The road to Albay from the Los Baños headquarters of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is long but not tedious. After 12 hours of driving through town after town of busy markets lined with parol (Christmas lantern) vendors, deep green coconut plantations, quiet rice fields, and shimmering blue coast, the landscape gave way to a city of darkness and desolation—Legaspi in Albay Province, Bicol, Philippines. Five days earlier, Typhoon Durian (locally known as Reming) had struck the region, bringing winds upward of 220 km per hour and leaving hundreds dead, missing, and homeless.
Children are in the streets, barefoot and begging, the houses behind them destroyed. Everywhere, people are digging, either to rebuild homes or find missing relatives. With no power, no water, and roads that have collapsed into rivers, Rice Today set out to find the rice farmers who live at the foot of Mayon Volcano in Albay.
It has been a difficult year for Albay, to say the least. Only a few months previously, Mayon was threatening to erupt (see Rice in harm’s way on pages 24-27 of Rice Today Vol. 5, No. 4). The volcanic activity died down, and but then Durian did what the volcano, this time, couldn’t. The intense typhoon rains dislodged the tons and tons of volcanic ash, creating massive landslides that obliterated houses and rice fields and, as Rice Today went to press, killed more than 400 people, with at least that many still missing.
Here, Rice Today brings you images and stories that offer a glimpse of the terror that Durian blasted into the lives of some of the Albay rice-farming families, as well as the despair and hope that the typhoon left behind.