Sarcophyton pachyphyllus : Sungay Kalabaw an endemic orchid from the Philippines !

orchid in bloom ( Purificacion Orchids and Ornamental Farm )

Sarcophyton pachyphyllus’ (Ames) Garay 1972 is a part the subtribe Aeridinae. The name refers to Pachy meaning “thick” and Phyllum “leaf” the fleshy nature of the plants.

The Philippines is the only place where the genus can be found and there are only two or possibly three species that are known.

This orchid species used to be described as Sarcanthus pachyphyllus in the first printing 1952 and second printing 1982 Philippine Orchid by Ms. Mona Liza Steiner. Apparently, No correction was made in the second printing of the book which almost all Philippine Orchid collector’s “Must” Handbook.  The change happened in 1972 but local orchidists still refer them to the old name even until middle of 1990’s .  This book was the cheapest book that anyone who is interested in growing orchids. Until Mr. Andres Golamco’s book came out in 1991 and Mr. Jim Cootes in 2001.  Orchidiana Philipiniana book is very bulky and heavy that one cannot carry them and it was quite expensive for ordinary hobbyists to acquire.

This orchid species is infrequently seen among backyard orchid growers, Very few orchid growers grow this type of orchid . Some are dismayed over the miniscule flower size that this orchid species carry.

S. pachyphyllus grown in nursery

Cultural and Ethno-Botanical Importance:

This orchid species are called Robust Orchid, Carabao Horn Orchid, Sungay Kalabaw by backyard growers. The term was coined because of the nature of the leaves which looked like a curve horn of a carabao. Sometimes, backyard growers may even refer this to Vanda orchid.

Some would grow them not for their miniscule flowers but the ability of this orchid species to ward -off evil spirits or  black dwarfs ( itim na duwende )  and create good feng shui in their families. Some of them grow them in large trees within their property .

I have seen some Sarcophyton pachyphyllus  grown by 3 orchid backyard growers in Novaliches, Tandang Sora Avenue and Fairview area. The first grower was a neighbor who had some collection of native orchids.  According to her, she bought them in Baclaran . Another orchid collector who lives in Tandang Sora also happened to sell some native orchids. According to this grower, The sizeable clump that was growing attached to an Acacia tree or Rain Tree ( Saman samanea ) had been there for at least a decade, We were able to buy 1 orchid offset from this seller way back in 1992. My mom was able to bought 1 or 2 more specimen from ambulant orchid seller in 1993 “ thinking those were Vandas or Waling –waling !!!! LOL  ”. We mounted the orchids in our Duhat tree (Syzygium cumini ) where it stayed there for a couple of years until children climbing getting fruits also took away our precious orchids!

S.pachyphyllus almost withered blooms

Another grower in Fairview had some specimen -sized orchids attached them to a Bunga China – Manila Palm , According to her, It was more of a sentimental “thing” rather than superstitious beliefs or feng shui that she grows them. According to her story, It was his late father who first attached the orchid to the host palm . It was pre-internet era and pre-digital camera age , so i was unfortunate not able take photos of the orchid species. My only recollection of this species was , We were able to grow them in our backyard for sometime.

close-up view of the inflorescence and hundreds of  flowers

It will take at least a decade or so before i encountered a blooming specimen of the Carabao horn orchid at the orchid show in Quezon City. I think it was Purificacion Orchids which exhibited the orchid species in 2008 ( it won an award then) . One of the topic at the orchid show lectures about native orchid species ( 2008 )  , The lecture speakers were  Mr. Andres ” Jun”  Golamco and Mr. Kelvin Neil Manubay  tandem talked about the need to preserve and conserve Philippine orchid species and the urgent need propagate them.

several mature specimen orchid with flowers

A few months after the lecture , I was able to buy a single specimen of this orchid species from the Lung Center Sunday Market . I was a little but late when i arrived at the sunday market ,   i saw several dozens were sold to an unknown orchid collector.  BUT , I was fortunate enough to buy the smallest plant ( left- over ) from the ones that was bought by the customer.  We visited Purificacion Orchids and Ornamental Farm in Alfonso , Cavite last week and were fortunate to witness some blooming specimens of this species .

Habitat and Range:

According to literature and orchid books, It is found in the provinces of  Albay,  Ilocos, Benguet , Rizal at elevations up to 500 meters as a medium to just large sized, hot growing monopodial epiphyte with an erect stem carrying a few, 2 ranked, thick, fleshy, leathery, sickle-shaped leaves that blooms in the spring on an erect, several branched, 16″ [40 cm] long, rigid, many [to 500] flowered inflorescence.

But personal conversation with some orchid collectors and orchid sellers may add some provinces like Sorsogon, Camarines Norte, Bulacan , Zambales and Rizal as possible areas. I have a friend from Bulacan province and he said that he also used to encounter them in some private homes and native orchid peddlers selling them

Its flowering season may vary from one province to another, In the western part of the country where there is a distinct dry season and temperature fluctuations. Flowering season may start as early as February until Mid-May .

Sarcophyton pachyphyllus grown in backyard

Water and Fertilization:

Based on several years of growing this orchid species, We grew them attached to our Duhat tree ( 1992 to 1995) and Manila Palm ( 2009 till today ) . I water them almost daily during summer season and fertilize them at 20N-20-P-20-K dilute them at 1/4 of the recommended dosage almost every other day or 3 times a week ! I would also recommend to water them with rice washings ( hugas bigas) .

During rainy season , I would put 15 to 20 pieces of slow release fertilizer ( put them in a tea- bag like cloth) . Once in a while ( around once a month)  i would also fertilize my Sungay Kalabaw with 10N-30-P30-K . preferably early in the morning or late in the afternoon.  This would make the leaves more shinny and thick!

We experienced our first orchid bloomed during late February or early March in 1993 , but not from this batch of orchid which i purchased as small offset ( tira-tira – leftovers ) from Lung Center Sunday Market . The orchid can grow in partial shade or at least 50 to 60% lighting conditions. This orchid prefers to be undisturbed and thus growing them on live trees , palms or kakawate trunk seems to be perfect.

The orchid that i bought at the Lung Center is already fully matured and maybe in a year or so with careful fertilization and care , It will  bloom .  The Lung Center Sunday market had moved to Centris and I hope would be able to buy Sungay Kalabaw orchid.

I am encouraging all orchid hobbyists especially those living in the Philippines to grow and propagate them no matter how small their flowers , It is part of our natural heritage and pride of the country !

Note: All photos were taken by the author , please cite this blog site as link

References and Bibliography:
Synonyms Acampe pachyphylla (Ames) Szlach. 2003; *Sarcanthus pachyphyllus Ames 1915;

Cootes, Jim. “THE ORCHIDS OF THE PHILIPPINES.” Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, 2001.
“Internet Orchid Species Photo Encyclopedia” :

Orchidiana Philipiniana Vol 1 Valmayor 1984

Davis S. Reg and Steiner, Mona Liza, Philippine Orchids, M&L Licudine Enterprises , Second Printing 1982, Manila Page 200 to 203



Tiangges in the City

Since the Hispanic era , People from every town and cities across the country would come to the market center to buy and  sell their products during the fiesta. Traders  from far flung barrios and municipalities come and trade during market days.

tiangges / bazaar /   flea /  saod ( Bicol term for market place).  These  market started as a small outdoor market with a lot of cheap bargain prices , old antiques, export overruns , imported items  and exotic goods that are available for sale !

plant stalls within the Quezon Memorial Circle

Some of the more common flea markets are those in Marikina , Greenhills in San Juan, Tutuban night market in Manila, Baclaran street stalls in Paranaque.

AANI weekend market inside the Quezon Memorial Circle

a more recent additions are the Lung Center sunday market, Salcedo Park sunday market, AANI weekend market in Taguig and Quezon Memorial Circle, Strata Food Stall in Emerald Avenue in Pasig among others.

a food stall in Stata street market

The Stata food street market is located near the Strata building hence the name, The food market  is also known as Emerald Avenue night  food market / Banchetto night food market  were over 100 stalls were rented out .

Monster Burger outlet at the Emerald Avenue night market

Most of the clients were office workers, call center agents, passers-by , joggers ,  residents of nearby places like Ortigas, Pasig .

There are ready to eat meals, candies, drinks, imported  chocolates and home-cooked meals that were available and ready to be packed for those hungry customers.

pasta carbonara, macaroni ,pancit palabok

home-made cookies, cakes and sweets

The phenomenon started when a group of entrepreneurs started to set-up about 200 stalls within Sidcor Resort in the present day Makro in Cubao, Quezon City in mid 1990’s.

plant stall

Sidcor Resort was  a swimming  style resort were several areas were used  to accommodate people.   Ka Earnie Baron, Mr. Zacarias Sarian and several television and radio personalities used to conduct weekend seminars and trainings . At one time,  Philippine Orchid Society used to rent a space within the compound in the mid-1990’s .

stall selling various native bags and ready to wear

As the tenants and buyers increased, the organizers started to looked for possible alternative areas to be the next market place . After the Ayala group bought the land from the owners of Sidcor in the mid- 2000 , With  series of negotiation , organizers found  the alternative  nearest and most accessible place was the Lung Center compound.

vintage collectible  glasses and fancy mugs from Japan

Lung Center tiangge can be a bit overwhelming, but not confusing. There are an estimated 450 to 500  stalls with  similar items being sold  are clustered together. The present area were fully occupied , The stall tenants usually set-up their items for sale during  late saturday evening or early sunday morning.  Plant traders usually come during late saturday evening.

car plates from the United States- collector items

Majority of the stall owners pack-up their things by 12:00 noon. Some tenants may linger for about an hour or so after the 12 noon deadline.  Some of the tenants may sell their produce at an even lower price, instead of  returning their goods or produce back home, some will give -in to the request of additional discounts to their  insistent customers. ” Minsan binibigay na namin ng mura , kesa naman masira o magbayad ng dagdag freight

stall selling export overruns of  children and infant dress

“Sometimes we give our customers lower prices instead, to prevent spoilage or paying additional freight” according to one of the stall owners. This is another opportunity for bargain hunters to come -in! Baratan Time !!!!

The market also had a smattering of cooked delicacies, including breads and cakes, sweets and kakanin (rice cakes), carinderia style eateries, leche flans (crème caramel) and sumans on offer. In fact, the mix of vendors was a little unique and aimed at a wide audience of buyers. The people who go to this market must represent a relatively broad cross-spectrum of society, though that may be a stretch as most probably came in cars while some were definitely commuters.

stall selling native fruit wines and vinegar

weekend market is also a place were new products , services or even a venue to advertise one’s  own business.

stall tenant selling vintage items from Japan and Korea

There were sections for Ukay-ukay from Japan, Korea and China  were all sorts of mugs, plates, cups, dolls, books, bottles, vases,  ceramics are sold . Bargain hunters and collectors of vintage stuffs used to frequent the place every sunday.

Dr. Micheal Tan inspecting the vintage items

Dr. Micheal Tan an anthropology professor ,  Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist and  collector of vintage stuffs frequents Lung center flea market .

Tita Rosie Santos an orchid and plant dealer from Quezon City

The sunday market is like a social activities were friends , relatives and barkadas usually meet . In some cases, a group of native orchid and plant enthusiasts  usually went to the center the night before!

Ceratocentron fesselii Senghas 1989

This miniature  orchid depicted above is found in Luzon, central Philippines in montane forests as small sized, cool to intermediate growing, monopodial epiphyte found on tree trunks between 900 to 1,300 meters in elevation that need to be mounted on tree pieces to  yet kept moist at all times . This species has an erect, monopodial growth habit with very leathery, dark green, elliptic, obtuse, leaves that are basally con-duplicate and clasping the stem which blooms in the winter on an axillary, erect, short, 2 to 4 flowered, often more than one inflorescence per leaf axil. flower color may vary from yellowish to dark orange.

Synonyms Hymenorchis javierii

Popular Ineng’s barbecue started its operations in flea market

Some stake-out at the wee hours of the saturday night or early sunday morning just to buy the plants coming from as far away as Quezon, Laguna, Batangas, Bulacan, Nueva Viscaya, Bicol.

silverware from Thailand

This is the trill of plant hunting on the tiangge style, Just to be ahead of your potential rivals! Bring flashlights and Have a keen set of eyes !  Some even pre-order the plants or goods way ahead of others! During the past few years, as the strict enforcement of DENR  regulations on the trade of  wild plants and animals  , fewer and fewer native plants including orchids are being sold ! So most orchids being sold are supposed to be grown in farms.

customers haggling

RTW, linens, curtains, pets, brick-a-bracs, seafood, poultry, meat, fruits, vegetables, breads and pastries, cooked food (with an adjacent area with tables and chairs where you can eat al fresco) and plants.

Oncidium orchids  inter-generic hybrids on sale

Bazaars have been popular these days primarily because of its unique appeal. Also, they are affordable, they have a wide variety of products or goods and more enjoying than your usual grocery shopping at the supermarket.

This market has been known for it’s enticing fresh products that still came from far-off provinces. Fruits and vegetables were of high quality and the sea foods are those not usually found on our local markets.

roasted calf

Prices are quite reasonable , While the art of  haggling and grappling is not frowned upon (of course, it’s a tiangge!). Be sure to be  early in order to get  discounts based on buena mano.

ube jam

There is also a section were fresh organically grown fruits, vegetables, produce which are being sold . There are also free taste on new products.

How to get to Lung Center of the Philippines:

Commute: From MRT Quezon Avenue station, best to hire a cab or if you feel like really commuting, board a bus or jeepney bound for Fairview/Lagro/Philcoa or UP and drop off in front of the Lung Center of the Philippines. (this is opposite the pedestrian entrance of the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center) also on Quezon Avenue. From Manila, jeepneys and buses with signboard Fairview, Lagro and Philcoa all pass by the place. From LRT Monumento station (good for those coming from Cavite), you need to board buses going to Baclaran or Cubao then alight on Quezon Avenue before transferring to a Fairview-bound jeep or bus.

Commute : From Novaliches /Monumento/ Valenzuela / Caloocan  – ride any bus going to the south ( Baclaran, Alabang, San Pedro, Makati  )  go down at the MMDA foot bridge near  the Philippine Women’s University then walk towards the Jeepney station below the Quezon Avenue flyover / there is a Lagro / Philcoa jeeps .

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