This thing they call Plantherapy

A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust. — Gertrude Jekyll (2011) ‘Wood and Garden: Notes and Thoughts, Practical and Critical, of a Working Amateur’ Cambridge University Press

I joined the plant craze at the start of the pandemic quarantines last year to have something to do in the weekends and give me some diversion from the work-from-home set-up. As a self-confessed shopaholic, it did fill the void of not being able to go to my favourite retail shops.

This home garden has gotten so much attention from me in the past year than it has ever got in almost a decade it existed.

I do have a little garden in our modest home and a few potted plants but after a year of potting and re-potting and weekly trips to nearby gardens, every corner of our home has plants and our garage has turned into my plant showroom. Now, trips to nearby provinces for staycations are not complete without a visit to gardens and every time, we go home with the good company of plants that fill every available space in our car.

In the article Is Plant Therapy a Real Thing, author Patricia Marie Cordero Irizarry shares the study of The American Horticulture Therapy Association (AHTA) that traces plant therapy’s roots to ancient Egyptian times where garden walks were prescribed by doctors for those suffering from mental disturbances. We have read many books and articles on beautiful medieval gardens and many researches found that the healing benefits of gardens date back to 2000 B.C. Read more

Monthly Agriculture shares the research of Dan Buettner who found a common hobby among Japan’s centenarians: gardening. The same article refers to the Harvard University study that also found something common among people who live near greeneries- they tend to live longer given the lower possibility of cancer or respiratory illnesses. It further shares that in Scotland, doctors prescribe walking in nature to reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and to increase overall happiness. Read

My own personal experience is a testament to how my plants have become my de-stressors. The sight of new leaves give me joy and the new knowledge I have gained in tending to my “babies” is not only refreshing but insightful as well which can very much be applicable not only to my corporate work but also to life itself. For instance, I learned that plants can grow really big by putting them in big pots but you do not transfer a plant from a small pot directly to a big one as its roots will have a hard time growing. Instead, transfer it to a pot amount 2-4 inches bigger in diameter than the old pot until it outgrows it again. Isn’t that the same as human potential? A talent not given the environment to grow will not reach its full potential.

I guess, after 27 varieties of Philodendrons and counting; more than a dozen Calatheas and Aglaonemas; an increasing collection of Monsteras and Rubber Trees and many more, I can call myself a certified Plant Momma.

Indeed, there is such a thing as plant therapy and it is real!

Community Bubbles…a silver lining!

It’s more than a year now since the pandemic struck the world and brought us back home…figuratively and literally.

In our country with the longest lockdown in the entire world, we are back to where we started a year ago – enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the entire Metro Manila and some nearby provinces. We are seeing record-high daily reported infections as there are now 4 confirmed variants in the country.

We are back to where we started a year ago…

But just like any crisis, there are opportunities that surface and one of these is the emergence of community markets to bring goods and services closer to the consumers so that there is no more need for residents to leave their homes for essential items. With the plea to “stay home” and supermarkets having long lines with limited customers allowed at a time, more and more have opted to buy online but given add-on delivery fees, community markets have become the better alternative.

Subdivisions cafes, restaurants, grocery stores are now offering take-out, pick-up and delivery options and condominium residents found a business outlet right in their own buildings selling various stuff to fellow condo dwellers.

Our village is a fine example of this community economic bubble. We are a community with a little over 130 households and yet the range of offerings is just so interestingly good: from fruits & vegetables; to seafoods and packed dishes; cookies, breads, ice cream and home-cooked snacks – the entrepreneurial juices of the neighbourhood really came out during this pandemic. There are even medicines and PPEs as well as medical tele-consult with neighbour doctors offering their professional services so there is no need to go to over-capacity hospitals. It gave all of us a sense of security knowing that we have doctors a few minutes away.

And the best thing? We got to know each other! It took the pandemic to get our homeowners association to finally get organised after years of failed attempts. Since it was lockdown, homeowners were forced to be home so we got quorums during our general assemblies and with almost all stuck at home, we realised what needs to be done in our village and everyone became more engaged in village concerns.

Out of the crisis, another amazing thing happened…we gained new friends in the neighbourhood and what used to be just a wave and hi-hello became getting-to-know conversations and for the first time in almost a decade of living in the village, we were invited in our neighbors’ homes and we invited them to ours. That’s what I call a silver lining!

Easy breezy Baguio

This City of Pines is a place of retreat from the hustle-bustle of the busy city and is simply the kind of respite we crave from time to time. With an estimated 2.5 million Benguet pine trees surrounding the city and the uphill and downhill terrain and panoramic view of houses on the hills as well as foggy mountains, Baguio is definitely a wonderful escape I consider one of my happy places.

Apartments and staycation places abound with price range to choose from and for people like me who travel to places to relax and be refreshed there are lots of choices. I go for homey apartments with a view of either the pine trees or the mountains in quiet neighbourhoods and our recent trip is certainly one choice I am happy to have made especially with its tasteful interiors and thoughtful amenities and very attentive caretakers .

Coffee Shops and cafes are staples in our agenda and we search for nice ones with good reviews. For our family trip this time, we were quite satisfied with our choices and the cold December weather added to the thrill.

A visit to Camp John Hay is another must. With a large concentration of pine trees in the area, one can easily fall in love with the place. Early this year (before the stricter travel measures due to the pandemic was imposed), we had the chance to participate in the Baguio Marathon which started and ended in Camp John Hay. I did half marathon and the downhill and uphill route was certainly not for the faint of heart. The route went all the way to the Lion’s Head along Kennon Road and just when the finish line is already in sight, you have to run another kilometre uphill with your legs almost giving up.

Another must-visit is the Bencab Museum. The display of contemporary artworks in this museum is wide and the museum itself with its modern and clean design is lovely. National Artist Benedicto Reyes Cabrera’s (Bencab) works are beautiful. He is indeed one source of Filipino pride. Read more about his works and profile:

Due to its idyllic weather, fruits are abundant and the Baguio market is a feast of various produce from the province. For coffee drinkers, Benguet coffee is synonymous to great coffee. In fact, an Atok-grown coffee emerged as the grand champion in the 3rd Philippine Coffee Competition held in March 2018. Oliver Oliem’s Arabica coffee entry won 1st place while 2 other Benguet Arabica coffee entries also won 3rd and 5th place among 700 entries. Atok coffee was described as a blend with flavour characteristics of apricot, lemongrass, pomelo, oolong Tea and the aroma of a rose. The National Barista Champion 2020 Adrian Vocalan also used coffee from Itogon, Benguet. No wonder there was a queue in the Fresh Roast shop at the Baguio marketplace where you can get Benguet premium and flavoured coffees. Read more:

For sure, Baguio will always be one of my favourite places in the country and I am just so happy to note of Baguio’s Re-greening Masterplan which includes a tree-cutting moratorium. It is my hope that House Bill No. 7090 seeking for 10-year moratorium on tree cutting in the city (by Baguio Congressman Mark Go) last July 13, 2020 will be passed to reinforce the 5-year tree-cutting moratorium imposed in residential, business and public areas in the city.

With the newly opened NLEX-SLEX Connector which is expected to cut down travel time from Metro Manila and is set to be fully operational by January 14, 2020, Baguio will certainly be more attractive to people like me who just want to be away and experience easy breezy Baguio.