With more visitors and more participants in the celebration, this year’s Strawberry Festival became a venue for staging the unity and culture of the people of La Trinidad and the local economic growth.
Aiming for the success not only of the festival but of the whole town, residents worked together, from the local government units and agencies to the different community members and sectors.
LOCAL FARMERS SUSTAIN TOWN’S IDENTITY AS STRAWBERRY CAPITAL
Strawberry farmers of the La Trinidad in Benguet, formerly known as the Salad Bowl of the Philippines, are now making huge impact, not only through the local market but also through the increasing number of tourists who visit the town to get a view of the wide strawberry farms and experience picking strawberry fruits for themselves.
Due to the misconception of tourists from the lowlands that the production of strawberries are from Baguio City, it is common for the farmers to hear the surprised comments of tourists that the strawberry farms are actually located in La Trinidad, which is a separate town from the city of Baguio. Because of this, farmers always explain that strawberries are grown in La Trinidad and not in Baguio.
The local strawberry farmers said this year’s Strawberry Festival helped La Trinidad to be recognized by the people, especially the tourists, as having the biggest production of strawberries in the Philippines. Because of this recognition, the farmers are earning more than before. More tourists flock here especially during summer.
A farmer from Benguet State University (BSU) strawberry farm said that with an initial capital of P50,000, the yield used to account just about 10 percent of the capital in the first year. But, he said, with the help of new technologies and research, the production now keeps getting higher. He added that another challenge in strawberry production is that strawberry, like other fruits, is seasonal.
In the La Trinidad strawberry farm, 51 farmers are sharing the 3.7 hectares of lot though not in equal proportion. One farmer, Jubeskie Sukabit, rented 500 sq. meter which costs P15 per square meter per year. From his P50,000 capital plus P7,500 for the rent, the total cost is P57,500 but because of the 36th Strawberry Festival, his earning increased. So as the festival brings more tourists, the earnings of local farmers also increase.
Even though there are several problems like pests, studies of the BSU Agriculture researchers help stop creating more damage to the crops.
The strawberry farmers said, with the help of the local government and the community, the one town, one product of La Trinidad is highlighted in the 2017 Strawberry Festival and this boosted their income. RICA GIL, UB INTERN
DEVELOPING LA TRINIDAD’S TOURISM
With the success of the 36th Strawberry Festival, La Trinidad’s tourism had undergone some milestones that give pride to the town and its people.
Municipal tourism officer Valred Olsim proudly recalled the achievements of the municipality in its 36 years of celebrating the festival. “We wish na we keep on improving. Siguro mas may impact ngayon because of the strawberry cake na it relives the spirit of the best event na nangyari in 2004 which is winning the Guinness World Record for baking the biggest strawberry shortcake. So, on that time, La Trinidad was put in the map internationally.”
He admitted that in the last few years, the municipality forgot the achievement they accomplished. “The giant strawberry cake reminded us again about that achievement. It captured the spirit of the event and it reminded us about our asset which is strawberry, aside from flowers and vegetables,” he added.
He said there are still some things to be improved though this year’s staging of the festival is successful.
In the celebration, most of the events largely used strawberry, which is the one town, one product of the municipality.
Olsim said in baking the giant strawberry cake, they were able to use about 300 kilograms of strawberries. “Marami pa, our strawberry lane would use many strawberries tapos may mga nagsho-shopping pa kahapon and they observe na marami pa palang strawberries, so this really became a festival because a festival in its essence is you celebrate what is bountiful,” he added.
Olsim also acknowledged the efforts of the farmers in the municipality for their contributions in making the festival successful especially on producing enough strawberries that were used on different events. “It proves that our farmers are very supportive of our cause so the more that we are promoting strawberry festival, the more market that exists because they will be using strawberries and its byproducts such as strawberry wines, strawberry shakes and strawberry cosmetics.”
He said, with the other products produced, the primary ingredient, strawberry, is also promoted. “With these products, we are able to help in improving the livelihood of the farmers and businessmen in the municipality,” he added.
According to Joseph Haight, member of the board of La Trinidad Barangays Association, the influx of tourists in the municipality helps them to promote the tourism industry of every barangay. With this, the residents were able to gain more income from the products they are selling such as flowers, products made out of strawberries and vegetables.
Olsim supported this claim, saying that the festival helped the municipality’s strawberry farms to be known by tourists without being attached to the city of Baguio which improves the town’s tourism industry. He also acknowledged the contribution of the festival for La Trinidad’s strawberry farms to be credited to the municipality. Though the festival mainly showcases strawberries, Olsim clarified that they also showcase other products of the municipality such as flowers and vegetables through Tourism Weeks of every barangay.
Olsim also clarified that though the municipality’s festival is concurrent with Baguio’s Panagbenga Festival, it is a great help for La Trinidad’s tourism especially that some tourists consider to visit the municipality. “Actually may proposal ang Regional Tourism na some of the events of Strawberry Festival will be scheduled in the time of Panagbenga para makapunta rin ang mga tourists dito sa La Trinidad.”
He said the increase in number of tourists who visited the municipality during the festival helped the small businessmen to showcase their products especially in the Agro-Eco Tourism Trade Fair. Though, he admitted that the municipality cannot accommodate the large number of visitors especially on infrastructures and venues of events.
In an interview with Christina Tiongan of La Trinidad Arabica Producers Association, with the help of the festival, they are able to introduce their product which is the Benguet coffee. She claimed showcasing their products to tourists boosted their business. They are able to showcase their other products that help in the development of the municipality’s economy, she said.
Meanwhile, Olsim stated the Municipal Tourism Council proposed a plan to once again break another world record. “Last year pa ito na plano pero ngayon we’re planning to break a record, maybe the biggest strawberry jam, biggest strawberry wine or the most cupcakes eaten in one minute.” MALOU ATICAO, UB INTERN
A PEACEFUL, SMOOTH-FLOWING FESTIVAL
The chief of the municipal police reported the general staging of the 36th Strawberry Festival is peaceful.
Police Chief Inspector Benson Macli-ing said of the total 360 people who lent their service, 260 were policemen and 100 were volunteers.
He said various groups worked hand in hand to ensure the safety and security of the festival enthusiasts. These are Philippine National Police, Guardian Brotherhood, Barangay Peace Action Team, Women’s Brigade, interns from the Cordillera Career Development College and King’s College, and students from the Field Training Program and Cordillera Administrative Region Training School. Whether they are volunteers or not, these people gave their best to protect the municipality from harm during the festivity, he said.
Even though there were volunteers, Macli-ing made sure that these volunteers were accompanied by policemen. He believed that “hindi siya pwedeng isang sector sector lang.” During the two-day highlight events of the festival, the volunteers and policemen were deployed in the order that a policeman is followed by a volunteer and the volunteer followed by a policeman.
Meanwhile, Rimando A. Anguitay, the National Founder and Baguio-Benguet Chairman of Grace Guardian Incorporated, also provided assessment as one of the volunteer groups. “Para sa amin, sabihin ko, okay naman at very peaceful at well-organized ang event.” He added that the flow of the street-dance and float parade was fine.
But he commented that the program started late. He said before 7am, all participants together with the group of volunteers assembled, “atras-abante, atras-abante at may mga sumisingit na ibang group.”
In addition, the security team was challenged with the appearance of the celebrities, Khalil Ramos and Edgar Allan Guzman, who were invited during the March 18 Civic Parade. The team had to strategize and carefully plan the travel route for the artists so that no harm will come to the celebrities and the crowd.
During the Street-dance and Float Parade on March 19, crowd control was critical. According to Macli-ing, it was hard to discipline the audience who were insistent to get the best view.
In terms of crime rate, “it was negative,” said Macli-ing. He generalized the whole festival as smooth in flow.
The La Trinidad Municipal Police Station regarded preparation time as a very vital part of securing peace and order in the 36th Strawberry Festival. Macli-ing focused on the deployment plan to assign police personnel in different areas. Police patrollers were tasked to maintain peace and order at the trade fair and at the lined-up events.
SPO3 Rogelio T. Limbawan, chief of the community relation section of LTMPS, has been rendering his service for 18 years in the Strawberry Festival. He mentioned that, “ang mga kapulisan po ng La Trinidad ay ginagawa ang lahat ng makakaya nila to serve the public positively, pero kung minsan yung ibang mga tao, you cannot please everybody ika nga.”
He ended saying, “enjoyable din naman na kahit mahirap yung trabaho nae-enjoy din namin kasi maraming bisita to participate in the festival.” MELANIE DELA CRUZ, UB INTERN