January 30, 2023
ALTRUISTIC — Seventy-three-year-old Elizabeth Tiru of Barangay Irisan in Baguio City cannot quantify how much exactly she has earned from growing cutflowers since she started in the mid-1990s. Although aware that her flowers are sold as much as five times higher than the purchase price, she is happy about the fact that she is able to make someone richer. — Rimaliza Opiña

For a gardener who has been tending flowers for nearly half of her life, earning millions from something that started only as a sideline was farthest from her mind.
At 73 years old, Elizabeth Tiru said she did not even know how much she has earned from selling bulbs and flowers since she started cultivating in the mid-1990s, when she had to resign from her job to take care of her child.
“I did not earn much as a government employee. I was only receiving P300 per month,” said Elizabeth, as she decided to quit her job and be a stay at home mom. To still contribute to the family income, she used her spare time knitting and weaving which she later sold to acquaintances.
Elizabeth ventured into other businesses as soon as her child was old enough to go to school. She sold vegetables, mostly tomatoes at the city market, became a dealer of a beverage company, and set up a lending company.
It was in 1998, during the wake of an aunt that she decided to venture into cultivating flowers while maintaining her lending business.
She said it was her cousin who had a shop at the Baguio City Orchidarium who convinced her to venture into flower cultivation.
“At the wake, my cousin told me that all the wreaths and its accessories become money,” Elizabeth said affirming that floral shops which include floral arrangement in their services earn a lot using low cost materials.
“All plants are beautiful and anything that is beautiful will sell. We only need to make it presentable para bumenta,” Elizabeth said.
Taking her cousin’s advice, Elizabeth started planting cymbidiums at her yard at their former house. A few months later, she was selling fully grown orchids for P1,800 each. Resellers on the other hand, sold theirs for P2,000 each. Her biggest single day sale at the time was P18,000. “At the time, mala-king pera na ‘yun,” she said.
As her clientele grew and to meet the demand for more flowers, Elizabeth moved to Barangay Irisan where she happen to own an 1,800-square meter property. There, she started to cultivate begonias, bromeliads, and anthuriums – her bestseller.
She started growing anthuriums in early 2000 using 50 runners costing P75 each which were imported from Holland. She has since been able to increase the number of anthuriums where a sizeable portion of her property is now planted with acropolis anthuriums – a bestseller owing to its pure white color and a long vase life of between 15 to 30 days.
Elizabeth is not like other cultivators who put a price on their products. She said it is the resellers who decide how much to pay her. She is aware that her flowers are sold three to five times higher when sold at the Baguio public market and at areas outside Baguio, but more than the financial gain, she is happier that people also become rich because of her.
“The talent and the passion in planting cannot be quantified. I do not resent it (if they sell at a much higher price). At least I made someone richer,” Elizabeth said.
Data from the Department of Agriculture shows the prevailing selling price for anthuriums is P400 per dozen.
Only Elizabeth and her husband tend to their plants. They also have a water refilling business that augments their income. Resellers who buy their plants take charge of the harvesting and transportation to the market.
Like other cutflower growers, the lockdown imposed in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic also affected their cutfower business. She said there were still buyers at the time but she decided to just donate some to the church and give to others who were interested as it was not practical to bring the flowers to the city market and get infected if exposed to those with Covid-19.
Data from the High Value Crops Development Program of the Department of Agriculture showed that cutflower production in Benguet in 2020 decreased by 40 percent compared to the 2019 data.
Total production in 2020 was 30,813,974 doz. compared to the 501,132,042 doz. in 2019.
Production increased by 92 percent in 2021 with 59,030,989 doz.
Aware that cutflower farmers are still recovering for the slump in production as a result of the lockdown, Elizabeth said she is willing to be an adviser to the Granjeros de Oeste Organizacion, an organization of farmers and cutflower growers in Irisan on how the group could improve their marketing strategies.
She said when small farmers collectively decide on the best trading options, they are guaranteed of more clients and eventually, immediate dispatch of products to the market and equitable distribution of income. – Rimaliza A. Opiña