Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Florentino’s Eco Park in Balamban, an artist’s paradise

THE Transcentral Highway, from Cebu City to the town of Balamban, is a scenic drive where one can enjoy fresh mountain air and lush green scenery. The road leads one to Barangay Gaas, Balamban, where award-winning visual artist Jun Impas has converted his 1.5 hectare property into an eco park—Florentino’s, its given name.

A hillside property, some 3,000 feet above sea level, Florentino’s gives one a panoramic view of west Cebu with its undulating mountains and hills, and beyond them, a glimpse of the sea and the island of Negros. Jun has planted the hillside with flowering and non-flowering plants whose names he does not even know, except perhaps for a gumamela with brilliant salmon orange blooms. He said he is an artist, and he did not want a structured garden. So he would buy a batch of plants available in the transcentral roadside, asking the stall owner if the plants he was buying would bear flowers or not. Then by batches, he would plant them without thought of making any planned formal garden. The plants have thrived, not even needing watering because the morning dew is enough watering for them. And so the garden is as he wanted it to be: like an artist’s palette with random splashes of color.

Jun built a lookout point—with parking space—for visitors to enjoy the view or have some refreshments. Food here, according to Jun, “is basic” just like grilled meats, junk food and sodas. And because his artist friends would occasionally want to stay the night, he built a couple of rooms for his overnight guests.

For visitors to enjoy the place, he has laid out foot paths that meander around the hillside toward the bottom of the hill. There are rest stops, a small playground with a slide, and a fishpond. The garden ends at the bottom of the hill and this is where Jun’s orchard begins, with fruit trees like jackfruit, dwarf coconuts, lanzones, mangosteen, avocado, marang, guyabano, macopa, tambis and caimito.

The place is beautiful as is but the artist in Jun is not content. With such a beautiful place, his artistic spirit must have its own space. Expect the place soon to be not just an eco park but an artist’s paradise!


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