Here and far, there are many blossoms or plants that once grew in Aquilino “Lino” Aromin’s home nursery or at the Baguio City Orchidarium.
To this man we owe Baguio’s reputation as an “orchid capital”. Here’s to bidding this good friend, “See you in heaven (if I even get there)!”
The name “Aromin” is synonymous to beautiful orchids and flowers. It was the reputation of colorful varieties of orchids and roses nurtured in the gardens of Baguio that started a multi-million flowers and landscaping business that Lino built with his family.
The name is found in the list of the best florists of Manila as a source and partner but is also etched in the books of the Philippine Orchid Society because of his natural kinship with ornamental plants. This renown is what made him excellent in the industry and outstanding as a citizen of Baguio.
The love for plants was inherited from parents who grew ornamental and other plants in Acao, Bauang, La Union. This farm still grows plants that supply the family members, father and children with plants sold in flower and plant shops in Baguio and Greenhills, Quezon City.
Lino and wife, Adelina Mallare, have shared the business with children – Adamor, Analisa, and Arnaldo, who runs the Acao farm while Analisa and Adam have their own stores for plants and landscape materials. Each have contributed to the fame of the name “Aromin”.
Humble beginnings saw Lino work as chief waiter at the defunct Skyview Hotel and Restaurant along Session Road from 1959 to 1976. Having earned a degree in Commerce from Baguio Colleges Foundation, he served clients at the popular watering hole of Baguio professionals in the heart of the city. He said that after 16 years, he decided to build his own flower business and home. He started his flower shop at Maharlika Livelihood Center along Zandueta St. which continues till now and has been inherited by his eldest son Adam. His floriculture hobby was turned into a full time business and the rest is history.
Lino says that he became popular in the early 1980s because Manila clients spotted his collection of unusual orchids. They became regular customers and he became a household name among flower collectors and enthusiasts. This also built his linkage to other flower entrepreneurs like Juanita Bechavez whom he supplied with roses. But Lino became famous when Manolo Lopez, president of the Philippine Orchid Society, invited him to become a member of the group. Lino became respected and famous as a supplier of local and imported orchid varieties. His association with Chito Bertol of the Manila Seedling Bank tagged Lino as the “King of Orchids” in his first decade as florist.
Teased for his toothlessness, Lino says that many dentist clients have offered to restore his denture smile to befit his status in society. He jokes and says that the “teeth do not make the man,” it is the flowers that give him his fame and fortune. Lino, who was born on July 15, 1937, has 11 grandchildren from his brood of three.
Discovered by Amelita “Ming” Ramos when former President Fidel V. Ramos was still the chief of staff of then President Corazon Aquino, Lino was frequently invited by the first lady to flower shows and exhibits in Manila. They were together in the orchid business in the late `80s and the landscape shows at the Burnham Park skating rink catapulted the Aromin name to fame locally. He recalls that those were the years when the local events were called “Kafagway”.
The Baguio Flower Festival that started in 1996 was the local crowning of Lino as a homegrown flower grower and landscape artist. He was unrivaled for the first three years of the competition and was readily graduated to the Hall of Fame by the organizers. His works of art are preserved in the photo albums of many tourists who came to see the beautiful flowers of Baguio and Benguet but he was forever planted in the heart of the residents as a master of flowers.
Lino prides himself with his work with three generals of the Philippine Military Academy who asked his assistance in improving the landscape and formal receptions of the military camp. Commodore Virgilio Q. Marcelo, Gen. Rodolfo S. Estrellado, and Gen. Victor A. Mayo employed the help of Lino to welcome guests with the hearty and beautiful flowers and plants of Baguio.
Of late, it is the former Vice President of the Philippines Jejomar C. Binay who is all praises for Lino, who once said that it was Dr. Elenita Binay, wife of the former vice president, who he first met. His beautiful work was later appreciated by then Mayor Binay of Makati City who also asked Lino to help in the landscaping of his city. Now, it is the whole Binay family who know Lino as a friend.
But Lino said that his mentor is actually Dr. Julie C. Cabato who turned him on to cymbidiums, cattleyas, oncidiums, and local orchids. Her love for the orchids rubbed off on him as they spent hours engrossed in the colors and beauty of the blooms. It is to her whom he owes that love for the orchids, otherwise he would have been content with roses.
Zac Sarian, agriculture editor of Manila Bulletin, has captured what Lino Aromin is all about. “Bakit pinili ni Lino Aromin ang bulaklak at hindi gulay?” he posted the question on why Lino chose to plant flowers and not vegetables and answered it as well, “in the tourism and hotel and restaurant business, flowers and food are equally important.”
Having worked with Lino for more than 10 years in the Burnham Park Fencing Project of the late Bishop Emeritus Carlito Cenzon, we will miss him dearly, his coffee and his peanuts ala Skyview.