MANILA, June 4, 2008 (STAR) By Ding Cervantes Wednesday, June 4, 2008 MINALIN, Pampanga – President Arroyo is joining this town’s first egg festival today and lead in the gathering of 80,000 eggs for distribution to victims of storm “Cosme” in Pangasinan and Zambales.

Mayor Edgar Flores said 10,000 boiled eggs will also be distributed to residents and guests, including the President.

“It’s a festival that will celebrate our blessings over these years since the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo,” he said, adding that his town now produces one million chicken eggs per day.

Flores said 70 poultry growers belonging to the Minalin Poultry and Livestock Cooperative are donating 80,000 eggs to storm-affected families in Pangasinan and Zambales.

Fifteen trucks will form a caravan in transporting the eggs to the two provinces, he said.

The first 60,000 eggs to be harvested in the morning will be brought to Pangasinan, while the remaining 20,000 eggs to be gathered later will be brought to Zambales, Flores said.

Meanwhile, the President made a surprise visit to Legazpi City in Albay on board BRP Ang Pangulo yesterday morning. She reportedly came from Aklan.

Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal received the President and accompanied her on board an SUV to the city airport where she boarded a Lear jet at around 10:30 a.m. – With Ric Sapnu and Celso Amo

PGMA mobbed by Cabalens in Minalin egg fest

MINALIN, Pampanga – To paraphrase a famous quotation: She came, she weighed, she conquered.

Thus was the late morning visit of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo here as she graced the First Egg Festival of this town that is just rising from the ashes of Mt. Pinatubo’s lahar.

Arriving a few minutes after 10 a.m. at the Apung Monica Covered Court here, the President was immediately mobbed by the people of Minalin who gathered for the egg-sharing event and who later saw truckloads of eggs being sent off by the President to provinces devastated by recent typhoon ‘Cosme.’

Town officials and officers of the Minalin Poultry & Livestock Cooperative (MIPOLCO) showed the President a sampling of their much-touted million-eggs-a-day production, their feeds for both chicken and aqua-culture, some of their white-feathered pullets; and later their simple egg “classifier” machine which she helped operate.

The classifier divides the egg harvest into six of the nine egg-weight categories: no value or NV (first lay); no weight or NW (40 grams or below); peewee (40-44 grams); extra small or XS (45-49 grams); small (50-54 grams); medium (55-59 grams); large (60-64 grams); extra large or XL (65-70 grams); and jumbo or two yolks (71 grams and above).

MIPOLCO’s egg-weighing employees – who have been classifying eggs for years – already pick out the first lays, the ‘dirty’ eggs, ‘basag’ eggs, and the few XL and jumbos; thus, leaving the electric-powered machine six weights to classify: NW, peewee, XS, S, M and L.

With her cabalens mobbing her for a handshake and photographs, the President continued touring the exhibit area showcasing Pampanga’s products, including ‘salakot’ hats for farmers, corn, ‘gatas ng kalabaw’; aqua-culture harvests like tilapia, sugpo and bangus; processed meat products like corned beef, meat loaf and hotdogs; and bottled ‘pasalubongs’ like fried peanuts, cashew nuts and garlic.

The President was then led to the gym where she was mobbed some more by waiting residents as she walked towards the stage where she would later turn over the papers for a tractor for the town for emergency dredging works.

The fourth-class municipality along the banks of the Pampanga River in western Pampanga is home to some 40,000 residents who either stayed put or came back following the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo 18 years ago in 1990.

“Prior to the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991, Minalin was (the) Egg Basket of the Philippines, (with the) largest poultry industry in Central Luzon,” said Pampanga Rep. Ana Bondoc whose office distributed a fact sheet about the town entitled “Rebirth of Minalin: Rising from the Floods.”

“After (the eruption of) Mt. Pinatubo, Minalin and Sto. Tomas (towns) were threatened by lahar flows. In 1996, DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) constructed the San Fernando-Minalin-Sto. Tomas tail dike as protection,” she added, citing concerned residents for building almost a kilometer of the tail dike by themselves.

“More than lahar damage however, Minalin (and sister towns of Macabebe and Masantol) suffered severe floods. All of its 15 barangays were submerged up to chest level for more than six months yearly due to lahar siltation of the rivers. Classes were suspended for four months every year up to as late as 2006 due to classrooms being submerged,” Bondoc added.

As for their star livelihood, “egg production collapsed, poultries went out of business and agriculture production declined” as even MIPOLCO members left town or went abroad.

“However, Minalin has slowly but surely rebuilt itself: Today, with the Third River Project of the DPWH completed three years ago, floods have decreased but not disappeared. Schools however, still remain flooded for some months of the year.

“Best of all, (the) poultry industry has started to re-emerge. Presently, 1.3M heads are housed in industrial areas. One million eggs are produced daily and shipped to Metro Manila, fastfood chains, commercial bakeries, and restaurants.”

This, as MIPOLCO “has been revitalized and awarded Top Millionaire Cooperative by the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) and “together with towns of Masantol and Macabebe, Minalin is now # 1 in the Philippine aquaculture production of tilapia, bangus, sugpo (tiger prawn) due to its excellent brackish water fishponds.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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