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Endangered Abundance

La Trinidad, Benguet, March 4 – The whole town was bustling at the crack of dawn as residents prepared for the upcoming Panagbenga celebrations in the country’s summer capital, Baguio City.

To the familiar, La Trinidad is much more than strawberry picking. The capital of Benguet province boasts of its unique produce but well known as well as a major source of fruits, vegetables and flowers in most, if not all, of Northern Philippines.

But the land’s abundance, which early inhabitants have enjoyed to this day, is now at risk. As seasons unfold more erratically, locals who have long tended the land of plenty face the growing threat of displacement and declining fortunes.

“After (Typhoon) Ondoy and Pepeng most of us here in La Trinidad realized that we have to work on several methods to adapt with this situation,” said Pat Acosta, one of the founders of LaTop, a cooperative of organic farmers in the province.

The impacts of climate change are varied and appear to be growing. Water that today settles in the town’s main valley during rainy season has begun to decimate crops, particularly La Trinidad’s strawberries. A study conducted by the Benguet State University-Institute of Social Research and Development, showed an increase in incidence of pestilence and diseases, pushing farmers to increase their use of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides in an attempt to arrest low fertility and reduce damage to crops. Farmers are now considering livelihoods other than farming due to the impact of falling production and crop prices.

A farmer harvests red roses in a private farm in La Trinidad, Benguet. The province of Benguet, which is usually known for their strawberries, also boasts different varieties of flowers that are shipped to Manila. The recently held Panagbenga Flower Festival in the neighboring city of Baguio showcased thousand of flowers harvested in La Trinidad. (Photo by Sonny Villafranca)

A farmer harvests red roses in a private farm in La Trinidad, Benguet. The province of Benguet, which is usually known for their strawberries, also boasts different varieties of flowers that are shipped to Manila. The recently held Panagbenga Flower Festival in the neighboring city of Baguio showcased thousand of flowers harvested in La Trinidad. (Photo by Sonny Villafranca)

According to former provincial administrator and close assistant to La Trinidad Mayor George Abalos, Willy Esteban, “The local government has been steadfast in combating this situation. We have waste segregation facilities and even a machine from Japan that recycles waste material and turns them into a liquid state. This is apart from other methods most especially for agriculture that our city officials have been working on to address changes in climatic patterns,” Esteban said.

In Little Kibungan, where at least a hundred people died due to the massive mudslide triggered by the torrential rains of Typhoon Pepeng, buildings and dwelling are being reinforced with cement and sturdier materials to prevent or at least reduce the potential repeat of extreme weather event-induced tragedies that hit the country in 2009.

Today, Baguio is cheerful again and colorful banners proudly flutter once more in open display of hope as the city prepares for Baguio’s annual flower festival. Many remain unconvinced, unfortunately, that the city, if not the very region, has finally turned the

corner. Not a few observers have noted how the outward vibe of good tidings has served only to mask recent real estate expansion, which is pushing Baguio to move beyond the carrying capacity of the area’s natural carrying capacity. Even its cool weather — the chill breeze which once flowed freely down from lofty peaks and which circulated among brush and pine, seem threatened as well.

Massive structures continue to mushroom in different districts and around the city housing subdivisions are spreading like wildfire.

Will profit and market-fixated ‘development’ defer to and consider the spirit in which these places were once greatly known?.

Who knows what time frame governs the increasingly endangered abundance of La Trinidad?

by Veejay Villafranca

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The Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (iCSC) commissioned the father and son veteran photographers Sonny and Veejay Villafranca to capture the current state of living in La Trinidad, Benguet. As one of the most climate change challenged municipalities, La Trinidad provided perfect images on how climate change is affecting Filipinos.

This project was conducted to highlight the importance of the People’s Survival Fund, the Philippines first legislated climate change adaptation fund, in addressing climate-related problems in local communities. The photos taken will be a part of a photo exhibit road show that iCSC will conduct within the year. .

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