A foray into urban forests

Our neighborhood at the very fringe of Baguio is particularly lucky for being situated a stone’s throw away, quite in a literal sense, from a small pine grove. This grove, in turn, was originally an extension of a much bigger privately owned forest, but now separated from it by a couple of concrete alleys, a growing cluster of houses, and eroded slopes of coarse runo grass.

I ask Kabsat Kandu if he knows this. “Yes, of course, I grew up here!” he replies with just a touch of righteous pride. My streetwise friend, who sowed his wild oats in these parts, tells the truth. This still-forested part of Baguio actually serves as a hideaway, not so much for rich weekend vacationers from Metro Manila, but for locals with other goals in mind—often, doing stuff not to be proud about. (More about this at some other time.)

Pine groves of Baguio City
A pine grove in the fringes of Baguio City is shrouded in midday fog

In fact, not just our neighborhood but much of the Cordillera region remains lucky for having preserved a fairly high percentage of its natural forest cover. While the entire country’s forest cover rapidly shrunk from a high 17 million hectares in 1934 (56 percent of total land area) to a mere 7 million in 2003 (23 percent), the Cordillera retained a high forest cover of 85 percent.

Even Baguio and the fast urbanizing adjacent towns have retained extensive patches of original pine forest, despite massive deforestation. Of Baguio’s total land area of 5,751 ha, only 8.1 percent still has old growths of pine while 19.8 percent has production pine stands; 2.1 percent is brushland. In comparison, Metro Manila with its 64,000-ha land area shows a drastic reduction of forest lands and parks from a high of 25.1 percent in 1938 to an extremely low 1 percent in 1994. This supposedly increased to 4.4 percent (2,820 ha) by 2010, but still remains very low. Continue reading “A foray into urban forests”

The secrets of Nagsasa Cove

Let me get straight to the point by sharing what I learned during a short stay at Nagsasa Cove in San Antonio, Zambales.

I won’t bore you with the usual mundane matters that you can Google from travelogues, such as how to get there, what’s so great about it, how to best enjoy your stay, what not to expect, and so on. Instead, I’ll tell you some interesting stories about Nagsasa, presented in Top-Ten style.

SECRETS TO DIVULGE. Every beach has a long and complex story to tell, and secrets to divulge, if only we become more observant and listen more closely. This small clump of growing coral, stranded on the beach, shows the paradox of fragility and resiliency tied up like yin and yang in every ecosystem.

So, without much ado, here goes: “Ten things you might not know about Nagsasa because you were so busy enjoying the beach, the scenery and the food.” Continue reading “The secrets of Nagsasa Cove”

Mossy cloud forest, formerly

I wrote this light essay originally as a column piece for the November 17, 2003 issue of Northern Dispatch Weekly. It seems timely that I re-post it here with some minor edits, now that the issue of Baguio City’s rapid deforestation is heating up anew. A giant mall has been intending to cut 182 trees in Luneta Hill, on top of big real estate developers having already cleared up a bigger number of pure  pine stands in and around the city in past years.
Gecko on house post
The only creature lacking is a fruit bat, gecko, or baby constrictor crawling along the rough-hewn coconut lumber beams of the outhouse to give our jungle alcove that extra oomph.

In a column piece I wrote earlier this year, I confessed to the embarrassing fact that I was a frustrated peasant. A frustrated urban peasant, to be more specific. With emphasis on “frustrated.” At least that’s how I feel, more and more frequently these days.

My wife has more success with her orchids, ferns and peperomias — and to think that she merely used our outhouse-type toilet-bathroom as a rudimentary greenhouse. Without intending it, she turned it into an accidental orchidarium-terrarium, complete with ants, spiders, and lizards that spice up our every visit to the toilet. The only creature lacking is a fruit bat, gecko or baby constrictor crawling along the rough-hewn coconut lumber beams of the outhouse, to give our jungle alcove that extra oomph.

Continue reading “Mossy cloud forest, formerly”