Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Fountainhead Trees

I am blogging this because I promised my friend Faith Varona that I will write a blog about U.P.  I choose to blog about the balitbitan trees in the College of Architecture. 
The 3 balitbitan trees in Arki's atrium  
The balitbitan trees against the background of Arki's iconic yellow
Ten years after graduating college I decided to go back to school to take my Masters in Tropical Landscape Architecture.  I chose to apply in UPCA again and that was in 2005. At that time, the college had just transferred from its old facilities in Melchor Hall, above the College of Engineering. Arki's new home was a complex of two buildings, the refurbished CPDMO headquarters and a new drafting edifice beside it.   The renovated structure had an almost entirely concreted atrium in its design. At one side of the atrium were three empty square holes, where shade trees were intended to be planted. 

I remember that as a graduate school freshman, it was one of my teachers, Professor Zenaida Galingan, who was given the task of choosing a tree species to plant in the atrium.  At that time her team was perplexed what species to select as they were plagued with some limitations.  The planting holes were practically 1 square meter in area.  The holes were only a few meters apart.  Each of them is also shallow as the old building practically stands on an adobe foundation - which was hard to dig. And the BLA program personnel were more familiar with the popular landscape and nursery varieties which were dominated by exotic species. 

I think it was after a semester when I next heard that they have chosen a particular species to plant in the Arki atrium.  Their choice was a native tree called balitbitan or Cynometra ramiflora. The seedlings they would acquire were donations from a BLArch alumnae, UPLB Professor Susan Aquino Ong.  She visited the college to talk about the plight of her beloved leaning Dracontomelon dao tree in the UPLB, which was almost cut down because of its tilted growth. 

Honestly I was surprised to learn about the balitbitan choice.  For one I thought the tree is big and would probably not survive the confined growth because of the small planting hole.  It also does not have pretty flowers.  Apart from the appearance of the occasional white young leaves, the tree is unremarkable, except that it has a full canopy and a stately stance. In my mind I uttered there are far more attractive candidates worthy of the space. 
The canopy is covered with white-green color when the young leaves emerge
Three balitbitan seedlings, a couple of meters tall, arrived a few days later and were eventually planted into the holes. As I progressed with my graduate studies, I saw the trees grow from lanky saplings into sturdy young specimens. I became more fond of them.

Detail of balitbitan's young leaves 
Towards the latter part of my 5-year graduate school stint, I have learned about the importance of the balitbitan's choice in the Arki atrium landscape. Professor Susan Aquino Ong's prerogative actually ushered in the importance of planting native species into landscape design.  This started an awareness in me and others in the college as it trickled into the psyche of the landscape students like myself.  A simple suggestion was probably a small move then but now the repercussions of it is strongly experienced in Arki. The BLArch students are becoming aware of what are native plants and their importance in the environment.    

Today, almost a decade after, I am no longer a student but a teacher in my former college. The three balitbitan trees stand much taller and far too bigger than what I expected.  For years I witnessed them bringing out their iconic white leaves and I have watched the leaves turn from from light color to dark green. Their habit and appearance have become a vital part of the atrium's landscape.   

The balitbitan trees were the first native trees to be planted into the College of Architecture's new complex. As Arki is in the process of erecting its new building and expanding its facilities, a few more native plants are finding themselves into the design.  For now the new amphitheater used another native into its design, Eucalyptus deglupta or bagras.  Hopefully there will be more to follow in the future.    


LB said...

This tree is growing also at the Legazpi Active Park in Makati. thanks for the ID.

Noreen Vergara said...

What do you do with those seeds, look like walnuts... :)

Can I eat them?


Jenn C. said...

I have seen those trees at Sm Moa and around Subic forest. I got a branch from Sm Moa but it didnt survive. Curious on where i can purchase seedlings. Thank you

Bing said...

Re: Forest trees seedlings http://olx.ph/106865977

Saw this in an olx ad.
Myself interested in dau seedlings

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