La Trinidad, Benguet: Of Strawberries & Colors

I first heard of La Trinidad a few years back when Bobby & I were en route to Manila from Sagada. You’ll pass by this humble town before you reach Baguio City. From the looks of it, you’ll see La Trinidad’s growing economy through agriculture-based efforts and tourism.

It’s the most developed and fast-growing economy among the municipalities of Benguet. Passing by La Trinidad the first time around (back in 2014), it felt like any other bustling town in the province – a bit quiet, not busy, and people just going on with their lives. On the flipside, there were a lot of constructions on the side of the road, mountains of debris and dirt fill the sidewalks, 2-lane traffic could barely fit the road, making the entrance to Baguio unpleasant.

Now, it feels like it went through some sort of awakening.

There are noticeably more houses scattered around the mountains. At first glance, most people would be amazed (just like how my mom was). Others would probably think it’s an eye-soar. I, on the other, was just astonished by the number of houses, and families, residing there! I wonder how their every day is like – having to go up and down the mountain, walking on narrow alleys and crossing makeshift footbridges just to make it down to the city.

Nonetheless, there’s a humbling beauty that lies within La Trinidad, Benguet.

A few weeks ago, my family and I made our way there, with no knowledge of what we’ll see. Mom was craving for strawberries so we pinned the famous Strawberry Farm on Google Maps, and headed out.

 

The Colors of STOBOSA Mural

On our way, we saw the houses I was just talking to you about. But right after you pass the La Trinidad arc, you’ll see the houses in the sitios of Stonehill, Botiwtiw and Sadjap (STOBOSA) in Barangay Balili in La Trinidad covered in various colors and patterns, as somehow inspired by the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Stobosa Mural

Posing by the mural with my little boy!

Funny story: We had to do like a 5-minute stop along the road to get this shot because there's really no area for you to park (unless you find a nearby establishment and walk).

Mom really wanted a photo so damay nalang kami...

I’m not much of a color person – I don’t exactly know what this means, but if you knew me, I was never the type to sport vibrant, happy colors. I’ve always been the type drawn to neutrals, gradients of gray and black. However, seeing this in person was really an experience. In fact, mom was the first one who shouted, “Anak, tingnan mo oh, ang ganda!” — ganda was an understatement. We pulled over on the side of the road, put the car in hazard and took several photos.

I’ve read some stories online about it. In a previous interview with Rappler, DOT Regional Director Marie Venus Tan said that rapid growth, commercialization, and lack of a comprehensive development & zoning plans have caused the degradation and deterioration of Baguio and La Trinidad as prime tourist destinations. The growing number of houses seemed to clutter the mountains – so what better way to showcase [La Trinidad’s] beauty by painting the houses as if it were one big mural.

Thankfully, they were able to onboard “solar artist” Jordan Mang-osan and a team of Tam-awan artists to do this job – creating this beautiful work of art that paid homage to what Mang-osan claimed to be the area’s origins as a mountain of sunflowers and limestone rock formations! When I read Lakad Pilipinas’ post, I was amazed learning that this gargantuan mural of colorful sunflowers covered 18,000 square meters of 180 homes using 2,800 gallons of eco-friendly paint! This RevBloom project took almost half a year to complete, with residents also painting each and every square meter of their houses.

Ang ganda. That’s all I could really say.

 

La Trinidad Strawberry Farm

A few meters away was the road leading to La Trinidad Strawberry Farm. The sign wasn’t as big as I thought it would be… but it’s not that hard to miss it either. Coming from Baguio, the opening will be on your left which then leads to a clearing; which is basically a huge parking lot and at the far back, you’ll see the strawberry farms.

Strawberry Farm in La Trinidad

It’s actually quite a sight to see. A huge plateau with lines upon lines of strawberry plants. Beautiful mountains guard each corner as if protecting the natural treasure within and the cool crisp breeze that flows through the area. As you choose from the hundreds of parking spaces, you’ll be greeted by one of the two – an ice cream vendor selling what else but strawberry-flavored ice cream; with a free taste of course, or the usual vendor who sells knick-knacks, assorted treats or pasalubongs, and strawberries. Bargaining is not forbidden so you can go around and look for the best prices or best deals.

You can also go into the fields and pick strawberries yourself. Unfortunately, when we were there, it wasn’t picking season so all we saw were fields of green [and not red]. The manongs would say the best time to go is from March to May. If you’re planning to go, check out Amber Folkman’s post on her website, amommabroad.com where she shares what she and her boys did! For those curious about how strawberry picking goes, you can pay a set price of P 450.oo to the owner/farmer behind the patch of strawberry-filled land you’ll be picking from.

Surprisingly, they do grow other vegetables on those fields alongside the strawberries. We noticed a variety of lettuce growing beside or under the strawberry plants.

 

La Trinidad Souvenir Market

After going through the fields, my parents started going around the market, and you could see all sorts of things, veggies, apparel, jams, walis… you name it. Here’s some of what we spotted:

Bobby shared how much the place has changed from what he remembers as a kid. To him, strawberry picking as a kid was a rare experience, comparable to riding a helicopter or traveling to another country. It’s commercialized to a certain level… but still has that sort of mystery in itself.  It hasn’t lost its essence [for him] since it still holds that reputation for being a family-bonding experience.

 

The Verdict

La Trinidad receives a 4 out 5 rating for us.

From the country’s Salad Bowl, then gaining the title of  “Strawberry Fields of the Philippines”. It’s an identity no other place can grab from La Trinidad – this town is booming with potential! This quiet town – 30 minutes away from Baguio City – has a lot to offer. Hidden spots to be discovered, houses to be immortalized in murals, and people waiting to accommodate you in this town they call home.

But we’re am hoping and praying that the potential we see and appreciate won’t be tampered by modernization. We hope they can preserve the town’s historic and nostalgic feels of yesteryear. We pray more people start recognizing the potential of this humble town along the sides of a mountain.