By Novelyn Balangui and Claudine Paulino
Johnny drives his tricycle almost every day. Under the blazing sun, he is still whirling on the wheels. With a face towel placed over his shoulder, he wipes his sweats while shaking the bell on his other hand. He is an ice cream vendor.
Johnny has been selling ice cream for almost 10 years now. He goes around Strawberry Farm in La Trinidad, Benguet where tourists usually flocks. Like every ice cream vendor in La Trinidad, his main ice cream’s main flavour is strawberry. Sadly, though, his income from selling ice cream flip flops as the weather and supply of fresh strawberries in the municipality also changes. As a result, he barely earn from selling ice cream. As an alternative when the supply of strawberry is low, he sometimes use powdered strawberry juice instead of fresh fruits.
In 2017, Sunstar, a daily publication in Baguio City, reported that Benguet ranked second as the most vulnerable provinces to climate change hazards in the Philippines. As a consequence, it contributed to lower vegetable production and farm income in Benguet.
In connection to this, according to a report by the Department of Agriculture (DA) Senior Agriculturist Lito Mocati, there is an estimated damage of 1.2 billion pesos in Cordillera’s agricultural sector in the same year.
Accordingly, other than intermittent rainy season, another effect of climate change is El Niño that is affecting the whole country. As such, water shortage is now experienced by the farmers at the Strawberry Farm in La Trinidad, Benguet.
According to Dona, a farmer at the Strawberry farm, due to water shortage, these plants become stunted. As a result, their plants are dying hence, they had to plant again. Rose Liwas, a farm tenant, said that their plants are also withering and dying due to sudden rain after a long day of being exposed to the sun.
“We don’t plant strawberry during rainy seasons because this area is prone to flooding,” Liwas said.
Some farmers, on the other hand, plant strawberry in a do-it-yourself elevated pot. However, it is not enough. Hence, the supply of strawberry is still scarce.
According to Jen, a seller at the Strawberry Farm, the decrease in supply of strawberries causes the increase of its price. Thus, only few can afford to buy it.
During rainy seasons, the temperature in Baguio and La Trinidad drops from 12 to 14. 44 degrees Celsius based on the records of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA). This means that this drop in temperature results in cold weather.
In this case, Johnny cannot also sell ice cream, hence, no income again for him.
“Selling ice cream and construction work are the only jobs I know,” he said. Unfortunately, both these works are not feasible during rainy seasons.
To augment his income, he said, “I have to work double during the dry season so that I can earn and save for my family during rainy season.”
This story of Johnny is just but one of the many similar stories of meagre income earners due to the effect of climate change. Johnny, however, never loses hope.
“For as long as my strawberry ice cream is patronized, I will have something to bring on my family’s table,” he hopefully said.