Rafflesia manillana spotted in Mount Makiling

Mount Makiling National Park ,Los Baños ,  Laguna province -Philippines

Mount Makiling Visitor’s Center

Every blooming season of  Rafflesia  , horticulture , biology , botany students , environmentalists  and nature lovers would want to see these rare flowers in bloom.

a picture posted from PNPCSI facebook – photo courtesy by : Mr. Ronald Achacoso

A few members had posted pictures thru their Facebook and other social media sites last April 13, 2013  of their Mount Makiling trek  and rafflesia finds.  A few of us missed the trek of  the Philippine Native Plant Conservation Society Inc. , UP taxonomy professors and their botany students up to Mount Makiling . According to them it was an impromptu and private trip!

Station 1 is also known as Visitor’s Registration Center

Then thru the initiative of Ms. Cel Tungol and Mr. Alexander Loinaz members of  PNPCSI and Wild Bird Club of the Philippines , They scheduled an unplanned trek to the Mount Makiling Forest Reserve .  Ms. Cel Tungol just tried to ask the  previous climbers on the exact location of the rafflesia that they have encountered and if there are still more in blooms. Although positive , We are not very sure if we can still spot those rafflesias that they have spotted . Those blossom might already withered ,  It had been almost a month since they have posted the photos. ! Brushing aside , We also want to take the hike and photos of the rare blooms.


The big day had come, Our group is just small and Mr. Alex Loinaz fetch us at the PhilCOA area  around past 6:00am .  Since it is sunday and there is no traffic at the SLEX area, We arrived past 8:00am at the Mount Makiling Forest Reserve.  When we reach the visitor registration booth- We paid a small entrance fee of Php 10.00 per person and  were given yellow leaflets.

motorcycles  for hire

We hired 3 motorcycles  at Station 1 , They told us that the parasitic blooms  might be seen after Station 13 which is about 13 kilometers ahead. If we are going to walk our way to the station,  our group may reach the station after 3 or 4 hours! Since we are all in a hurry and needed to be home in Manila by afternoon.  We decided to take the motorcycle  further into the forest to conserve some of our energies for the main climb. This decision proved to be the right choice.  Mr. Alex Loinaz hire them for a round trip ,  According to one of the young drivers, They even gave a big discount to our group since they would charge at least Php 100 pesos ( one way ride )  up to Station 10 . Our generous benefactor paid them for the round trip.  He even treated us  Burger King’s  burger and fries which we took them on our hiking trip  .  So it was a ” Mother’s Day  and Father’s Day Treat ” . Maraming Salamat ulit ! Many Thanks !

Mount Makiling trail with a fallen ficus tree

After about 30 minutes or so, Sir Alex and Ms. Cel arrived at the station 10 . I arrived  10 minutes later due to some technical problem with the motorcycle .  The road is unpaved and very slippery  due to the onset of the rainy season . They started their photography session while waiting for me.  We started our ascend and made  a short survey of the existing flora and bird species along the man- made trail . After several minutes of walking , I have spotted a terrestrial orchid in bloom ! WOW it is indeed a sight to behold .

Pocoglottis acuminata in bloom

This terrestrial orchid also inhabits the rocky areas of the trek site. According to one of the residents of Mount Makiling Forest Reserve , They do not have an idea that those plants are terrestrial or lithophytes in some areas. They would slash those weeds!!!!!! OMG …

Agila  base camp

It took us at more than 1 hour just to walk from station 10 to the boulder site. I have spotted at least 10 species of orchids , half a dozen ferns , several hoyas and at least half a dozen bird species. The place is quite humid and dark.

a passage way was created by slicing this big mountain adobe stone

We saw big trees , ferns, ficus trees, orchids , spiny rattans and insects along the trail . After more than an hour or so , Our group reach the Malaboo camping site.  ( The place is a favorite camping site for mountaineering and scouting groups)  Rains have started a few weeks ago,  thus promoting a lush growth of cogon grass within the Malaboo camping site.

Malaboo Camping Site

We already passed station 13 and Malaboo camping site and still no rafflesia sightings ! We keep following the trail up  to the Wilderness zone.

Wilderness Zone signage

When we reach this spot ,  We started to ask each other if we can still spot a rafflesia in bloom during our trek .   Did we arrive too late? Did the rains stop the rafflesias from blooming ?

fallen tree with ferns and orchids

Then we started to climb towards Station 14 and still there are no faint smell or sightings . There was a heavy rainfall the day before we trek Mount Makiling and some of the trees lying on the ground might have fallen the day before.

Coelogyne sp.

This orchid genus is just about 2 -meters away from us.  Since it is not in bloom , I can’t identify the particular species. We cannot touch the orchid because the tree is located near a deep ravine.  Based on the withered inflorescence, The orchid  have bloomed  few weeks ago !

Mr. Bryan Buenaventura and Ms. Cel Tungol

After a few minutes of walking , We saw a mountaineer going down from station 14 .   We introduced ourselves and tried asking Mr. Buenaventura if he had smelled any rotting meat , rotting stench or dead rats along the way? He quickly nod his head and  pointed the trail  between  station 14  and station 16 .

a Rafflesia bud growing from an infected host vine

But he caution us of the falling leeches , lematics or linta. They are everywhere, that is “why ” he is going down and did not finish the climb.

four Rafflesia manillana buds growing in a tetrasigma vine ( host vine or plant)

Link: http://rmbr.nus.edu.sg/nis/bulletin2012/2012nis263-270.pdf

Rafflesia manillana flower growing in the tetrastigma vine

Minutes after he cautioned our group. Lematics began falling from trees , we had to remove them one by one. We had a short walk , then i immediately  saw the small red patch of flower in a cliff side clearance then i called the attention of Ms. Cel Tungol , Mr. Bryan Buenaventura and Sir Alex soon followed us.

Rafflesia manillana in bloom

It was a discovery of our lives !  We tried to smell the flower and took photos . Mr. Bryan Buenaventura is also as trilled as our group. He also took photos with this rare parasitic bloom! This is the smallest known Rafflesia in the world and slightly larger than a cup plate.  After taking a lot of photos of this rare jewel  . We immediately hike going down the trail since it started to rain.

 a Rafflesia flower  growing in a tetrastigma vine

I send a couple of pictures to some taxonomy experts. One of the experts said that the Rafflesia had just bloomed a day or so and we were lucky that the rains did not left the flowers rotting.

the author with Ms. Cel Tungol -courtesy of: Mr. Alex Loinaz

The past decade saw a dramatic increase in the number of Rafflesia species described  in the Philippines. From the original two species described in 1841 (Rafflesia manillana Teschem.) and in 1885 (Rafflesia schadenbergiana Goeppert)  eleven  more species were described  as new to science  starting in 2002 and the latest in 2011.

Rafflesia manillana withered bloom with  a bud

Our group is considered quite lucky to have spotted a blooming rafflesia within the trail, but i must say the first group who spotted the bloom about a month earlier were more luckier than us , since they have spotted at least 4 or 5 blooming rafflesias.

Ms. Tungol , Sir Alex Loinaz and  Rare Fruit Network of the Philippines members

We rode the motorcycle going down to station 1 and this time – it took us barely 20 minutes ( faster to go down) We saw some familiar faces at the sari-sari store and we showed them photos of  our rare find .  Sir Alex treated us with fresh buko juice while having a short chit chat with fellow hikers.

The Philippine Postal Corporation had featured Philippine rafflesia in the stamp issued on March 30, 2007  ( right side )

Tip : It is feasible for visitors or institutions  to  secure  permits from the MCME office during weekdays so that they can allow private cars up to station 10 , Otherwise one must rent  motorcycle from station 1 to station 10  . Rafflesia blooms on a seasonal basis  and forest guides can be hired .  They can also give a tip on where to spot a blooming rafflesia .

For those who want to plan a day trip to Mount Makiling – Here are the contact numbers:

MCME (+049) 536-35-75 ,UPLB Police  (+049) 536-22-43 ,   Los Baños Action Center (+049)536-7861


Acta Manilana Volume 55 ( 2007) : http://www.philjol.info/philjol/index.php/ACTA/issue/view/204/showToc

Philippine Journal of Systematic Biology :  Volume 6 (2012) http://www.philjol.info/philjol/index.php/PJSB/issue/current




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