Saturday, February 15, 2014

Valentines in Bulacan

My L Arch 25 class
Sea of greenery
I spent Valentines not with one date but with 27 of my students on a trip to Bulacan.  The landscape subject I am teaching them is L Arch 25 or softscape planting material. Therefore it is inevitable for us to go on roadtrip and expose them to real actual plants.  Not all can be learned in the confines of the small classroom and the nurseries of Tabang and Malolos would be a better setting to learn more of plants they could use for landscape purposes - much more than just seeing pictures and downloading them over the internet.

Diospyros  ferrea
The class looking at Cordyline varieties
It was already 9 am when we reached the Tabang exit of NLEX. But the next 2 hours saw us hopping from one nursery to another.  The students did not stop snapping their cameras for pictures of the multitude of plants grown and sold there.  I myself found and discovered new plant materials that I have never seen before. But I was more elated to find that along with the usual native of miyagos (Osmoxylon lineare), kamuning (Murraya paniculata), arius (Podocarpus costalis) and tsaang gubat (Carmona retusa), another beautiful Philippine bush - bantulinao (Diospyros ferrea) is becoming visible.

Under the millionaire's vine with our guide, Lea
Barasoain Church
The class was complaining that they were having information overload. One nursery we went to, Kariz Garden, had around 6 hectares of planting area, exposing the class to the hot sun and endless seas of greenery. Their cameras ran out of storage space and I never ran out of queries regarding common names and scientific Latin. When we finished, they were all exhausted, exasperated by hunger and dehydration. 

Break at Kabisera
As a break and a treat, we passed though the iconic Barasoain Church and had a hearty lunch at nearby Kabisera Restaurant.  We had our fill of bottomless cold iced tea and a sampling of their specialties.  The Kabisera chicken and sisig are a must.  Yum!

At a fountain in Barasoain
The day was capped with a visit to Bulacan State University.  My class watched their counterparts, headed by UP MTLA student and  BSU professor Madonna Danao, while they are having their design defense.  The BSU immersion was short but at least they got to interact with other landscape students outside of the U.P. system. 

BSU students making their presentation
Overall it was a fruitful and tiring day, made bad only by the worst Valentines Day traffic ever when we reached Manila.  That did not entirely dampen my spirits but made hit the sack early when I finally reached home sweet home.  But the experience made me again excited to blg about it, a day after.
The UP and BSU landscape architecture students with Prof. Madonna Danao

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Homecoming Tree Walk!

I am a graduate of Philippine Science High School.  It probably is more than 10 years since the last time I stepped inside the Pisay campus. Last January 21, I went back as a member of the Philippine Native Plant Conservation Society to lecture on native trees to a 4th year high school class and guide them in a mini tree walk around the campus which I am supposedly familiar with.  But the grounds have already changed since the last time I was there.
The kalachuchi trees beside the old humanities buiding are still there
The lobby of the new building where we had the lecture
Bird documentation prepared by Jon
I was of course excited because I am on home ground and curious to know what native trees are still present inside the 7 hectare premises.  My memories of my 4-year high school stay, I could only recall 6 trees (which not all are native): narra (Pterocarpus indicus) at the volleyball courts, golden shower (Cassia fistula) near the entrance, Hura crepitans behind the dorm, powder puff (Calliandra sp.) near the grandstand; and bottlebrush tree (Callistemon viminalis) and kalachuchi (Plumeria spp.) (at the side of the humanities building.  The last tree we used for our research project.  It is sad to see some of these are already gone.
Botong fruits and the PSHS native trees list
The main humanities buiding
One of the Pisay teachers and also a PNPCSI member, Jon Javier, already mapped out the native trees growing around the grounds. They were not plenty but it was still fun to trace where they are located.  I loved seeing that there were old trees of banaba (Lagerstromia speciosa), bitaog (Calophyllum inophyllum), niyog-niyogan (Ficus pseudopalma), bagras (Eucalyptus deglupta), etc.   It was also pleasant to find newly planted seedlings of other natives like ilang-ilang (Cananga odorata), pagsahingan (Canarium asperum), balitbitan (Cynometra ramiflora) and a few more.

It was also nostalgic to see all the old buildings like the canteen, the dorms and the old integrated  science laboratory still standing.  I am hoping that like them, some of the trees we found would still exist when I return again on September for our 25th year jubilee and of course hopefully every year after that that I get the chance to visit. 

As for the students, as expected not all were enthusiastic about the topic.  Most of the time, the majority lagged behind doing their own thing.  But I still carried on with the tree route with much gusto! Fortunately there are a handful of students who looked truly interested on learning about our native trees.  That is for me already enough reward, a little ray of hope for our Philippine flora!
The students with other members of the PNPCSI

From Bamboo to Barbecue Stick

Larged leafed buho grow alongside exotic kawayang tinik
Bundles of collected buho
Ever wonder where the barbecue sticks used for your favorite banana-cue snack comes from?  Part of it is harvested from buho stands growing in the mountain areas. Buho or Schizotachum lumampao is a native bamboo species growing in forests and  mountains around the Philippines.  Buho can be collected growing wild in the foothills of  Zambales and its neighborig provinces.

Sticks are dried at roadside
Culms are cleaned
We chanced upon how it was done when we surveyed an Aeta community there. The bamboo grows intermittently alongside domesticated clumps of kawayan tinik (Bambusa blumeana) used for construction. I am not sure whether the bamboos the Aetas use are wild or cultivated, but it seems several households make their livelihood out of manufacturing the utilitarian sticks.
stick that you know drying on the pavement
Dried sticks are bundled up together
Acacia auri is claimed to be also used for making the sticks
Buho has thinner culm walls, allowing it to be easily cut into strips for the sticks, or pounded down to become sawali fiber. The indigenous people collect the buho culms and bring them down to the community.  They would find a space under a shade tree to clean and cut the culms down uniformly into your familiar barbecue stick.  Then they would be laid down at the side of the road to let dry. After a  few days they would be bundled up and sold at the nearest neighborhood palengke

It is tedious process but the local performing the rigorous task is said to only earn a few hundred pesos for the week's worth of work.