February 1, 2023

Despite the cancellation of the Strawberry Festival, Malacañang has declared March 20 as a special non-working day in La Trinidad, Benguet.
In a proclamation signed March 4, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea signed the declaration for the supposed celebration of the month-long festival.
“The cancellation of Strawberry Fest 2020 still stands and we are urging the residents to  stay healthy and exercise all precautionary measures (against the novel coronavirus),” Mayor Romeo Salda said.
The cancellation of all activities of the supposed month-long festival this March was decided during the meeting by the executive committee of the Strawberry Festival led by the mayor.
This includes both local government unit and community-led activities as a precautionary measure against the spread of the coronavirus disease-19 (Covid-19).
Instead of a grand celebration, an Ibaloy ritual called panod-soran will be conducted at the municipal grounds on March 20 by the local government unit instead of the grand festivities earlier set.
Indigenous Peoples Mandatory Representative Pendon Thompson said the ritual is a means of communicating to Kabunyan and the deceased ancestors of the cancelled festival due to the threats of Covid-19.
Thompson said the spirits, especially those of the departed town officials are used to being invoked during the Strawberry Festival every March, thus it is proper to inform them of the present officials’ decision.
“Annually, the event is happening, biruken dan to ket awan, isunga ipakaamo kanyada nga canceled ti festival,” Thompson said.
Aside from the panod-soran ritual, the sa-la-shey or meaningful prayer for protection would also be performed.
He said the sa-la-shey is a prayer asking Kabunyan to protect the community from harm especially with the threats of Covid-19 to humans and the African swine fever to local hogs. It is also to ward off any untoward incidences from happening in the municipality.
He said they will butcher two pigs and offer rice wine for the ritual and prayer. The event is being practiced by their forefathers, in which a family or the community would host the activity, this time, it would be the municipality that will host the ritual and prayer.
The ecumenical service earlier planned was also cancelled in response to the health advisory of the national government against mounting crowd-drawing activities as preventive measure against the disease. – Ofelia C. Empian