Photo by L.G. BABIERA Lined with stalls bursting with bright floral colors and different scents, the bricked street of Dos Castillas was packed with people looking for the perfect flowers to give to their lovers two days before Valentine’s Day.

Between tulips and carnations, I found a solitary stall where the only flowers laid out were red and white roses.

Intrigued, I looked for the proprietor of the store that sold only the most popular Valentine gift.

An elderly and soft-spoken woman named Lubania Lagto, came out narrated the tale of the flower shop that sustained her family for almost half of her life.

Away from home and back again

Originally from La Trinidad, Benguet, the 81-year-old Lagto came to Manila in 1971 and then established “Lagto’s Flower Shop” in that same nook on Dos Castillas. On the side, Lagto also made a living by delivering vegetables to Cubao while managing her business.

“Back then, the Puyat Farm (King Louis Farm in Baguio City) provided us the flowers. Now we participate in the production by giving the farmers fertilizer,” she said. And after the flowers are harvested, they are sold by the Benguet farmers to Lagto.

Flowers for her family

Unlike the wilting products of nature that she sells, Lagto has kept her business blooming until she has gathered clients who order for weddings and other occasions.

She was able to raise her family through the money she earned from her shop.

“I had income enough to send my children to school,” Lagto said.

Four of her six children graduated from college because of the hard work she put into her business. Tragedy meanwhile, befell her other two kids, when they were both hit by a bus.

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“They used to help us around here,” said Lagto.

Looking around the shop on a busy day nearing Valentine’s, Lagto said that her children and other relatives help her deal with customers and arrange flowers.

“You need to have company here because the shop is open 24 hours,” Lagto said.

Hearts-day hype

In the course of our conversation, people stopped by her shop and asked for prices.

Undaunted by the skyrocketing prices of the Valentine’s staple, the crowd did not thin out even as it was already evening. I could see that none of her helpers spared a minute from selling and arranging flowers.

I asked if I could also work as one of her helpers but she kindly refused as the shop was busy with costumers. In between pauses, I thought of my original question: why there were only roses in her shop?

“They’re my favorite,” Lagto said, quickly adding that they’re the only flowers sold to them by the farmers. But on other days, she said they also sell other kinds of flowers.

Lagto said running a flower shop was what she alwasy wanted to do, and she wants her family to continue selling blossoms to people.

“I’m happy to continue doing business here,” said Lagto.

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