Fruit bounty inspires festival
SILANG, Cavite—Santol, Kaong and Bayabasan are names not simply plucked out of nowhere for some villages in Silang, Cavite, but these attest to the abundance of fruits, as well as vegetables, in a town naturally blessed with lush greenery, rich volcanic soil and cool climate.
Farmers have long enjoyed the bounty of locally grown coconut, corn, banana, pineapple, mango, lanzones and other fruits. “When you ask vendors in Divisoria (in Manila), they’d tell you that fruits are sweet and delicious if they come from Silang,” said Merlinda Samuel-Sualibios, 49, a physician-turned-trader whose family owns a farm.
Although popularly known for its luscious produce, Silang has never formally claimed to be a major producer of fruits being exported to Manila and other provinces. Recognized as a first-class municipality (annual income: over P55 million), it is still considered an agricultural town with 30-40 percent of its population engaged in farming.
In recent years and as a result of industrialization and land conversions, “people, specially the younger generations, seemed to have lost interest in agriculture,” Sualibios said.
This reality gave Sualibios, her husband Romeo, Celedonio Asuncion, teacher Jon Bercenilla and Councilor Emilia Poblete the idea of organizing “a festival of what we are already known for.”
The first Silang Prutas Festival was launched on Jan. 22 and will run for 13 days as part of Silang’s fiesta in honor of its patron saint, the Nuestra Señora de Candelaria, on Feb. 2.
“The festival is our way of thanking the Lord and celebrating a bountiful harvest. It aims to preserve the cultural heritage of Silang, promote tourism and improve local economy, and create a product identity for the town,” Romeo said.
Activities were expected to include nightly cultural presentations, singing and dance competitions at the plaza, band parade, street dancing and a variety show.
Councilor Ivy Reyes said she believed the Prutas Festival would bring back the farmers’ “love for the land” to which the town owed so much. She recalled that in the 1970s, agriculture was the main livelihood that “enabled the farmers to send their children to school.”
Harvests peaked during the ’80s and ’90s, but these began dwindling by 2000.
“We’ve seen the effects. Most farmers slaughtered their farm animals and sold away their lands. They were lured to other jobs that brought instant money,” Reyes said.
According to municipal agriculturist Adelia Poblete, 70 percent of the town’s revenues comes from agriculture, primarily from the production of Robusta coffee, pineapple, banana, papaya and coconut.
“(The fruit festival) could just be the start of more fruitful events,” Reyes said.