FLOWER POWER. The sunflower farm in Piddig, Ilocos Norte continues to attract visitors amid the pandemic. Located in Maruaya village, the farm is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. (Photo courtesy of Quirino Lucas Agustin

LAOAG CITY – The coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) is taking a toll on everyone's lives but nature has its own way of lifting one’s spirit.

In a quaint village of Maruaya in Piddig, Ilocos Norte, thousands of sunflowers are again in full bloom, ready to mesmerize visitors.

Adding more vibrant colors of exotic flowers this year, the local government-initiated agro-tourism site here has reopened this month to ward off the impact of Covid-19 pandemic.

For visitor Quirino Agustin, the Piddig sunflower farm has its "own unique beauty that relieves stress” from continuous lockdowns and containment due to Covid-19.

Located about 25 kilometers or less than an hour's drive from this city, the Piddig Organic Farmer’s Association started to develop a two-hectare flower farm and food garden as a show window of the town’s best practices in sustainable agriculture.

At the height of Covid-19 outbreaks in various parts of the province, farmer-cooperators here continued to improve the sunflower maze which has now grown into four patterns.

Barely two years in operation, the Piddig sunflower farm has added more features and amenities this year. Aside from its flower heart and blue ternatea tunnels at the main entrance with improved parking area and clean toilets, this enchanting haven for Instagram-able sites now features a lagoon with center island gazebo, a hobbit house or reading nook, a petting zoo of farm animals, a fish pond where visitors can catch and grill at the cottages for rent.

In-season fruits and vegetables are also available for "pick and pay". There is also an actual demonstration of Piddig’s traditional extraction of sugarcane juice with the help of a carabao (water buffalo) which is made available by schedule only.

Maruaya resident Lourie De Leon said, “I love my place more than ever as it has become a word of mouth of visitors who have been here. This has also provided us additional income as we generate more livelihood and employment here.”

Due to the pandemic, the management said they have reduced the entrance fee from PHP100 to PHP50 per person. Children aged 12 years old and below are free of charge. They are open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily even during holidays.

According to town mayor Eduardo "Eddie" Guillen who serves as adviser of the farmer’s organization that runs the agri-tourism site, the town of Piddig is thankful for the generous support of various government agencies for assisting and empowering local farmers as producers and entrepreneurs at the same time.

Deviating from the old norm where individual farmers do it on their own, the local government of Piddig has pioneered in consolidating farmers so that they can easily tap resources of various national government agencies for support.

The establishment of Piddig’s agro-tourism site is just among the numerous undertakings in the municipality, making it a worthy example of good governance and sustainable and inclusive development. (PNA