PAKWAN CAPITAL OF THE NORTH
BANI– This town, home of the sweetest, reddest and juiciest watermelon in the country, will stage its biggest Pakwan Festival on Jan. 26 since its inception six years ago to further boost the town’s agriculture and tourism.
Municipal Tourism Officer Romel Dulay said Mayor Gwen Palafox-Yamamoto decided to make the usual 3-day Pakwan Festival longer and bigger this year because it not only helps promote the the town’s product but also strengthens the people’s sense of pride and identity.
Yamamoto plans to submit this year’s Pakwan Festival as the town’s entry to the tourism contest for Pearl Award under the category of festival.
He said Bani watermelon is already selling briskly in Metro Manila and its brand has reached as far as Zamboanga based on a personal account of Yamamoto in her visit to that place. “It makes us feel elated because we now have this branding that if you say good watermelon, it must be from Bani,” Dulay said.
Yamamoto said the festival will reinforce Bani’s claim as the “Watermelon Capital of the North “ because the town’s famed pakwan grows in a land composed of mostly limestone.
She recalled that when trial planting was began by Farmers School on the Air, a radio program sponsored by the Bureau of Soils assisted by Bayer Philippines, in 1986, farmers were initially hesitant to switch to pakwan.
It was Rey Catabay of Barangay Banog Norte who initiated the first commercial planting of watermelon in 1989 and commercial planting of watermelon has since spread like wildfire to nearby barangays.
Today, the farmers of lowland Bani earn at least P20-million in net income from pakwan production noting that a farmer who spends P20,000 per planting season earns as much as P35,000, she said.
Yamamoto had encouraged the town farmers to form their Pakwan Growers Association to help improve marketing of their produce and prevent exploitation and cheating by traders.
“We are already making watermelons in different shapes, i.e, square pakwan, and with the help of Japanese friends, we hope to make watermelon a year-round crop in our town with their technology”, said Yamamoto.
The town currently produces 18 varieties of watermelons and still growing due to continuing research development
The Municipal Agriculture Office reports that 150 hectares are already devoted to watermelon plantation.
This year’s festival will include an agri-trade fair, with “Pinaka “contest and pakwan fun games, cookfest, demo farm and symposium, mass slicing and street dancing competition. (PhilStar Wire Service)
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