THE season of strawberries is back in the Benguet center: the Strawberry Capital of the Philippines! The valley’s Strawberry Festival celebrations evolved from a simple town fiesta in 1981, honoring its patron saint, Saint Joseph.
It has undergone innovations throughout the years: changes in name - Panaspulan tan Pandadshahan; expansion of activities; and the enactment of a Strawberry Festival Ordinance in 2011.
Although it has undergone changes, the aims of the festival are essentially the same: to showcase the strawberry as La Trinidad’s One-Town-One-Product (OTOP) and to foster and rekindle ties between and among local and foreign folks alike. It is also an avenue to promote the town’s many other products aside from the strawberries, and also to celebrate the town’s cultural diversity and richness.
As a tourism event, the Strawberry Festival has gained awards and citations through the years; the latest was a national award from a major tourism body last year. Perhaps, the most special was the Guinnes World Record for the Biggest Strawberry shortcake during the 2004 Strawberry Festival.
The Festival was also once dubbed by a tourism executive as; “one of the most sensible festivals in the country” since the product being celebrated is really from the town. As they say, “those who actually planted and toiled have every right to harvest and celebrate the bounty.”
For this annual festival, the Strawberry Festival Executive Committee approved the activities specifically provided in the 2011 Strawberry Festival Ordinance like; Multi Cultural celebrations, Parades (Street dance, Drum and lyre, and Floats), Agro-fair/ Strawberry Lane, Fun Run and Duting tan Dukto, Job fair, Artistic and Musical events, Mr. and Ms. La Trinidad, Biggest and Sweetest Strawberries, Flower Arrangement contest, Barangay night, Sports events, and other Municipal and Community-led events approved by the SF Execomm. This year’s Strawberry Festival theme returns to the root of it all – “La Trinidad: My home...my pride.”
Last Sunday was a curious case when over a thousand vehicles of visitors flocked the BSU Strawberry Farms resulting to a four-hour traffic jam. It was a long weekend after all in which Manila tour operators market the north, most especially Baguio City (of course, including La Trinidad and other Benguet sites). However, this time, most tourists went straight to the Strawberry Farms without dropping-by in the usual Baguio spots. The result is chaos.
But perhaps we can find comfort on the thought that the La Trinidad Strawberry Complex / Area is generating over a hundred million economy annually to the locality and providing livelihood and opportunities to farmers, shop owners, and many families in the town.
This “Strawberry Economy” serves as the solid base to the active financial dynamics of the town – external money (from tourists) which fuses to the local money and goes to the various veins of the economy; money that goes to markets, groceries, restaurants, stores, etcetera. Without such, La Trinidad will easily fall back to a second-class town.
In its social “pride of place” aspect (aside from economics), without the strawberries and the strawberry farms, we cannot claim our title as the “Strawberry Capital of the Country” – a legacy that should be passed down to our children.