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Filipino community buried by dam resurfaces as a result of the drought

Photo-AFP

In the northern Philippines, a submerged centuries-old settlement has emerged from the depths of a dam as water levels recede due to a widespread drought gripping the country. The ruins, nestled within the Pantabangan Dam in Nueva Ecija province, have become a captivating tourist attraction amidst the sweltering heat of the region. Marlon Paladin, a supervising engineer for the National Irrigation Administration, notes that parts of a church, municipal hall marker, and tombstones began to resurface in March following months of minimal rainfall, marking the sixth occurrence of the settlement's reappearance since the dam's construction in the 1970s.

Paladin highlights that this resurgence is notably prolonged compared to previous instances, with the reservoir's water level plummeting nearly 50 meters from its usual high level. The extreme weather conditions, exacerbated by the El Niño phenomenon, have plunged approximately half of the country's provinces, including Nueva Ecija, into drought. Consequently, tourists flock to the area, paying fishermen for boat rides to witness the ephemeral island amidst the reservoir, where remnants of the submerged village stand as a testament to its rich history.

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For residents like Nely Villena, who frequents a viewing platform overlooking the dam, the sight of the exposed ruins evokes a mix of nostalgia and awe. Villena reminisces about her old home in Pantabangan municipality, recalling the drastic changes brought about by the dam's construction, which forced hundreds of families to relocate to higher ground. Melanie Dela Cruz, one such displaced resident, reflects on her emotional return to the submerged village, reminiscing about her upbringing and lamenting the challenges faced by farmers deprived of irrigation water for their fields.

The receding water levels have not only unveiled the submerged settlement but have also halted operations at two hydropower plants near the dam, impacting local rice farmers reliant on irrigation. Dela Cruz expresses her concern for the farmers' plight, emphasizing the urgent need for rainfall to alleviate the water scarcity and sustain agricultural livelihoods. Despite the bittersweet sentiment of seeing her old home resurface, Dela Cruz acknowledges the vital role of rain in supporting the agricultural community's well-being and hopes for its timely arrival to alleviate the drought's impact.

As the Philippines grapples with the challenges posed by the drought, the emergence of the submerged settlement serves as a poignant reminder of the interconnectedness between nature and human existence. While the ruins offer a glimpse into the past, they also underscore the vulnerability of communities reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods. Amidst the uncertainties brought about by climate change, the resilience and adaptability of Filipino communities are put to the test, prompting calls for sustainable solutions to mitigate the impact of environmental challenges and safeguard the nation's heritage for future generations.

April 26, 2024 4:24 p.m. 5313

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