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Saturday, July 2, 2011

ILOILO: The Foodbasket Of The Philippines

        Iloilo is not as popular as Baguio but it is one of the exotic beauties, a strange combination of the modern ways of living and the cultural influences of our glorious past. It’s the biggest province in Panay and it could be reached within 45 minutes by air from Manila and 18-20 hours by water transportation. It’s a first class province with 42 municipalities, one component city, one chartered city and 1,901 barangays. It has a total population of 2,110,588 as of 2007 statistics warm, loving, accomodating and God-fearing Ilonggos. The province has a nose shape, intersected by the mountain ranges of Antique from the western port of Capiz. That is where Iloilo got its name the shape is like a nose (Irong).
From the mountain peaks down the hills, the clear-water springs cascade down through its navigable rivers below. Along these rivers, several irrigation canals branch out revealing man’s ingenuity in his struggle for survival.
        Iloilo’s mild, tropical climate is best suited to agriculture. The province has two distinct climate, the wet and the dry, which varies from place to place within the province. Municipalities within the southern and central areas are dry from December to June and wet from July to November while some towns within the northern and northeastern areas have no pronounced rain period with dry season from January to March. Those within the western and southwestern areas have distinct rain period and no pronounced dry and wet seasons.
        With the abundance of our rich natural resources, coupled with the favorable climate and our people’s ingenuity and industry, there never had been a serious famine in Iloilo.
Although the province is bounded by mountain ranges its mainland is made up of vast plains with fertile soil favorable to farming. There are 150 rivers and creeks throughout the province. These rivers provide enough water to supply the ricefields of the different municipalities. The Jala-ud River which winded its way through the municipalities of Dumangas, Barotac Nuevo and Pototan supplies water to the said municipalities.
        We have also some falls which helped increase our food production. These are the Puruguan Falls in Sara, Iloilo; the 60-foot high Nadsadjan Falls in Barangay Passi, Igbaras, Iloilo; and the Darangkulan Falls of Ajuy, Iloilo.
        A unique, salty “Paet Spring” in Maasin, Iloilo, is nature’s handiwork which when developed could be one of the said town’s tourist attractions.
        Every year, our province yields not less than 10 million metric tons of rice because of our improved irrigation system and scientific method of farming. The latest rice production of the province was 528, 983 million metric tons planted in 158, 920 hectares of land.
       Our rice-producing municipalities are Pototan, Pavia, Oton, Sta. Barbara, Dingle, San Miguel, New Lucena, Lambunao, San Enrique and Leganes. Pototan is considered the “Rice Granary of Iloilo.” Almost every year we have an excess in rice production which were exported to other countries except on October 1989 to May 1990 when the province experienced a long drought causing the President of the Philippines to declare Iloilo as a calamity area. This is again repeated in December 1990 to March 1991 when Iloilo was declared as one of the drought-stricken areas of the country.
       The district of Jaro in Iloilo City is a mass supplier of green onions to the people of the city and the surrounding towns. Likewise the municipalities of Igbaras, Tubungan, Pavia, Oton, San Miguel, Alimodian and Leon are rich sources of fresh vegetables coming from their barangays. High valueds crops like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and strawberries are being cultivated and produced by Alimodian’s “Seven Cities”.
       Fishing is also one of the means of livelihood of the people in the coastal towns. Such fishing communities are the towns of Estancia, Carles, Balasan, San Dionisio, Batad, Concepcion, Banate, Barotac Viejo, Ajuy, Tigbauan, Guimbal, San Joaquin, and Miag-ao. In fact, Estancia is called “Alaska of the Philippines” because of its voluminous fish supply such that big fish sellers and vendors flock to Estancia for their fish supply . At Tigbauan, there is the Southeast Asia Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) which helped develop the fishing industry of the province.
       If you like to eat sweet, ripe mangoes, there are plenty in Guimbal, Tubungan, Leon and Alimodian. There are also plenty of camachiles in Igbaras, San Joaquin, and Leon; siniguelas from San Joaquin, Tubungan, and Igbaras; and sweet, varied bananas from Alimodian. Our province has a total annual production of 2, 915 metric tons of these fruits planted in 524 hectares of land.
       Iloilo ranked second to Bacolod in sugar production. Green and brownish sugarcanes are converted into sugar in four huge sugar centrals in Calinog, Lambunao and Passi. Sugar was our number one dollar earner which amounted to $30.424 million annually, or 63.2% of the total exports which included molasses, copra and others.
      Livestock and poultry raising are another sources of income for food production. The Egger Farm at San Jose, San Miguel, Iloilo, is a poultry farm which serves a number of municipalities in the province of Iloilo. The livestock markets at Leon, San Joaquin, and Cabatuan are concrete examples of a thriving livestock industry. Cottage industries are also found in our municipalities like weaving in Miag-ao and Arevalo, ceramics and metalcraft in Pavia, and woodcraft in Estancia.
      Infrastructure projects were briskly constructed in Iloilo the newer ones like the flyovers, Iloilo International Airport, Provincial Capitol and Iloilo City Hall, widening of highways, national and local roads, the construction of barangay roads and public markets, and the concreting or asphalting of national and provincial roads in the different municipalities. All these brought the accessibility of transportation, encouraged investment, and established more trade, business and industry which improved the economic condition of the province. Tourism is just high during the festivals and events like Dinagyang Festival, Paraw Regatta and Chinese New Year and could not sustain tourists and earnings from tourism all year round due to lack or absence of creative ideas from the people most especially from Department of Tourism Region VI Regional Director Edwin Trompeta.
     The substantial annual increase in the production output aided by the continuous growth of the infrastructure projects will spur the fast growth of business and industry that will further contribute to make Iloilo truly the Foodbasket of the Philippines.

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