More than reviving the traditional industry of sampaguita planting and trading, this year’s (reactivated) Sampaguita Festival aims to highlight the largest wealth of San Pedro City, Laguna: its talented and innovative people.
The fragrance of the sampaguita, the Philippines’ national flower, has again spread into the consciousness of residents of San Pedro City, Laguna.
This, as the city – dubbed the “Sampaguita Capital of the Philippines” – celebrated its most famous event: the Sampaguita Festival, held from May 1 to 6.
This year's Sampaguita Festival is the first time under the administration of Mayor Mercado and the first time it was celebrated completely in-person activities after it was suspended for almost three years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“[Ang Sampaguita Festival] ay isang magandang pagkilala sa role ng sampaguita sa paghubog ng San Pedrong tinitirahan natin ngayon,” the mayor said in his speech at the opening ceremony. “Subalit kumpara sa mga nakaraang Sampaguita Festival, di na lang tayo more on celebrations and merry-making, magkakaroon po tayo ng mga events na maghahighlight sa totoong bida ng fiestang ito, ang sampaguita.”
Earlier, city officials had explained to OpinYon Laguna that these year’s activities for the festival will focus more on the people of San Pedro and their talents, and not just the revival of the local sampaguita industry.
“Ang goal namin [sa Sampaguita Festival ngayong taon] ay minimal cost but with high impact, gayundin ay makapag-focus kami sa ‘One Sampaguita’ – ‘One,’ dahil sa sama-samang pagbubuklod ng civil society organizations, ng ating mga barangay at mga pampublikong opisyal, at gayundin ang pribadong sektor. Hindi lamang ito activity ng lokal na pamahalaan ng San Pedro, ito ay activity ng lahat ng taga-San Pedro,” was how Jhe-Rico Sam Colina, head of the City Public Affairs and Information and also the concurrent head of the San Pedro City Tourism, Culture and Arts Office (CTCAO), explained to OpinYon Laguna.
This year’s revival of the Sampaguita Festival was marked by the opening of a Sampaguita Trade Fair at the San Pedro City Plaza last May 1, along with street art and dances showcasing talents from various public schools in the city.
As the first day of the Sampaguita Festival fell on May 1, Labor Day, the city government, along with the provincial government of Laguna and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), also organized a job fair at the Pacita Astrodome in which 47 companies offered job opportunities for San Pedronians.
Since one of the goals of the festival is to showcase the talent of San Pedronians, various activities were organized to let the city’s residents display their creativity.
These include the “Agos ng Musika” musical concert held last May 6; a fashion show that showcased the designs of San Pedro City’s top fashion designers (which were modeled by the city's barangay captains) last May 5; a cosplay event at the Robinsons Galleria South Mall last May 4; and a Sampaguita Art Exhibit at the Old Municipal Hall from May 2 to 6.
Another venue in which San Pedronians were able to unleash their innovative flair was the “Shark Tank San Pedro Sampaguita Product Business Proposal Competition” held at the Takara Hotel and Events Place on May 3.
In this competition, local entrepreneurs were given the opportunity to explore innovative products made from sampaguitas.
Entrepreneur Eliel Torres bagged the grand prize of P25,000 for his winning product – “Sparkling Sampaguita,” a wine with sampaguita as the main ingredient.
Jonathan Espinili placed second (with P15,000 cash prize) for his Sampaguita Clear Bar Soap, while Czarina Martinez followed third with a cash prize of P10,000 for her Sampaguita Ganoderma Tea.
Sampaguita Co., an e-commerce for Sampaguita products and services by Mr. LA Tolentino and S-Vone Sampaguita Soap by students from San Lorenzo School were tied for the fourth place, bagging P5,000.
Other entries include “Sampaquito,” an insect repellant made by students from PUP San Pedro; Scent Pedro, a scented candle by EarthDrops; Sampaguita Body Oil by Rina Ruth Nunez; and Ceriel Fragrances by Arceli Bajaro.
“Susuportahan po natin ang mananalong entries para madevelop po ito at maging asset sa ating lungsod in the future,” Mayor Mercado said during the event.
Reviving a tradition
Amid all these innovations, however, the city government also stayed true to the main purpose of the Sampaguita Festival: the commemoration – and revival – of the traditional sampaguita planting and trading industry in San Pedro City.
This was the motivating factor for two main events slated at the festival: the opening of the 3,600-square meter Sampaguita Nursery in Barangay Rosario on May 2 and the unveiling of the Sampaguita Marker and Sampaguita Trading Center in Barangay Nueva.
These activities, according to the city government, are part of its drive to rejuvenate an industry that has been affected by rapid industrialization and commercialization, as once vast sampaguita plantations have given way to residential and industrial complexes in the past decades.
For the San Pedronians whose work in the sampaguita industry had been passed down through generations, these measures are a big boost.
"Sa ngayon po kasi, mula na sa ibang lugar gaya ng Pampanga kumukuha ang mga gumagawa ng mga sampaguita garland na ibinabagsak sa San Pedro," Nenie Vierneza, an “old-timer” in the sampaguita industry, told OpinYon Laguna. “Kaya napakaganda po nitong programa ni Mayor Mercado na ibinabalik na ang tradisyon ng sampaguita dahil hindi na po aangkat ang mga taga-San Pedro mula sa ibang lugar.”
For the Mercado administration, the revival of the Sampaguita Festival marks another step forward in its goal for San Pedro City to become “Una sa Laguna.”
“Sa muling pagbabalik ng Sampaguita Festival, nawa po ay makasama namin kayo hindi lamang sa pakikisaya kundi maging sa pagpapahalaga at pangangalaga ng ating industriya ng pagsasampaguita bilang isa sa ating mga pinaka mahahalagang local heritage,” so ran his message to San Pedronians during the opening ceremony.
“Lahat tayo ay may pwedeng maiambag sa promotion, development, at protection ng ating sampaguita industry. Matutulungan din natin ang ating mga manggagawa ng kahapon, at ng kasalukuyan na ipagpatuloy ang marangal na trabaho at tradisyong ito.”