The story of waling-waling

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By Luci Lizares

Winners

Friday, August 22, 2014


MY MOM was a lover of flowers. When the orchid boom came, she was one of the frontliners of the growers and lovers. Our home was like paradise. In every nook and corner, there were orchids.

She had a collection of all varieties. Mom was a homebody and dedicated her leisure time to her garden-hands on. She would study the perfect spot where this variety should be situated. Some orchids do not thrive in too much sun, so nets were set up in specific spots without destroying the overall aura of the landscape.

I remember that whenever she would fly to Cebu, there was always the prior arrangement to get permits for the orchids she would bring. Then on her return flight to Bacolod, the same ritual ensued.

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Now that she is gone, her orchids went with her. Since I am low maintenance, my garden is a sea of greens with spurts of blooms.

Thoughts of my mom come alive with the ongoing 12th Waling-Waling Festival at Robinsons Place Bacolod. The waling-waling was her treasured possession. She did not have it abundance then as they were scarce and pricey.

So what is the story of the waling-waling? It was in the rainforest of the foothills of Mt. Apo that Carl Roebelin, a famous German Botanist of his time, scanned the canopies to hunt for rare specimens of orchids and tropical plants. He was sent by the British firm, Sanders & Sons, famous exporter of orchids and plants worldwide, especially of the Vanda family.

The company knew that the most beautiful specimen of orchids and tropical flowering plants can be found in the cooler regions of Mindanao.

With patience and perseverance for almost a year, Roebelin camped in the swamps, weathered the heat interspersed with the monsoon rains, blood-sucking leeches and even the deadly malaria. Eventually, he found the orchid of all orchids perched high up in the ancient trees. Her magnificent beauty had been woven into tales and legends and songs by the Diangan-Bagobos, the soft-spoken and docile natives of the place.

The natives called the legendary air plant waring-waring, which meant "beautiful goddess." The Diangans who lived around the foothills of the great mountain also called it Diwatang Madayaw, which meant "beautiful lady from heaven."

It was in August 1880 that the legendary beauty was discovered. She was a magnificent cluster of blooms with exquisite petals of delicate details shimmering in the shades of vermilion and pink, cerise, magenta and lavender.

The plant was anchored at the topmost branch of an old kakawiti tree with dark green leathery leaves spread fanlike as spokes of a half wheel.

Like a conquistador coming home with a rare treasure, Roebelin took the blooming specimen to England. In the nursery of Sanders & Sons, the orchid drew hundreds and hundreds of collectors, who raved over the magnificence of its flowers.

The orchid was officially named Vanda Sanderiana reichb after the firm responsible for its discovery and the scientist who identified and classified it without any tribute to Carl Roebelin, its discoverer.

The waling-waling is endemic to Davao, especially in the foothills of Mt. Apo. This is the domain of the queen of the vandas.

The Diangan-Bagobos with creative and poetic tongues have woven the legend of the waling-waling. The beautiful goddess, the diwata of Mt. Apo "Waring-Waring" through a tale of love that blooms beyond time and space transformed herself into a magnificent orchid.

I was listening to Ana Mercedes "Aming" Gatuslao, the president of the Negros Occidental Orchid Society (NOOS), and she said that as our forests are rapidly being ravished, along with the killing of the environment comes the disappearance of these treasured flowers.

The NOOS endeavors to keep these treasures alive and in abundance in the gardens and homes of lovers and collectors before its total annihilation in its habitat.

My congratulations to the Orchid Society! So many have expressed their delight in the exhibit!

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 23, 2014.

Lifestyle

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