Sunday, October 14, 2012

Skyway Skyline

The Skyway skyline
Was riding the bus which passed by the Skyway. Brought out my camera to quickly capture two images of  Metro Manila, juxtaposed with each other.  Classic dilemma!

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Boholano Banilad

Libaong Beach in Panglao is the home of a lot of native coastal trees 
The Amarela banilad
Another banilad tree
"My favorite Bohol tree stands at the center of Amarela Resort in Panglao Island. It is a lone resilient banilad tree (or Sterculia comosa) which I got drawn to because of its very prominent red berry-like seed pods. When I first saw those pods, I thought they were cherries. Sadly I learned that they were mere capsules and not fruit at all. But the seeds are palatable which is probably why the tree attracts an army of black glossy starlings (lansijang birds). But edible seeds or not, the tree looks very interesting, with a distinct form that stands out from the rest of the existing trees and flora on that beach. So every time I go back to Amarela, I check the tree and collect the seeds that fall to the ground. I am always lucky enough to get a handful which I bring back to Manila to plant in small pots. The seeds readily germinate and easily grow to good seedling size. And, in no time at all, they are young trees over a meter tall.

Unopened buds
Seed pod details
When I worked for the Heritage Park, I planted four two-foot high banilad saplings flanking an open parking lot in the memorial park premises. The area was extremely hot and had shallow soil. I thought the seedlings would have a hard time anchoring their roots onto the hard adobe base, but they did it! Then, after a few more months, the banilad specimens grew to considerable size, despite the extreme conditions they had been subjected to, and the minimal care they had received. This encouraged me to give away the rest of my seedlings to willing recipients. I have not heard about how those seedlings have fared, but the ones at the Heritage Park are already small tree-sized. 
Discarded flowers
Young green pods
In a few more years, my banilad specimens might prove to be very handsome trees to have in any garden, even outside Bohol of course. The banilad might even prove to be an ideal tree for urban-greening. We shall see."

Fallen seeds
I wrote this article for the book 'Philippine Native Trees 101: Up Close and Personal'.  But it the article did not make it to the final book: The reason was that the tree  I described in the article was misidentified.
I  learned from Ulysses and Mam Ime that the Bohol banilad is actually malakalumpang or Sterculia ceramica.Today I again got to see the Amarela banilad.  For the almost 7 years that I was observing it, it was only today that I saw it in flower.  And more good new: I also found two more full grown trees in the vicinity.  

Bohol the Nth Time

High-low tide beach
The quite narrow beach

View from Amarela balcony resto
The balcony resto
I arrived again in Amarela Resort in Libaong Beach, Panglao Island.  This time around our flight was in the afternoon so we got to the resort almost nearing sundown. There was still barely sun, enough to see that the plants are still lush, but some are overgrown.  The sea water was quite high for low tide. The exposed portion of the beach is narrow. It is always nice to come back here.      

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Hi-Street Session

At Bonifacio Hi-Street
Sketching Specific Gravity
It was my third time to join the monthly sketching session of Urban Sketchers Philippines. September's session brought us to the urban landscape of Fort Bonifacio, specifically Bonifacio Hi-Street.  We were to meet at the infamous Specific Gravity sculpture of Reg Yuson.

Sketchers at work
We were pegged to meet at 3:30 PM but no one was still in the vicinity of the sculpture cum fountain.  I made a quick scan of the surrounding shops and spotted USP fixture Eileen Escueta sitting at Figaro's, already doodling her selected scene.  I sat down with her company, so I could also bring out my drawing paraphernalia and start sketching.

Without any pencil lines
A few minutes into my contour line composition, one by one the USP members were popping up, steadily filling up the seats of Figaro's al fresco dining.  Different sizes of sketch pads and varying kinds of drawing and coloring media were eventually pulled out from bags.

The favorite subject was the Reg Yuson sculpture, though that day the cascading water element was turned off. But that did not hinder the boys and gals from finding the perfect angle to depict the large synthetic stone and metal art installation.    

Unfinished sketch
At around 430, we were asked to transfer to the covered pathway near Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and start a new drawing.  But eventually the chosen subject taken was still the same familiar sculpture. All were racing to finish their quick sketches as it was already nearing dusk.  The color of the landscape surface are turning from bright tints of color into shades of dark tones and grey. 
My first attempt
Urban Sketchers
At 530 pm, the sketching session abruptly came to an end, testing the USP's ability to quickly capture the essence of Hi Street with just a few fast strides of pen or pencil. I myself did not get to finish my last drawing.  But somehow I managed to make 2 small drawings to mark my brief participation in this USP activity.  Can't wait till next month, when I again get to add something worth sketching in my small notebook.  

Monday, October 1, 2012

The City and the Country Tea

Northwestern University Ecotourism Park and Botanic Garden in Laoag
The NUEBG tsaang-gubat
NUEBG tree house
Located at one corner of Northwestern University Ecotourism Park and Botanic Garden in Laoag City is a very nice and attractive specimen of Carmona retusa which they commonly call Fookien tea or tsaang-gubat. There is nothing unusual with the scene except that this plant is big and healthy.  But you would expect to see healthy specimens in the city as tsaang gubat is a known and popular garden plant.  It is much propagated in Tabang, Bulacan and sold as topiary in the shape of balls, cones and animals. 

The Carmona retusa was planted at a nice shaded spot, along a prominent pathway.  I am not certain where the NUEBG tsaang gubat came from, but I am sure it is given utmost care by the staff of the university, especially the botanic garden's superintendent, Michael Calaramo. As a result, it is tall and lush, with robust branches forming a compact crown. The leaves have a glimmer, as if they were sprayed with lacquer. It really is a handsome addition to any landscape.
Dwarfed forest of Burgos
The wild tsaang-gubat
About two hours away from Laoag is the craggy shores of Burgos town.  It is a windy part of Ilocos region so the vegetation are quite wind swept and naturally maintained low. Here another Carmona retusa grows at the other end of the spectrum. 

The Burgos tsaang-gubat might be a wild specimen.  It is low and gnarly, almost hugging the ground, trying to blend with the other dwarfed species growing on the rocky slopes. It is mixed with resilient shrubbery and weeds, including Phyllanthus, Tabernaemontana, Celtis and a lot more. The specimen here does not have a lush crown or the perfect foliage, which goes to show that a lot of natives do not actually grow in perfect conditions, but they do adapt and manage.