Friday, April 18, 2014

Following Balikbayans in the Chinese Cemetery

Minor street in Chinese Cemetery
Combination of rustic and oriental
Monument
I was asked by my friend Ibay to accompany her and a couple of her friends around Manila.  I was to serve as the navigator, though I think I was useless for that task. I said yes because the trip would take us around the old parts of Manila proper.  We were to go to Chinese Cemetery, Binondo and of course, Intramuros.  Our companions, husband and wife BJ and Arlene, balikbayans from Canada who swore they never have gone to these places, with the exception of San Agustin where they got married. I myself have not gone to the Chinese Cemetery so that in itself alone was worth my coming.
Dragon detail
The foo lions
Moon entrance
Anahao trees
We started the day late at 11 am.  But it was lucky that the sun was not scourging hot even though we reached the cemetery at noon. Ibay rented a van and the driver parked it at one of the inner streets. All four of us went down and walked from alley to alley not minding if we get lost.  BJ and Arlene was amused how Ibay and I woud exclaim how beautiful the oriental details were, considering it was indeed a cemetery.   But they got into the groove of it, contributing into the ghost stories and jokes we were exchanging, to lighten the mood. In the end they appreciated the color and rich ornamentation.
There was still space for a basketball court
Battery of foo lions
Dita at a distance
Mabolo tree at the background
I was of course looking around beyond the architecture.  I was scouting for old trees and was not disappointed.  Though there were the cemetery staples like acacia and kalachuchi, I found that there were an assortment of natives still standing around the memorial lots. Talisay (Terminalia catappa) abound, but mabolo (Diospyros blancoi), dita (Alstonia scholaris), hawili (Ficus septica), alagao (Premna odorata), anahao (Livistona) and bungang-jolo (Veitchi merrillii) are present in the alleys we went through. Not bad! 

Pergola at the semi lawn area
We finished in a short hour but walked an amazing 2.5 kilometers around the premises. And we till had half a ahead of us.  Will write about the rest of our trip in the following days to come.     
Tent structures without the fabric
Modern Chinese
 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Neo-Urban Creek

This creek is hidden beneath the LRT 2 line flanking the entrance to the university belt
Quick Post:  Passed by this creek near the university belt and it seems like the Paco Creek, it was rehabilitated.  Looks so provincial. Hoping that more urban waterways will follow the same fate!

Departures from my Traditional Maundy Thursday...

Loreto is full of people following the stations of the cross
Loreto Church in Sampaloc
It is a quiet Thursday.  The streets are almost empty as most Manila dwellers retreated to the provinces. It is again ideal to go around as there is almost no traffic.  I was thinking if it would be easy to follow our traditional yearly Visita Iglesia route.

Faux-gothic of San Beda

St. Jude Church
This year there will be a change.  Ever since I could remember, I perform Visita Iglesia along with my family - my parents and my siblings. When my Mom died I still managed to go, probably not with the whole family, but at least with my dad and a sibling or two. But this year that my Dad is gone. It seems Maundy Thursday is not anymore a family day for me and I am to go on my very first Visita, alone. Honestly I was dreading it at first, but somehow I found it more relaxing and contemplative.  For one I could take my time, and follow a route that I like and enjoy. 
The station of the cross murals at San Beda are outdated but very beautiful
I chose to go on a route where I could mostly walk.  I decided to start with Loreto Church in Sampaloc.  From there I was thinking i could proceed on foot to four more churches: San Beda, St. Jude, San Sebastian and Quiapo.  I got my stations-of-the-cross prayer book at hand, starting four stations at Loreto, and going through to two or three with the succeeding churches. I was almost finished with 12 station when I got to towering steel San Sebastian church.

The barrel vault of San Beda
The modern lines of St. Jude
The walk from Loreto to San Sebastian was surprisingly manageable for a couch potato like me. Though I was alone, the streets had a festive feel as there are numerous people doing Visita Iglesia along side me.  They were also enjoying themselves as they squeeze in a group shot or selfie.  Of course I could not help myself occasionally bringing out my phone camera, especially while admiring the architecture of the churches.

After San Sebastian I decided not to walk to Quiapo, but instead take a cab ride to Manila Cathedral and San Agustin.  But upon reaching the Intramuros walls, there was unfamiliar Holy Week traffic. My cab driver pulled back to try another route but that also was clogged.  After a few minutes of waiting behind the slow cars, my cab went a final U-turn and head back to the Sta Cruz area.  
I think it is already obvious that this is my favorite church - San Sebastian.

The brick-laden Sta. Cruz Church
My 5th church became Sta Cruz Church.  It was where I finished my Station of the Cross, as the cross markers where conveniently located outside of the church building.  I sat at one corner where I made my contemplative prayers, amidst other church-goers but minus minding if any of my companions are waiting. I realized that part was alsoin a way stressful.

Offered a couple of colorful prayer candles
I leisurely walked through a more crowded street - Carriedo to find myself going to the church I was supposed to visit at no. 5 - Quiapo.  It seems destiny really wanted me to visit this church.  I lighted a few colorful candles and said thanksgiving prayers, but could not stand the crowds.  I decided to leave Quiapo after a short prayer to head to my last church.  The underpass was closed for renovation.  I had to walk under Quezon Bridge and pass through the handicraft stores - a feast for the eye. 
The ever crowded church of Quiapo was still very commercially busy
Lourdes Church
My last church was Lourdes Minor Basilica, where my family traditionally start our Visita Iglesias. I could not finish my own route without passing through Lourdes, which was also my Alma Mater.  We usually finish the stations here before going to the other churches where we make shorter prayers.  This time around I was done with the prayer book and lit only a few candles.  It was different but nevertheless still done somewhere familiar.  I planned to passby my favorite puto-bungbong stall but in the end got suman and kalamay instead - another stereotype departure.  I dipped both treats in a bowl of sugar, after a tiring but self-discovering Visita Iglesia.  I realized I will be starting new traditions in the years following this one!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Orchid Artist!

Ornamental plant display
Botchie Canicula's booth
Architect Bimbo Vergara
The waling-waling
My plant fascination has been lately been replaced by an art-toy craze.  Probably why I have not been visiting garden shops and shows for quite some time. But I required my students to visit the Philippine Orchid Society Show so I accompanied a couple of them.   

The exhibit area featured the predictable plant booths and displays.  The usual suspects were also present like Purificacion Orchids, Cactus and Succulent Society and some more.  But in one corner, I find a gallery of the infamous waling-waling orchid, painted by my friend Bimbo Vergara.  I have written about Bimbo in this blog but more concerned about his wild cactus collection.  It is refreshing to see that something native has caught his fancy.  He immortalized popular varieties and cultivars in acrylic on board panels. 
Drawing 2
Detail of drawing

     

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.