“BLESS the ground of the Strawberry Town” I included in the dozens of proposed Strawberry Festival themes we listed for the Strawberry Fest Executive Committee review and approval.
Master-word-master George insisted on “Farmers, Friendship, and Fun”, but a client quipped “Basta huwag Sustainable ulit…unless the whole Province sustains the word ‘sustain’.”
Another client joined, “asan ang economy dyan?” the guy obviously needed a morning coffee. So we fixed him some and explained: 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 10,000 will suffer.
“I can’t really understand the numbers.” the client confessed. “Okay.”, I mustered patience from the air, “A pasalubong vendor, or a farmer derives an average of 8,000 to 12,000 monthly income from the activities at the Strawberry Farm. Since our office ascertained a thousand of them in the area, about an annual 96 million to 144 million is circulating as a tourist-related economy without even adding the transport services, accommodations’ and restaurants’ income. Adding all projected receipts of tourism-related goods and services, the economy will be about 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).”
“But there is more!” the other client was immediately converted. “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”.
People tend to forget what our lives would be without these economies which were admittedly built by the real tourism frontliners in the last decades. Problem is; the frontliners sometimes forget to be grateful, putting money on top, and being a part of the community at the bottom.
They forget to remind the tourists to dispose their wastes properly, or to at least support La Trinidad’s brand campaign at least by the commissioning of shirts and keychains to promote the name “La Trinidad”.
“Basta makalako mabalinen!” they would insist. It is difficult to change mindsets that have been cemented by years of practice. Disturbing the status quo will instigate dislike, even defiance. The question I ask people is “Do you love your hometown?” Or in moments of inebriation and deluge : “Isakit tau met koma ti ili tau.”
What should be sustained is not the word “sustain”, but being the strawberry town in our country. Lest La Trinidad wants to pass the “Strawberry Capital” title. For me, if there is such a thing as “Strawberry Fields Forever”, I would want it to be in La Trinidad.