Cakes, pastries featured in Benguet’s strawberry festival | Inquirer News
REVIVED AFTER 2 YEARS

Cakes, pastries drum up interest in Benguet’s strawberry festival

/ 04:45 AM March 22, 2022
The “berrylicious burgers.” STORY: Cakes, pastries drum up interest in Benguet’s strawberry festival

BERRY MEATY | The “berrylicious burgers,” featuring a beef patty with strawberry sauce and served in strawberry-flavored buns, is a hit during the revived strawberry festival in the Benguet capital of La Trinidad. The burger, created by LMT Breads and Pastries, is sold for P65. —EV ESPIRITU

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet, Philippines — Cakes, pastries, and even burgers made from or flavored with strawberries were displayed again last week after a two-year break from celebrating this town’s strawberry festival due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Like neighboring Baguio City, La Trinidad has relaunched the festival that honors one of its most profitable crops in order to jump-start its economic recovery, said Mayor Romeo Salda on Friday.

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The burger, cheese, and lettuce were slapped between two strawberry-flavored buns, an idea brought to life by local baker Laarni de los Santos of LMT Breads and Pastries, whose “berrylicious burger,” for P65, became an instant hit.

The store Baker’s Cravings sold dried berries as part of a mixed-fruit bag for P120, while Valley Bread, a homegrown bakery, sold P20 Strawberry Swirls and their popular P1,640 “Very Strawberry Cake.”

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Outside the town hall, an exhibition of homemade strawberry-shaped cakes took inspiration from the 9.6-ton giant strawberry cake, the main attraction in pre-pandemic festival celebrations that had earned for this Benguet capital town a Guinness World Record in 2004 for baking the largest strawberry shortcake.

The local baking community hoped the town would be pandemic-free by 2023 so they could make another giant strawberry shortcake that could break new world records, Salda said.

Salda said tourists were once more allowed to visit and pick berries from the town’s Strawberry Farm. Benguet normally produces 1,175 metric tons of berries each year on roughly 65 hectares of land dedicated to the crop.

The berries are shipped along with salad vegetables like carrots, cabbages, beans, lettuce and cauliflower to lowland markets. Benguet and the gardens along the borders of Mountain Province grow 80 percent of Metro Manila’s daily supply of highland vegetables.

Square one

But the municipality is starting from square one as pandemic restrictions begin to ease, the mayor said.

“We were affected by the typhoons in November last year and we lost all our strawberry seedlings when our strawberry farm was flooded,” Salda said.

The crops on display last week were grown, thanks to seedlings provided by Benguet State University and by the Department of Agriculture, he said.

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The festival reopening had to address inflation triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which affected fuel prices, said Nida Organo, La Trinidad’s senior agriculturist.

She said participating bakers had to contend with the rise in flour and sugar prices.

Benguet food growers are also reeling from the flood of foreign crops, both imported and smuggled, which the Bureau of Customs is investigating in Iloilo and Cebu, Salda said, citing a message from customs intelligence officer Jeoffrey Tacio.

La Trinidad has not quantified its losses due to the pandemic.

As of March 16, La Trinidad had only one active COVID-19 case, out of 11,454 infections recorded since 2020. The town and the rest of Benguet are still under Alert Level 2.

—EV ESPIRITU

RELATED STORY

Benguet’s Strawberry Fest canceled due to nCoV threat

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