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simurai
Simurai, Baao's highest point.

sapa
Clear, cool mountain stream in Salvacion

float
Agricultural products on parade during the town fiesta

planting peanuts and corn
Planting on the upper slopes of Simurai

the town
The town as seen from the top of Simurai

Baao, Camarines Sur, Philippines

Compounding these problems was the series of disastrous typhoons that hit the Bicol provinces in the early 1970's. The most destructive typhoon to hit Baao, Sening, destroyed most of what was left of Baao's second growth forests, its abaca plantations, many of its people's homes and caused massive flooding on the lowlands in 1971.

But all was not lost for the Baao economy. As resilient as the bamboo reeds, the Baaoeños had always found ways to recover from the vagaries of their environment since time immemorial. Crops were replanted. Houses were repaired. Life continued.

It was also during those trying times, when some enterprising people started raising chickens for eggs. Their humble beginnings did not forebode of anything about Baao becoming the "Egg Basket of the Bicol Region" in the 1990's. But snowball, the industry did.

When Martial Law was declared in 1972, the Baao economy was stagnating. Then came the sugar boom. Sugar prices in the United States was high and Philippines was being given preferential treatments over other sugar producing countries. With the opening of the Bicol Sugar Development Corporation (BISUDECO) mills in the neighboring town of Pili, many landowners and upland occupants turned to planting sugar cane hoping to earn from this new cash crop

New roads, called "sugar roads", criss-crossed the upland barangays of San Rafael, Sta. Isabel, Lourdes, Iyagan, Caranday and Cristo Rey. Built to provide access to trucks carrying harvested canes from the farms to the mill, these roads further encouraged upland migration.

When sugar prices crashed in the late 1970's and early 1980's, many cane planters discontinued production as they cannot cope with the cost vis-a-vis the profit. But already the land has suffered. Secondary forests and scrublands were obliterated. The topsoil washed away into the creeks, rivers and lake. Springs dried up. Whole montane ecosystem gone.

It was also during this period when the problem of insurgency in Baao grew to alarming proportion. Drawn to the side of rebellion, many people saw this as the only solution to the abusive, dictatorial, corrupt and kleptocratic Marcos regime and the pervading poverty in their midst.