Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It is Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

The life-size belen
'Symphony of Lights' in Ayala Triangle
Christmas is indeed in the air!

I decided to join my fellow Arki teachers for a night of wholesome leisure. Celine fetched Faith, Maureen and myself at around 5PM and we surprisingly reached the Fort with virtually no traffic. We took a quick but filling bite at the Venetian Mall and chose to leave an hour early for the 8 PM schedule of Ayala Triangle's Symphony of Lights. We were estimating the hour was enough for us to get from the Fort to busy Ayala Avenue. Or so we thought...

My awed companions
Mc Kinley Road was in its usual heavy traffic.  Looking at my watch, we reached EDSA at 7:45.  We almost made it to the 8 pm sched but Celine's van is too high to pass Tower One's parking height clearance.  We were advised to use the open parking adjacent Nielsen Tower but when we made a turn coming from Paseo de Roxas going to Makati Avenue, the cars were already piling up just to enter the small alloted parking. Quickminded Celine took a turn at the back of Manila Peninsula and we immediately found ourselves back at Ayala Avenue and making a left towards the Greenbelt Area.  This was already 8:15. We missed the 8PM dot. 

People are jam-packed to see the show
Literally a shower of lights!
There were also shining star lanterns
Smoke machine adds drama
We reached Greenbelt 3's parking a few minutes later and when Celine was queueing for a parking card, the dispenser ran out of cards.  Had to literally walk up the vehicular entry ramp to tell the guard the dispenser was empty.  Another delay.  But luckily the next few minutes were smoother-sailing as we easily got a parking slot.  A little while more we were making our way by foot to the Ayala Triangle Park.  The 8:30PM light show was already playing when we got to the quadrangle and people were already packed, swaying, humming and marveling around the light and sound spectacle.  In no time at all it was over and we decided to stick around for the next outing. At 9 PM, the garden lights playfully flickered once more to happy Christmas music.  It was still amazing the second time around.  Afterwhich we left for some late hour shopping in Greenbelt 5.  We were already at Christmas mode! The phrase from the symphony's song- 'Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!' -was still ringing in my head. Too bad all the prices in Greenbelt 5 are way to high!

Heavy traffic, jolly music, festive lights, late night shopping, empty pockets: stuff that signify that Christmas is just around the corner looming, lurking, waiting to pounce. Beware hehehe!                

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Secretive Cliff

The view from the top of ravine
The hidden cycads
Cycads on cliff slope
In terms of number of species, the richest spot we have gone to in our Ilocos trip is far off the main highway. It was almost at the end of the world as we went off the usual tourist route and headed for rougher country.  It was another half hour till we stopped as the bus could not anymore go on the narrowing path. We got off and continued on foot till we reached the edge of a ravine. The beach is still a few meters down and we had to go down a flight of stairs into the mixed rock and sand coast.  The waves pounds strong on the craggy surface.

Probably Cycas nitida
The beach was not our purpose.  It was the cliff line looming a few meters above sea level. The cliff wall is separated from the coast by a vertical plane of sharp limestone. Above the difficult barrier, is a patch of intriguing dwarfed vegetation. The small trees are secretive, hiding specimens of fruiting cycad and much more.

There were probably a lot of the cycad. It is hard to count as they were tucked under the gnarling branches and thick canopy of the trees. The cycad looks different from other coastal species like pitogo (Cycas edentata). The individual plants appear to be smaller in size compared to C. edentata. Plus, as pointed out by Mr. George Yao, the fruit stalk had serrated edges (C. edentata has cleaner fruit stalk edges). The species is probably C. nitida which was previously recorded collected from the area.

An Apocynaceae member
Probably an Aglaia
But the cycad was not the only hidden treasure hidden in the brushes.  The coastal greens hideaway different trees from taxonomic families like Apocynaceae, Annonaceae, Sapindaceae, Myrtaceae, Bignoniaceae, Combretaceae, Pandanaceae, Dracaenaceae, and a lot more. Never under-estimate what nature could hide away from man's destructive reach. Hope they stay hidden as long as possible.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Mystery of Kapurpurawan

The botanists sorting through the green
On the road, in Ilocos Norte
I joined the post symposium trip of PNPCSI to Ilocos Norte.  We stayed in Northwestern University in Laoag and went on a 3 day whirlwind tour of the province from the common tourist attractions to the not so common areas where we got to explore the untouched flora. We were in the company of local and foreign delegates, some botanists, horticulturists, enthusiasts, collectors but all in general, plant lovers. I would say that most our company enjoyed the plants much more than the tourist spots. I heard more hoorays and moans when we spotted flowering trees than when we saw churches, the windmills and architecture.
Coastal vegetation of Kapurpurawan
Saltwater marsh
A network of saltwater pools and streams
In terms of the destinations we went to, it is Kapurpurawan in Burgos town which was most intriguing.  It was one of the last attractions we visited yet it made the most impact on me because of its unique landforms and vegetation. The cove is probably  a result of water and wind erosion. It created unique headlands, bays and a lot of undulating plains in between. Instead of a beach, the coast is covered with hard-edged sharp rocks, remnants of old coral reefs. Cutting through the hard surface are pools and small streams filled with salt water, like an estuarine swamp. And on one end, a headland is sculpted clean white mimicking a large block of chalk. It is like a big iceberg in tropical waters.       
Kapurpurawan means white, maybe so called because of the whiteness of this rock

The Kapurpurawan silhouette
Dwarfed mangroves
The patches of mangroves
Another weird thing is the flora.  Coastal species which grow big in other parts of the Philippines are dwarfed by the wind and the sea in  this part of Ilocos. The mangrove specimens, which are small trees, grow close to the ground like grass. Yet you know they are healthy because they flourish and flower. Just goes to show how diverse the Philippine landscape is - as diverse as the plants we saw in our trip.  The remaining green patches, plus the equally interesting landforms they grow in,  however small they have been reduced into, still solicited amazement from our botanist and plant enthusiast companions.
Unique rock landscape

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Heavily Burdened Tagpo Trees

Tilting tagpos
Heavily laden with fruit and foliage
Quickpost: I was at Jardin Isabel the other day and found specimens of Ardisia or tagpo heavily laden with fruit.  The small trees are already tilting because of the fruits' weight.  I am not sure if these are Ardisia squamulosa or A. whitfordii but they look interesting especially because they are prolific fruiters.  Not sure if fruits are edible though. But they sure make a nice addition to any garden.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Remembering JTMA and my 3rd Floor Prudential Life

I had a memorable 11-11-11. 
The Manosa family with the old JTMA gang
Ibay and Rani with Trixie Manosa
Chi Victorino at the helm with the gang
Three days ago I received a text message from Arch Chi Victorino inviting me to a JTMA (Jose T. Manosa and Associates) reunion. The venue will be somewhere in Makati and she was doing a headcount who will attend.  The idea of a reunion 11 years after I left JTMA was quite interesting so even though I had a few deadlines I immediately said yes. I see a few of my old officemates every now and then and chat with some over at Facebook.  To see them in one room together would be fun and an event which might not happen again in a long time. It was timely as one of our old bosses, the animated Nonoy Messina passed away a week ago. He did not want a funeral service. To meet with old friends, and of course, Arch Pinngoy Manosa (JTM to most of us) and the Manosa Family would signify celebrating Nonoy's life for most of us. 

With my batchmates at JTMA
It was determined that the reunion will take place in Mary Grace Cafe over at Greenbelt 2.  I came with friend Arch Pinky Gendrano who worked at JTMA as a specs writer in 1996.  I myself entered the company in 1997 and left at 2000.  That was a good 3 years of my life.  I was a senior designer/architect and it was at JTMA where I enriched my design experience doing a variety of design projects.  I remember being involved in San Miguel Training Center, International School, Max's Restaurant, Tequila Joe's, California Pizza Kitchen, Prudential Bank  and a lot more projects ranging from residential, institutional to commercial. I was part of the team when JTMA's business was at its peak with us employees reaching 60 at a time.  And it looked like a good number, about 35 people, was present that day.

Arch. Pinggoy and Mrs. Manosa
Greeting the newly arrived guests
As we entered the second floor dining area of Mary Grace we found JTM and Mrs Manosa sitting at the center of the room with ID tags labelled 'tagabayad' and 'tagabayad's wife'.  Trixie was also present, taking time out from her U.S. life. They stood up to welcome us warmly into the event.  They did successively for everyone who came that night.  They knew us all.  We were  issued name tags, as we were all employed at different times - former employees, coming from 3 different companies and various generations, the old Manosa Brothers (1959) to Manosa-Zialcita and finally JTMA (1978 to present).  It was chance to see the old and new faces, and how everyone evolved after their Manosa employment, their life beyond 3rd floor Prudential Bank Building. 

The lovely far-view girls
JTM clowning around with the girls
JTM looked as feisty as ever.  He hopped from one table to the other taking pictures himself and having his pics taken with us former employees.  All these photos and of course the chance to see and hear stories from everyone are priceless. It was a happy and nostalgic 3 hours, simple yet very memorable. To cap the night, JTM addressed all of us and expressed his elation in seeing a room full of architects and professionals making life after JTMA. He said it was rare to see a collection of old former employees in any company, and he was proud that people have stayed friends and very much in touch with one another.  He hopes the night will be repeated.

Trixia and JTM talking to all present
Arch. Jose 'Pinggoy' T. Manosa
I was particularly touched by his sentiments.  Some of us present did not exactly leave the company in good terms, but the Manosas seemed to have not held any grudge against anyone. My image of JTM has always been like a father to us his JTMA family. He is more than a mentor considering his status (the architect of the famous San Miguel headquarters, and the first Pinoy architect to be included in Sir Banister Fletcher's History of Architecture). My vision of Filipino architecture was greatly influenced by him.  I still remember what he told me regarding Philippine Architecture, that it is beyond the usage of indigenous materials, but it relies more on the training of the Pinoy architect and how he reflects his experiences through his designs. Very well said and kept in the corners of my psyche.

I was glad to be there that night despite ditching all my deadlines. It was great to reconnect with the Manosas and old JTMA gang. May there be another reunion in the future.
The rare JTMA group shot

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bocaue is a Bamboo

Patis with the Metro Home team
I just learned that another place from Bulacan is named after a plant!

I was in PatisTito in San Pablo a few weeks ago, Patis Tesoro graciously hosted the Metro Home team into her rustic home and garden.  She gave a quick tour of the grounds and in one corner she showed us a weird bamboo.  She told us it is bocawe, from which Bocaue in Bulacan got its name.

I am not sure what the species name of bocawe, but the plant Patis calls bocawe is indeed very impressive and quite unique.  It is moderately attractive and weird.  It is typically bamboo with the nodal culms.  But it is not upright like most bamboos we know. The thick culms are vining and need a support like a trellis or a nearby tree. Bocawe was probably abundant in Bocaue and nearby Meycauayan. It was said to be the material used as spears by early katipuneros (which makes it historically relevant).  

Bocawe leaves
The vining bamboo
Incidentally, Bocaue used to be part of Meycauayan - bocawe, the plant, being a kawayan (local name for bamboo).   I am not sure if presently there are any bocawe in both these towns. 
Bocawe, the bamboo

Panoramic Baler

Baler proper cove

Dicasalarin beach

 Another view of Dicasalarin beach

Private swimming cove
I recently learned that my camera is intelligent.  I could take a series of shots and the camera stitches them together, instantly.  Galeng! And I thought I bought a bobo-matic.  Turns out the only 'bobo' is me, hehehe. Tried it out taking panoramic pictures of scenic Baler coasts.

Hoya Joy!

The flowering Hoya was in its element

Hoya halconensis flower
Quick Post:  I visited Ronald's house and was elated to find his Hoya halconensis in flower.  He was one of the handful of people I gave cuttings to, coming from my mother plant which came from cuttings given to me by Nahdanielle Simonnson (of Sweden, from her expeditions).  Good to know that other than in my own garden, there are other people having success in propagating this beauty.  May it multiply more in number.  

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Gendering Aspleniums

The sea of garden plants

Fern propagations
Almost a year after the last, I went back to garden haven, Tabang.  After being flood stricken by typhoon Pedring, it is good to see that most of the Tabang plants are safe, alive and kicking.   This is after most of the fields and open areas were submerged under water for more than a week. There are still remnants of makeshift sand dikes along the roads. But plant propagation still extends as far as the eye could see. As if there was no evidence of Pedring in the plants except that the prices were up, up, up! As usual there were a lot of plant varieties and what caught my eye this time are the ferns, which usually are hard to rear in hot Bulacan.  But there were a few varieties being propagated here including Angiopteris, Polypodiums and of course the ever popular Aspleniums or dapo.

Dapong babae
Juxtaposition of male and female
Dapong lalaki
Have you ever heard of dapong lalaki and babae (male and female bird's nest fern)?  In garden talk, the Aspleniums are given genders because there are two particular varieties common in the trade.  As expected the rounded bird's nest was assigned the female or babaeng dapo monicker while the sharp-and-angular-leafed one became the male or dapong lalaki.  From what I have heard, the so called babae and lalaki are not even the same species.  If I got it right, babaeng dapo is Asplenium musifolium while lalaking dapo is the more popular Asplenium nidus. They are two distinct species, not genderized versions of one species.  Now which do you think command a higher price? The stereotypical female is claimed to be more beautiful, more sought after, therefore more expensive.