At 4 in the afternoon, we discovered from the heights and beautiful valley of Benguet, the lovely sight of which surprised us all, so that even the soldiers gave vent to their admiration by joyous shouts – Lt. Col. Guillermo Galvey, 1829
DURING the Spanish era, the valley of La Trinidad was originally called “valle de Benguet” from the local term “Benguet,” which means the stench emitted by the mud-covered swamp area.
Its original settlers were Ibalois, who grew rice, kamoteng kahoy, sweet potatoes, gabi, and sugar cane on hillside gardens and terraces along the mountain slopes. Power and wealth were measured by one’s ownership of land and livestock. These were shared by holding the prestigious feast called “Peshit”.
For centuries, the whole Gran Cordillera went undiscovered, not until the Spaniards heard about the gold-rich Igorots trading with the lowlanders. Earliest Spanish visits by Captain Garcia de Aldana and Don Alonso M. Quirante were recorded as early as the 1620s.
Although the District of Benguet was established in La Trinidad by 1846, it was only in April 21, 1874, under Commandant Manuel Scheidnagel, that “Valle de Benguet” was renamed “Valle de La Trinidad” (La Trinidad Valley). Despite popular acceptance that it was named as “a fitting tribute to Galvey’s wife - Doña Trinidad de Galvey” – recent research has revealed that credit should have probably gone to Scheidnagel, having been inspired by the three prominent adjacent hills (in effect, forming a Trinity: a religious icon of the Christian campaign) overlooking the Poblacion church, where the seat of government, the Cabecera, was established.
After the Revolutionary period in 1900, La Trinidad grew vegetables via the Trinidad Farm School (now Benguet State University). Along with socio-economic changes, the concepts of freedom of religion, titling of lands, formal education and the democratic election of leaders were introduced. Paid labor and money became an important feature in the economic lives of the people. Such time of plenty is fondly recalled by old folks as that “time of blissful peace.”
In contrast, the Japanese occupation and WWII were turbulent times. Residents were imprisoned without formal charges and pitilessly tortured. This prompted able-bodied men to join the guerrilla movement, while their families fled for safety to the mountains.
After liberation, on June 16, 1950, La Trinidad became a regular municipality by virtue of RA No. 531. To get back on its feet, La Trinidad went on a massive production of vegetables. For this, the municipality soon came to be widely-known as the Salad Bowl of the Philippines. And with the establishment of the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Post, the valley solidified its status as Benguet’s marketing hub of highland vegetables.
Owing to the need to diversify and with the introduction of new varieties, strawberries soon became the town’s main product. Growing acclaim for these red and luscious strawberries earned La Trinidad for itself the title “Strawberry Capital of the Philippines.”
During the 1980s, farmers likewise ventured into cutflower production.
And by the 1990s, many barangays in La Trinidad were soon growing chrysanthemums, roses and a variety of flowers. Barangay Bahong, a major flower farming community, was named “The Rose Capital of the Philippines”.
By the turn of the century, migration and urbanization paved their way in, bringing with them a colorful tapestry of peoples from all islands of the archipelago.