CALABANGA, Camarines Sur — As third district Congresswoman Leni Robredo got elected vice president in the May 2016 national elections, a barangay in the town of Calabanga was dragged into the limelight. It is because Robredo harvested all the votes of the entire village of Punta Tarawal of this town in Camarines Sur.
Robredo took all the 187 votes cast while the other vice presidential aspirants (Senators Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., Francis Escudero, Alan Peter Cayetano, Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan Jr. and Antonio Trillanes IV) got zero.
Punta Tarawal is the smallest village of Calabanga with a total of 408 residents living in 75 small houses made either of light materials or a combination of concrete and galvanized iron sheets built around a 1.5-ha land area at the mouth of the Bicol River, facing San Miguel Bay. The village’s internal revenue allotment is P1 million.
It is isolated but not an island.
There is no access road that connects the village to the road network of the town to the community, which is bounded on the north by the Bicol River, the San Miguel Bay on the east side, two tributaries on the west and marshes with nipa palms and mangroves on the south side.
Barangay captain Ronaldo D. Coner said the residents subsist on fishing, firewood and nipa leaves gathering and doing odd jobs while several young adults work in Metro Manila.
Coner said the entire village is vulnerable to storm surges and must be evacuated whenever typhoon comes, even though some male residents would opt to stay put to attend to their animals and properties.
“We need evacuation center that could withstand strong typhoons,” he said.
The official said Punta Tarawal also needs potable water for drinking and domestic uses because there is no source within the area, which is 98-percent marshes with mangroves and nipa palms.
Some locals dug open well but the water is salty so that most of them take a bath and wash their clothes in the Bicol River.
Punta Tarawal has an elementary school with classes from grades 1-6. Due to the absence of basic facilities, only about 300 of the more than 400 inhabitants actually live in the barangay.
Coner yearns that someday a road going to Punta Tarawal will be built so that the place will not be mistaken to be an island and see progress come to their community.
“We could easily sell our products if there is an access road and then maybe inhabitants of our village would come home and help develop our place,” Coner said.
He said their village is one of the beneficiaries of the P142-million seawall project that outgoing Rep. Robredo facilitated, covering several coastal villages of the town.
To reach Punta Tarawal, a passenger has to take a 7 kilometer ride either by tricycle or contract a habal-habal from the town proper to the docking area of Barangay Balongay where regular passenger boats ferry residents to Punta Tarawal and other barangays of Cabusao town via the Bicol river..
While cruising towards Punta Tarawal, the stilt-like bamboo structures installed in the middle of the 700-meter-wide Bicol River, cannot escape attention.
Related story: Crossing the Bicol River via Balongay
Jose Asuro, Barangay Captain of Balongay, said the stilt-like bamboo structures locally called “biyakos” are actually illegal because the fishing method uses a pouch with fine-meshed nets.
But Asuro said it is very difficult to enforce the law on the owners of biyakos who are also subsistence fisher folk while big trawls continue to operate inside the 15-km municipal waters in San Miguel Bay.