Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Extreme Zambales Landscape

I am neck deep with work for the past 3 weeks. Deadlines were and still are almost a few days apart which has been depriving me of much-needed sleep, rest and recreation. But somehow last weekend I got to surface from it all and joined some members of the PNPCSI and the Taxonomy class of UP Manila in their trip to botanize a certain locality in Zambales. The destination was in the adjacent towns of Botolan and Iba. The goal was to help some students collect herbarium specimens for their Botany class. The proponents were mostly pre-med students trying to hurdle their last few requirements.

Ronald Achacoso was very generous to volunteer his family's property to house the students and their teachers. At the same serve as main collection area for botanical specimens. The Achacoso house was located near an estuarine river thus is a natural depository of flora and fauna suited for mangrove and coastal conditions. It was here that the U.P. students completed their requirements of 20 species (per student). It took them a whole afternoon to scrutinize and scavenge the areas for cuttings and collections to be pressed as herbarium specimens. Of course while the others are busy doing their main business in Zambales, we the PNPCSI members on the other hand tried to explore the adjacent landscape for anything that would tickle our fancy. Most often enough, the sight of interesting plants (and to photograph them) would be enough excitement for us. But in this case, the contrasting appearance from grassy foothills, lahar stricken water beds, tree covered slopes and rocky riversides became our eye candy. Indeed the Zambales landscape is still worthy to explore, despite the obvious signs of exploitation. The seemingly bare mountains (from a distance) have a few more natural wonders still tucked under their sleeves.

After a day and a half of exploration, the students pressed and packed their botanic specimens. They made their way home with a few more exciting stories to tell about their Zambales adventure. They vowed to comeback with a more leisurely pace. Just hope the Zambales mountains would be still there awaiting their return. With the rate of destruction we saw in our short stint, there won't be any wild Zambales to go back to in a few more decades. Let us cross our fingers it won't reach this extreme so we would have more Sambal adventures in the future.

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