How can one not love Davao City?

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By Jun Ledesma


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

WE mark the 77th anniversary of Davao City with the usual hoopla and extravaganza. Ours is a unique spectacle of genuine cultural ensemble from our indigenous tribes embellished with a generous floral display of endemic species that are truly of Davao. Waling-Waling, known to the world as Vanda sanderiana but more aptly as Euanthe Sanderiana, is Davao’s pride. Waling-Waling by any other name is as magnificent as the secret scent that is its own aphrodisiacal smell.

A brief on how this came to be tells of a German plant explorer, Karl Roebellin, who in 1882, sailed south of the Philippines to look for endemic orchids. He was commissioned by a British orchidist Frederick Sander in whose honor taxonomist Reicheinback named the rare orchid. Account of how Waling-Waling was discovered by Roebillin described that he moved inward from the shoreline into the swampy land where tall mahoganies stood. Weary from the travel he slung his hammock high enough to evade being attacked by wild beasts. Haggard he quickly dozed to sleep. He woke up the next day because of a strong earthquake, which dislodged a huge specimen of Waling-Waling in full bloom and landed on his lap. He described the flowers as big as dishes.

There is more to the story than what I can write in this space. Raised in Sander’s home, the specimens which the German explorer had brought home soon became the source of various strapped Vanda hybrids many of which you may have in your home. Waling-Waling is quite prolific and tough. Rare specimens gathered from the foothills of Mt. Apo still survive … or so… I hope. The scarcest of them I saw in the home of Abdul Aquino, who was love-struck by Waling-Waling late in his life as he was goaded into appreciating orchids by his lovely wife. Abdul, former President of the American Chamber, was quickly hooked to orchids that once, while watching a competition of the best Waling-Waling in an orchid show, he promptly bought the winning entry at the owner’s bidding. Abdul then proceeded to buy the oldest and rarest Waling-Waling orchids from the collection of a Davao pioneer (whose name escapes me presently). One of these, the last time I saw it, was about three meters long and arching but it was still bearing flowers.  It was simply incredible! Beside this old but magnificent specimen were several 1st prize winning entries Mr. Aquino bought each time there’s an orchid show.


Waling-Waling indeed became an endangered species. But some enterprising plant lovers with business acumen started breeding it. The commercial and vast quantity of seedlings was churned out from the orchid laboratory of Charita Puentespina. This was followed closely by Derling (Alvarez) Orchids and many others. Growing orchid from seeds was perceived to be a difficult and expensive process then but it turned out to be a myth. It is in the tissue culture of the best specimen that requires some money and expertise then but no longer. These days you can buy other species and hybrids of various orchids from Sally Leuenberger, Ching Chua and Puentespina, to name a few.

In the 1900s there was this scramble to plant and produce cut flower varieties like dendrobiums, mokaras, dancing ladies, and other vandas. Davao growers later found out that they cannot compete with orchid flowers from Thailand because the freight from Davao City to the capital region where the consumer market is, is almost twice as much as the cost of air freight from Bangkok to Manila.

Davao City is home to Waling-Waling as it is to the Philippine Eagle. Both had been declared the National Flower and National Bird of the Philippines respectively. We use them both as emblems in many events.

Like these two icons in the world’s flora and fauna Davao City ranks in the top five most peaceful city in the world. It is even made famous by its citizen’s adherence to discipline nurtured by the City Mayor that the Filipinos want to be President but would rather be just a simple country mouse. Time International accorded him the title: “The Punisher” in the same vein taxonomists dubs our Waling-Waling “The King of Orchids” and our eagle “The King of all Eagles”.

I am proud of our city, our political leader, our flora and fauna and my fellow Dabawenyos.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 18, 2014.


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