In the Philippines, whenever one talks about strawberry, it is inevitable that the discussion would be redirected to Baguio City. But to set everyone’s perspective (and geographic knowledge) right, the real strawberry fields are found on the suburbs of the city. Even the famed La Presa is situated in the municipality of Tuba, Benguet. However, it is the strawberry fields of La Trinidad, Benguet’s capital town, that has drawn the most attention.
Recently, there was an influx of visitors to the strawberry fields as the travel from Manila to Baguio have become more convenient. Not only were the roads paved, the opening of the Tarlac-Pangasinan Expressway made it easier to commute to Baguio; the usual six to seven-hour trip was reduced to a three to four-hour trip. The offshoots of development are spreading.
Like strawberry wine and seventeen
The hot July moon saw everything
Green on the vine
Like strawberry wine
I have been hearing this country song since I was a kid. I can’t help humming to it as my friends and I made our way to the famed strawberry fields of La Trinidad, Benguet. Should I mention that the Cordilleras is a hotbed for country music?
Ah strawberries. One of my favorite fruits.
The countryside. A fine day in late February after a long cold spell. It was a great day to explore the outdoors. Strawberry season is drawing near. La Trinidad is just nearby. Then there is Monica who was persistent in convincing me to visit the strawberry fields. Having never been to the fields myself, I agreed.
In fine spirits, Monica, John and I hopped our way to the heart of La Trinidad, Benguet. Over twenty years of living in the Cordilleras and never once did I thought of dropping by the strawberry fields. We would pass it by whenever we go to Baguio from Bontoc (and vice versa) but it never really piqued my interest.
Honestly, I have never imagined myself trudging down the paths of the strawberry fields, along with a huge crowd of curious spectators. I find it too touristy for my taste. Had Monica not been so stubborn, I would have never found myself walking down its earthy aisles, cavorting with puerile joy on its narrow pathways just to find that perfectly scrumptious, plump red strawberry.
I never fully realized the extent of the farms until I was knocking its doors. The strawberry farm is not just one farm per se but a collection of farms. The land where these farms are located is owned by the Benguet State University (BSU). The nearly 80-hectare land is being leased by the institution to local farmers.
The primary produce of these farms are strawberries. In 2018, 600 farmers accounted for over 1,200 tons of strawberries. That is 1,200,000 kilos of these succulent fruit! That’s a whole lot of strawberries to satisfy one’s craving for the sweet and sour mix of strawberries.
But the farms aren’t just cultivating strawberries. Other vegetables are also being cultivated and sold to the public. Lettuce is a very common vegetable because of its ease to produce. According to a local farmer I asked, romaine lettuce takes about a month and a half to produce. It is no wonder that we saw a whole array of lettuces while walking around and exploring the area. They could literally start a samgyeopsal restaurant there!
Far from the crowd, we saw a prospective plot filled with strawberries ripe for the picking. The area is also more conducive for tranquil me-times. We never planned to actually “pick” strawberries, but we tried nevertheless, just for the experience. The boys who were looking after the plot were diligent enough to teach us the process of picking, and which kinds of strawberries to pick.
The reddish ones, which are the typical picture of the fruit, are best for immediate consumption. However, if planned consumption is beyond a day, the whiter ones are preferable. These will ripen while it is in transit from Baguio to Manila. We picked a mixture of reddish and whitish ones.
For a price of PHP 500.00, we were able to experience something new. We also got to bring home a healthy kilo of strawberries. Please note that the price does vary from one farm to another. I read some travelers spending between PHP 300 to PHP 450. For health reasons, wash first the strawberries before consuming. This is why I asked my friends not to eat the fruit while picking.
If the price of strawberry picking is too much for your budget, you can purchase packed strawberries outside of the farm for PHP 200. Other stalls at the farm entrance sells various souvenirs, and organic vegetables. Strawberry taho and strawberry ice cream are also in vogue.
The Strawberry Festival
Never has been a town ever been defined by a single fruit the way strawberry became the symbol of La Trinidad. It is fitting that the town dedicate its festival to the fruit that placed it on the map. According to statistics, the strawberry farms are the biggest tourist drawers in the entire province, with over 500,000 visitors in the first quarter of 2017 alone.
To promote the strawberry industry, La Trinidad annually hosts the Strawberry Festival. It is also a machination to promote tourism in the town. The Strawberry Festival is held every March, during the peak season of strawberries. A bevy of activities is usually lined up for the entire month ala-Baguio’s Panagbenga Festival.
One of the yearly highlights is the baking of a huge strawberry shortcake, the proverbial symbol of the fruit. Actually, the town holds the Guiness Book of World Record for the biggest strawberry short cake – a humongous mouth-watering pastry that weighs over 9,600 kilos. Started in 1981, other events to watch out for include eating competitions, a cultural parade and trade fairs.
For schedule of events for the 2019 Strawberry Festival, you may check below:
How To Get To The Strawberry Farm
The easiest way to get to the strawberry farm is to ride a taxi. However, if you want to commute, here’s how to:
- Go to Center Mall or to Rizal Park, in front of Baguio City Hall.
- Ride a jeepney that passes by the farm such as Tomay, Tawang or Shilan-bound jeepneys.
- Ask the driver to drop you off at the strawberry farms. If you want to look like a local, tell the driver to drop you off at KM 5.
- Alight at KM 5 and walk to the entrance. There are signages that directs visitors to the farm.
- The farms are open from 7 AM to 5 PM, everyday.
- The farm charges no entrance fees.
- Each farmer charges differently.
- Have a lot of energy and patience as the farm is a very wide area. Bring an umbrella as the area is an open field.
- There are other vegetables on sale.
- The best time to visit is from December to March, the peak seasons for strawberry farming.
- For visitors with cars, the farm has a wide parking area. However, it is on a first come first serve basis.