Philippine native plant garden inside PAWB

a landscaped portion executed by members of the society

Philippine Native Plant Conservation Society had a small site located near the Ninoy Aquino Park and Wildlife  Bureau – Visitors’ Center for a few weeks now. The society have been appointed as the execution arm of a proposed botanic garden prototype in Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife sponsored by the GTZ is a German funding agency and managed by PAWB.

They were scouring gardens in all over the country and around the metropolitan areas  to find suitable specimens to include in the botanic displays.  I visited the place in time for the January 16, 2010 monthly meeting at the  PNPCSI office in which Architect Andrew Patrick Gozon is said to conduct lecture with the topic ” Landscaping Using Philippine Native Trees”  .

As time flies quickly , Out of the dozen or so pre-registered participants for  the meeting,  only a handful  of people came!

group present during the meeting

The group composed of Mr. Patrick Gozon , Mr. Ronald Achacoso,  Anthony Arbias, Mr. George Yao, Mr. Leonard Co , Professor  Elena Ragrario and myself  toured the almost finished project of the society.

The collection of botanical plants ranges from orchids, hoyas, dishidias, aglaonemas, pitcher plants, ferns, cycads, native trees, aquatic plants among others.

Lumbang tree with heritage marker

The area had several identifies heritage trees by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources

pavilion within  the man-made lagoon

This park started as a portion of the Quezon Memorial National Park which was established in July 5, 1954. The original plan was an area of 197.8 hectares. However, in1969, the National Park was reduced to it present size of 64.58 hectares.

Park entrance from Quezon Avenue side

The park has a number of entrances. Its pedestrian entrance however is located along Quezon Avenue. The gate from this entrance opens to a wide, two-lane asphalted road,  Administration building stands at the end of the road. Another entrance is located on the North Avenue side.  The  parking space in this side of the park is bigger and  can accommodate buses .

The administration building with a salakot style green  colored- roof . The bust of the former Senator Benigno ” Ninoy” Aquino Jr. was installed during President Corazon C. Aquino term.

There is a flagpole in front of the administration building. Part of the building is used for conference and for exhibition purposes.

An aviary beside the main building housed several pairs of native Philippine horn bill birds, owls, eagles  and herons.

These aviaries are maintained with the donations and help of some of the country’s top  corporations , individuals and other NGO groups.

Bagawak (Clerodendrum quadriloculare)

Some people also call it Bunga de Febrero, due to the fact that it flowers fully in about  January to February. This native flowering shrub of Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, has one of the most impressive flower displays among our native flora. Bagawak  thick green leaves and reddish undersides, makes the plant  very attractive addition to any garden.

The problem is bagawaks are still not popular as a garden plant. Most of the plants are seldom seen  in collection, mostly in posh subdivisions. If you would want to see the spectacular magic burst  of flowers the ideal places are within Manila Seedling Bank  Foundation,  some in the botanical garden , in Antipolo areas and in UPLB areas.

According to some horticulturist,  This plant blooms better in a higher elevations like those in Antipolo, Silang, Laguna , Lipa , Tagaytay areas.

Location: Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau

Central Office: Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center , 1100 Diliman Quezon City, Philippines

Telephone: +(63 2) 9246031-35

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Paco Park centuries-old trees

Paco Park is a 4,114.80 square meter recreational garden area and was once Manila   municipal cemetery during the Spanish colonial period. It is located along General Luna St. and at the east end of Padre Faura street in Paco district  of the southern  part of Manila.

The park  was originally planned as a municipal cemetery of the rich and established aristocratic Spanish  families  who resided in the old Manila, or the city within the walls of Intramuros  during the Spanish colonial era.  Most of the wealthy families interred the remains of their loved ones inside the municipal cemetery in what was once the district of Dilao (former name for Paco). The cemetery was built in the late 1700s but was completed several decades later and in 1822.  The inner wall erected according to the plan of Maestro de Obras Nicolas Ruiz was originally constructed exclusively for the Iberian dead . The cemetery was used to inter victims of a cholera epidemic that swept across the city. The cemetery was enlarged in 1859.

The cemetery is circular in shape, with an inner circular fort that was the original cemetery and with the niches that were placed or located within the hollow walls. As the population continued to grow, a second outer wall was built with the thick adobe walls were hollowed as niches and the top of the walls were made into pathways for promenades. A Roman Catholic chapel was built inside the walls of the Paco Park and it was dedicated to Saint Pancratius.

Governor General  Ramon Solano was   interred at the chapel inside the Saint Pancratius .

Century-old acacia trees within Paco Park in Paco , Manila

Acacia ( Samanea saman) trees were planted in the park in the later half of the 19th century imported from South America were added in order to further beautify the park. These trees witness the interment of Dr. Jose Protacio Rizal y Realonda days after his execution at Bagumbayan ( Rizal Park). Relatives of Dr. Jose Rizal  purposely inverted his name to avoid the Spanish officials to detect  his whereabouts . 2 years later , his remains were exhumed and placed in an urn kept in his mother’s home in Calle Magdalena  Binondo.

inverted name of Jose P. Rizal inside the Paco Park

In 1912, burial or interment at the Paco Park ceased. It had been the burial ground for several generations and descendants of those who were buried in the park had the remains of their ancestors transferred. During the  outbreak of the second world war , Japanese forces used Paco Park as a central supply and ammunition depot. The high thick adobe walls around the park was ideal for defensive positions of the Japanese. The Japanese just before the liberation of Manila in 1945 , dug several trenches and pill boxes around and within the Park with three 75 millimeter guns to defend their fortification . The park was converted into a national park in 1965 during the term of President Diosdado Macapagal . Paco Park’s grandeur was slowly restored after the war and since then has remained as a public park and promenade for many teen age sweethearts who could spend quiet moments along the park’s benches and private alcoves.

Dendrobium orchids mounted on a live  tree

Paco Park and its care was placed under the responsibility of the National Park’s Development Committee (NPDC) during the regime of President Ferdinand E. Marcos , through the efforts of former First Lady Imelda R. Marcos, culture  and arts was given emphasis and priority in the country and Paco Park was one of the few venues chosen to host events related to culture. On February 29, 1980 , then Press and Cultural Attache of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in the Philippines, Dr. Christoph Jessen with then NPDC Vice-Chairperson Mr. Teodoro Valencia started a classical concert within Paco Park as part of the celebrations for the “Philippine-German Month,” and the program became a tradition, a weekly fare held every Friday afternoons and called the, “Paco Park Presents.

native Dischidia ionantha drapped the trunks of this tree

Some of the historical trees were eventually toppled  down by  Bagyong Rosing (Typhoon Angela)in 1995 and Bagyong Milenyo ( Typhoon Xangsane) in 2006.

What remains of the old heritage trees inside the park needed rehabilitation.

Saint Anne Church

Saint Anne Church in Taguig City

This 400 year old church was a survivor of war and calamities but still held its ground and now the center of Catholic Churches in Taguig City, Philippines.  The town celebrates it town fiesta every July  26.

centuries-old acacia tree within the church patio

The old acacia tree ( Samanea saman ) is a mute witness to the revolution of 1896 , the American occupation of the town , the Japanese atrocities during the war and the post war economic boom of the town.

collection of various church artifacts

The church had accumulated collection of priest vestments, books, baptismal record, old photographs, antique santos set in a museum.

Ms. Sandra Aguinaldo -program host ” I-Witness report “

Ms. Sandra AguinaldoI-Witness program host , segment writer and reporter featured this in ” Puno ng Kasaysayan” or ” Historical Trees” episode of the program aired last October 7 , 2008 early Tuesday morning on GMA kapuso channel 7.

In some instances , people within the community believed that there are unseen spirits living within these heritage trees. Cutting or hurting these trees  made some environmental group like tree huggers  a crusade that is worth emulating .

tree huggers with Ms. Sandra Aguinaldo

In a country plagued with selective amnesia especially in history and heritage  , where saving  heritage trees are not a priority of the government .   It is almost up to the communities where these trees lives to nurture and save these trees.

Katipunan Tree

Century old tree w/in Metro Manila College campus

The country is rich in natural resources and old trees tell a lot of interesting stories. There is a 155 year old duhat tree ( Syzygium cumini )  which is located at the foot of a wooded hill called “ Binugsok” now within Barrio Kaligayahan , Jordan Plains Subdivision . Within the Metro Manila College compound just about a kilometer  away from  Our Lady of Mercy Church in  Novaliches town proper in Quezon City . The area was once heavily covered with thick vegetation up to the late 19th and early 20th century .

Wild chickens , native deers, monitor lizards and boars roam while the revolutionaries’ troops forage for food within the immediate vicinity.

The natural contour of the hill served as a battery and an outpost of the Katipuneros during the 1896 revolution and served as a target of many Spanish soldiers.  The late Kapitan  Bernabe Serrano popularly known as Kabesang Abeng who was a member of the Katipunan and the former owner of the property where the historic duhat tree stands. He stated that on several occasions, the place was visited by Andres Bonifacio , the Supremo of the Katipunan in order to bolster the morale of the troops. Under the canopy of the duhat tree served as medical headquarters, resting, meeting place and troop formation of the revolutionary forces.

This is also where Melchora Aquino , popularly known as Tandang Sora , treated those who are sick , wounded under this tree.  The tree also provided some nourishment to the Katipuneros and to the people of the surrounding area. The natural elevation of the land served as a vantage point and lookout for the guerilla forces in Novaliches also during the Japanese occupation.

Older residents within the place would recall that they even bathe in the nearby streams and would also remember how they would climb and pick the fruits of this duhat tree.

Now the tree is within the property of the Metro Manila College and the school had some artifacts and old pictures to prove that when the revolution broke out in 1896 the tree is already several decades old.

Big holes, scratches and scars are visible on the trunk and branches of the tree and up to now the tree still fights for its survival. The tree has a diameter at breast height of approximately 140 meter, and about 15 meter tall and has a crown diameter of approximately 16 meter.   When the hill was leveled during the development of the area and many bullets made of copper were found in the area presumed used during the Spanish period .

There are 2 younger duhat trees nearby which is presumed as the siblings of the tree.  This duhat tree is a silent witness in the history that every Filipinos should never forget and the urgent need to care and protect the tree from natural diseases and human harm.

Dr. Mamerto S. Miranda the founder of the college is a native of Novaliches and is a war veteran who founded Metro Manila College formerly known as Novaliches Academy in 1947.

For those who wanted to visit the school , here are the contact number:

Address: 966 Plaza Novaliches
Barrio Kaligayahan, Novaliches
Quezon City, Metro Manila 1123
TEl : (1123)939-11-62 , 9363082
Fax : (1123)419-14-82

Heritage Trees

old trees behind the main building
old trees behind the main building

Far Eastern University is one unique institution that had molded hundreds of thousands of its alumni, employees and even passerby to the campus vicinity. This institution had preserved its unique architectural heritage which earned 1st runner-up mention during the 2005 UNESCO – for the largest and best preserved Art Deco architecture ensemble in the entire country. Various national artists like Vicente Manansala, Pablo Ocampo Sr., Carlos “Botong ” Francisco, Antonio Dumlao , Robert Ko  and international artists  like Italian sculptor Francesco Monti made its lasting contributions to the university.

But, silent testimonies to the university history are its living natural heritage found inside its main campus located inside Nicanor Reyes Sr. street (formerly Morayta).  Several trees like acacia (Samanea saman) and narra (Pitherocarpus indicus ) were carefully planted and nurtured by its founding president Dr. Nicanor Reyes Sr .in the early 1930’s. During convocation in the university before the outbreak of war, the late President Manuel L. Quezon visited the university in 1940 and paid unsolicited tribute to Dr. Reyes “ as an educational builder”.  The trees were already several years old back then and the student population is more than 10,000. Then during the early part of the bombing of the Philippines in 1941, Dr. Reyes was only person among the officials of the university to visit the school every morning to check the school premises and usually hands over the keys of the post office inside the school compound.

When the Japanese brought chaos to the country, The Imperial army had occupied the school compound and the school was crisscrossed with foxholes and the whole place was enclosed with barbed wire. The university became a veritable prison and was made a headquarter of the Kempetai (Japanese military police) the trees were the silent hostages, the army used some of the branches as firewood or bonfires which lighted the campus grounds since there was lacked of electricity.

On February 5, 1945 at around 7:00 pm heavy bombing and air raid were rampant in the Sampaloc area. Battle was ranged in the vicinity as the Japanese in heavily fortified campus sternly opposed the American advance. When the American occupied the university the school was re-opened during the second semester in 1945 .the Americans also set up quonset   huts at the quadrangle which was later converted into classrooms. The trees were also there to witness the university rise in the ashes of the war.

After the war, some trees still stood within the campus, while some of the trees were toppled down by typhoons that had hit Manila during the 1960’s and 1970’s. These trees were also there when then president Cory had visited the campus in 1987 .

present day- FEU chapel with narra trees

Somehow trees do tell stories of happy individuals, students who stayed under their canopy, famous personalities and common people who happily stayed under these old majestic trees inside the campus that is not only known for its architectural heritage but also living natural heritage that one will surely become a link to a distant past.

The university also had a guided tours around the campus which attracts art , environment , architecture and heritage advocates  for more information:

Address: Nicanor Reyes Sr. Street ( formerly Morayta) Sampaloc, Manila

Telephone : 735-56 21 loc. 283 Alumni Affairs ( Mr. Martin Lopez)

Monday to Friday -Office Hours