New Bataan: From wall of mountains to valley of death


A HOUSE appears to have survived the onslaught of Typhoon “Pablo” in New Bataan, Compostela Valley, where scores had been killed by the strongest storm to hit the Philippines this year. JEOFFREY MAITEM

NEW BATAAN, Compostela Valley—The secluded valley that sheltered Jerry Blanco’s banana crop from communist and Moro rebellions offered no refuge from Typhoon “Pablo,” which left him destitute in a flash.

“First the strong winds came, then a sheet of rain. Our roof rattled, the house creaked and then the wall was blown away,” said Blanco, a 39-year-old plantation worker, recalling the predawn hour when Pablo struck.

“I looked out across the field, and all the (banana stalks) were felled. Our harvest was gone. The first thought in my mind was, we’ve just lost our future,” the father of four told Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Barefoot, shirtless and wearing torn trousers, Blanco stood by the roadside with neighbors who had also suddenly lost everything.

For Ben Alpor, also a plantation worker, the disaster meant the three youngest of his seven children would have to stop going to school.

“I will not be able to afford it. What little savings we had was in a (children’s) piggy bank, and that has been blown away too,” the 55-year-old told AFP.  “We’ve been reduced to begging for food, when before we had so much to eat,” Alpor added.

200,000 farm hands

Ensconced in a valley that is the center of the country’s banana industry, New Bataan is surrounded by a wall of mountains that had long protected it from storms before Pablo barreled through.

From the 1960s, the valley was settled by migrants who found its sheltered location ideal for growing bananas, a crop that earned the nation $471 million last year in exports—about 12 percent of total Philippine farm exports.

Big corporate farms bought up large tracts, contracting locals as sharecroppers in an industry that has grown to become the world’s third-largest exporter of bananas—after Ecuador and Costa Rica.

Up to 200,000 farm hands plus their families live around the 42,000 hectares of plantations across Mindanao that supply major markets such as China, Japan and Iran, according to the industry association.

Days after Pablo (international name: “Bopha”) obliterated their town of New Bataan, they were reduced to begging for help from passing motorists.

Last week’s terrifying typhoon destroyed crops worth P11.23 billion, with bananas accounting for P7.4 billion of the total, according to the Department of Agriculture.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said the death toll as of Tuesday was 714. Another 840 were reported missing a week after the 16th storm of the season rampaged across Mindanao, igniting flash floods, devastating farmlands, tearing  houses and buildings.

The toll could very well exceed lives lost during a sweep in the same area a year ago by Tropical Storm “Sendong”—officially placed at 1,268 dead and 181 missing.

The NDRRMC said the typhoon affected 5.4 million people in 30 provinces. It said 130,000 people were still in 134 evacuation centers.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development said some 40,000 houses were either totally or partially destroyed. Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said the department was building bunk houses through its P42-million cash-for-work program. Each worker will get P218 a day.

The banana regions had weathered the worst of deadly insurgencies by Moro and communist rebels that engulfed other areas of Mindanao over recent decades.

The New Bataan plantation workers earned up to P10,000 a month and were allowed to build wooden homes near their places of work.

“We had everything that we wanted, a simple life, enough food on the table and friends and family—until the typhoon came and destroyed everything,” Blanco said.

Up to 14,175 ha of banana crops were destroyed, a third of the country’s production, said Carlo Mallo, spokesperson of the Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association.

2 months to replant

The group estimates the damage to crops and infrastructure at P8 billion.

It will take two months to clean up and replant the fields and nine months after that before the next harvest, Mallo said.

Gov. Arthur Uy of Compostela Valley said up to 80 percent of the province’s banana crop had been lost, with dire consequences for the 150,000 local farmers and their families who depend on the industry.

“It would take years,” he told AFP when asked about the plantations’ recovery. “We need assistance from the national government.”

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said the production shortage would cause the Philippines to lose foreign customers for high-quality bananas to Ecuador.

“The worrying thing is that if we lose them we might not get them back,” Alcala told ABS-CBN television in Manila.

Businessman Richard Acaso, who buys bananas wholesale and sells them to local markets, said he may now be forced to sell his home and move elsewhere.

“I used to get 5,000 to 8,000 crates of bananas a week,” he said, equivalent to 75-120 tons. “You would be lucky to buy a (single) crate this time around.”  AFP with reports from Nikko Dizon, Cynthia D. Balana and Riza T. Olchondra

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • Commentator

    Obama ask US congress for $60.4 Billion for Superstorm Sandy’s victim. I hope Aquino can also do that and ask Philippine congress to appropriate maybe $1 Billion dollar for typhoon Pablo’s victims especially to New Bataan, Cateel and Boston. We have over $80 billion dollar reserves, maybe we can use that.

  • carol

    Nasaan na ang presidente para tulungan itong mga kawawang victims, dumalaw lang tapos na yoon?

    • im_earth

      He can do more on the talk than the walk.
      It means he can delegate tasks to all local government units to assist on the victims.
      He can command all local officials to follow him and help the victims.

      You cannot see him as you want to expect to be carrying victims and digging mud.

  • catmanjohn

    There are two things President Aquino must act upon, one a short term goal, and the other a long term plan that would turn this present disaster into a triumph over corruption and the perils of natural disasters. First, the immediate alleviation of suffering of the victims of the typhoon, and providing food, water, and housing for the people, and then bring economic stability back to their lives. This would be encompassed by the second long term project which would be to assess and structurally evaluate every evacuation center in every barangay, every city, and province. Each governor, each mayor, and barangay captain would have to file a report, plan, and proof of the structure and capacity they would offer in case of a typhoon of this strength as well as a 7.0 earthquake.  This would expose all the graft and corruption carried out by these politicians over the 10 years, where corruption was most rampant.  Each shelter, whether it be a hospital or school, should have the costs expended and the true evaluation made by federal engineers, and any glaring differences would expose graft and thievery. Let the BIR recoup those losses and put it back to rebuild and strengthen those building to highest standards possible. This is an opportunity that President Aquino should not fumble on. As an old seafarers saying goes…” THE SEA WILL FIND ALL YOUR MISTAKES…., BUT THE THIRD ONE WILL KILL YOU…”. The third catastrophe looms on the horizon, and it will inevitably come.

  • dodong1

    nakakaasar yung mga napapanood sa television na mga victims na nagugutom, kaso hindi maabot ng relief goods dahil sira ang mga daan..WALA BANG MGA HELICOPTERS NG ARMED FORCES AT MGA IBANG MAYAYAMAN DYAN PARA MAG AIRDROP O MAGDALA NG RELIEF GOODS AT MGA MEDICINES?? ang hirap kasi sa atin talagang sobra ang pag disregard nila ng buhay..walang sense of urgency..walang tubig, makain atbp..napanood natin sa tv yung bagyong sandy sa amerika.. nakita natin na maraming nagpapasa ng mga botttled water sa mga tao..yung mga repair crews nandoon kaagad yung iba na tumulong galing pa sa ibang states..dito sa Pinas puro PHOTO OP LANG ANG ALAM..NAKAKAINIS TALAGA…YUNG MGA BINILING HELICOPTERS NI ARROYO NASAN NA YUN BAKIT HINDI GAMITIN…KAWAWA TALAGA ANG PILIPINO..

  • Alisto Juan

    From the Valley of Hope to the Valley of Death but the Sun is still shining and theirs a great light ahead. . That’s not the end for the farm workers, they had plenty of work to rehabilitate the plantation. company will hire additional farm hands to do the work. . It’s a big loss to the capitalist and watch out for the entry of capital from China. It’s had been a long time that they planning to enter on banana plantation and they are working out with the local chinese as their dummy. . Rich land owner will weather the tragedy while it’s the small time farm owners who till their own land that will suffer most.(most of the landowner rented their lands to the company and they just be part of the farm hand). . 

    Comval Valley is good for cash crops. Small land owners can now engaged on vegetable planting which is a good crops after the typhoon. typhoon bring a lot of nitrogen and it’s good for plant regeneration. It’s part of nature recovery. . 

  • Mattino2011

    Jail the governor, along with DENR officials and illegal miners and loggers.. Construct the jail at the foot of Diwalwal…And if a typhoon happens, don’t evacuate them.. That way they would feel what those victims felt .

  • batangsulpok

    Kahit ang isang lugar ay napapalibutan ng mga bundok pero kung wala ng mga kahoy dahil sa logging at meron pang mining, siguradong bibigay ang lupa dahil ang tubig ay aagos ng aagos papunta sa pinakamababang lugar, kung baga, water seek it’s own level.  Isa pa, kahit sinong geologist o engineer ang tanungin, kahit bundok ay may water table o tubig na umaagos sa ilalim ng lupa, kung minsan ay mas mababaw pa kesa mga patag kaya sa lakas ng bagyong Pablo, maaaring sumobra ang tubig kaya siyempre, may pressure sa paligid kaya nagkakaroon ng landslides.

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks



latest videos