The Villar Foundation’s 7th Waterlily Festival has all the ingredients of a festival—fun and festivity. The range of activities lined up for the day-long festival in Las Piñas—beauty pageant, fluvial parade, handicraft demos, and street-dancing—can in fact fill up the whole week!

But there is more to Las Piñas Waterlily Festival than that. It was really conceptualized in order to highlight the products made out of water lilies. The then congresswoman of Las Piñas, Cynthia Villar, thought of an effective way of helping the workers at the Water Hyacinth Weaving Enterprise market their products and holding a festival seemed to be a great idea at that time. And it was.

Now on its 7th year, the Las Piñas Water Lily Festival has never been more popular. Thanks to the attention gained by the livelihood enterprises including the Water Hyacinth Basket Weaving Enterprise of the Villar Foundation led by its Managing Director, Mrs. Villar.

Water Hyacinth Basket Weaving Center

The products of the livelihood center are actually intricately woven handicrafts such as baskets, bags, placemats, lamps, hampers, among many more customized items. These may seem like the usual handicrafts you see around. But you’d be amazed to find out that they are woven from dried stalks of water hyacinths or what is commonly called as water lilies.

Water lilies are known to thrive in bodies of water, growing up to a height of 40 inches. They multiply rather quickly and as such, clog rivers and other waterways, block drainage systems and causing floods. These aquatic pests used to blanket and clog the Las Piñas-Zapote River. According to Mrs. Villar, they used to collect so many truckloads of water lilies when they started cleaning up the river.

She proudly told Las Piñas residents during the festival that their hard work and perseverance paid off. There are no more water lilies in their river. In fact, they now have to collect and even buy water lilies from Taguig or Laguna since they have to continue weaving products out of them.

The Water Hyacinth Basket Weaving Center is just one of the green social enterprises set up by Mrs. Villar and the Villar Foundation. The others are the Coconet Weaving Enterprise and the Handloom Blanket Weaving Enterprise. All of which are award-winning, the latest award came from the United Nations, no less. More than that, it has created livelihood to more than 500 families.

The Waterlily Festival not only promotes Las Piñas as a city and showcases the products made out of waterlilies. It shows people that environmental programs or advocacies can create livelihood for the people. Even Mrs. Villar is untiring in her efforts in promoting barangay-based livelihood programs as one of the more practical solutions in easing unemployment and fighting poverty. The Villar Foundation conducts free trainings all over the country.

If the festival can join the ranks of the high-profile festivals that we have in the country such as Sinulog, Dinagyang or Panagbenga, the 19 ladies who joined the search for this year’s Miss Las Piñas Water Lily, are beauty queen materials. As Las Piñas Representative Mark Villar pointed out during the pre-pageant, there are really so many beautiful women in Las Piñas. He pointed out that the reigning Miss World Philippines 2012, Queenierich Rehman, is a Las Piñera.

The winners of Las Piñas Miss Waterlily 2012 search: Grand Winner Lyra Velchez of Barangay Manuyo; First Runner-up Angelica Prieto of Barangay Talon 2; and Second Runner-up Lady Ann Erlano of Brgy. BF International/CAA.

Each of the 20 barangays of Las Piñas fielded its own candidate for the title of Miss Las Piñas Water Lily and the gowns were created by known designers such Noli Hans as well as the barangay residents themselves. In fact, one of the contestant’s gown was made by her own mother.

Lyra Velchez of Barangay Manuyo 1 was crowned as Miss Las Piñas Water Lily 2012. The First Runner-up was Angelica Prieto of Barangay Talon 2; Second Runner-up Lady Ann Erlano of Barangay BF International/CAA and Miss Runcav Choice Tricia Monica Lubiano of Barangay Pamplona 1.

Mark and Cynthia Villar in Fluvial Parade

The winners of Miss Las Piñas Water Lily become ambassadresses of the city, they get invited in various events and festivals all over the country to represent the beauty of the city as well as its environmental and livelihood programs. Last year’s winner, Daphne Cortez, graced the Bangus Festival in Dagupan and Panagbenga Festival in Baguio among others.

The 7th Waterlily Festival showed us that it’s more fun & festive in Las Piñas! Kudos to the Villar Foundation and Mrs. Villar.

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