A friend referred me to this Inquirer article. Its about the withering sampaguita trade here in San Pedro and how the local government plan to take measures to revive it. It is in danger of becoming a lost trade.
i could clearly remember when I first visited the town in 1992. We arrived early at around 7am at the bridge when the plantation right beneath caught my attention. One could literally smell the sampaguita in the morning. My father then later told me that backyard plantation of our national flower is very popular among the residents. I was very young then and I thought it was beautiful how people work to harvest this buds off the thick shrubs. Little did I know that the labor of this kind has been in existence for centuries.
The history of this humble trade started way back, San Pedro was then called Tabuko part of Kabulaw (Cabuyao). Even then the town has been favored grounds to this charming flower. People then were making garlands for adoration and decorative purposes for the local and nearby churches. The popularity reached its peak when the American’s came. The whole town was producing garlands, some say people would sell it to Americans at a higher price. But I think the trade peaked after the war when technology and infrastructure were improved. This provided the locals with substantial monetary returns. The town was then delivering its bounty outside its town limits – thanks to the towns reputation as the premier producer. Regrettably it was on the decline when land developers started converting lands in town. Sampaguita cultivation in San Pedro is the town’s heritage, similar to that of woodcarving is to Paete, shoe making is to Marikeños – just imagine what would it mean if the trade completely dies.
It is also interesting that this particular shrub can only be found in India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and our country, other variety exist throughout Asia, in 1990 Melati variety was adopted by the Indonesians as their national flower. How it landed here in San Pedro is unknown but its popularity could be attributed to its use as an ornament in the Catholic festivities and masses.
Now, the trade is on the brink of its final days, most of the areas where sampaguitas are planted are now subdivisions, the small area that I bought in the hilly area of San Pedro I heard was once a plantation. I could only imagine how big business it was on its heyday. Aside from the urbanization of the town, the neighbouring towns in Laguna and Cavite are producing more sampaguitas, competition has begun to take its toll on the diminishing sampaguitas of San Pedro coupled with an unappreciative local government who lacks the vision to advance the cultivation and trade – a festival is a great idea but providing incentives for the people who still strives to make a living out of cultivating this plant should be prioritized – this only make sense if we intend to keep it alive. The prospects of getting back to its old form, unfortunately is bleak.
In time only the Sampaguita festival would reminds its residence of what use to be the towns pride, its very own jasmine. The plantation that I saw in 1992 are now all gone, replaced by the squatter shanties right beneath the bridge. The sampaguita’s we see at the intersections and at the plaza’s are descendants of the old shrubs that once dominated the fields and hills of the town. Whenever I drive pass by one in our village, where the old time residents still find time to cultivate for recreational purpose the humble flower producing shrubs, I’m reminded of its celebrated and glorious past.