Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A little escapade in my neighborhood!

Our town, Mabini,  is like a tongue jutting out from the mainland. Of course we are a country of islands, but my province is a part of a big island called Luzon. Our tongue-like town is surrounded by water, except for the top portion attached to the mainland. It is almost like a peninsula. The shameful part is, that I have been reaching lots of far places both in the country and abroad, yet i have not seen most parts of my town. You know how it is like when we started studying and working in the big city, we just come home on weekends and those few hours are just spent at home and family. Now that we can already manage our time, I am ready to explore the innermost corners and coves in the place where i live. So with a few friends, and actually with their prodding, i was able to be a tourist of my own place! I would love to share with you some of them.

We were there for the weekend, 2D 1N. The first afternoon I showed them the small mountain I love, Mt Gulugod Baboy (pig spine!).
 It is a 2-3hr hike for tourists, but when you are with me i will bring you to the top in just 30min! of course when you are with a native, she knows the shortest way to the top. haha!

 I've been posting about this mountain in the past, showing different looks depending on the season, meaning the dry and the wet season, i am sure you already know we only have two seasons. Above photo shows where it got the name.

The windy ridge where you cannot open an umbrella or let your hat on your head, or else they will be blown away.

A cute barangay is nestled by the hills and trees, overlooking the sea. It is idyllic, i tell you!

 Do you often see this scene in your own place? Or you don't see these things anymore, nor smell the flowers!  It is high time you do, it will do wonders for the psyche.

Mt. Gulugod Baboy sunset

View from the veranda of the Bontoc in Batangas Bed & Breakfast
another view from that veranda

After taking them to the mountain, show them the terrestrial environment, i brought them to the islands. Anilao, Mabini, Batangas is already a tourist destination especially for divers and diving students. The 2-hr drive from Manila is very convenient for them to learn and relax. I see the happenings in glossy magazines and on TV, but haven't taken time to indulge. The underwater biodiversity is famous in these parts, and is comparable to great diving sites in the country, and maybe some in the world. Hence,  many vacation houses and resorts are owned by rich and famous people in Manila.  Underwater photography is also becoming famous, not to mention the windsurfing sports competitions being held annually. 

And i am alien to all of these! Being afraid of deep waters and heights, I just share with the divers the awe in seeing the beautiful marine life when i see the photos of others. I just content myself seeing the small colorful fishes in the corals during low tide. I admit that is pathetic of me.

This island is called Isla Sombrero (Hat Island), because it looks like a tilted hand in some angles.

 Sepoc Island, a name we failed to know the meaning or origin.

We just circled some islands on the boat, as some parts like this cathedral (another phase outside the picture looks like the door), don't have beach or docking area.

 These waters cradle the rich biodiversity of marine life, catering to both local and foreign divers. A lot of dive sites here are included in the lists in the country. The Tourism of Mabini office has staff and information for all these.

Buri palms many decades old growing along the beach.

 Houses on stilts are seen in communities along some stretches of the irregularly coved islands

After hiking to the mountain, frolicking in the sand in the islands and taking some photos and snorkeling, the appetizing food in the Bontoc in Batangas Bed and Breakfast delighted us. Besides, the owner is very gracious and accommodating, letting us feel we are relatives on vacation being served till we are very full. You will not even think that you pay for this, as the hostess will entice you to forget the cost of your stay. Her presence and lovely stories will make you long for another longer stay and touristy escapade. We cannot ask for more! Can you beat that!

The ethnic-Bontoc inspired cottages of the Bontoc in Batangas Bed and Breakfast. Actually, it should have been named BB Bed and Meals, as they serve all the meals including snacks and drinks. The buffet style meals will not be for those who are trying to loose some pounds, or in any case you will forget your goal. 

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

The common and the unusual

I can't seem to find anything to post today, much more so with the title for it. If you are from the temperate climes, even our common plants might however be unusual also to you. If you are from the tropics, we have the same standards of knowledge for them. My familiariy for these plants is just based on the frequency of seeing them.  But at least I know their requirements and propagation. Also as a word of caution, i post spontaneously using only what comes out from memory. So in case of mistakes or false information, I apologize! I just am too irresponsible today to be searching from the net. Yet, i am still very eager and enthusiastic to post something for you, my dear friends and followers. In any case, please tell me any mistake, and i will definitely try to change them. Thank you.

Portulaca oleraceae - very sun-loving, withstand hot climates, very easy to propagate by cuttings, hate too much water and oversoaking; however if neglected can be invasive in the tropics

Bougainvillea glabra - needs bright full sun and flower the whole year in equatorial countries. The very many colors we can see today are mostly varieties out of breeding 3 species (though there are 18 species), or from normal mutations. Do you know that the resulting plant from these variegated cultivar depends on which twig you will propagate? Since the red color is more genetically dominant, planting twig with dominantly red will produce both red and white, as in the one above. However, planting twig with only the white will give you very seldom red in the resulting flowers or none at all.

A purely whitish-yellow flowered variety. Bougainvillea flowers are those small yellowish corrugated structures at the middle. The papery structures surrounding the flowers are called bracts. Have you seen a bougainvillea fruit? I also haven't seen one, but they say it has small fruit. Of course they must have fruits, or how else can breeding succeed!

Since i've put the very common ones, this type now is the unusual. It looks like an epiphyte or a plant which gets food from the air, but it anchors on a tree trunk to multiply and might probably kill it. If its roots dig on its bark getting its food, which eventually kills the tree, then it is a stem parasite. I took this photos from a mangrove forest. It also has some very minute reddish flowers, which my camera cannot get well. I don't know this plant, but maybe this can also be grown in hanging baskets.  

My appreciation and gratitude for Rico of Philippine Native Forest Trees in leading me to the ID of this last plant, Dischida spp. He suggested D. platyphylla, but i will be more content with putting only Dischida spp., as there are at least 80 species known and the exact species identification is a tricky business, which i better leave for the taxonomists. 

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Summer Outpours

Thanks to Pixdaus.com for the above photo, which i found the loveliest, young trees already in full bloom.

The golden shower (Casia fistula) tree is a beautiful sight during summer here in the Philippines simultaneous with Delonix regia, and banaba (Lagerstromoea speciosa). But it is said to be an introduced species from Southern Asia. It is famous also in India, Thailand, Pakistan. As the name implies, its spikes with numerous small flowers droop forming multitudes of dangling golden beauties. Sometimes the whole tree is fully crowned in yellow without leaves, just like the cherry blossoms and Wisteria in temperate countries in spring. Butterflies, bees, birds and other insects love to frolic in its flowers. When fully exposed in a landscape this tree is an awesome accent.

I planted two trees in our property in the province, expecting the awesome view in summers, just like the photo above. I saw young trees which are already  full of flowers in some areas in the country. However, it seems our property's soil is too fertile for this plant. It is a legume so it can assimilate nitrogen from the air and use it for its nutrition. Nitrogen is known to produce vegetative growth, so ours become too vegetative and too big. We have to prune most of the very tall branches, the disadvantage of which is the limited mature branches to produce the flowers. We just leave some branches to mature and content ourselves with some few dangling yellows.

Top left shows the tall branches in summer, which we opt to lessen by pruning. Above right shows the typical golden blossoms

Against the blue sky, the flowers are so pretty. Do you notice the black bumble bee approaching the blossoms at the right! It suddenly came when i clicked.

A lot of caterpillars feast on this tree immediately when the new leaves emerge after the first rain. It is good that our tree is very big that there are enough leaves left. Sometimes a big branch lost all leaves to these green larvae with maximum length of 3 inches. They are not cute, but they arrange themselves in a nice fashion.

Can you see the single egg dangling underside a leaf?

And here is the pupa under a Tunera subulata leaf. I've looked for pupa on the tree itself, but cannot find any. It is typical for most larvae to leave the host plants when they are about to pupate. That is a defense mechanism for them.

I hope you can see the butterfly at the center of the photo. I spent much time following these butterflies. Come egg laying time, and it is a wonderful sight looking at the yellows and yellow-green butterflies literally swarming around the Casia tree. I am not sure if they are called sulfur butterflies, but they flutter their wings so fast and fly on an up-down-up-down manner, which is the courting/mating ritual. They also alight so quickly on the leaves, not leaving a few moment for me to take their photos. They also stay up there higher than other butterflies. Unlike the swallowtails, they are more difficult to document.

Above is another version of its color, however the differences in color might just be the gender. I've read that these sulfur butterflies are whites, yellows, and orange. Ours are actually yellows and yellow-greens. The latter are even larger than the yellows. I hope i can take nicer and closer photos this coming rainy season.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

More Dry Season Scenes

I have posted Mt Gulugod Baboy ('gulugod' is spine, 'baboy' is pig) photos and experiences in the past, and some of you already joined me in that post. I also tried visiting it during the dry season and repeated the climb on the rainy season, to see and feel the differences. Vegetation definitely change, temperature and my senses as well.  It is not a high mountain so many people can conquer the climb and not feel too exhilarated. There are also different ways to reach the top and climbers from far places usually take the long route, that is hiking for 2 hours from the tourist beaches. Most climbers/campers are on their own and sometimes get lost adding one more hour of hiking. We as residents of this town know how to get there the fastest. It only takes 30 min from our side of the mountain. Mt GB is in Mabini, Batangas, Philippines.

These photos just show the differences between the dry and wet seasons.

Top left is the dry season, while top right is rainy season

Top left is the dry season, while top right is rainy season

 Dry season scenes: brown grasses, bald peak, thin cows, lonely bird

Rainy season scenes: foggy paths, green grasses,  lively trees

View of towns and cities from the peak

View of nearby islands: Isla Sombrero and Maricaban Islands

Another tourist area in the Philippines which is very much affected by the two seasons is the Chocolate Hills, in Bohol. These are natural geological structures made through time by the interaction of the physical soil structures and water. These are mostly marine deposited corals, which rise up from the sea, therefore calcareous. These are susceptible to water erosion and through time developed mounds like these. Thousands of these mounds are in this area.

Now, can you guess why they are called Chocolate Hills? That is because during the dry season, the mounds are mostly brown resembling brown chocolates! Giant chocolates, care for one!!!

This relative of the monkey, the tarsier, is mostly found in Bohol. It is nocturnal and eat mostly insects. Some are in captivity for the delight of tourists. They are only the size of our average palms. They are also chocolate colored!
Bohol is reached within an hour by planes from Manila to Tagbilaran, Bohol.

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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Dry Season Scenes Near the Equator

Dry seasons have common characteristics throughout the earth! The degree of severity might however vary among places, between latitudes, among years or time within the year. I just would like to share with you the conditions of our vegetation at the onset of this year's dry season. I have been telling you about this season we have here, and have posted some consequences to our plants and crops, in previous posts.

If temperate climates have their winter, which almost totally eliminate exposed annuals, and trees also exhibit major conformation with the environmental conditions, the dry season is our counterpart in terms of harshness to living things.

This is a typical picture of our landscapes, grasses and weeds become brown and die. Only the deep rooted trees remain green and can wait for the next rainy season.

Some weeds hasten maturation to shed their seeds before they die. But this weeds seem to be a bit more drought tolerant. Insects are also seen still alighting on these wild flowers.

The above photo is a good example of the range of trees' responses to drought. Some just curl their leaves to lessen their moisture loss, others totally shed their leaves for adjustment, while others are totally oblivious of the dry conditions. One tree with prominent brown leaves above will totally shed them to maintain life. Horticultural crops like bananas and coconuts near the foreground are drought tolerant and withstand long dry seasons, however their production is totally affected. Their leaves decrease in size and fruiting is minimized.

I have been observing this tree every year, and it seems really deciduous, as this is a regular annual habit of this tree in response to loss of water. They still produce fruits even without leaves, those small round knots are the fruits. Come rainy season and it starts to shoot again. This is also typical of our 'siniguelas' or Spanish plums (Spondias purpurea), which develop flowers and fruits even without leaves. Leaves just sprout when fruits are already maturing. However, i don't have its picture now. The two photos below are from Market Manila (http://www.marketmanila.com/archives/elis-sineguelas).

Sineguelas on the top left still immature, while on the top right are mid-ripe and ready to eat.

These grasses are already mature and ready to disperse with the wind.

The same is true with this grass species, the cottony parts are provisions that seed propagules will be carried by the wind to long distances, hence nature is preserved and species is ensured of continuity.

Weeds like this on the left can tolerate the drought because of their small leaves and deep roots. Turnera sp at the right is also drought tolerant due to its deep roots. However, come noon they somehow roll their leaves to resist more water loss.

Clear skies definitely give full hot sun, compel most living things to stay in the shade. Even butterflies are very seldom seen during this season, because their larvae do not have much fresh shoots to eat. I wonder at which part of their life cycle they tend to linger.

But long dry season is not all that depressing. It also gives a lot of promises. Most people go out with their families or with their friends to travel and enjoy the beaches. This morning moon is one of the good things very visible during the dry season.

....and sunrises are mostly clear and beautiful without the clouds hiding the rising sun. And definitely it promises big hopes!

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