Cacti and Succulents | Expanding Benguet’s Agritourism
For a long time, Benguet is touted as the Rose Capital of the Philippines. Then came climate change, competition, social media and a new breed of gardeners. Finally, the cacti and succulents economy was born adding new fertile plots to Benguet’s agritourism.
Cacti and succulents gained massive internet fandom in the last decade or so. I see them flooding my social media newsfeed. And it didn’t take long before it took over Instagram with an entire curated aesthetic of its own. Green gingerly shaped bodies on old scarlet pots against muted walls won hearts after hearts.
In the Philippines, budding and avid collectors need not go far to find suppliers to feed their fascinations. A quick Google search easily leads you to Cordillera and two notable names: Living Gifts Nursery and Dan Saclangan.
Cacti and Succulents: #PlantPorn
This coronavirus lockdown is bringing out new skills and shelved old-time hobbies. Aside from cooking, gardening is among the past time activities raking in all the emoticons now. And yes, these thorny and blushing beauties are making a resurgence too.
This poked my memories of that one pre-pandemic December day I met Dan Saclangan in his nursery in Alno, La Trinidad, Benguet. I have to admit I never knew how big this humble guy is in the cacti and succulents cultivation. Not until I did my own lil sleuthing.
Dan is an agriculturist. And if by any reason he loves propagating new varieties, it is because he used to be in the genetics division of the Philippine Rice Research Institute. How cool is that?
He started his plant love with bonsais before tuning in to the distinctive appeal of cacti and succulents. From common stuff, his scientist nature shot him into collecting the exotics and creating hybrids.
Since then, he pledged his allegiance to this horticultural movement. And what began as a hobby is now a business in full bloom.
Living Gifts Nursery
My mom’s face instantly popped into my mind when I stepped in at the Living Gifts Nursery. As a hobbyist herself, I bet she would end up having a seizure being surrounded with rarities. But as I was touring around, I felt like I was the one having a seizure of excitement.
Living Gifts is Dan’s lab. This is his universe ringed by spines, barbs and bristles. This is his paradise filled with seductive, dark waxen leaves. Here, every square foot is a bit of good finds from the typical to the recherché.
Tourists are very welcome here too. For a minimal entrance fee, you get the chance to experience its exquisite cacti and succulents tapestry and nurseries. Also, you see the staff in action and you’re free to ask questions or even take photographs.
Cordillera’s Growing Agritourism Landscape
Benguet is the holy grail of flowers in Cordillera with La Trinidad, Atok and Bugias as its blooming trinity. But what are these cacti and succulents, usually associated with arid lands doing in a cold mountain region?
Dan explains that not all cacti grow in desert environments. There are tree-living and climbing species that thrive in moister forests too. However, all of them are resilient plants able to adapt to water-wise areas.
Farm tourism has long been an attraction in Cordillera. From rice terraces and vegetable plantations to flower gardens and now cacti and succulents nurseries, truly, this region has a lot to offer.
And yes, with brilliant sunshine, fertile soil and mountain mist, make Benguet sort of a xanadu for these plants to thrive.
Adulting with Cacti and Succulents
Of course, I did not leave Living Gifts without bagging-in a few of my first living things. Although mom was more excited to own it.
But have we ever thought why these spiky fellas succeeded?
Whether they’re in the desert or on a desk, they’re most likely to survive as these are low-maintenance plants. So, you could actually go on a vacation without distressing.
And since we are all fighting climate change, what’s more practical than having a survivalist plant, right?
They also reflect social changes. As more people move into vertical landscapes, space also becomes precious. Thus, the need for minimalist aesthetics.
Cacti and succulents are now the darlings of modern homes, gardens and offices. Yes, because we are a generation that values ease over effort.
Indeed, cacti and succulents are living sculptures creating a new gardening movement. With refreshed perception and appreciation, it actually uses its humans to flourish to what it is now. Thanks to social media for keeping it in vogue.
Today, Dan and his Living Gifts Nursery is already an empire built on once-upon-a-time gardening misfits. Nonetheless, he still dreams of one more thing — to propagate a unique variety that the world will lust.