Monday, September 16, 2013


THE RAIN STAYS MAINLY IN THE CENTRAL PLAINS. The Philippines is a flood-prone country and not even its central plains are spared from inundation, Pampanga included. In 2013, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) identified yesterday 223 barangays in 14 towns and one city of Pampanga as high-risk areas for floods.

Pampanga has a long history of flooding owing to its proximity to great rivers and waterways. Which means that every wet season, low-lying towns get submerged, precipitating calamities of unimaginable proportions. Indeed, Pampanga’s townscapes have been permanently altered through the years because of great floods. Magalang, for example was founded by Augustinians in 1605 at Macapsa. Because of the Malong uprising, it was moved to San Bartolome in 1734. But the great flood of 1863 caused by the overflow of the Parua River destroyed the town, and Magalang had to be re-established again in Barrio San Pedro in 1863.

 The location of the town of Minalin was also adjusted by the founders of the town, who had originally reserved a place called Lacmit, renamed as Santa Maria. Lumber had already been stacked to erect a church there, when flood waters overran the new town and swept away the logs to another site called Burol. There, the church was finally built to mark the new town. Because the site moved, the community was named “Minalis”, subsequently changed to “Minalin” due to a clerical error made by town head, Diego Tolentino.

 The famous Candaba Swamp located southeast of the great Pampanga River catches much of the river overflow and the flood water that comes down from western Sierra Madre. The 250 square meter basin is under water for most of the wet season (July-September), and dries up during summer.

 Floodings of the Pampanga River Basin were recorded in July 1962, May 1966, May 1976, October 1993, August 2003, August 2004, late September-October 2009, and August 2012. The catastrophic flooding that occurred in September 2011 caused by Typhoon Pedring nearly swallowed the Province of Pampanga as well as southern Bulacan.

 But in recent memory, nothing compares to the 1972 flooding that inundated almost all of Central Luzon. So extensive were the floods that they covered 14 provinces in Ilocos, Pangasinan, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog provinces and Manila. The Pampanga River Basin and the Agno River Basin converged over Tarlac, making the Central Luzon and Pangasinan plains one whole waterworld from July to August of 1972.

 When then -President Ferdinand Marcos made a report to the nation, he announced, “For the first time, the waters of Manila bay linked up with those of Lingayen Gulf..”. Seen on the map, Central Luzon looked like it was about to be engulfed by the China Sea.

 To make matters worse, alarmists began spreading news of doom and gloom: that Laguna Lake and even Taal lake were on the verge of overflow; and that Angat and Caliraya, the fearful reported, were close to bursting.

 So devastating was the calamity that international aid poured in to help and save the people in the country’s richest agricultural region. The Philippine Marines, under the command of Col. Rudyardo Brown, were deployed to the worst-hit provinces—Pampanga and Bulacan—to distribute relief goods and assist the sick, feed the hungry and pluck the homeless, often found clinging on trees and swimming alongside floodwater debris. Schoolchildren gave part of their allowances—from 50 centavos to 1 peso—to help raise funds. Student groups volunteered to deliver relief packages in flood-stricken areas, while medical students and interns ministered to the sick.

 They say that the recent floods spawned by the monsoon and typhoons were the worst to hit the country, all wrought by global warming. That may be so, but for Kapampangans who survived and who lived through those 40 days of deluge, the great floods of Central Luzon in 1972, have no parallelm wherem as one magazine reported, “it was as if the heavens had fallen on the Philippines, and instead of fire and brimstones, came down water, water everywhere."

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