Thursday, April 15, 2010

Looking at the Mehan Garden

A few weeks back I agreed to chaperone MTLA student Mau Chua to the Mehan Garden. The garden is not anymore what it used to be and its reputation has diminished into a halfway place for the homeless. Mau really needed the company to make this ocular. I was willing because the many times I have surveyed the areas of Intramuros and Lawton, I never really examined what there is still left to see in Mehan garden.

I met Mau in LRT Central Station. It took a few minutes before we found each other. Before we did I have already surveyed the remaining flora in the station’s periphery. There were still a few tree remnants of the old Manila landscapes, like talisay (Terminalia catappa), mabolo (Diospyros blancoi) and molave (Vitex parviflora). There were also the weed Ficus trees like tibig (F. nota), dalakit (F. concinna) and hawili ( F. septica).

Finally I found Mau at the station entrance fronting Metropolitan Theater. Since it is both our first time to the Mehan, we did not know how to enter the garden premises. I was told years ago that the entrance to the garden was through the old museum and library. But both are not there anymore. Instead there stands new buildings of a Public college. After a few instructions from surprisingly very visible police personnel, we entered the garden by a small passageway through the school.

I was not expecting much to see in the garden. I was not disappointed, which was the big disappointment. Much of the ground was already eaten up by the public school. One portion was devoted as storage space for some carnival equipment. The remaining garden was not maintained. The traces of landscaping in the garden were cheesy for my taste.

Probably the highlight of the visit was finding two unusual trees. One was betis or Madhuca betis. Though the lone specimen seemd to have withstood the battles of time, the tree still boasts of it golden leaves, very attractive against the predominant green of mahoganies and narra. The second tree was unknown to me. I will try to consult it with some botanist friends to find out what it is.

I heard from some city hall employees that they will be starting revival of the Metropolitan Theater. I pray that this restoration would not be like the previous plans that were just ningas-cogon. Hopefully whatever goodwill they have planned for met theater would spill over to the Mehan. Somehow these parts of our history and culture are just destined to wither to obscurity. But then again it might be better to just let it go with the flow and find more suitable uses for these pieces of real estate. If they do, the city should somehow find the proper people to document the Mehan’s existence, so that even in paper its memory could live on.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

Thanks so much for your post - I used your picture of the betis tree with citation of course. I couldn't find a picture elsewhere in the web. Thanks very much!
Mel Cardenas