Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Forum on Native Trees

I have to do a shameless plug. I would be giving a short lecture on the use of native trees for Philippine landscape. It will be at the Manila Seedling Bank, Phil. Horti. Show exhibit area, Wednesday, Feb 3 at 2pm. Just want to share how beautiful some, if not most, of our trees are.

To spice up the joint we will give away a handful of seedlings. I would try to get more, but for sure 2 seedlings of Cerbera manghas and a few others are up for grabs. Hope to see you there.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Some Red Flowers to Watch For

The malabulak trees are in bloom. Malabulak, Bombax ceiba, is an argued Philippine native closely related to kapok or Ceiba pentandrum (which is not a Philippine native). They usually flower in February so about this time, specimens are leaf deprived but full of buds waiting to burst into five petalled large flowers as big as the palm of your hand. A tree in full bloom is really a sight to behold.

If you are interested to see flowering specimens, wild trees could be seen growing along coastal areas, confirmed sightings particularly in Bolinao, Pangasinan (in UP Marine Science facilities) and in Libaong Beach, Bohol. For UP studes, Prof Ed Gomez planted a few trees in the College of Science complex. Two are starting to bloom.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Garden of Pundacion Pacita

After literally running around Basco (by foot), going to and from both the DENR and ENRO offices to clear out permits for a few arius seedlings (which came from the agriculture office nursery) to bring back to Manila and study (the Basco airport is strict in allowing flora samples to ship out as Batanes is a protected area), I met up again with Cathy and Pinky at the town square and contacted a tricycle to bring us to our last Batanes destination, Pundacion Pacita. This is a unique hometel tribute to the late artist Pacita Abad. The Abads are well known sons and daughters of Batanes, they have artistic as well as political legacies in the province. It was a little hard to choose the driver who would take my 200 plus ehem ehem pounds frame up the steep slopes leading to the place. After one tricycle driver change, Mang Larry agreed to take us to the Pundacion and wait for us. As I mounted the back of the driver, I could hear the voices of some by-standers at the nearby general hospital. They were amused at how the small tricycle could fit us 3, particularly big me.

Surprisingly Mang Larry maneuvered his tricycle with a certain lightness and at no time at all we were up a steep narrow road with breathless views at both sides. At our left was the majestic Mt. Iraya, Batanes's highest peak and to our right, the steep hills leading to the Pacific Ocean. It made me realize that after 3 days of experiencing the best of Batanes and probably the Philippines, there still was something to expect, to top them all. Then the Pundacion Pacita came to view.

The Pundacion and the adjacent buildings stand on a sort of natural pedestal against the valley cove and the Pacific Ocean background. To get there our tricycle followed ridge roads lined with dwarfed vegetation. The roads were steep but still manageable for Mang Larry. Turned out he lived in the same barangay, that is why he was the only driver willing to take us there. After a minute or so we emerged back into an open area on top of a hill. The ocean was already evident at almost 180 degrees angle. At our front stood the quaint house of the Abads, flanked with probably the most manicured lush garden I have seen. And at a far right, the Pundacion Pacita building still hovers against the blue raging water and regretfully a cloudy sky (something had to be wrong in that almost perfect view). To see the place was experience enough (for someone like us who could not probably afford the night stay at Pundacion Pacita), but to our delight, we were allowed to admire and take pictures of the beautiful garden.

The garden of the Abads and Pundacion are reminiscent of English or country gardens. But of course the plants used were familiar landscape items (to me). If I did not know that most of the plants were actually shipped from Manila (a friend told me), I might think that the choice for the garden are Batanes natives. For one the Batanes staples like arius (Podocarpus costalis), riwas (Drypetes falcata) and the voyavoi (Phoenix loureiri) are present. They were coupled with tsaang gubat (Carmona retusa), kamuning (Murraya paniculata) and some other Philippine native species. Almost all were shaped and trimmed down, like how the Ivatans trim the arius and riwas in Basco and the town square.

After a few wacky shots and a little lounging at the garden benches, Pinky, Cathy and I decided to walk on foot going out the ridge road, leading out of Pundacion. While walking we let Mang Larry follow us on his trike. As we emerged the vegetation flanking the road right of way, we again made our final look at the Pundacion against the natural marvel of a scenery. It might be some years before we could see the same sight again and we hoped that if we do get to come back, we still would find the same breathtaking views we experienced in this journey. We hesitantly alighted Mang Larry's tricycle for the nth time and made our way down back to Basco and eventually to Seaside Hotel. There we began to pack our bags and readied ourselves for our trip back to Manila the following day.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dining on a Chipohu Leaf

To people planning on a vacation to Batanes, I would have to point out that there are very few places to eat outside of Basco proper (actually even in Basco itself -the restaurants are hard to find -on our first day we had to literally go from one end of the town to the other, just to find a manned eatery). It would be wise to pack meals if you go outside of Basco or else you would have to content yourself with common sarisari store fare, in our case cup noodles.

After our whirlwind halfday trip to Sabtang and the rollercoaster of a boat ride (and 2 meals of canned goods and cup noodles), we were already clamouring for a hot home cooked meal but there were no public eating places in the San Vicente area of Ivana town (which is 2 towns from Basco and the port town to Sabtang Island). We again had to resort to cup noodles and bakery bread for our lunch. While still dreaming of that hot meal, we made our way back to our rented rooms in Ivana proper (which I estimated at 1 kilometer away but Pinky said is lesser). While walking on the side of the road, I kept on scrutinizing every tree growing in nooks and crannies. While inspecting a fruiting arius tree, a man coming out from hut just beside of the road approached us and asked if we were tourists (mga dayo - I noticed that most Ivatans knew each other and it was easy for them to recognize non-residents). Ivatans are very friendly people and easy to approach. Most would greet you readily when you see them walking on the street.

The man extended to us a lunch invitation (even though we were shy, our craving for a hot meal overcame our inhibitions). We obliged and we were led to an open beach hut facing the sea. It turned out that what we stumbled upon was the local Ivana municipal government Christmas picnic, and the man who invited us was no less than the Ivana town mayor. We were seated in the company of a barangay captain and members of the local government (good thing our companion, Pinky, was acquainted with Laila Agudo who was also there, buffering our shyness) in front of viands of meat, fish, seafoods. etc. Heaven at last!!!

Laila handed us a familiar (at least to me) looking leaf in place of plates. She called it chipohu, which I recognized as similar to what we call antipolo here in Manila or Artocarpus blancoi. But the leaf seemed darker and shinier compared to an antipolo leaf. Somehow (knowing that it is me the fat guy and food lover) the unusual leaf use has taken my mind off of the enticing appeal of food (which was at that instant already calling out to me). I perused through the broad leaf and skeptic in placing the first viand on it. But eventually the hunger took over me as pieces of grilled pork, fish, squid and sauteed taro made its way onto my natural leaf plate. The sumptuous taste of the food made me forget that I am not using a regular plate at all. When we finally finished, there was no need to wash the plate as the leaf was disposable like a banana leaf that we are more accustomed to. But the chipohu had a much nicer shape than the boring squares that banana leaves are cut into.

I took pictures of the chipohu tree in Batanes which botanist Leonard Co identified as Artocarpus treculianus. To the Ivana Mayor, the Agudo Family and the municipal government, thank you for the hospitality and sparing us from another cupped noodle meal that day. The chipohu leaf meal moment, more than the use of the leaf but the conversation, the ambiance and the company will leave us memories to cherish for a long time.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Attractive Amugis Tree

This is a quick post as landscape architect Fred Sygue has been hounding me to email him pics of amugis (oks lan, Fred, hehehe). But instead of emailing I decided to post it so everyone could see and know more about this lesser known relative of the cashew and the mango.

Amugis is Koordersiodendron pinnatum. It is a member of the Anacardium or cashew family which also includes the mango and the dao. The tree has attractive paired pinnate leaves. They grow compact in smaller trees. A big specimen would rival the height of the dipterocarps. If you are interested to see a specimen of amugis, there is one growing behind the Bahay ng Alumni in UP Diliman. Large specimens could also be seen in UP Los Banos, particularly in the College of Forestry area.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Bagawak Flower Season

I was contacted by Wendy Regalado (Philippine Horticultural Society President) last week asking if I could again give a tree forum on the Annual Phil Hort Show, this time at the Manila Seedling Bank (which I agreed to do scheduled on Feb. 3 at 3pm). Before she ended the call, she told me that her bagawaks (Clerodendrum quadriloculare, Leonard Co corrected me about the misnomer in its scientific name - not quadriculare) were already reaping seedlings. I just remembered that it is indeed the season for bagawaks to flower. Some also call it Pebrero, due to the fact that it flowers fully in about February. This native shrub of Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, has one of the most impressive flower displays among our native flora. Plus, the bagawak has thick green leaves and reddish undersides, makes it a very attractive addition to any garden.

The problem is bagawaks are still not popular as a garden plant. I could only count the gardens I have visited which had this Clerodendrum in its collection, mostly in posh subdivisions. If you would want to see the spectacular starbursts of flowers the nearest i could think of are the shops selling them in Manila Seedling Bank. There are also full grown specimens growing in UP Los Banos, Forestry Department.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Native Palm for a Change

Quickpost: As a last hurray for 2009, I specified the plants for a small subdivision house garden (as a favor to an old friend). She was surprised at my plant palette when I emailed it to her. She has always known me to specify showcase trees like royal palms (Roystonea regia) and foxtail palms (Wodyetia bifurcata). Instead what she found tabulated were specimens of bungang china (Adonidia merrillii). Nothing wrong she muttered as bungang china is very much cheaper than the 2 previously mentioned palms. Plus Adonidia would actually look as majestic clumped compared to a solitary royal or foxtail. Writing this thesis blog does have an impact on me, not only in my studies but also in work.