The panorama on the sunrise side: an awesome view of Malarayat

The quiet panorama on the sunrise side of the farm: an awesome view of Mount Malaráyat and the river below the gap.

26 August 2012


What else is there to say about cattleyas that have not yet been written nor published? They are among the most fascinating plants to watch: the dazzling colors, the flowers' velutinous textures, the seemingly random yet predictable shapes, and in the case of cattleyas, a gentle fragrance that is unmistakably its own.

The truth is I'm not even as passionate of orchids as I am of ferns and aroids, but lately, I've been slowly getting hooked.

22 August 2012

Monitor Lizard

A healthy ecosystem would be teeming with life of all sorts and forms, so there is nothing to be spooked about occasional monitor lizards; it's actually an affirmation that our locale supports a fairly good cross-section of local flora and fauna.

Besides, the bayáwak is actually a shy animal that pretty much keeps to itself, and all the more it will not purposely come up to humans. So any fear of bayawak attack is virtually baseless. But just like any animal that we provoke, it will naturally defend itself.

19 August 2012

Philippine Tree of the Month: Niog-niogan

Occurring naturally only in our archipelago is Ficus pseudopalma, a small but attractive tree that's quite under-rated, even taken for granted but acclaimed internationally and known as the Philippine Fig.

Here in Batangas, it is called Niog-niogan (literally "pretending to be a coconut," possibly that is why the scientific name is "a fig pretending to be a palm") not only because of how the tree grows but moreso because its fruits indeed, look like small coconuts.

This is the same tree that the Bicolanos call Lubi-lubi; they harvest the young leaves and cook it in gata (coconut cream), a vegetarian stew that must be nutritious and I bet, delicious.

14 August 2012

The Most Beautiful Flower in the World

Among the crown jewels of the Philippine rainforest, naturally growing only in our islands, is what is perhaps the most captivating flower in the world: the Medinilla magnifica, locally called Kápa-kápâ. Can you imagine walking in the wild amidst a forestful of trees, vines, small reptiles and animals, and suddenly you are confronted by the elegance and splendor of this astonishing floral gem. It is the stuff legends are made of, like an ostentatious bunch of pendant pink-colored pearls hanging from deep-green, velvet-like leaves.

Two weeks ago, the buds were already beginning to appear (below left), and after a week, the small, undeveloped flowers started to be visible (below right). Actually, the flower on the top photo is not yet mature; it has yet to stretch longer and spread out and produce small, white florets at the end of the beads.

Meantime, we are enchanted witnessing and photographing such a wonder of nature. It belongs to the same family as the rest of the medinillas which are also indigenous to other tropical countries, but this particular kind is the most alluring and is endemic to the country.

11 August 2012


Over time, we have collected quite a substantial variety of medinillas; flowering tropical plants that popularly have pendulous, chandelier-like flowers that weigh down its woody, angular branches. It has rather stiff and leathery leaves, ribbed and pointed, or wavy in some kinds. Some have small (foreground below) or medium-sized leaves (left). The flowers first appear to be pale pink, but later blushes a more intense rose hue or mauvish-blue as it matures.

At first glance, they may look similar to each other but they have distinct differences between each other that merit its own unique taxonomic identity. Their leaves vary, for one, and more importantly, their flowers and its colorations.

One of our recently-flowering varieties is a big-leaf type with a close-up of its bracts that held the flowers (below), which have fallen off by the time this photo was taken.

06 August 2012


We've been systematically planting cassava for almost a year now. There used to be wild ones randomly growing around (ligáw) and it was always exciting to check which ones can be harvested already. But since a rainy season ago, we have cleared a portion of the field and planted rows of kamóteng káhoy. They're a great source of starch and carbohydrates, and is a good, even healthier substitute for rice.

02 August 2012

The Return of the Native

There is now a landmark resource book, striking that there has never been a publication, that writes and informs about and advocates planting Philippine Trees! It is not some drab academic material but in fact, an engaging read with evocative stories, accurate and beautiful photography, reliable scientific and practical information, so much that I completed reading it in just one day. It's a valuable storehouse of our natural heritage that each Filipino must have access to. Our local trees and plants make up so much of our identity yet, I bet any man in the street will not even be able to correctly name three local trees in the first place. And to think we have more than 3,600! Even more crucial, 67% of that is endemic, occurring naturally nowhere else in the world but the Philippine Islands.

It's also timely because a lot of good-natured groups and individuals who venture into greening efforts and reforestation are actually planting trees that hardly contribute to our local eco-system. Local tree advocate and blogger Patrick Gozon's story, The Silent Forest is a great read for a start.

I'm fortunate to have been invited to contribute articles and photographs; I wrote about Lipá (yes, it's a tree!) and Lumbang (right), which is the pair of trees I planted in the parking area outside the farm.