The Fossilized Flower Village in Gamis, a barangay in Saguday in the Province of Quirino, is a floral haven. Here, flowers of all colors and sizes can be seen and bought.
Unlike what’s typically sold in markets like Dangwa in Manila, however, these blooms— called fossilized flowers—don’t wilt easily.
“These are useful in many ways,” says Erlinda Chi, manager of the village and founder of the Flower Queen Enterprises. “Clients buy this for bouquets, souvenirs, backdrops, home decorations, weddings, birthdays, among others.”
These handcrafted products are not actual flowers, though. Instead, these are leaves that local artisans dry, bleach, dye, and shape into flowers.
From leaves to flowers
The process begins with gathering the leaves. At Flower Queen Enterprises, the original makers of fossilized flowers in Quirino, leaves from the butterfly tree are used.
The leaves are washed with water to remove dust and any other debris before soaking it in caustic soda.
After two days, the leaves are removed from the said chemical and washed again with water. It then gets soaked in hydrogen peroxide, which will turn the green leaf to white. Local artisans then proceed to coloring the leaves.
“We typically use paint or dye,” says Maria Lynx Brenda Chi, daughter of Erlinda and current owner of the enterprise. “For metallics, we use spray paint.”
Once the paint or dye has dried up, the leaves, which look like petals at this point, are ready to be assembled into almost any flower imaginable: a rose, lotus, or even a tulip.
Flower Queen Enterprises have so far processed leaves from guava, acacia, guyabano, mango, and jackfruit trees, but found the butterfly tree leaves to be the most ideal.
“We concentrate on butterfly leaves because of their large size,” the younger Chi says. “We can make more flowers out of it compared to other leaves.”
Because it’s “fossilized” and generally low-maintenance, these flowers are especially useful in instances where it’s needed for long periods of time.
Wedding planners who often decorate venues, for instance, are some of the most frequent buyers at the Flower Queen Enterprise.
These flowers, however, still need to be cared for as it will eventually wilt—in six months, to be specific.
According to the founder and the owner, fossilized flowers last longer in colder temperatures. The recommendation is to avoid sun exposure and keep it in a dry, air-conditioned space to further prolong its look.
“We are currently working on a waterproofing fossilized flower,” Maria Lynx Brenda adds.
Livelihood for locals
The fossilized flower-making industry in Quirino is an initiative of the provincial government to create livelihood for locals and to create a product that would represent the province.
It was introduced in Region 2 by the late Dr. Everette ‘Ebo’ Zingapan, a native of Tuguegarao City who was once a President of the Sierra Madre Outdoor Club (SMOC) and an active officer of the Cagayan Valley Regional Tourism Council (CVRTC).
Today, the industry has become a source of income for many, particularly the locals of Saguday, where fossilized flowers have been identified as its One Town, One Product (OTOP).
Its beneficiaries are the women—mostly housewives—of Gamis in Saguday, who have become artisans of the craft through training from the provincial government, national agencies, and Erlinda herself.
Pre-pandemic, they were instrumental in supplying the overseas demand for fossilized flowers, including Germany and China. Despite the struggles early in the pandemic, the demand kept the shop afloat and its artisans busy.
“We let them make the flowers, buy their creations, and sell them to the local market, which means bringing the flowers to Manila to supply to the exporters,” Maria Brenda Lynx explains. “This time, they do it at home and we supply the flowers locally because, modesty aside, there was a surge in the demand here in our country.”
On average, the shop produces 3,000 to 4,000 fossilized flowers per week. An artisan fast and focused enough can work on up to 100 per day.
To keep up with the demand, the Chis have been sharing their expertise in fossilized flower-making from experiences spanning over 20 years.
“We have a periodic training of barrio folks in fossilized flower-making,” Erlinda says. “I teach mostly women, but there are men who want to learn from seeing their wives making a living from the flowers.”
Though the shop’s team of 12 artisans currently work from home to remain safe during the pandemic, learning never stops for them.
“I taught them to make their own raw materials so they don’t have to come here,” Maria Lynx Brenda adds. “I already told them to plant trees where they can harvest the leaves by themselves.”
Open to tourists
Visitors of the village can also learn such know-how and make their own fossilized flower.
“The plan is we will accommodate the tourists and let them experience a one-on-one class if they want to learn while they are on tour,” Maria Lynx Brenda shares. “They will be provided with a kit containing all the materials they need.”
Entrance to the Fossilized Flower Village is free-of-charge, but the fossilized flower-making class inclusive of the kit costs Php100.
How to buy
For those who are simply interested in buying fossilized flowers, the village welcomes walk-in clients.
At Flower Queen Enterprise, prices depend on the size of the flower: Php 20-25 per large piece, Php 15 per medium piece, and Php 10 per small piece.
Orders may also be placed via Facebook messenger at Flowerqueen Enterprises or SMS at 09774956536.
“I collect flowers every Wednesday,” Erlinda says. “I come here to my shop for deliveries on Saturday, then take the flowers to Santiago for shipment to Manila by bus.”
Outsource the Planning
For a seamless trip, you may leave the planning to DOT’s accredited tour operators in Quirino:
Explore Quirino Travel and Tours
0916 635 9978
The Fossilized Flower Village visit is part of the tourism circuit called Quirino Your basket of Happiness!
All tourist destinations in Quirino have health and safety protocols in place to protect locals and visitors alike. Everyone is expected to comply by wearing face masks, regular handwashing, and practicing physical distancing.
To check out up-to-date information regarding local destinations that are open and the safety protocols and requirements needed for each location, you may visit www.philippines.travel/safetrip or download the Travel Philippines app at app.philippines.travel or the Google Playstore.