By Zac B. Sarian

Every Saturday and Sunday, one to two thousand people line up and pay P100 each to be able to enter what they call Sirao Garden Little Amsterdam up in the hills of Cebu City. The same number also visit the place during holidays. During ordinary days, 300 to 500 flower-loving enthusiasts troop to the place, according to Merlyn Maque, general manager.

What do people find in Little Amsterdam? Millions of a wide variety of flowering plants growing on 1.2 hectares of sloping terrain that are spectacular with their colorful blooms. More than 20 varieties have found their home in Brgy. Sirao, but it all started with just one – the colorful Celosia with dark red and yellow flowers previously sourced from Holland.

It all started in 2010 when the caretaker of Elena Sy-Chua, a flight attendant, decided to plant Celosia on 5,000 square meters with the purpose of selling the flowers in Cebu City and other places during the observance of All Saints and All Souls Day. The idea could be a good income-generating project if all the flowers could be sold by the end of October and the first two days of November.

Elena Sy Chua, a former flight attendant, is the founder of Sirao Garden Little Amsterdam.

Then Chua had a better idea. Instead of just growing Celosia for All Saints and All Souls Days, she decided to put up a permanent flower garden where flowering plants of all kinds are grown year-round. The garden could become a tourist destination. When a blogger posted about the beautiful flowers in the Internet, it went viral and soon, visitors flocked to see the flowers in bloom.

Sirao Garden Little Amsterdam officially opened in January 2016 during the Feast of the Sto. Niño. At first, there were only four farm workers tending to the flower garden. But with the income from visitors, the flower farm expanded and now employs 30 workers. The owner is further expanding her project. In a new area, she is growing vegetables like giant peas, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, taro, and many more. So now Mrs. Chua is not only satisfying the eyes, but also the stomach.

Among the flowers growing and blooming in the garden include heliconias, dwarf and tall sunflower, canna of different colors, dahlia, China aster, chrysanthemums, salvias, begonias, Cataranthus roseus, calla lilies, marigolds, mayanas, cosmos, forget-me-nots, and many others.

Chua dwarfed by red and yellow celosias.

Many micro-entrepreneurs are making good income selling food and drinks along the street in front of the flower garden. They sell boiled sweet corn, grilled saba banana, lemon juice, mango, native delicacies, and many more. Example: Two pieces of roasted saba banana sell for P30.

Sirao Garden Little Amsterdam doesn’t just make visitors happy, it also provides an income not just to its owner, but to the vendors in the area as well.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s January 2020 issue.