The first agri-tourism and plant export company in the CNMI broke ground yesterday afternoon, marking the start of construction for the project at the 20,000-square-meter land across the airport field in As Lito.
Owned by Rowina O. Torres’ Rufina LLC, Rufina Tropicals will offer a tour walk into a tropical jungle, which will showcase the island’s local plants, trees, flowerings, edible fruits, and others.
Gov. Ralph DLG Torres served as the speaker at the ceremony. The governor is the brother of Rowina Torres’ husband, attorney Vincent DLG Torres.
The $500,000 project is funded by Bank of Guam-SSBCI, Commonwealth Development Authority/Department of Commerce. R.E.A.L. Int’l Corp. is the contractor. Expected completion of the project is September 2018.
Imported plants will be showcased by a bridge that leads to a pond next to the Mother Mary Grotto and the St. Judge Gazebo, where tourists can take a break, take photos, and enjoy some of the tropical treats of the island like coconuts, mangoes, tangerines, dragon fruits, and many more.
Tina Tudela, finance manager of Rufina LLC, said one of the most important and prized parts of the project is the Botanical Park, which will be constructed at a 1,000-square-meter area in the front portion of the property.
“Because of the historic structures, we have decided to preserve its importance and turn it into a garden, a place for the public to come and enjoy, and feel the cool breeze,” Tudela said.
Tudela said after the break, the tour leads into the Sansevieria Plantation that showcases all 18 species that Rufina Tropicals specializes in.
She said on Mondays and Tuesdays, tour guests will see the export process of cutting, packaging, and the shipping of the tropical flowers and their prized Sansevieria species.
“Tourists and our local community are greeted and treated to an island barbecue meal. Rufina Tropicals will also have a tropical café,” Tudela said.
Since 2015, Rufina Tropicals has been in the business of exporting flowers all over the world.
“I would like to showcase to the world that our little island of Saipan can export beautiful flowers to the world,” Rowina Torres said.
In fact, Rowina Torres said, they have been exporting flowers to New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Washington, Alabama, and Idaho.
She said her flowers reach any home in the U.S. within seven days or less of shipment.
Rowina Torres shared her childhood experience with plants started because of her late mother’s love for plants.
“My Mom Rufina who is joining us from heaven loved plants so much, she sings and talks to them,” she said.
Rowina Torres said she is a full-time mother and wife and that she loves it.
“I have been planting flowers all around my house as a hobby,” she said, explaining why she turned that passion into a business.
She said her mother-in-law, Mama Bibang, who believes in her talent, has been advising her for years to open any business because it will follow through.
“What makes this groundbreaking more special is that she is with us today. Mama Bibang, thank you for showing me the light and believing in me,” Rowina Torres said.
“You see in planting, you get to plant a seed. Water it, nurture it, take good care of it. You watch it grow slowly to bloom flowers or fruits. It’s such a beautiful feeling,” she said.
From this beauty, Rowina Torres said, she realized that Saipan needs to showcase its tropical scenic landscape with tropical plants that are hidden in different parts of the island from the tourists.