Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Two Palms of the Loboc River

I'm down with the flu.  Defeats the purpose of having cool rainy weather, conducive to relax and sleep. Nevertheless it will allow me to blog a little longer this time, a little escape from the rudiments of checking papers and doing routinary work.
We took the river cruise at the lower part of the Loboc River
River boats carrying the tourists up and down the Loboc

Recently I went back to Bohol to accompany my sister and niece on a leisure trip (finally!). When I was preparing our itinerary, I made it a point to include the Loboc River cruise, as  it was one of the most popular tourist attractions  It is my 10th time to be in the province and I have not gone to the river cruise before. I heard that there is a buffet lunch which allows people to eat a sumptuous meal while enjoying the views of the river.  So food and a view, two items I am crazy for, so we had to experience it this time around!

Enjoying whatever barbecue we got
When the day finally arrived, and we set on foot the river boat, I found the part of
The sumptuous buffet
the buffet lunch is true. For 350 pesos you get the joy of touring the stretch of the Loboc River and the fresh breeze while nibbling on the treats of a 6-course meal.  You just have to brave sea-sickness and fast enough to intercept the barbecue before they reach the buffet table.  The Koreans (there were a lot) hoard them, getting as much as 15 pieces per person. But other than that, the river cruise is a recommendable experience which any Bohol tourist should take part in, barbecue or no barbecue. 
Limestone outcrops
The tailing half-beaks
The wide Loboc river
The view promised is not as breathtaking as the Chocolate hills but nevertheless interesting. The river was wide and much cleaner than the Pasig waters (sorry, I find the Pasig River much better rehabilitated than compared decades ago but obviously Loboc is still cleaner).  The water is a bit mud-murky but teeming with life.  Half-beak (small fishes familiar to aquarium hobbyists) schools were tailing our boat as we made our way upstream. Every now and then a few archer fishes dart to the surface, trying to pounce on dragonflies and other striding insects on the water surface. The riverbank ranges from swampy area to limestone outcrops. The landscape is dominated by 2 species and ironically, both are considered the most improtant of palms, at least in this region.  Sprouting from the muddy flats are the almost trunk-less fronds of the nipa or Nypa fruticans while rising over them are the heavily fruit laden crowns of the popular niyog or Cocos nucifera.
Palms grew abundantly on the banks of the river
Coconuts growing at the river banks
Niyog is considered the most economically important palm in the Philippines.  It is grown all over the archipelago ranging from coastal areas to mountainside plantations, just to harvest the different parts that could be used in everyday life.  The fruit is very much edible and the juice very refreshing.  The fruit meat could yield coconut milk which is fixture in Filipino cuisine.  The fresh sap collected from the fruit stalk could be drank as tuba, fermented into coconut vinegar or further more into lambanog. Coconut is also grown for copra, and utilized to yield the coconut oil used for different commercial and domestic purposes. Wood is used as light construction material.  Leaves and even the roots are used in weaving and other crafts.  There is almost an endless list of how other parts could be harnessed.

Thick stand of nipa
Nipa, or sometimes referred to as sasa, was the subject of my last blog poll as it was the emergent winner of being the second most important Philippine palm.  It is also popular in light construction, as it is the main material for the indigenous nipa hut or the famed  bahay kubo.  The leaves are weaved to form the thatched roof and walls of the vernacular house.  Like the coconut, tuba is also yielded and havested from its cut fruit stalk, further fermented into vinegar and ultimately distilled as lambanog. Even the weird fruit now is collected, epoxied and exported as house decoration.

The abundance of both palms in the countryside determines what type of tuba, suka or lambanog are commonly used in a particular localilty.  For coastal areas like in Hagonoy in Bulacan and adjacent areas, the sasa is the favorite source for the said products (Nypa is a mangrove species thus being abundant in the estuarine and coastal flats).  That is why sukang sasa has become known as sukang Paombong (referring to Paombong Bulacan, known to make vinegar from nipa). In mountainous provinces like Laguna and Quezon, on the other hand, the tuba, suka and lambanog are created from coconut sap as you'll find the coconut growing even on the steep slopes of tall mountains.  In some cases, you'll find them dominating the Quezon landscape, as far as the eye could see.
River boats making their way thru a river of nipa and niyog
The divided crowns of nipa at bottom and niyog on top
Going back to the Loboc River, we find a unique landscape dominated by two of the most economically viable local palms.  I wonder whether the Boholanos get their vinegar from the nipa or the coconut.  Obviously both species are abundant here, growing juxtaposed along the swampy banks and dominating the flora in the area. But just the same, the palms should be given enough importance not only because they are very useful but rather they form a vital part of this beautiful rich environment. Minus the tuba, suka and lambanog, they should exist to provide shelter and sustainance to the ecosystem dependent on them. Or else there would not be anything beautiful to see while eating the few sticks of pork barbecue we managed to snatch from the quick Koreans.  Sayang naman diba yung view, hindi yung barbecue, hahaha!

The next poll is up!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Mananalastas Tungkol sa Pamamalaspas

The author Elmer Nocheseda
We went to the Ateneo Art Gallery today to see my plant friend Elmer Nocheseda talk about his baby, his book 'Palaspas - An Appreciation of Palm Leaf Art in the Philippines". Elmer devoted almost all his lifetime in making this book, nurturing a passion since he was 4 years old and compiling all the weaving techniques he had learned and collected. Elmer recounted how his dad made a simple palm leaf ball from 2 coconut palm fronds to amuse him and this ignited an interest and later on a devotion to record the dying art of weaving palaspas and other palm leaf crafts from all over the country.
Elmer holding up an 'oten' palaspas

Pineapple-like palaspas
The palm leaf ball
In his talk, Elmer cited how important the coconut and other palms are in Philippine culture.  He said he wondered why we Filipinos have not come up with great historical landmarks  like Borobudur in Indonesia, the great Indian Temples and the Pyramids of Egypt. The answer may have been because of the coconut and other palms. We may have discovered how useful the coconut that it rendered impractical to carve out stone, which is obviously much harder to do.  I remember watching a documentary once citing why there were no paleolithic and neolithic tools discovered in Southeast Asia.  The reason for this was said to be the abundance of bamboo in the region.  Bamboo proved to be an easier and better material to carve out tools. Which strengthens the theory that most Southeast Asian cultures, including the Philippines, rely heavily on plants found in their environment for use in their everyday lives.

Bird in close-up
Palaspas birds
Elmer made a vivid recollection how painstking it was for him to research on palapas and palm leaf weaving all over and beyond the Philippines. It took him up north in Batanes to really down the Southern islands just to learn about a new weaving technique.  He braved climbing mountains and being caught in insurgence crossfires just to retrieve samples of palm leaf craft. He professes that what he learned enriched his understanding of local weaving.  He enumerated the weaving terms like 'habi', 'lala' (pertaining to mat weaving) and 'higit' (term used to make fishing nets).  He painted a clear image of how rich the culture of palm weaving is.

Felice Sta Maria
Renowned writer Felice Sta Maria was in attendance as special guest. It was the first time for her to meet the author and she described Elmer as 'crazy'.  She said it puts him in the league of herself and other scholars present who were 'crazy' enough to devote their time in documenting some important parts of our culture that are in danger of being lost in years to come. It made me think how 'crazy' I have become in researching about native trees and blogging them here. Hmnnn...!  

Simple palaspas weave
Elmer Nocheseda's 'Palaspas' book is available at the Ateneo University Press. It gives a good background on palaspas as well as step by step instructions on how to do different palm weave art.  Palaspas samples were used to adorn the lobby of the Ateneo Art Gallery showing the variety of shapes one can do with just a few pieces of palm fronds.  To Elmer, congratulations for a well attended talk and reaping the fruits of your efforts on your book 'Palaspas'.  May the valuable information contained in it reach more people who will value its importance.  May it inspire more students and scholars to learn more about this dying art of palm weaving.  
The siko-siko

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Luzon Hoya in Davao

Hoya meliflua in flower
Quick Post: It has been so long since I last saw a Hoya meliflua in flower.  So far back that I forgot that there is a Hoya named meliflua, hehehe.  It escapes my mind that it has a very unique and pretty flower cluster. Good thing I rediscovered it in my friend Ron's garden in Davao, Mindanao. Come to think of it, it has also been long since I saw a specimen of H. meliflua in Luzon, flowering or not.  Ironically because Hoya meliflua is synonymous to Hoya luzonica, suggesting the plant was (or is) found in Luzon. Hopefully there is still Hoya meliflua out here in Luzon.      

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Kali-kaliwang Waling-waling

Motorcycles in parade!
The ABS CBN caravan
I just got back from Davao! I spent the past 3 days trying to make the most out of the last leg of the Kadayawan festival. I did not get to see anymore the street-dancing but got there in time to see parts of the floral parade. I did not get to view much because I stayed with the crowd over at the city hall (which was a bad idea), and for over 2 hours, the only thing I saw was maybe half of the motorcycle riding population of the city ( I could not imagine there are a lot of motorcycle clubs in Davao and they all paraded!).   I grew impatient waiting for the parade proper and decided to walk several blocks going to Aldevinco Mall to buy tubao instead. 
The GMA Amaya float
Nice mother and child float
The SM durian and orchid float
While finding my way to Aldevinco, I chanced upon a few floral floats and some TV station caravans. As expected, the crowd pleasers were the Kapamilya and the Kapuso contingents with their reliable and ever bankable stars drawing in the attention (and the screams) of the spectators.  I do not know most of these younger actors and actresses but I got enchanted by Marian Rivera who I think looked awesome in her Amaya costume (forgot to even take a snap of her pic).   But she is not the star who got the biggest media mileage in the festivities. The star of the parade would go to 2 ubiquitous Davao residents, the durian and waling-waling, which both got a lot of expected and well deserved exposure. But between the two, it is waling-waling which has a sweeter-smelling reputation (could not be contested by the foul-smelling durian, hehehe).
The biggest and the most beautiful waling-waling specimen I have ever seen!
Maeven's winning booth
Puentespina's orchid and ornamental display
In the Kadayawan orchid show over at SM City Davao, the waling-waling or Euanthe sanderiana was the more obvious center of attraction.  The plant exhibits displayed the best of their flowering and blooming orchids but the obvious stand-outs were specimens of the waling-waling. They were prominently positioned among other orchid species, cultivars, bromeliads, specimen aroids, ferns and a lot more ornamentals.  Its erect wide petals cannot be rivaled.
A lot of flowering waling-walings
Waling-waling for sale
Another variety
In the commercial areas, a wide array of cultivars were also made available, also very obviously parented by the Euanthe. Different shades of waling-waling lookalikes are interesting to look at and compare. There were brown, reddish, lilac, pinkish as well open, narrow petalled, wide petalled, folded etc. I have never seen so much waling-waling in one place.  It still is presently and pleasantly the darling of Davao and the most beautiful pride of the Kadayawan festival.
The different waling-waling varieties.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Quezon Legacy

Manuel L. Quezon, picture from Wikipedia
This week is 'Linggo ng Wika' which usually coincides with the birthday of Manuel L. Quezon.  Quezon is the commonwealth president and considered the father of Filipino language.  It was in his term as president when they adapted the Tagalog dialect as national language. But do you know the real story why Manuel Quezon suddenly decided that the Filipinos should have a national language?  It goes a little something like this.

It was said that when Pres. Quezon was in office, he had a lady secretary, hailing from the south, who did his daily schedule.  One day, after finishing a meeting early, he asked the secretary if he had any other appointments lined up. She answered him and what the president understood from her was 'the PRESS is here already waiting'. Quezon tried to recall if he had recollection of any meeting with the PRESS, but since he had free time, he decided to oblige with an  impromptu meeting.  He told his secretary, 'okay, let the PRESS come in'.  

The secretary went out of the room.  After a few moments she came back ushering the visitor in.  President Quezon took a glance at the 'PRESS'.  What he saw was a thin lanky man garbed in holy robes carrying a small bible. He realized that what his secretary meant was 'PRIEST'.  But because she had a crisp Visayan accent, what he understood was press.  He could only chuckle in his mind regarding the wrong pronunciation but swore that Filipinos should have a more definitive language to consider ours.  I do not know the details why they chose Tagalog as dialect to adopt.  But the rest of course is already history, contributing to us having a language which we could call our own.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Paulo Alcazaren's CCP

In light of the controversies surrounding the CCP lately, I lifted sketches from my teacher Arch. Paulo Alcazaren.  Paulo is a known archivist, landscape architect, writer and apparently an illustrator. He puts his own humorous take on the matter and rendered quick sketches of how he envisions different entities see the future of the cultural center, as institution or otherwise.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Big One, the White One, the Stinky One

Amorphophallus XL
Anthony's Amorphophallus
Quick Post: Amorphophallus seems to be claiming a lot of superlatives in terms of descriptions. Apart from being one of the largest inflorescence and the stinkiest flower, I think it attempts to claim the title - the largest aroid - from its cousins Alocasia, Cyrtosperma and Colocasia.

Yesterday at the Sidcor Sunday market we chanced upon a very large specimen of pungapung or Amorphophallus paenifolius being sold at one of the stalls.  Even giant-fern-and-aroid addict and PNPCSI president Anthony Arbias could not contain himself to have a picture beside this humongous representative of one of his beloved genera. He served as scale indicator to show how big this pungapung is. I wonder how big the flower of this specimen would reach, and how intense its smell would be!.
Giant aroid and the giant-fern enthusiast
Variegated pungapung
Another wonder is this small specimen with variegation we saw in an enthusiast's collection.  Amorphophallus is not the most attractive (certainly not the most fragrant, hehehe) but a variegated specimen would definitely be also one for the books. A real plant oddity with the rare mutation is certainly a treasure, probably one of the most sought after for plant lovers!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The U.P. Katmon Revisited

Katmon fruit
Tree with lots of fruit
A couple of weeks ago I was asked to point out to the production staff of a local television show where the katmon is growing in the U.P. Diliman campus.  The show had a wonderful idea of exploring lesser known native trees and their choice to feature that week was the underrated katmon tree or Dillenia philippinensis.  They approached me as I have featured katmon in a previous blog at

Open fruit
The Melchor Hall katmon
I knew then that trees would be in fruit, because a a month or so earlier, most katmons I saw were in flower. A katmon tree in flower is a sight to behold,
because of the impressive frisbee-sized white blooms.  But a specimen in fruit is also attractive with the light colored round fruits standing out against the dark green foliage. I was also looking forward to see the big UP specimen in front of Melchor Hall and we found it heavily burdened with fruits in different ripening stages.  The show staff then went on to do the necessary shots of the katmon tree. We also tasted the fruit and found it sour. But it is more pleasntly agreeable than the true elephant apple fruit or Dillenia indica.

Katmon and elephant apple
Cross section of katmon and elephant apple
Sadly the show did not feature the katmon as scheduled. My inquiry regarding its airing remained unanswered (no courtesy reply -SOP for TV shows?). They probably scrapped it because of deadline issues. But I have taken pictures of the tree that afternoon which I hope would do justice to its beauty.  Picked up a couple of the fallen ripe fruits too.  I hope the seeds will germinate as I can't wait to have a specimen of my own in my garden.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

My Accidental Pink-Flowering Tree

Quick Post: My valayvayan already flowered.  It is one of the seedlings I got from my 2009 trip to Batanes.  It has an anecdote attached to it.
Bell-like flowers
Flower similar to Tabebuia
Radermachera pinnata
I first saw valayvayan in the compound of Basco High School. I did not want to bring home a seedling of this nice tree even though I saw it in flower. I thought it was Tabebuia which is not a Philippine native. When I requested seedlings from the ENRO office, it was actually a DENR personnel who suggested to me to bring home a seedling of valayvayan for my thesis, and he plucked out a wildling growing out of a pavement in the DENR backyard.  I took it home hesistantly, barerooted, just as a good gesture.  But when I got home here in Manila, Leonard Co promptly identified my 'Tabebuia' seedling as Radermachera fenicis (now R. pinnata), which is a bignonia/tabebuia native counterpart.  So I quickly planted the uprooted specimen in a pot hoping it will recover.  More than a year after my trip, my accidental valayvayan has already rewarded me with its bell-like flowers! Thank heavens for my resource person in DENR for shoving this specimen into my luggage!
Valayvayan tree at the Basco school