Vanilla calopogon: A rare orchid at the backdoor of Metro Manila

Vanilla calopogon Rchb.f., Otia Bot. Hamburg.: p40 (1878)

Local Name: The Beautiful Bearded Vanilla, leafless orchid

Flower Size 1.6 to 1.8″ [4 to 4.5 cm]

History : There are more than 120 species of Vanilla that can be found in tropical areas of the world. However only 5 to 6 species are known to produced the vanillin extract which is essential in aroma therapy, food, cosmetic, baking and ice cream.

Totonac people, who inhabit the East Coast of Mexico in the present-day state of Veracruz, Mexico, were the first to cultivate vanilla. According to Totonac mythology, the tropical orchid was born when Princess Xanat, forbidden by her father from marrying a mortal, fled to the forest with her lover.

world map showing areas where vanilla orchid species can be found

Vanilla is a flavor derived from orchid species of the genus Vanilla. primarily from the Mexican species, flat-leaved Vanilla planifolia .  The word vanilla, derived from the the Spanish word vaina (vaina itself meaning sheath or pod), simply translates as little pod.   people cultivated the vine of the vanilla orchid, called tlilxochitl by the Aztecs, and Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes is credited with introducing both vanilla and chocolate to Europe in the 1520s.

Initial attempts to cultivate vanilla outside Mexico and Central America proved futile because of the symbiotic relationship between the vanilla orchid and its natural pollinator, the local species of Melipona  bees.  Pollination is required to set the fruit from which the flavoring is derived. In 1837, Belgian botanist Charles Francois Antoine  discovered this fact and pioneered a method of artificially pollinating the plant. The method proved financially unworkable and was not deployed commercially. In 1841, Edmond albius , a slave who lived on the French island of Reunion  in the Indian Ocean, discovered at the age of 12 that the plant could be hand- pollinated . Hand-pollination allowed global cultivation of the plant.

close-up view of the flower

Origin: Unlike its related cousins from Central and South America , There are about 4 to 6 species of Vanilla orchid species that can be found in the Philippines.  Found in northwestern Luzon provinces , Norzagaray , Angat , San Jose del Monte in Bulacan, Rizal province in dry thickets and on trees in forests at low elevations as a large sized, hot growing climbing terrestrial with a terete stem without leaves that blooms in the late spring and early summer on a short, 4 to 6 flowered inflorescence .  It is endemic to Luzon island. This orchid species is a climber and is leafless. In my several years of cultivation. The orchid will become active during the onset of the rainy season by producing vines.

On June 29, 1890 , it was recollected in dry thickets in Luzon then later in 1918 Mr. Maximo Ramos collected some in the town of  Burgos , Ilocos Norte on July 20, 1918 . Some specimen was later discovered in Rizal province by Mr. Alejandro , an orchid collector by profession sometime in 1948.  The flower does not last very long, it only bloom 2 to 3 days .

My orchid specimen was given to me by a friend from the Philippine Orchid Society ( Mr. Reynaldo Lucas ) before he left the country sometime in 2008.  According to the book of Ms. Mona Lisa Steiner the orchid species used to be found in Novaliches , Valenzuela , Bulacan areas .  But with the recent developments , one can hardly see any orchid species growing in wild places, most of which are already converted into subdivisions, highways or industrial areas. One last hope will be the La Mesa Watershed area.

Vanilla calopogon climbing vine

The specific name calopogon means ” beautiful beard ‘ refer to this attractive labellum . Its pale greenish lilac colored flowers is a sight to behold.

References and Bibliographies :

Kew Garden: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl/record/kew-211860

Davis S. Reg, Steiner , Mona Liza 1952 New York , USA  page 239 to page 241

The Complete Writings of Dr. Eduardo Quisumbing on Philippine Orchids , 1981 Eugenio Lopez Foundation,  page 103 to 105

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Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto in San Jose del Monte , Bulacan

Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto complex ,  San Jose del Monte City – Bulacan province

I woke up early morning and quickly packed my things, this is like a yearly retreat to the famous Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto Shrine in San Jose del Monte City of  Bulacan.

Our Lady of Mercy Shrine in Novaliches

I then rode a jeepney going to the town of Novaliches visiting Our Lady of Mercy Shrine in the heart of the town.   I would visit the place on a regular basis.  This is my first time to bring a camera to document the pilgrimage together with some friends waiting at the grounds of the church.

When I was in elementary, my classmates and teachers in school would always ask me if I was able to go to the famed grotto.  Knowing my roots, I would tell them that we always visit the place during summer time and the place was quite rugged then with asphalt-paved roads leading to the shrine.

statute of Blessed Immaculate Concepcion within the main plaza

My aunts and uncles always tell me that they would come in the 1960’s and 1970’s to the place to participate in Via Crucis (way of the cross) on their way to the shrine. They would recount that they would buy fresh vegetables, fruits, live poultry and native orchids after they visited the place.

Our Lady of Lourdes Church complex located in Barangay  Gaya-gaya , San Jose del Monte City , Bulacan

Novaliches Grotto

Most people in Metro Manila and even in Novaliches area will always refer the place as Our Lady of Lourdes Novaliches- Grotto  rather than  San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.  I tried to ask some old –time residents of the town. Some say that before the development of the San Jose del Monte area, Most of the public utility vehicles would ply the route of  Quirino Highway ( formerly called Manila -del Monte Garay Road or Ipo road before 1960’s  )  passing Novaliches, Quezon City area of Fairview, Barangay Pasong Putik , Barangay Nagkaisang Nayon, and then passing the Caloocan – Novaliches areas of Tala, Amparo, and Tungkong Mangga ( Tungko ) of  San Jose del Monte .

trash are left within the ground by thousands of devotees , while camping tents showed that some of the visitors held over night vigils at the premises

Another resident told me , That due to the proximity of the grotto to Novaliches and during old days ( since there are no proper demarcation lines dividing Novaliches to San Jose del Monte City ) Most people would recall Novaliches as a reference. The journey from Novaliches ( town proper ) to the shrine would be anywhere between 45 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes .

Bicycle groups from different parts of Metro Manila and nearby areas would come to the grotto

motorbikes

enterprising residents of nearby subdivisions rent their garage and vacant lots  for minimal fees for those who brought their cars, bicycles and motorbikes.

” Noong 1960’s and 1970’s hindi pa konkreto ang daan papuntang grotto ,  ang kalimitang daan ng mga namamanata ay mula sa Quirino Highway dating tawag na Manila -del Monte o Ipo Road  , Novaliches bago pa maayos ang Commonwealth Avenue. ” ( During the 1960’s and 1970’s when the road are not yet concrete going to grotto most of the devotees would use Quirino Highway  formerly called Manila-del Monte or Ipo Road , Novaliches  before Commonwealth Avenue was finished) .

main plaza as viewed from  the second floor of the church

Another popular route is via Fairview – This is the jump-off point going to the famed grotto. There are jeepney routes , bus and AUV plying the route .  there are buses from Baclaran which have GROTTO or Tungko signage .

welcome arch of  Barangay Graceville , San Jose del Monte, Bulacan

Tungko Grotto

Residents of Tungkong Mangga would rather dispute the name  ( Novaliches Grotto ) . They  would  recount that the area boast of  big mango orchards and market , Hence the name of the place was derived .

The famed grotto is near Tungkong Mangga  so we normally called the shrine as ” Tungko Grotto” or even ” Santa Maria Grotto”  . It must be the visitors  which probably named the grotto as part of Novaliches , since there are regular jeepney route going there  . This was according to one of the resident of Barangay Graceville .

Eventually bus and jeepney drivers would shorten the name to Tungko   .

Other Names:  Grotto- Bulacan , Grotto- Spring ,  Grotto- Vista Church , Grotto Church , Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto , Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto and Church  , Guanzon Estate Grotto , San Jose del Monte- Grotto ,  Santa Maria Grotto  , Bulacan Grotto , Lourdes Shrine .

This mango tree is located within the property and long lines of devotees trek the hilly terrain going to Calvary hills

Aside from mangoes ,  There are vegetables , camote , cassava, rice fields , corn, banana ,   ilang-ilang plantations in the locality  .  Native orchid gatherers would peddle their orchids on the roadside.

plant peddlers selling ornamental plants, flowering plants, liliums and orchids near the grotto

Now,  most of the area are highly urbanized and most of the old plantations are now converted into  subdivisions or commercial zones.

main altar of the church

Another route going to the grotto is riding the bus from different parts of Metro Manila .  There are also special buses and private vans for hire that ply the route during Holy Week.  Another route is via Trinoma , and SM North Edsa .

Saint Bernadette of Lourdes statute within the ground

We quickly lined-up and rode the jeepney going to GROTTO. We were amazed that all the people were also pilgrims like us!

arch leading to stations of the cross, calgary and rosary hill , spring water , grotto and picnic grove and amphitheater

History:

Our Lady of Lourdes Shrine Complex located in Barrio Gaya-gaya , San Jose del Monte City , Bulacan  .The six hectares Lourdes Shrine Complex was formally inaugurated on February 11, 1965 . Some local say that  there were  already pilgrims  going to the shrine as early as 1963 .

Our Lady of Lourdes grotto replica within the complex

 Several thousands of people from all walks of life came to give thanksgiving, gave flowers and to offer prayer. Some would also came to bathe in the natural spring, located below the statute of Our Lady. According to her biographer, it was the happiest moment of Mrs. Anita Guanzon’s life after over 4- years of hard and backbreaking works that stands her faith –copying the exact replica of the Lourdes Grotto in France to her native land for all people to witness and experience the miracle that healed her. It was her greatest gift to all humanity in this part of the world.

discarded crutches seen on the left side of the grotto, these are apparently left by the devotees who were cured of their disabilities upon visiting the place.

Miracle:

It was on February 1961 when Mrs. Anita Guidote-Guanzon had barely 6 months to lived when she went to Lourdes, France on a pilgrimage . When she was declared cured of her cancer upon her return from France , she decided to built a grotto as an act of her Thanksgiving.   From the early 1960’s till her death on March 31, 1990  Mrs. Guanzon and her husband would try to supervise the improvements , fund raising and construction of the church within the property.

benefactors who donated for the causes , construction of the church and complex.

Among the notable contributors are Doña Josefa E. Marcos  mother of President Ferdinand E. Marcos , Doña Trinidad de Leon vuida de Roxas, Doña Leonila vuida de Garcia, Doña Luz Banzon vuida de Magsaysay, Secretary and Mrs. Jose Aspiras , Reverend Father Patrick Peyton , Don Gonzalo Puyat and Family , Don Vicente Madrigal and Family , Mr. and Mrs. Juan A. Nakpil Sr. , Elizalde and Company , Guanzon family and long list of contributors.

The property is now being supervised by her daughters . The heirs also recognizes Bishop Cirilio Almario Jr. of Malolos , Bulacan who approved the complex to have their own chaplains . His eminence Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin had performed mass in the church twice . President Gloria Macapagal -Arroyo inaugurated the carillon bells in the church in 2010 .

Attraction and Landmarks :

Aside from the spring water which is believed to be miraculous that is located just beneath the grotto  , pilgrims can visit the other attractions  like life-sized statutes of the stations of the cross.

devotees light blue and white candles in front of the crucified Christ

Rosary Hill with 155 giant concrete beads, Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes where people can pray in silence for good health, the Grotto of the Resurrection.

life sized statutes of the crucifixion

The area is also good for photographers and bird watchers , They can easily spot lowland bird species during early in the morning or early evening within the complex.

scale model of the Basilica of Lourdes in France

There is a Little Poland Museum which features the house and the basement where Pope John Paul II lived, the chapel where St. Faustina had a vision of the Divine Mercy and the eerie Prison Cell of St. Maximillian Kolbe where he was martyred. The complex is now run by Mrs. Marietta Guidote-Guanzon viuda Picache de Holmgren.

mini- amphitheater and picnic grove where families can use for eating and picnic activities.

Grotto Religious Store located within the complex sells religious item, calendar, rosaries , candles , spring water from Guadalupe chapel near the grotto , books  and postcards.

native delicacies for sale within the vicinity

Interesting  Note : It is best to come early to visit the site  ( especially during lent , summer months and weekends )  , some streets may be closed to traffic due to increase number of people visiting the pilgrim site.  Jeepneys plying Novaliches route would park about 500 meters from the gate of the grotto while bus will only allow up to Tungkong Mangga ( Tungko) and visitor to the site may walk for about 1 kilometer .  Traffic is heavy along the Quirino Highway .

References and Bibliography:

The Grotto  Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes by Ms. Marietta Guanzon -Holmgren copyright February 11, 1992

Ruth Harris, Lourdes: Body and Spirit in the Secular Age, Penguin Books, 1999, p. 52.

Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto pamphlets

personal interview with some residents of San Jose del Monte , Novaliches- Bayan, Novaliches – Caloocan city and Tungkong Mangga

Website : San Jose del Monte government : http://www.csjdm.gov.ph/

Website : Bulacan Government : http://www.bulacan.gov.ph/sjdm/

Website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lourdes_grotto

12th Likha ng Central Luzon

Likha ng Central Luzon regional trade fair is a yearly event organized by Department of Trade and Industry and Philexport with the full support of the regional development council and Central Luzon Growth Corridor Foundation Inc. with the 7 governors of the regions as members. This is considered as one of the major trade promotions activity that promotes the products, services and tourist destination sites of each member province.

This year’s theme “ Likha ng Central Luzon ” Alay sa Kalikasan at Kinabukasan , the fair is being held on an annual basis.

Capability building seminars were conducted before the fair to develop the technical capabilities of the micro and small enterprises and eventually develop them to become exporters.

Product development activities were also undertaken to develop new products and product designs.

bamboo products ” Special feature of the exhibit “

Now on its 12th year, this trade fair had proven to be an effective venue to promote the products of the region to institutional buyers and exporters based in major urban centers like Metro Manila. It is also a venue were foreign buyers could buy direct from these exhibitors.

This is one of the most awaited trade events in Metro Manila because of the distinctive and the quality products that the region may offer.

The event was held from October 20 to 24, 2010 at Mega trade Hall 2, 5th Floor Building-B , SM Megamall , Mandaluyong City. The seven governors of the region are member of the Central Luzon growth corridor.



products from the province of Tarlac

Modern bags use  native bamboo  on display

This is considered as one of the major trade promotions activity that promotes the products, services and tourist destination sites of each member province.

This year’s theme “ Likha ng Central Luzon ” Alay sa Kalikasan at Kinabukasan , the fair is being held on an annual basis.    Capability building seminars were conducted before the fair to develop the technical capabilities of the micro and small enterprises and eventually develop them to become exporters.

The province of Tarlac promotes their natural produce and organic lifestyle as part of the provincial slogan ” Natural Tarlac”

Good Earth Products from Tarlac province – This company specializes on organic farming , herbs , home decor and accessories

” Zambales Finest” if the provincial product branding – the finest products and produce of the province were on display

 

(left) Granda’s Sansrival from the town of Bacolor in Pampanga


Now on its 12th year, this trade fair had proven to be an effective venue to promote the products of the region to institutional buyers and exporters based in major urban centers like Metro Manila.

” Taas Noo Novo Ecijano” with the best products from the province of Nueva Ecija

There are over 150 exhibitors from different parts of region 3 . It is also a venue were foreign buyers could buy direct from these exhibitors.

” Tatak Bulakenyo” products from different towns and municipalities of  Bulacan

This is one of the most awaited trade events in Metro Manila because of the distinctive and the quality products that the region may offer. Unique products are also awarded for their designs and quality .

” Vida Pampanga” products on display were made from the province of Pampanga

winner for best design and best product


Jesslyn Marie Marketing from Nueva Ecija with their wooded lamp products and dolls

various array of native barongs and embroidered clothes from Bulacan

Special showcase on engineered bamboo products , This showcase aims to heighten awareness on the significant contribution of the bamboo to environment   protection, poverty mitigation and disaster management .

Bulacan Bamboo Craft specialties in various bamboo products such as frames,   baskets, accessories,  pot holder,  wall decor among others.  According to one of the sales staffs , most of their buyers were balikbayans and foreigners.


East West Seed Company

San Rafael, Bulacan

East West Seed Company is a multinational vegetable seed producer with a leading market position in all major South East and South Asian vegetable seed markets. It produces, develops and sells tropical hybrid vegetable seeds under the brand logo ‘Red Arrow’

potted vincas

Started in 1982 in the Philippines, East West has today operations in all major South East and South Asian vegetable seed markets. The roots then and now remain unchanged; innovative breeding towards improved hybrid varieties that challenge existing market situations.

The  world class breeding and research programs are built on a blend of excellent germplasm, detailed market knowledge and creative and skilled breeders. Classical  plant breeding is the backbone , supplemented by plant pathology programs for disease resistance screening and tissue culture programs to speed up variety development.   The company  also cooperate with leading universities and government ministries in our market countries to develop new tools such as molecular markers to improve selection efficiency.

group photo

Mr. Simon N. Groot – founder ( then East West Group), took the first step. Teaming up with Benito Domingo who had a thriving seed trading business in Manila, they formed Hortigenetics Philippines, Inc. Later, as a gesture to show that a partnership between a European and an Asian would prove that the twain could meet and succeed, they changed the company name to East-West Seed Company.

Breeding work started in 1983 on five hectares outside Lipa City, Batangas, at the Hortanova (“new garden”) Farm. A two-story building went up in Paranaque south of Manila, housing a seed processing plant and offices, to support the marketing program.

It would be four grueling years before any seeds were ready to market. Four years of expenses and payroll going out and no revenues coming in. Breeding efforts covered a wide variety of vegetables: off-season tomato, eggplant, leaf mustard, watermelon, onion, and many Cucurbits especially bitter gourd.

By 1986 the first hybrids (bitter gourd, pumpkin, eggplant, tomato) and several improved  selections of popular leafy vegetables had been introduced throughout the Philippines. Several of those early hybrids became superstars that remain successful even today.

a nipa hut landscape with various annuals and perennials

The company participate in Agricultural shows, Horticulture shows and those organized by the Philippine Horticultural Society , Philippine Orchid Society , AANI , PIFGEX  among others .

The company conducts an open house sale of various products from seeds, potted plants , farm equipment among others…

fried kangkong

The last time the contingent  went to their open house , the group  were treated to a buffet of fried squash , fried kangkong and boiled corns  straight from their farm.

fried squash with vinegar dip

Website: http://www.eastwestseed.com/

Contact Information:

Address: Km. 54 Cagayan Valley Rd.
Sampaloc, San Rafael
3008 Bulacan, Philippines

Telephone +63(044) 766-4952 – 57