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Pulong Kabyawan: Bulacan’s heritage farm

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THIS welcome sign greets tourists upon arriving at the town. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF EDGAR ALLAN M. SEMBRANO

Located less than 50 kilometers north of Manila is Pulilan in Bulacan province, an agricultural town with a number of farming communities engaged mainly in rice production.

Originally founded by the Augustinians as San Isidro in mid-18th century, Pulilan has long been known as a farming enclave in central Luzon but is not exempt to land conversion sweeping the country today.

In 19th century, the town was known to produce rice, corn, legumes, mung beans, sesame, vegetables and fruits with sugarcane and indigo as its top crops.

BAMBOO bridge.

The town was likewise producing sesame oil and had weaving and hat-making industries.

Pulilan has long shifted to rice production, its rice fields fed by the various irrigation canals from the Angat and Bustos dams.

In Barangay (village) Inaon, bordering the town of Apalit in Pampanga, a heritage farm exists which dates back from the Spanish period and owned by the same family.

Inaon was said to have come from the Tagalog word inahon which means “the first place where the people built their homes” after the barangay separated from its mother barangay Balatong sometime in the 19th century.

Another theory is that it came from the Kapampangan word inaon which means causeway, a raised road in the rice fields which is still exists in the area.

That farm is Pulong Kabyawan, named after the pulo or island, a piece of land at the center of a rice field where there is high concentration of trees and kabyawan, a carabao-driven contraption to extract juice from sugar canes.

A protected agricultural heritage zone and an agri-tourism destination, Pulong Kabyawan is a 37-hectare farm replete with various kinds of flora and fauna, geographical features such as bana (catch basin) that become bird sanctuaries during the wet season and paltok or hilly formations located in the agricultural landscape.

The area has high significance not only on its agricultural value wherein traditional farming activities are still being practiced but also in history, geography and possibly archaeology.

It became a sanctuary for Pulilan residents during World War II and it having an ancient catch basin, a waterway to the Candaba Swamp which is an ancient lake, has the potential in the study on geography and investigations in archaeology.

AL fresco dining in a bahay kubo.

It is also a community venue for the yearly traditional games and communal rice planting activities.

Owner Andrew de Guzman said Pulong Kabyawan’s importance as an answer to food security problems was particularly realized during this coronavirus pandemic.

However, its immediate area, part of the neighboring Barangay Sta. Peregrina is currently being converted into an industrial zone, a threat to the farm and its farming community.

Guzman said the farm is a primary irrigated agricultural land and is protected from land conversion. Its declaration as a Protected Agricultural-Heritage Zone is pending at the Pulilan local council.

The declaration will guarantee its exclusive use for agriculture, habitation, and tourism, he added.

The local government led by Mayor Maria Maritz Ochoa-Montejo meanwhile has expressed its support for the conservation of Pulong Kabyawan.

It will host an activity at Pulo in July as part of their tourism program themed “Pulilan: A Taste of Farm Life.”

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