Sunday, May 6, 2018

"The Garden is a microcosm of the Lost Paradise here on earth." AVR

Dedicated to Dr Romualdo M Del Rosario, builder of beautiful gardens and museums Dr Abe V Rotor  
Living with Nature School on Blog []

UST Botanical Garden, Manila

Dr Romualdo R del Rosario (second from right, in barong) and author (left), discuss the details of the Grains Industry Museum (Farmers' Museum) in NFA Cabanatuan just before its formal opening to the public in 1984. Dr Del Rosario, then assistant director of the National Museum, served as consultant to the project. He also served as consultant to the former St Paul University QC Museum and Eco Sanctuary (cataloged as having more than 300 plant species before the garden was reduced into a park, and hedged by tall buildings). 

 Doc Del in his younger days at the former NFA Museum in Cabanatuan.  The artifact is an indigenous pinawa (brown rice) hand mill.  With him is a member of the Museum's working group.   
Among Dr Del Rosario's obra maestra are the internationally famous La Union Botanical Garden (Cadaclan, San Fernando,La Union), the UST Botanical Garden (formerly Pharmacy Garden), and the De La Salle University garden at Dasmariñas, Cavite. And not to mention the satellite museums of the National Museum, two of which I visited in Pangasinan and Palawan.  As a scientist and former assistant director of the National Museum he is keen at giving importance to natural history, and aesthetic and functional beauty of parks and gardens as integral part of homes, establishment, offices, in fact, whole communities. Presently he is acclaimed the foremost ethnobotanist in the Philippines, have guided scores of students at the UST Graduate School as well as other schools to pursue this specialized field of biology and related sciences. As one of his students I researched on the ethnobotany of Maguey (published in the UST Graduate Journal).  I joined him in a number of field research, the most challenging of all was to climb to the summit of Mt Pulag in Benguet, the highest mountain of the Philippines after Mt Apo in Davao.
Think of a living gene bank.

No, it's not the IRRI's germplasm bank of rice varieties and cultivars. Or CIMMYT 's similar bank for wheat and corn where seeds are kept under strict controlled conditions away from the natural environment. It's not the commercial plant collection of Manila Seedling Bank either.

Dr Romualdo del Rosario's concept is one that is natural - plants of different species living together and arranged into a garden.

Here the plants form a wide range of diversity, and with other organisms, from protist to vertebrate, form a community. And through time, an ecosystem - a microcosm of a forest, grassland, desert, the upland and lowland, in varying combinations and designs. This garden is indeed a living gene bank.

Visit the La Union Botanical Garden perched on a gentle hillside covering several hectares, with the fringe of Cordillera on the east and a panoramic view of the San Fernando Bay on the west.

Here you will find a piece of the biblical Garden, where Nature and man in cooperation and harmony try to restore the beautiful scenarios of that garden imagined in the writings of Milton and Emerson, in the paintings of Rousseau and our own Amorsolo, and the scientific pursuits of Darwin and Linnaeus.

As trail blazer, Doc Del as he is fondly called, pioneered with the support of the local government to set up a garden not so many people appreciate. I am a witness to its tedious step-by-step development until after ten years or so, the garden became a center for field lectures, thesis, hiking, or simply a place of solace and peace. To the creative, arts; the religious, reflection.

The garden is an answer to our dwindling bio-diversity. It is a sanctuary where man's respect for Creation, in Dr Albert Schweitzer's term "reverence for life," becomes the neo-gospel of prayer and faith.
The garden is a workshop with the Creator. It is one roof that shelters the threatened and endangered. It is a sanctuary for recovery before setting foot outside again.

Here is the living quarter of organisms, countless of them, that miss the eye, yet are discreet vital links to our existence and the biological order.

A single acacia tree as shown In this painting is a whole world of millions of organisms - from the Rhizobium bacrteria that live on its roots to birds nesting on its branch. And beetles under the bark, goats feeding on ripe pods, people resting in its shade or promenading.

These make but one small spot in the garden that speaks of the philosophy of naturalism of Schweitzer, EO Wilson, Attenborough, Tabbada, Cabigan, and the late botanist Co. One aspect of the garden opens to the scholar an adventure of a lifetime: Edwin Tadiosa's research of mushrooms earned for him a doctoral degree.

Sunken center of the La Union botanical Garden, on-the-spot painting by the author.

One consideration a garden is a living gene bank is its ethnicity. Doc Del is the leading authority on ethnobotany of the country today. It is a less familiar field although it is among the earliest, tracing back to Aristotle's Natural History as the guiding force in keeping the integrity of Nature-Man relationship, even to the present time.

Ethnobotany is the mother of pharmacology. Medicinal plants are part of Doc Del's formula of a garden. Not that familiarity is his aim, but accessibility - that by being familiar with a particular plant, one can have access to it wherever it may be found growing. Any place then is a potential source of home remedy of common ailments.

Go to the garden and you will find lagundi, sambong, bayabas, makahiya, okra, pitogo, takip-kuhol, oregano, and 101 other medicinal plants, domesticated or wild. It is nature's pharmacy house.

It is E Quisumbing's source of materials for his Medicinal Plants of the Philippines. the rich three-volume Useful Plants of the Philippines by W H Brown. It is this field that Dr Juan M Flavier as senator sponsored a law in promoting Alternative Medicine which now benefits millions of Filipinos particularly at the grassroots.

Go to the garden and you will find flowering and ornamental plants that constitute the main attraction of any garden. Here botany is transformed into the science of flowers, the secret of green thumb, colors and fragrance speak more than words, silence rides on butterflies fluttering, and music is hummed by bees, and fiddled by crickets and cicada.

Go to the garden and relive life on the countryside. The song Bahay Kubo enumerates some two dozen vegetables, and speaks of simple, happy and healthy lifestyle. A residence without a garden is akin to city living condition. With almost fifty percent of the population ensconced in big towns and cities. we can only imagine how much they have lost such a pleasant niche.

Go to the garden with magnifying glass, not with the aim of Sherlock Holmes but with the clinical eye of Leeuwenhoek, father of microscopy. Start with the moss, the lowly earliest plant occupying the lowest rung of the evolutionary ladder. They are living fossils in austere existence on rocks and trunks of tree. Doc Del wrote a whole chapter about the Byrophytes - the moss and its relatives in the Flora and Fauna of the Philippines book series.

Have you seen a field of moss under the lens? It's a setting of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids movie. See the movie if you haven't. Everything is so big you are a pygmy in the like of Gulliver in the land of Brobdingnag, a sequel to Gulliver in the Land of Lilliput. Imagine yourself either in one of Jonathan Swift's novels.

You may wonder why primitive plants are so small, you may miss them in the garden. If you were on top of Mt Pulog second highest mountain in the Philippines after Mt Apo where Doc Del, my classmates and I, climbed in the late eighties, you'll be amazed at the giant bryophytes forming beards of gnarled trees and curtains hanging on rocks, and spongy layers cushioning your steps.

Thus, the garden is a representation of much bigger models. The Sequoia or Redwoods of California for example cannot be duplicated anywhere, but at the UST botanical garden where Doc Del is the supervising scientist and curator, you will find yourself dwarfed by the towering dita (Alstonia scholaris) the same way you would feel under the redwoods, or the emergent trees on Mt Makiling.

Go to a garden and feel you are part of creation in Eden's finest time. The garden has a humbling effect, it has the touch of TLC - tender, loving care, it is the womb of Mother Nature, its nursery, in her own life cycle in which each and every thing, living or non-living, undergoes a continuous and unending series of birth and death - and perhaps even
re-incarnation. ~

- An On-the-Spot Painting at the UST Botanical garden by the author, with the tallest tree Alstonia scholaris, locally known as dita. as principal subject.

Morning at the UST Botanical Garden
It is misty, it is foggy, here at the garden,
or it must be smog in the city air;
and the early rays pierce through like spears,
yet this is the best place for a lair.

But the artist must be provoked, challenged;
for peace can't make a masterpiece;
only a troubled soul do rise where others fall,
where ease and good life often miss.

This lair is where the action is, the battlefield,
where pure and polluted air meet,
where a garden in a concrete jungle reigns,
where nature's trail ends in a street.

Art, where is art, when the message is unclear,
colors, colors, what color is blind faith?
what color is rage, what color is change?
colors be humble - black is your fate. ~

A spray of red and pink in the tree top,
either it is autumn's onset,
or the season had just passed us in slumber,
yet too early to hibernate

Catch the sun, borrow its colors and shine
that you may be filled with grace divine;
for your life is short and your flowers ephemeral,
that makes you a mythical vine.

There is no such thing as emptiness, for memories linger;
the bench is warm, whispers hang in the glen;
spirits roam, the past comes around in them to haunt,
to scare a bit to remember them, now and then.

Golden shower at the UST Botanical Garden

In the garden you will find the legendary Pierian Spring  - the secret of long, healthy and happy life.  Visit the beautiful gardens and museums that were shaped by the genius and skill of Dr Romualdo M del Rosario. Many people can make a garden, by few can give life to it as a living gene bank.  Many may think of putting up a grand museum, but only few can make a museum of the people where they identify themselves and the culture to which they are proud of.  Count on a calm and humble man, scientist and narturalist - and friend - Doc Del. ~

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