seedlings refuse to grow here

There is ground water to irrigate the rice fields. But how long will the aquifers hold water to irrigate the fields?

There is ground water to irrigate the rice fields. But how long will the aquifers hold water to irrigate the fields?

This massive old acacia tree will one day fall into this creek. Erosion has exposed the roots so much that its a matter of a few years till this beautiful tree is a goner . . .

Going towards the mountains in the municipality of Calintaan was this massive old acacia tree which we reckon will one day fall into the creek. Erosion has exposed the roots so much that its a matter of a few years till this beautiful tree is a goner . . .

WWF Philippines works in Sablayan to explain the difficult concept of climate change – what it means to have rising sea water levels; stronger and extreme weathers in the rainy season and drought in the summer season. The term now in use for conservation here is ADAPTATION – what to anticipate and how to proactively react in these trying times.

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