GRAIN & GRIT
Unpretentious and easily overlooked, the bucolic province of Isabela holds more than just a bounty
of agricultural achievements
BY MAIELLE MONTAYRE
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TEDDY PELAEZ
Tucked away almost at the northeast corner of the Philippines, nestled among the rolling plains of the
Cagayan Valley Region, and guarded by the towering mountain ranges of the Sierra Madre and Central
Cordillera, sits a humble titan that is the province of Isabela.
As the second largest province of the Philippines with a land area of 1,066,456 hectares, Isabela is widely known as the “Rice Bowl of the North” and the Corn Capital of the Philippine s.”
Founded in May 1, 1856, the province was named after Queen Isabela II of Spain, thereby also earning the moniker “Queen Pr ovince of the Philippines.” Initially part of La Provincia del Valle de Cagayan,
the province was created by royal decree with towns separated f rom Cagayan and Nueva Vizcaya. Today, Isabela has 1,018 barangays and 34 municipalities. The province has two component cities, namely,
Cauayan City and the provincial capital of Ilagan City . It has one independent city, which is Santiago City.
At the beginning of his term, Cauayan was only a third-class municipality. Owing to the efforts of Governor Dy, Cauayan, thereafter, became a city. After his stint as mayor, he became the Representative of the Third District of Isabela from 2001 to 2010. Since then, he has served as governor and is now on his third t erm.
A SURGE OF CHALLENGES
Isabela’s economy relies largely on agriculture, which is 80% the source of its income. The province supplies rice to Jollibee, Chowking, and SM malls. Metro Manila also obtains 20% of its fo od sources from Isabela. “This is why if Isabela gets sick, Manila might not be able to eat,” Governor Dy says. When the clouds gather and a storm approaches, the primary trade and industry of the provinc e is threatened.
Isabela is surrounded by the provinces of Cagayan, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Ifugao and Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino and Aurora on its northern, western, and southern fronts. However , the Philippine
Sea borders the east of Isabela, facing the west of the Pacific Ocean. Governor Dy recounts that of the 27 total storms in 2017, aroun d 20 passed through Isabela. “That’s how nice we are here in Isabela; we
welcome the typhoons with open arms,” he jokes.