Water from the Pantabangan reservoir irrigates more than 80,000 hectares of farmland in Nueva Ecija and other Central Luzon provinces, with a peak capacity of 2.3 trillion liters of water. —REM ZAMORA

Water from the Pantabangan reservoir irrigates greater than 80,000 hectares of farmland in Nueva Ecija and different Central Luzon provinces, with a peak capability of two.Three trillion liters of water. —REM ZAMORA

One Friday morning in October 1973, Josefina Villaflor-Circa took a pained take a look at her home and environment for the final time earlier than boarding a truck that will ferry her household and belongings to a different village in Pantabangan city in Nueva Ecija province.

They have been headed to a brand new home on barren terrain overlooking what would be sure tragedy—the drowning of Pantabangan.

The Circas have been amongst Three,000 households that have been ordered evacuated to make means for the development of what’s now Pantabangan Dam, the third greatest in Southeast Asia after Bakun Dam in Sarawak, Malaysia, and Magat Dam in Ramon city, Isabela province.

The megaproject took off a 12 months after former President Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial legislation on the Philippines to crush political dissent and quell opposition to insurance policies he pursued within the title of growth.

The new Pantabangan town hall (above) replaced the old one (left), which was submerged. —WILLIE LOMIBAO

The new Pantabangan city corridor (above) changed the outdated one, which was submerged. —WILLIE LOMIBAO

“To be uprooted from a place you had known since birth was heartrending,” stated Circa, now 85.

Most of the Pantabangan residents have been resettled in a spot known as Tanawaan and in two different websites.

The state of affairs then was dizzying, Circa stated. So many issues needed to be executed by the doomed neighborhood: holding the final procession of the picture of their patron saint, tearing down many homes and buildings, exhuming bones from graves within the cemetery for reburial elsewhere, bundling up belongings, and bidding neighbors farewell.

Everyone knew that about three-fourths of the city, or eight,100 hectares of land, could be submerged by the dam’s reservoir.

The identical nervousness grips communities once more as the current authorities embarks on multibillion-peso growth plans, together with the Jalaur River multipurpose mission in Iloilo province.

Centuries in the past, the Buquid (dwellers of the mountain forest), amongst them the Id-dul (Aeta) and the Egongot (Ilongot), settled in Pantabangan, which was a part of Pampanga Alta or Upper Pampanga.

Spanish colonizers found the city in 1572. A chieftain, after his conversion to Christianity, named it Pantabangan, an Ilongot phrase for “sabang” or “sabangan” (junctions of water streams),” as a result of the place on the foot of Mt. Mabilog, under Mt. Dalimanok between the Sierra Madre and Caraballo mountain ranges, had streams emptying into the higher Pampanga River.

The new St. Andrew Parish Church

The new St. Andrew Parish Church

The settlements subsequently fashioned into one neighborhood. A 1749 Philippine map reveals it as a part of a “corregimiento” (administrative political-military unit), which included the close by pueblos (or communities) of Santor, Bongabon, Puncan and Baler.

(In later years, Santor and Puncan villages turned elements of Bongabon and Carrangalan cities, respectively, whereas Baler city turned a part of Aurora province. On April 25, 1801, the corregimiento was elevated to a province, Nueva Ecija.)

In 1969, Congress handed Republic Act No. 5499, which approved the development of Pantabangan Dam.

Completed in 1974, the dam is 107 meters excessive, 1,615 m lengthy, 535 m extensive on the base and 12 m on its crest. Its reservoir is eight,100 ha with a peak capability of two.Three trillion liters of water.

It is the one dam within the Philippines with three hydroelectric energy vegetation, which generate 320 megawatts of electrical energy.

Bells salvaged from the old church are now on display at St. Andrew’s Church. —WILLIE LOMIBAO

Bells salvaged from the outdated church at the moment are on show at St. Andrew’s Church. —WILLIE LOMIBAO

Trying occasions
The dam offers irrigation for a mean of 87,300 ha of farmland throughout the moist season and 82,500 ha throughout the dry season, in line with Florentino David, supervisor of Upper Pampanga River Integrated Irrigation Systems (UPRIIS), which oversees it.

It additionally serves sure elements of Bulacan (6,600 ha), Pampanga (four,750 ha) and Tarlac (1,819 ha).

“Life in the new town site of Pantabangan was really difficult,” recalled retired Army Col. Bienvenido Reyes, now one of many municipality’s councilors.

Reyes, who was 17 on the time of the mass evacuation, stated the folks discovered the place “oven-hot during summer and muddy during rainy days.” They had no source of livelihood, he stated.

“In our old place, residents derived income from logging, fishing and farming. Fishes, edible ferns, crabs, shrimps, vegetables and other food were abundant,” he stated.

Decades after residents gave up their homes for the dam construction, Pantabangan becomes a major tourist attraction. —REM ZAMORA

Decades after residents gave up their houses for the dam building, Pantabangan turns into a serious vacationer attraction. —REM ZAMORA

After they got compensation for his or her properties, they have been supplied with quite a bit, a core home and a Three-ha farmland every, he stated.

“We were given rice rations, flour, sorghum, powdered milk, canned goods and other supplies,” Reyes stated.

The provisions got here from the National Grains Authority (now National Food Authority), World Food Organization and World Vision, a Christian reduction and growth group.

But the help stopped, Reyes stated, noting that the land given them was “mostly rolling terrain.”

“Most families had to fend for themselves,” he stated. Many left to seek out greener pastures.

If it have been any comfort, many despatched their youngsters to colleges within the cities, stated Jocelyn Barcelo, head of the municipal planning and growth workplace. “Many of them went abroad and started sending money back home,” she stated.

First-class municipality

Soon, the brand new Pantabangan city rose to turn into a first-class municipality, with a mean revenue of P83.7 million from 2004 to 2007.

The old town site was seen again in 1983, when the El Niño phenomenon brought the water level down.

The outdated city website was seen once more in 1983, when the El Niño phenomenon introduced the water degree down.

In 2008, it ranked No. eight in tax income with P182 million generated, in line with the Philippine Statistics Authority.

The income was principally from the actual property tax paid by CalEnergy, the proprietor of the build-operate-transfer Casecnan mission constructed to reinforce water within the reservoir by a 27-kilometer tunnel from two rivers in neighboring Nueva Vizcaya province.

Infrastructure growth surged and the financial system vastly improved. There was even a transfer to develop the city right into a “Little Baguio” due to its booming financial system and funky climate.

Multiple advantages

The dam has evidently offered a number of advantages, not just for its residents of Pantabangan but in addition for the remainder of Nueva Ecija and different provinces, and, in a reasonably large measure, for the nation’s staple meals provide. It has additionally tamed a river that causes huge flooding, and has been producing electrical energy.

At least 250,000 folks in Nueva Ecija thrive on agriculture.

More than 101,000 rice farmers and about 1,000 seed growers profit from the dam’s water.

As rice yields in Pantabangan elevated, Nueva Ecija turned the highest rice producer within the Philippines, with a mean manufacturing of 1.13 million metric tons from 2002 to 2006.

The determine is now nearing 2 million MT as areas used to provide hybrid rice seeds have elevated, in line with the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice).

The rice financial system is estimated to be price a minimum of P65 billion.

Failing provide

In 1983, El Niño, the erratic climate phenomenon characterised by extreme drought, struck. The water degree within the dam dropped to 174 meters above sea degree, from a peak of 221 masl.

The farmers have been agitated, however the phenomenon additionally provided residents an opportunity to revisit the outdated city website, which turned seen when the water receded.

Episodes of low water degree within the reservoir performed out repeatedly, so the federal government developed the Casecnan Multi-purpose Irrigation and Power Project. It was designed to seize water from the Casecnan and Taan rivers in Alfonso Castañeda city in Nueva Vizcaya and convey by a 27-km tunnel to the reservoir of Pantabangan Dam.

Built by CalEnergy Water and Energy Corp. at a price of $676 million, the mission was accomplished in 2004. Its irrigation element, undertaken by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) in two phases, began in 2008.

The increase in water quantity within the reservoir equipped irrigation to an extra 37,200 ha of farms within the northwestern a part of the province in addition to some areas of Anao, Victoria and Ramos cities in neighboring Tarlac province.

Pantabangan Dam today. WILLIE LUMIBAO

Pantabangan Dam at the moment. WILLIE LUMIBAO

Philippine National Oil Company Renewables Corp. put  up a 1-megawatt hydroelectric plant in Pantabangan’s major irrigation canal at Barangay Poblacion West in Rizal city, Nueva Ecija and operated it in collaboration with the NIA and the National Development Co., an company underneath the Department of Trade and Industry.

Plans are afoot to construct comparable vegetation in different irrigation canals within the province, so water can generate electrical energy earlier than it’s launched for irrigation.


Years later, nevertheless, Pantabangan suffered from “fiscal mismanagement,” leading to months of energy interruptions and municipal staff not being paid their salaries and different obligations, Reyes stated.

Political and authorized imbroglios additionally led to the city having two mayors.

The greatest disaster was brought on by an government order issued by former President Benigno Aquino III that decreased the actual property taxes of impartial energy producers, together with the dam operators.

These difficulties have since handed, Mayor Roberto Agdipa stated. “We have paid the back salaries of our employees and our debt for the power bill is also being paid,” he stated.


New growth plans have been set, amongst them a P600-million pump storage hydropower mission, which might generate 600 megawatts and retailer potable water.

Cristino Castillo, supervisor of the dam and reservoir division of NIA-UPRIIS, stated two extra main advantages had but to be tapped from the dam—the usage of its impounded water for home and industrial functions and its undeveloped points of interest for ecotourism.

The set up of services, very similar to these in La Mesa Dam that provides filtered water to Metro Manila, might be executed, Castillo stated. “It can serve the needs of areas downstream of the dam site. It can even supply water to La Mesa Dam through our irrigation facilities in Bulacan.”

For ecotourism, he stated a growth plan was being drawn up for a pilgrimage website on a hill on one aspect of the reservoir’s embankment, a tenting space close to the center of the dam, a winding path for climbing and services for water sports activities.

“For lodging places, we are now completing the renovation of our guest house, which overlooks the dam’s complex, and the cottages used by the dam’s builders,” he stated.

Castillo, an engineer, stated he anticipated the world to turn into one of many high vacationer spots within the Philippines.

Century-old Catholic Church in Old Pantabangan town before the dam was built

Century-old Catholic Church in Old Pantabangan city earlier than the dam was constructed

Source: inquirer