Memories of Bukidnon Landscape

My earliest memories of the mountain camp were rows of African  daisies in all colors and variations lining up in the front yards. That was in the 70s, when daisies were the fad.

Eventually, those colorful petals dropped dead to give way to other flower trends. The 80s were all about new arrivals – geranium, dahlias, anthuriums, American roses, orchids, Rubias, Baby’s Breath, Dona Aurora, Million Flowers, and the incomparable African violets – a misnomer since at home we had whites, pinks, blues, oranges and no violet African violets. There was an annual contest and winners were the superstars – people flock to their houses to get ideas, beg for seedlings, cuttings, and seeds, or just take photos.

a typical garden in camp phillips

But came the 90s, and flowering ornamentals became passe. Roses were unceremoniously uprooted and dumped in the compost pile.  They became fertilizers to what was garden rage that time: foliage – ferns, palms, shrubs, and everything green. Camp Phillips looked like a Moroccan oasis; there were palms everywhere. And this trend brought the worst specie ever planted in Camp Phllips – the golden lantana.

foliage remains fashionable

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Rediscovering a Hideaway

There are no malls or entertainment centers in Camp Phillips – the nearest ones are an hour away in Cagayan de Oro City. This is not an issue for the locals here, thank you. We find ways of having fun without spending too much, and without too much damage to the environment.

When a few of our batchmates decided to gather together to celebrate the short summer, Ondoy Paluga knew the right place – a poultry farm in Dicklum fifteen minutes away. Ondoy owns a rice farm there (Troy Tabanas’s land is just a horseback away), so he is friends with his neighbors – Boyax and Joy.

batch 83 summer getaway

This farm has everything we needed: a garden gazebo; a grill; a place for fire; flower gardens, great horses; a durian plantation; and plenty of chicken for cooking.

an English country gazebo right there in Diclum, Manolo Fortich

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Camp Phillips Honor Roll

While preparing for the Holy Week, I was reminded of an annual joke in Camp Phillips:

“Who crucified Jesus Christ?

“”Damian Macatol”

This is an insider joke. Engr. Damian Macatol, a Del Monte supervisor was the best sculptor in town. And he carved the Crucified Christ that occupied the church altar in our town.

There were a few artists and artesans in Camp Phillips, at least in our time. I knew Tita Merlyn Paluga was a piano teacher. There were ballet lessons every summer taught by ballet dancers. But the most famous artist in our time was probably Engr. Macatol.

I am not so sure now whether he made a career out of his talent. He was an employee, so probably  sculpting was a hobby, and he specialized in religious icons, probably because he was such a deeply religious person. He is known for his faith as much as his craftmanship.

Later, Engr. Macatol also taught at the College of Engineering in Xavier Univeristy. XU students from Camp Phillips were always proud to claim that the St. Francis Xavier golden statue that greets the students at the gate is made by Engr. Macatol. He also crafted that beautiful Our Lady of the Poor, if I am not mistaken.

His name is carved at the bottom of this statue of St. Francis

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10 Reasons Why Camp Phillips is Perfect for Sustainable Living

It is hard to explain, much more justify, how  living in the middle of a pine-covered mountain camp right in the middle of a large pineapple plantation is considered environmentally-friendly. Issues of inorganic chemicals, biodiversity, fuel consumption among others will continue to besiege this place. I will make a separate post about those issues as I am still gathering data.

But as a resident, I can cite 10 reasons why Camp Phillips is the ideal place for sustainable living:

1. The climate is perfect for backyard gardening. There is enough land in every one’s backyard to put SM Hypermart out of business. And I am talking backyard – front yard is for flower gardens and landscapes. This week, I am starting a fresh herbs garden in the front lawn, but our backyard has some space for at least twenty kinds of vegetables.

2. There are plenty of small farmers in the vicinity. We can buy produce from local suppliers – rice farmers, poultry-raisers, vegetable gardeners. All within less than an hour from our house. I bought a bottle of fresh honey for 100 pesos from a local guy whose job is to roam around the forests to look for honeybee hives. Imagine that!

3. I get a  supply of fresh milk every day. The camp has a cattle and dairy livestock nearby, and our local co-op retails fresh milk for a very cheap price. If only, there is an organic dairy farm nearby — oh well, that is asking too much!

4. Everything is within walking distance. Camp Phillips is a walkable, bikable community. Everything – offices, stores, schools, churches, videokes, cafes – is within walking distance. Just compute the amount of fuels we save because we choose to walk every day.

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Tristan Tabanas 40


Tristan Tabanas played life like a pro golfer – always aiming to go under par. And if the life expectancy of the average male is 72 – which is also the par value of his favorite Del Monte Golf Course (just across his home), then to finish the round at 40 is a stroke of genius.

And that is probably the reason why a lot of people last night were happy for Tristan. We were there for the last wake before burial and it felt like a celebration party. True to form, beer was overflowing. Everyone remotely related to Titan came and had fun – families, relatives, friends, neighbors, school mates, classmates of his kids, golfers, politicians, and everyone else who was looking for a good TGIF gig.

Our classmate Danny Casicas – Tristan’s brother outside the bloodline – said something that captured his life: “Galante iyong namatay.”

Such a generous soul is what people remember about Titan. That, and his being a loyal friend. I didn’t know Titan very well. He was still in Grade 4 when we started going to their house because Troy John had a set of encyclopedia for our assignments and we did some cooking. He used to play around while we were there but he never bothered us.

And that is what his cousin Jino also shared to us. He was the kind of man who didn’t want to bother anyone. He kept his troubles to himself and just wanted people to have fun. And so days before his death he posted the very line that defined his life –“Life comes and goes, Enjoy while it lasts.”

And by all appearances, Titan enjoyed his life. He aimed for the perfect score and got it. In scriptural terms 40 is the age of perfection. Noah spent 40 years in the ark before the flood subsided, Israel ate Manna for 40 years, Moses spent 40 days with God in the mount, Saul reigned for 40 years, David reigned for 40 years, Solomon reigned for 40 years, Jesus spent 40 days in the desert. 40 years was considered the time of the fulfillment of promises. But in Titan’s language, that should be a called a hole in one.

Rest in peace Titan.

Corn Coffee for Better Living

I was, still am, a coffee addict. I drink practically five cups of coffee a day. When I was in Manila, I used to hang out in any of my favorite branches of Starbucks (Morato, Araneta, Greenbelt, Greenhills, SM Megamall, Trinoma, Araneta Avenue, Robinsons, Mall of Asia, name it).

Right now, I can still taste my cup of coffee – cappuccino tall with two percent milk with a dash of cinnamon and two packs of brown sugar. Of course I know the dangers of too much caffeine but I couldn’t resist it.

This week, I am happy to say that I have conquered caffeine. My sister Virgie brought home a pack corn coffee (yes, it not coffee it is corn). It tastes better. It is organic. It is healthier. It is cheaper.  And since this is made by some farmer’s group in Bayugan, Agusan del Sur, it is also helping the local economy.

9 Food Facts Little Children Should Know

1. Eating the right food is one of the best ways to prepare for the future. What you eat today affects your health now and in years to come. For example, if you drink enough milk, you reduce your chances of osteoporosis when you get old. If you focus on lower-fat foods, you reduce risks of obesity and heart diseases.

2. Preparing and eating food is an art – all senses are delighted. The eyes love the colors of the food, the nose can smell delicious food aroma, your ears like the crunchiness of some food, your touch like the different textures of food, and of course your tongue loves all flavors – salt, sweet, sour, bitter, etc.

3. Food is also a numerical game. A balanced diet means being able to calculate the right amount of calorie intake and how these affect your vital signs like blood pressure, temperature, etc.

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Why is Junk Food Bad for Children

This month is Nutrition Month in elementary schools with the aim of promoting the right eating habits among Filipino children. Sadly, kids these days grow up in a culture that promotes bad eating habits: fastfoods, junk foods and processed food. This month, this blog will feature a series of entries on Nutrition for Children.

We will begin with studies about Junk Food. This is based on studies conducted by a team of scientists headed by Dr Alexandra Richardson, from Oxford University’s department of physiology. Some parts are from Livestrong.

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Landslide in Valencia, Bukidnon



Just when the Province of Bukidnon launched the Provincial Disaster Preparedness Month, a tragedy strikes in Valencia in the form of a landslide. This is the report from Manila Bulletin


Six persons were confirmed dead upon retrieval of their bodies from the landslide site in the locality of Lumbayao in Valencia City, Bukidnon.

Heavy rains prompted several landslides to occur in Southern Bukidnon Province Monday morning around 7:00 a.m., covering portions of a mountainside highway which resulted to blockage of the road ,hence, forcing motorists to walk.
Reports say that most of the victims were either walking or were on commercial motorcycles along the mud-spattered highway near Valencia City when the landslide struck, burying the victims.

As of this writing, 3 casualties have been identified , at least 11 people are still missing and there is no certainty whether or not there are more people buried in the mud. The government troops are still hollowing out the landslide spot and the search and rescue operation will carry on the next few hours today.

Meanwhile, Bukidnon Gov. Alex Calingasan believes it is impossible for the missing persons to survive because the landslides hit the national road itself, burying the victims alive .”



Flower Series: The Bleeding Heart Vine

The Beautiful Secret of Love

In Bohol, they call this secreto de amor. But its common name is the Bleeding Heart and also popularly known as Lagrimas de Cristo. Clerodendrum thomsoniae produces tons of flowers and can be trimmed to just about any desirable size. Flowers are seen year round, more during warmer months of the year. Beautiful foliage. Grows in shade or sun. Grow it in the shade for nicer foliage or grow it in the sun for maximum flowers. We trimmed this one in our lawn and that is why it is blooming like crazy.

Best Way to Make a Fruit Platter

What is healthy for rainy day breakfast? A fruit platter of course. If you are lazy, you can just dump several fruits in your plate and eat away, just like what I did in the photo below.

But you can also make a fruit platter worth of a resto banquet. These are the simple steps

1. Use fruits in season
They are cheaper and they taste better because they are ripened properly. Organically produced fruits are preferred. Organic mangoes might be difficult to find because most of the mango trees here in Mindanao have been sprayed with chemicals. But bananas, pineapples, papayas, apples, oranges are all-season fruits so availability wouldn’t be a problem. Here in Camp Phillips, it is cheaper to buy from the producers — there are farms all around us.

2. Play with the colors and flavors
Combine reds (strawberries, cherries, watermelon, papaya), yellows (mangoes, pineapples), orange (California orange or papaya), whites (bananas), and purples (grapes) in bulk. Add some greens to accessorize (kiwi, guava). Mix the sweet, the sour, the bland.

3. Use All Parts of the Fruit – Not Just the Edible Flesh
Use the rinds, stems, leaves, and peels for display. You can create some sort of an installation art using all these parts.

4. Cut Fruit in Bite Sized Pieces
Melon balling is tedious, but it looks so attractive when all the fruit is roughly the same shape. If you don’t have the patience or aren’t using melons, make sure your fruits are cut in bite sized pieces. This makes it easy for guests to scoop up what they want without worrying about cutting.

5. Use a Deep Platter
Fruits are juicy and you want these juice to mix underneath and serve as natural dressing.

6. Try something new
Mix fruits that are not commonly used in restaurants. Try starfruits, jackfruits, duhat, or any fruit in your backyard. Surprise yourself or your family with a new flavor mix.

6. Use your imagination
There are no rules with fruits trays, so let your imagination run wild! Let the fruit colors and flavors to inspire you to create something new.

Rainy Day, Climate Change and Damp Gardens

Rain has not stopped here in Camp Phillips for three days now. People are dying in Davao due to flash floods. Fortunately, the only thing that worries us here, so far, are the clogged waters in the gardens that might cause some rotting of the roots. But otherwise, climate change has not been that damaging here – at least compared to other places in Mindanao like Davao, Cotabato, Surigao, Butuan, Cagayan de Oro, and even Lanao.

The leaves are not given enough time to dry. I am just wondering the diseases that will result from this,

Surprisingly, the orchids continue to bloom despite the rain.

And the creeping and climbing vines are able to withstand the strong winds and the harsh rain.

Bukidnon Flowers: The Corpse Plant

The first time I saw this plant was at the Pitcher Plant Farm in Bukidnon, which specializes in carnivorous plant. This flower, also known as Titan arum, is one of the world’s largest and rarest. Amorphophallus titanum grows in Sumatra but apparently survives well in the Philippines.