What is life without strawberry in La Trinidad Valley?

By: Desiree Caluza, April 27th, 2013 10:58 PM

FRESHLY harvested strawberries and handwoven baskets are top sellers during summer in La Trinidad. Photo by EV ESPIRITU/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet—The summer capital’s next-door neighbor gets its share of summer tourists each year because of strawberries.

In 2003, strawberry farmers helped La Trinidad bake the world’s largest strawberry cake as its entry to the Guinness Book of World Records, hoping to draw attention to the berrys’ potentials.

ZELIXXIR Strugar, wine maker, pours strawberry wine for customers. Photo by EV ESPIRITU/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

This week, for the 13th staging of the annual La Trinidad Strawberry Festival, the valley opened a strawberry lane to showcase the town’s strawberry-inspired products, including what may well be its first global brand.

“La Trinidad” is strawberry wine that will be marketed abroad in a slim bottle designed by the Wine Makers Association of Manila for the town government, says Mayor Gregorio Abalos Jr.

“We may stick to the brand name,    ‘La Trinidad,’ which is what [the brandy] Cognac is. Cognac was named after [the wine-producing town] in France,” Abalos says.

He says La Trinidad, the brand, will boost the value of strawberries grown in 66 hectares of farmlands here. The town is also known for most vegetables marketed in Baguio.

LUIS Boul, owner of French Crepes, prepares strawberry crepes. Photo by EV ESPIRITU/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

During a March 5 news briefing here, officials discussed plans to buy more farmlands for strawberries, given the direction their business potentials has taken the town.

Abalos says the town is adapting not because people have lost interest in strawberries. In 2008, demand for strawberries was high, and 2,000 farmers produced 26,292.28 metric tons for tourists,  markets in Manila and manufacturers.

Last year, Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan, the town’s former mayor, signed a deal allowing a popular ice cream brand to use photographs of La Trinidad’s strawberry farms on its label, to highlight where most strawberries in the country originate.

VIVIAN Balagtas shows off the strawberry fruit wine. Photo by EV ESPIRITU/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

“Our strawberries are beautiful and they are maintained by farmers who are passionate about [producing them]. We won’t have to wonder why strawberries have become La Trinidad’s OTOP (one town, one product). The fruit and processed strawberry products are of very good quality,” says Maria Que, a member of the Strawberry Processors Association.

The strawberry lane set up 20 booths marketing the berrys’ other potential brands. A 450-gram bottle of strawberry preserve that sells for P100 will always make a good “pasalubong.”   With a report from Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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