Sunday, June 24, 2012

Remembering Mam Elisa

Mam Elisa with PNPCSI members in Ilocos sand dunes
Mam Elisa with her sister Aleli
A few days ago, Mam Elisa Montecastro, one of the senior members of PNPCSI, passed away because of an aneurism. It was ironic because at her age of 77, she was one of the more adventurous members of the society.  We were shocked to hear about her untimely departure.

Going to Cabigan Falls
In Mt. Makiling
Our image of Mam Elisa is of an active woman who never backed out from trips and treks. She was always game in joining long walks even uphill to mountains.  In the PNPCSI trip to Mt. Makiling, she never complained even when it rained and we had to walk wet on the muddy trail going to the Mud Springs. In the trip to Ilocos Norte last November, she was with her sister Mam Aleli and they were in the advance party to trek to Kabigan Falls and climb the bleached Kapurpurawan formation. In January, she joined the much younger members in the trek up one of the highest points in the Subic forest, walking faster than some of us and making us eat dust.  She was enthusiastic even if the reason was to just see flowering specimens of a nice tree or shrub or simply just for the fun of it.

Before her death, Mam Elisa commited to join the next PNPCSI activity in Quezon.  She will definitely be missed in the trip, and the succeeding ones. But we will always remember Mam Elisa, always full of life, energy and adventure. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Vertical Green Wall Race

Vertical wall used to hide renovations in Taipei Airport
The still standing vertical wall in last year's Flora Expo
Lovely shade tolerant green wall
Selection of interior suitable plants
It seems here in the Metro Manila, we are way behind in the vertical green wall race. Green wall has been here, available locally for quite some time but Pinoys seem to be hesitant in using it, or probably ignorant that it exists. I don't know of any local development that notably made use of it. Come to think of it, I don't know any notable suppliers for the system. 

Green walls create more interesting textures
Colorful logo stands out on the green wall
Living wall makes an interesting entry
In neighboring Taiwan, the presence of the new technology in and around the city of Taipei is very noticeable.  The plain and bare public walls and spaces are stacked up with the upright plastic potting system and transforms boring surfaces into living walls of varying shades and textures of green. Designs could be very artistic and even surprising.
Collectible Hoya could be used
Rhoeo, Setcreasea and Cryptanthus provide color
The green walls are also used as ephemeral aesthetic elements. Construction sites are covered with vertical living wall systems to temporarily hide the blight created. In the international airport, long stretches of renovation are covered with plywood and covered with a wall of familiar ornamental plants like ferns, Dracaena, Philodendron and even Hoya. The street vertical walls utilized species which are very much available in local Philippine nurseries like Japanese bush (Phyllanthus myrtifolius), miagos (Osmoxylon) and golden duranta (Duranta repens var.). 
The green wall arouses interest of bored passengers waiting for their flights
Artists could be a littleplayful with designs and application
We do have the plants necessary to create a successful vertical wall system. We just have to speed up on learning more about green walls and maybe gain in on our Asian neighbors in the use of this new landscape technology!

The Chinese Holiday Market

The weekend market is underneath this long elevated highway
Rows of flower stalls
The Chinese gods seemed to have favored me. I wanted to visit a weekend market when we were in Taipei. But because I was with a teacher group and with limited time, I thought it would not be possible.   I placed the idea at the back of my mind, till we arrived in Taipei the wee hours of a Saturday morning. 

Nymphaea and Nymphoides
As soon as the airport car service turned for Dandy hotel in Daan district (where we stayed in Taipei) the view of the long line of plant stalls came into view. The hotel was literally a block away from Jianguo Holiday Flower Market. I was already scheming in my mind how I would get to visit it, even if I had to sneak pass my co-teacher companions. But the proximity made it easy to do so a day after we arrived, but it did not go undetected. I did not need to make it a secret from my travelmates, as they were surprisingly enthusiastic to even come to Jianguo. Which we did after breakfast on a Sunday.
The highway of plants below a real highway
Aquarium plants
You could only visit Jianguo on weekends. On ordinary days, the holiday market is just parking space under a very long fly-over.  But in the early hours of a Saturday the plain covered concrete space transformed into a horticultural fiesta, about one kilometer long.  just imagine the long line of plant stalls, dispersed with food and other specialty items - shopping galore!  

Carnivorous plants
The market as expected was crowded on a Sunday.  The stalls were fully stocked with interesting plants, accessories and to my delight other Chinese crafts. Though the species sold are not exactly the plants I am interested in (most are flowering and bonsai varieties) they still had a lot of specialty greens like carnivorous and aquatics. They were arranged in neat rows and they appeared very green and healthy.  The bright colored flowers also seemed very attractive.  The bonsais looked spectacular in the large terra cotta jars.  The presentation of the plants would really entice you to buy, buy, buy.  But this time I was more keen on buying some of the intricate woodwork and pottery (but everything that I liked had expensive prices and my limited budget hindered me, sigh).  

Bowl water gardens
After an hour of haggling I finally found 2 items I liked which I could afford.  But for a change these were not plants but miniature clay teapots.  I wanted to go back for a terra cotta pot but because the market was long and big, I could not locate the pot stall anymore.  I gave up after another 30 minutes of trying to find it.  But it is okay because it will give me a reason to aspire going back to this place.  I would definitely go back to Taipei and visit Jianguo again.  Hopefully I would have more time and a bigger budget, so I could surely get my fancied pot next time.   
Orchid species

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Magtungaw Revealed!

The pretty pink flowers of Syzygium merritianum or magtungaw
Tree has full canopy
I have a popular post about the magtungaw tree of Sibuyan Island before.  I said it is probably Syzygium alcinae, which botanist Ulysses Ferreras at the very start doubted. But then again there was no literature to confirm the identity of the so called magtungaw tree in Romblon. 

When Uly and Ronald Achacoso went to Sibuyan this year, they found that there were actually more than just one species called magtungaw on the island. Further, a majority of the native Syzygium species in the area and neighboring islands were either called magtungaw and mangkaasim (which is officially Syzygium nitida but attached to a few more other species). But the identity of magtungaw eluded both. They took new pictures of the magtungaw tree.  

Flowers contrast with the nice foliage
Last Saturday I chanced upon Uly in U.P. Diliman and he was ecstatic to exclaim he finally found the true identity of the unknown Syzygium, a feat because there are probably more than 200 plus species of Syzygium native in the Philippines and he had to rummage through all its records.. He says that magtungaw is Syzygium merritianum.

The next day I also got the eureka text from Ime Sarmiento, who was also very happy to finally learn magtungaw's proper botanic identity from Uly. But she was humoring the sound of magtungaw's official vernacular name, which is tomolad hehehe. She said magtungaw is better sounding. But one thing is clear, magtungaw or tomolad is a darn fine species to use for landscape with the bright pink flowers. I would be happy to introduce it in any local garden.

Ime Sarmiento sent me the new magtungaw pictures which was probably taken by the team who went to Sibuyan. So again, magtungaw is finally Syzygium merritianum!

Deadly Bloomer

Almost missed the bloom of my Cerbera
Quick Post: My baraibai or Cerbera manghas finally bloomed. The plant is a member of the deadly dogbane family which includes calachuchi.  I acquired the plant via seeds given to me by friend, Ronald Achacoso, collected from their farm in Zambales. From a handful, only one plant germinated, and it did only after 6 months of nothing. Almost gave up on the seed batch.  But after 4 years the plant is about 5 feet high and flowering. But I really love Apocynaceae plants so the wait is well worth it.      

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Some Sketching Time in Taiwan

The humongous gateway
Gateway and the 2 cultural theaters
Memorial at other end
For a year I have been longing to do some travel sketching and I got to do so in Taipei. I got away from our hectic tour schedule and spend the whole morning by myself in Chang Kai Shek Memorial.  I braved the 15 minute walk from our hotel towards the nearest MRT station and hopped on a 5-station train ride to the monument. As soon I got off the train and got out of the station, I was astounded to see that the tourist attraction is not what I was expecting.
The memorial framed by the gateway
Details of the theater
The other cultural center
Compared to the other Taipei destinations we have gone to the last few days, Chang Kai Shek Memorial was of gargantuan proportions. I felt very much dwarfed by the scale of the gateway alone.  Entering into the complex, I found myself drowned in the vast open space created by the 2 Cultural Buildings.   The large traditional Chinese rectangular structures flanked the main gateway  at each side while framing the long vista of the memorial proper.  Chang Kai Shek's main memorial has an octagonal plan and a shape similar to a Chinese pergola. It is donned in the less traditional blue color. The size is very much overwhelming. Just looking at the distance between the memorial and the main gate made me tired, but I made it to the base to scrutinize the architectural details.
View of the memorial from my seat
Taichi ladies
Memorial up close
It was almost noon when I decided to find my corner, where I could sit and do my usual round of sketching. I found an al fresco cafe at one of the cultural theater buildings.  It had a very nice view of the monument plus it presented the chance to sample the tempting cold green tea with mint on the menu. I could not also resist ordering a slice of chocolate cake.

My sketching corner
I made the far corner table as my vantage point, where I could also watch a group of Chinese ladies performing graceful Tai chi. It was a pleasant scene, very enjoyable to watch. But I had to bring out my trusted pen, journal and watercolour to force myself to finally start sketching. It took about close to an hour, but probably because I wanted to prolong sitting in the comfortable corner while partaking on my tea and cake treats. But what I accomplished drawing this time was not bad at all.  I also found an official Chang Kai Shek Memorial stamp seal to make the drawing more authentically done on site. 
My quick sketch of the memorial
National Palace Museum also in Taipei
Museum walk
In the Taipei trip, I also found the opportunity to sketch in the National Palace Museum.  Of course, as in any other museum, photographs were not permitted in the galleries.  So I made use of my sketch journal to make my experience more memorable.  I have a personal record of the interesting objects I saw in the different exhibits in the museum which I could refer to again as design inspirations. 
Liquor ware, Mao Gong Ding and Chinese bell
Metal artifacts

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Native Tree + Rare Fruit = Fun Walk

Ponchit Enrile and the happy RFSP gang
With Prof. Roberto Coronel
RFSP guyss inspecting tangisang bayawak
Flowering Leea manilensis
It was definitely a rare combination and a pleasure for me to handle.  Members of the Rare fruit Society of the Philippines and  the Philippine Native Plant Conservation Society joined today's native tree walk in U.P.  Diliman. Serious plant enthusiast Ponchit Enrile and rowdy RFSP group braved the hot sun and the muddy trails to lend me an ear and learn a little more about native tree species growing in the campus. Plus they brought along the rare fruit guru, Professor Emeritus Roberto Coronel. He shed some light on some of our controversial fruit species. It was an enlightening morning even for me. 
Photo op at UP Sunken Garden
Ed Agdeppa with his non-native Strychnos mask
Dracaena multiflora in full bloom
I was expecting that the Rare Fruit members would be less ecstatic about the non-fruiting species but they seem to be very much into all the natives, even those which do not bear fruit produce.  The heavily-berried kalumpit (Terminalia microcarpa) and katmon (Dillenia philippinensis) were the expected  favorites. But then again, any other plant which bore seeds (which some participants collected) were also crowd-pleasers.   It was also interesting to note that after a few months, the plants in Beta Way and the Marine Scince Institute complex are doing and growing very well. 

To the members of the Rare Fruit Society of the Philippines, thank you very much for participating in the U.P. native tree walk. It was a pleasant experience to be your guide in today's lesson about native flora.