Saturday, April 2, 2011

Triggers of Reconnection With UPLB

For our UPLB alumni who have been unable to come back to UPLB years after graduation, we wish to provide some triggers that will reconnect them with their Alma Mater.  Naturally, there are numerous physical markers that would refresh or trigger recollection of some fond memories of Los Baños in some still not-so-distant past, but we thought that one such trigger would be citing at least some of the UPLB Heritage Trees.

The idea of designating certain specific trees as UPLB Heritage Tree is a good one.  This was conceptualized during the chancellorship of Luis Rey Velasco (who is on his second 3-year term as Chancellor).  In 2008, the UPLB Heritage Tree Committee designated a number of trees on the UPLB campus as heritage trees mainly because these have stood on the UPLB campus over time and have become culturally important.

Perhaps the most popular among these trees is the dao (Dracontomelon dao [Blanco] Merr. & Rolfe) tree which is simply called Dao Sa S.U. by the UPLB Heritage Tree Committee.  I recall, when I came to Los Baños in 1963 as a greenhorn (term used to refer to freshmen in those days), this dao tree was already standing very tall and strong by the Molawin Creek (the SU building was constructed only in 1965).  The buttresses then were very much smaller, though.  

Many would recall that in 2005, during the chancellorship of Wilfredo David, this dao tree became focus of national attention when it was declared a hazard to life (the then Chancellor said it has rotten inside and was about to fall, possibly on the SU building, so it had to be cut down).  Many environmentalists, led by the husband-and-wife team of biologist Dr. Perry and Landscape Architect Susan Ong, however, fought hard to scrap such idea.  Even then Senator Jamby Madrigal (who publicly censored Chancellor David) joined the national discussion in support of sparing the dao tree.  Ultimately, the tree was not cut down.  When the very powerful typhoon Milenyo devastated the UPLB Campus in 2006 (the eye of the typhoon passed through Los Baños), the dao tree remained standing, belying the declaration that it was about to fall down due to a rotting root system.  Today, said dao stand proudly and healthy as ever.  It even regularly blooms.

The dao marker says:

The Dao tree served as an inspiration to the National Artist, Leandro V. Locsin, for the design of the Student Union Building.  The columns projecting from the ceiling to the ground is a mimic of the flaring Dao trunk and buttress.  On April 14, 2005, the National Committee on Monuments and Sites, National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) declared in its resolution No. 2005-07 indeed recognizing the intrinsic cultural value of the said Dao tree at the UP Los Baños Campus.  More recently, Regent Romulo Davide in his letter expressed that the tree be named the Centennial Tree after it has survived several typhoons other than Milenyo in Septemnber 2006.


On the other side of Molawin Creek, near the Palma Bridge, is another heritage tree, just simply referred to locally as the Kapok.  This tree is also known by its English common name, American Cotton Tree, Ceiba pentandra (L.) Gaerin.   This kapok tree is far from being an ordinary tree to me; it’s the cause of my asthma, when those snow-like flakes fall off from the tree crown.

Standing “tall and huge …,” says the Marker, “…and the popping continues as the ‘bulak’ fall snow-like landscape announcing the special event of Graduation Day in the UPLB Campus.”

Well, this much I know about this particular tree.  When I was freshman at UPCA, this kapok tree was already there, but the buttresses weren’t there then.  Today, those buttresses are as high as 10 feet.  It has stood time.


Forestry alumni, do you recall the large White Lauan (Shorea contorta Vidal) near the College of Forestry (now College of Forestry and Natural Resources – CFNR) Administration Building?  It’s just behind what is now the main office building of the Makiling Botanic Garden.  And did you know that this tree was planted by students of silviculture in what was then a cogonland?  Let’s have a look at its marker:

This White Lauan tree is a living testimony of successful reforestation in the Philippines which started in the Forestry Campus in early 1900s in connection with the establishment of the UP School of Forestry.  This White Lauan tree was one of the indigenous tree species planted in 1913 in this once cogon-dominated site by the forestry students and faculty as part of their laboratory exercise in silviculture.


Now, here’s another one.   Who can possibly forget the huge acacia tree near the Institute of Animal Science (then called the Department of Animal Husbandry)?  This has stood witness to many a tryst among UPCA students, and its campus nickname was “fertility” tree, which was just a joke to some of us who couldn’t afford intimate relationships in those days which we knew as hard times.   Today, this acacia has extended its crown and its shade  has become favorite place for week-end family, athletic, and alumni gatherings.  It still goes by its favorite nickname “fertility” tree for UPLB students.  Indeed, it’s much more comfortable under its shade now than it used to.


Remember Pili Drive?  It’s still there.  It hasn’t changed much since it was constructed in 1962, when IRRI was established.  The Pili trees are, of course, aging but there are new plants now.  During our time, it was prohibited to pick fruits on the UPCA campus, but today every kid in town does so without calling any attention.   In our time, all fruit trees like Kaimito and Pili trees carried markers warning people, “Fine for picking of fruits: P50.”  Of course, P50 in those days was huge amount of money.  And us, new students, were all scared of it.  It’s different today.  Informal settlers just at the other side of the UPLB fence gather kaimito fruits in quantity and sell these on makeshift fruit tables along UPLB roads.  How about the Pili fruit pickers?  Well, they don’t only pick those that have fallen off, but they do climb and pick those fruits.  At one time, I asked a couple who were carrying a sack-full of pili fruits on Pili Drive, “what do you use these for?”  and their straight forward response was  “we make pili sweets and sell them.”  But those were not fruit contractors of UPLB.

It’s strange when one feels one is missing out on what used to be culture-and-value rich campus experience.  Indeed, the UPLB Campus has changed, actually generally deteriorated, and one can feel it to the bones.  Or may be, I’m too old-fashioned.

Do visit the UPLB Campus now and then.  Everybody is still excited about being here now and then.  See you around, folks.


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