“BLESS the ground of the Strawberry Town” we included in the dozens of proposed Strawberry Festival themes we listed for the Strawberry Fest Executive Committee review and approval. Word masters ease to opine that “Farmers, Friendship, and Fun” is the best choice, and a client quipped against a popular theme: Sustaining the word “Sustainable”? or “Sustaining” again? Still, the word “sustainable” is a beautiful mantra in public service – “Meeting the needs of the present generation without sacrificing the needs of the future generation”. Ultimately, the body approved, “La Trinidad: My home...my pride” for the 2019 version of the Strawberry Festival.
The Strawberry Festival is our celebration as a Strawberry Town. The Strawberry Farm alone provides a hundred-million economy for the Capital town. This includes the 250 pasalubong vendors, the 625 Strawberry Farmers (excluding the 500 outside the valley plains), transport services, and the restaurants and accommodation establishments. Take away the Strawberry Farms and more than 1,000 families will lose their livelihood, take away Strawberries and more than 10,000 of our constituents will suffer. If a pasalubong vendor, or a farmer derives an average of P8,000 to P12,000 monthly income from the activities at the Strawberry Farm, and since our office ascertained that a thousand of them are in the area, we concluded that about an annual P96 million to P144 million is circulating as a tourist-related economy without even adding the related activities; the jam and wine production, parking fees, transport services, accommodations’ and restaurants’ income. Adding all projected receipts of tourism-related goods and services, the economy will reach 200 million or more. The most essential fact however is that 1 out of 10 persons in La Trinidad is directly or indirectly involved in the town’s tourism industry (primary and secondary tourism establishments).
Beyond the obvious economic gains is the social aspect of it: “There is no Strawberry Capital without Strawberries.” One must wonder. The “Pride of Place” concept is tourism’s non-economic benefit under the thrust of “socio-economic development”. It will be sad to have nothing to be proud of in our town.
Curiously, even with La Trinidad’s remarkable position as a Vegetable Trading hub, Strawberry Capital, and cutflower supplier, the upcoming February marks yet another festival which is unique in the country : the “ 2nd La Trinidad Coffee Festival” which was institutionalized to our town’s investment in the coffee industry and gather its stakeholders – from the farmers to the roasters and marketers, to the coffee shops, and coffee lovers.
Last year, our first coffee festival theme is “Brewing Unity through Coffee”, a representation that coffee brings people together, inspires dialogue, fosters friendships, promotes unity – “Enta agkape”. The Coffee Festival Executive Committee will have a hard time topping that notable coffee festival theme. For now, let us just brace for the coming feast of coffee and strawberries in La Trinidad.
Happy Birthday to my 2nd son: Vin Azury Olsim, my sky prince who is effortlessly charming in his own unique way. As a parent who is blessed and privileged to have witnessed the miracle of life, we can only pray for that our children will live beautiful and meaningful lives. I love you, Vin!