Passed by these farmers harvesting sugar cane in Datu Montawal town.

Recently, I went around the mountainous towns of North Upi in Maguindanao del Norte and South Upi in Maguindanao del Sur for work.

These are the towns that I rarely visit because aside from the fact that these are not may usual coverage destinations, these towns are quite remote.

But this prolonged dry spell have led me to these towns for work.

The impact of El Niño phenomenon is very evident all the way from Davao City to Upi towns.

Hundreds of hectares of idle farmland and parched mountains can be seen from the road. These are just among the indications that this prolonged dry spell is wreaking havoc in many parts of region.

Even the water levels of the river systems that flow from Bukidnon to the Ligawasan Marsh have also dropped.

Parched cornfield

From the junction at Datu Odin Sinsuat to the boundary of North Upi,the rolling terrains looked like mounds of burnt cup cakes as bushes and grasses are dying due to extreme heat.

According to some of the villagers South Upi, there were some incidents of grassfires due to extreme heat.

According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) climate outlook, Maguindanao del Norte and Maguindanao del Sur are among provinces in country with below normal rainfall this April.

The State weather bureau noted that Maguindanao is one of the seven provinces in Mindanao with dry spell conditions.

Under dry spell condition, the agency said the area has experienced two consecutive months of below normal rainfall condition or 21 to 60 percent average rainfall reduction.

According to locals, this area is used to be a cornfield.

Thus, many farmers opted not to plant anymore in anticipation of the impact of the dry spell.

As a result, hundreds (and even thousands) of hectares of farmlands now lay idle.

Last April 16, the provincial board of Maguindanao del Sur passed Resolution 039 that placed the entire province under state of calamity. (Read my story here)

Manilyn Elon shows “kayos” from the wild.

In Barangay Kuya in South Upi, I met Manilyn Elon. She showed to me an indigenous root crop known as “kayos, ” poisonous vine that thrives only during dry season.

According to Elon, many of her fellow Teduray villagers are now consuming “kayos” due to lack of food sources amid the prolonged dry spell. (Read my story here)

In the same village, a horse collapsed and died due to extreme heat. The farmers had no choice but to butcher the horse for consumption.

Villagers butchering the horse near the river in Barangay Kuya.

In another village, a corn farmer harvested 18 sacks of corn from his half-hectare farm. In the past, he used to harvest at least 50 sacks from his farm.

Newly-harvested corn, which were withered by the extreme heat.

Amid of the dry spell, some farmers in Barangay Nangi of North Upi were able to harness out water from the nearby sources. In Visayan dialect, they call it: “gi daginot.”

It’s like a breath of fresh air amid of the crisis.

A farmer prepares his farm for rice planting.