Flood-hit Gainza Strives to Keep Afloat


GAINZA, Camarines Sur-There are two things in Gainza that even perennial flooding cannot wash away-the aspiration of the town and the resiliency of its people.

Beset by flooding, poverty, and out-migration of residents, the small and fifth class municipality (annual income: P15 million to P24 million) has struggled to keep its identity amid the urban sprawl of metropolitan Naga City.

With 9, 404 residents (2007 est.), the town is the least populous in Camarines Sur. It is also one of the poorest.

And although the town proper is only five kilometers from Naga City, the heavily-agricultural municipality retains a rustic ambience. Most of the eight villages comprising it have rice fields.

"Rice fields make up eighty-five percent of Gainza. This makes the town very dependent on agriculture especially rice production," said Domingo M. Barbonio, municipal agriculturist.


Because of expansive rice fields in the town, it earned the moniker "town rising from the rice fields" to some. Other figuratively would say there were only two roads in it-the road that leads in and the other that leads out, referring to the fact that it is also the second smallest town in the province in terms of land area.

But Gainza councilor Reynelson Tranquilino said he had never felt uncomfortable with being a resident much more an official of the town, despite negative impressions attached to it.

"Our town, despite shortcomings, has been making names in fields of provincial politics, education, and peace and order. It is not true that ours is a backward town," said Tranquilino.

He said one of Camarines Sur provincial board members came from their town.

Low crime rate

"Public schools in our town have been frequently recognized for exceptional performance and for "producing graduates who in turn shows good academic performance in colleges and universities in Naga City."

He added there was very law crime rate in their town. "Due to its small population, almost all the residents of our town are familiar with each other. Most are either friends or relatives. It is least likely that someone would do badly against someone here. Our town is peaceful."

High unemployment

But he admitted that there was high rate of unemployment in their town.

"There are no establishments here to provide jobs to the locals. Worse, investors are discouraged from putting up businesses because we are known as a flood-prone town although floods here are not as worse as before because there are new waterways."


Barbonio said the water level in Gainza whenever there was flooding would be the same as those in neighboring Milaor town. "Flooding is worse especially during the rainy season. Floodwaters would even reach the first few steps of the stairs of the municipal government building."

He said floodwaters would submerge 80 percent to 90 percent of the rice fields in all villages of the town.

"The flooding is a big blow to farmers because floodwaters weaken the stalks of rice plants and rob the grains of their pulps. As a result, farmers have very little or no harvest at all."

Effects of "Dante"

When Tropical Storm "Dante" hit Bicol Region in May, most of the rice fields in the town were submerged in floodwaters.

"So the municipal government had to provide assistance to affected farmers. The Department of Agriculture (DA) on the other hand had given rice seedlings although farmers had to pay half the price," Barbonio said.

Crop insurance coverage

The municipal government also had provided crop insurance coverage to farmers most affected by the flooding.

"But due to financial limitation not all affected farmers were given insurance coverage."

Also, farmers in the town have been encouraged to plant their crops while making sure that the harvest time would not coincide with the typhoon season in the region, which is from September to December.

Sources of livelihood

Tranquilino said that farmers also were encouraged to engage in other productive activities and find other sources of livelihood so they would not be too dependent on planting crops, which is at the mercy of floods and typhoons.

"We have to refer other sources of livelihood to the residents or else they would be too dependent on the municipal government," he said, adding that there are still people who ask financial assistance from municipal officials to shoulder even everyday expenses.

One town, one product

He said under the one town one product program of the Department of Trade and Industry; the municipal government had encouraged residents to produce crab paste and handicrafts.

Crab paste is a food product made from processed meat of freshwater crab, which is abundant in the town.

Handicrafts, mostly baskets and bags, are produced mainly from a variety of grass locally known as dagiwdiw, which grows plentifully along Bicol River and its tributaries.

Farm inputs

He said the municipal government also had seen the need to provide capital to the farmers. "But that's one thing which requires the help of the national government."

Farmer Nestor Alcantara, 54, of Barangay (village) Loob said they really had needed financial assistance in buying farm inputs.

"Every planting season, we always need to buy insecticides and most importantly, fertilizers. But their (farm inputs) cost have risen. As much as I would like to save money for insecticides and fertilizers after every harvest time, I could not. The amount I get from selling palay is just enough for everyday meals and for the school allowances of my children."

He said most of the farmers in their village were experiencing the same. "So after planting time, most of them would seek for other jobs, mostly in construction companies. They just go back in time for harvest."

He said insecticides were very important since floodwaters would bring almost all kinds of diseases and pests to the rice plants.

"Whenever there is flooding, it would be almost sure that there would be nothing or little to harvest. Prolonged flooding kills rice plants. Floodwaters also bring in kuhol (snail) and other pests."

Unfortunately, what Alcantara said was what exactly happened in May.

Floodwaters brought by "Dante" submerged rice fields in the villages of Cagbunga, Dahilig, and Sampaloc. As a result farmers had little harvest while some had to replant although replanting meant they had to buy costly farm inputs again.

Faltering economy

Barbonio said recurrent flooding undermine the efforts of the municipal government to boost rice production. This in turn contributes to the faltering economy of the town, which results to high rate of unemployment.

Tranquilino said another setback to the slow march to progress of their town was the lack of facilities that include a public market where people could sell their products. "Although it must also be considered that because our town is very near Naga City, most of our farmers would rather sell their produce in the city than in our town," he added.

He said it would also help if their town would have an access road to neighboring Pamplona town, so they would be connected to municipalities in the first district of the province, especially to the more affluent town of Libmanan, which is a sizeable market for farm products.

Historic town

Gainza was named after Bishop Francisco Caracciolo Urreta Visayas de Gainza, the twenty-fifth Bishop of then Diocese of Nueva Caceres (now Naga City), and a luminary in local Church history.

It is one of the original settlements established by the Spaniards in Bikol.

In 2008, Naga City Councilor Jose Tuason proposed that the adjoining towns of Gainza and Camaligan be annexed by Naga City.

Tranqulino dismissed the idea. "Despite the troubles we are experiencing, we are resolved to keep our town in existence," he said.


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