Yesteryears in Naga: Inflation during the war
Inflation in Bicol? Let’s take a look 77 years back in Naga when the whole country was under the Japanese occupation, according to the book, “Naga, the Birth and Rebirth of a City” by Bicol historian Danilo Madrid Gerona: LIFE under occupied Naga was difficult. The Japanese occupation virtually destroyed the major means of production which were the life blood of Camarines Sur. The reconcentration policy enforced by the Japanese which forbade anyone to reside outside the poblacion further hastened the collapse of the local industry. The flickering industrial life undertaken by the residents in Naga was confined to the production of the basic items which sustained the minimum needs of their respective families. Since Naga was merely a commercial center, dependent on goods which flowed from Manila and on those which were produced in nearby municipalities, commercial life in Naga suffered seriously. Although a semblance of normalcy was observed in the latter part of the war years, nevertheless economic life remained abnormal. The former acting-governor of the Japanese-controlled Camarines Surnoticed the following: They went about their way as if they expected nothing to happen. The marketplace was as busy as ever. Traders from the surrounding towns still came to Naga in bullcarts and on foot, carrying goods for sale or for barter to the market. Everything looked normal. Salt water fish came from Pasacao and Calabanga. Fresh water fish was brought in from Bato Lake through the Bikol river. In short, even in the last days of the occupation, the local population did not lack the basic commodities. Despite the efforts of the Japanese authorities and the municipal officials to revive domestic trade, commerce continued to languish throughout the duration of the war. The scarcity of food and prime commodities as well as the absence of an efficient government agency to regulate market traffic resulted I the meteoric rise in the prices of these basic goods. Aware of the enormous burden this would bring to the suffering people, the shadow government of the resistance movement took it upon themselves to strictly enforce a price system in the local market, particularly in Naga. The following items with their corresponding prices were classified as basic and were consequently placed under price control: Rice per sack – P14-15; Palay per sack – P5.00; corn per sack – P4.50; Sweet potato per sack P2.00; Imported (Tagalog) salt – P4.50; Locally made salt – P2.50; Beef per kilo – P0.50; Pork per kilo – P0.30; Local sugar cake (sangkaka) – P0.20; Chicken – P0.50; Saba, Bongoran, Lacatan per bunch – P0.50; Latondan – P0.30. The confusion over the face value of the Japanese money vis-à-vis the Commonwealth peso aggravated further the depressed economy. The Japanese administration through a monetary press set up near the Camarines Sur High School was printing so much Japanese money that it resulted in inflation. The value of Japanese money was so depreciated that one had to carry a bayong-ful of this money to buy a few ganta of rice. As to this money, Naga resident Jesus Hidalgo noted: Some even became millionaires in terms of Japanese money up to the middle of the year but as money supply came more from printing, it began to lose in value so that by the latter part of the year it fell to 1 to 4 and they had to declare P.I. (Philippine Islands) money illegal. People who refused to accept the legal tender were severely punished like Padre Quimpo had a store in the public market; he had to taste Judo throws and flogging at the back.