Green Leafy City

Quezon City, the Philippines

May 8, 2010

This particular summer has been a scorcher; I’d give my front teeth for some cool and breezy respite in this microwave oven milieu. Now there’s the wisdom in having more of the jungle in concrete jungle.

Shade and the City: La Mesa Ecopark in Quezon City

Lucky me, I live in Quezon City, one of the leafier cities in not-so-tree-friendly Metro Manila. Less than 15 minutes from my house is a forest reserve called La Mesa Ecopark, tucked away behind a residential community and beside a landfill (of all places!). It is actually a large swathe of area around the La Mesa Watershed, the water source of the metropolis that this forest protects. This sylvan enclosure is covered by both city ordinance and a canopy of trees. I have not been there before even though it’s practically in my backyard.

There is an entrance fee of P50, less P10 if you can prove you’re a Quezon City resident. Practically peanuts, but it still feels like that Joni Mitchell classic where she bemoans having to pay a dollar and a half to see trees in a tree museum. “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got till it’s (almost) gone?”

Wooden Bench in the Woods: La Mesa Ecopark

Oh, Joni will quit kvetching here. The trees are lush and gigantic. They have eye-level ID tags, announcing both their common and scientific names (a nod to Joni’s tree museum?), but I have to cock my head 90 degrees to appreciate them in their entire splendor. Their tops loom overhead forming a capillary network of leaves and branches, a tenuous cover with a potent cooling effect. I can almost feel drafts of oxygen emanating from the trees if not for the breeze-less afternoon.

Hang your head down and you will still not miss nature’s glory in the undergrowth. A small roadside creek supports a whole ecosystem in itself. Ferns, grass, weeds, moss, and tiny insects just beg to be macro’d.

Fern, Golly!
Circle of Life

And of course, the common but beautiful Corazon de Maria stands out. It’s a kind of herb with distinct heart-shaped leaves. It grows just about anywhere so people don’t give it much thought, but this weed is unfailingly fascinating. Just how can a thing of such symmetry and cordate beauty randomly sprout in prosaic places like the roadside gutter?

Wearing Your Heart On Your Leaves: Corazon de Maria

All is not peaceful and quiet in the woods though. Other people always want to DO something in a place. I’m just content to BE in it. There is a flurry of activity at the swimming pools, zip line, paintball field, rappelling wall, and lagoons. Commerce can’t be far behind. There are bamboo huts and wooden stalls that sell everything from virgin coconut oil to native handicrafts.

Proudly Pinoy

Other bloggers would have tried any of those activities, but what do I do? I make a beeline for the flower terraces instead. It resembles a hillside but it is actually the dam wall, cloaked by a field of flowers with dancing colors. Cutting through the middle is a steep flight of steps flanked by pink-flowering shrubs that goes all the way up to the reservoir. The windless heat drenches me in sweat.

Stairway to La Mesa Dam
No Camera Taking: Only in La Mesa Watershed

Two rows of perimeter fences keep the reservoir out of reach. Even “camera taking” is strictly prohibited, go figure. On the way down, I succumb to flower power; I go fluttering in the sun-kissed field, hopping from one flower to the next like a jolly bee (good thing there are no real bees!). But also, I am wilting in the heat, amidst of all the blossoming.

Field Blanketed by Flowers: La Mesa Ecopark
The Colors of Crotons
Mamang Sorbetero (Ice Cream Vendor)

Even leaves can hold their own. A hedge of crotons can give any artist’s palette a run for its pastiche of colors. Blood reds, luminous yellows, and ink-blot patterns add drama to the veins and their ramifications on leaves such that they mimic floral pulchritude. Plants with monochromatic leaves, on the other hand, are planted en masse to form landscaping patterns. This artful use of plants has only been minimally employed in public spaces. Sadly, I think it’s because people here have a penchant for vandalizing and stealing public property. Plants will never stand a chance.

Cropped Circle
Leafy Lounge

The water features are actually green, color-coordinated with the rest of the forest. For extra fees, you can either go boating or fishing. I do neither. I just take in the soothing sights with both my naked eyes and Leica lens.

A Creek Runs Through It: La Mesa Ecopark
Little Boats Should Keep Near Shore: La Mesa Ecopark
Boats by the Berth: La Mesa Ecopark
Boating at La Mesa Ecopark

Space issues and the economics of real estate development notwithstanding, it is undeniably healthy to have greenbelts to hold any city together, especially since urban areas are where most people live. Trees and flowers allow urbanites to breathe and to think, not only under the stifling sun but also under the constrictive claws of concrete. I hope Quezon City will live up to its original plan as a green leafy city.

It’s Raining Roots
A Bevy of Bamboo
Green Jeepney at La Mesa Ecopark

50 thoughts on “Green Leafy City

Add yours

  1. Hah! so you managed to take a picture of that La Mesa Watershed sign! 🙂 Your blogs are very informative and entertaining and I always look forward to reading them.

    1. Oh well, putting up a sign that says “No camera taking” invites picture taking. 🙂 It’s a cousin of that “genuine fake watches” sign you took a photo of. Haha…

  2. Beautiful pictures I must say……the colours are so ……so colourful 😉 ……………I remember seeing the heart shaped plant in a garden near my school.

    1. The true colors of mother nature are shining through like a rainbow, apologies to Cyndi Lauper. 🙂 Thanks Nehha! It seems India and the Philippines share many things in common. First is my favorite bread, now my favorite weed! 🙂

  3. All those pictures cause a mixture of emotions….Love all the flower ones….would you believe that we have most of these flowers house-grown….
    Hahahaha…whenever I see the “no camera’ sign I feel tempted to take a picture….;)))
    The ‘proudly Pinoy’ looks mighty proud..;))))….and then there comes this feeling of malancholy at the sight of the river with the leaves and then the boats…Thanks for stirring me-hehehe

    1. Wow, I wouldn’t have guessed we could grow the same flowers since we live in different latitudes. The resilience of a flower indeed!

      The river and boat scenes do look somber in the photos, but actually the place was ringing with echoes of children’s laughter and adult chatter from nearby picnic grounds.

  4. Beautiful photos of a beautiful Ecopark. I like the “river runs through it” photo the “Pinkaholic Steps” and the “Little Boats Should Keep Near Shore” the best. Your commentary on the park is terrific – I felt like I was right there with you!

    1. Again, your compliment never fails to give me a shot in the arm. You have always been encouraging of people’s work, despite your level of excellence in your field. Thank you Mari!

    1. @Clint: Cool herbal art, right?

      @PTJ: Alam na! Yeah, this post gives my header shot away! I bet Joni would, but she’d have to pay up cuz she’s not a QC resident. 😀

    1. I give credit where credit is due – the place is really photogenic. I don’t usually take photos like these ones, hehe.

  5. I’ve been to this place. Even blogged about it. Your post reminded me of everything that I did there. Yung “no camera and video taking” we almost the same shot. I think that signage was meant for people like us: me sign na nga nagpipicture pa din. Me hangin ba when you were there? I though the park was nice pero parang walang hangin.

    1. You know, you nailed it. The place was wonderful and all but it was punishingly hot. I just blamed it on summer in general, but looking back, it was also cuz there was no wind! There was no breeze to wipe the sweat away. It was soooooo humid!

  6. I Being grown up in the province, I am not expecting a nature reserve in a city especially on a city like Quezon City! Although I am aware that La Mesa exists, this one is inspiring because within a concrete jungle, I realized that there is still a room for the mother nature to dwell “if we will allow it”

    1. @Romelo: I think I just discovered the macro settings in my cam then. 🙂

      @Edmaration: You’re right on the money; it does depend on people. Singapore is a perfect example of a “green leafy city.” Trees are not only in nature reserves, but part of the cityscape.

  7. I recall visiting the place more than a year ago for a photoshoot but it didn’t push through. I hope the place would be as green as the pictures that you take ^_^

    1. @Karen: I’m hearin; ya. I had lived in QC for more than 25 years before I got to visit La Mesa. Go now! 🙂

      @Mark Pogi: I assure you, it’s as green (among other colors) as in the photos. It’s not just photoshop. 😀

  8. I was taken aback when I first read your blog for I mistook it to read as “Green Leafy Vegetables” It’s a green leafy city instead. I’m convinced now that everywhere you go and look around you can a leafy plants growing abundantly.

    1. @Violy: Don’t wanna burst your bubble. It may not all that relaxing, depending on the crowds. There was a lot of noise from the swimming pools. But at least the dam wall and the lagoon for boating were quite tranquil.

      @Gil: That was really the point. We associate green and leafy with veggies which are healthy. Our cities should be the same. 🙂

  9. I’ve never been to Eco Park but my lil sis who had been here for her field trip raved about the place. And with your lovely photos, I’m sold! I really need to visit Eco Park for myself soon.. 🙂

    1. @Dexter: I wonder how it looked before. My mom said that she and dad used to go there for picnics (wiener roasts) back in the late 50s. It was already a nature reserve, I guess.

      @Sumi: I still have a knack for sales! 🙂 But really, do go for a visit, preferably NOT on weekends or holidays. Baka crowded eh.

      @paliiits: Sorry naman. Di naman sinabing no picture taking eh. 😀

  10. This looks a vibrant promise of natural life and your photos provide a glimpse of these beautiful green park. I hope the people and visitors of the Ecopark would help not only preserve what’s left but develop sincere care for the all the lives that depend on it.

  11. I miss going to La Mesa Eco Park, na-try namin yung pizza diyan, just can’t remember the name right now. I wish there would be more places na maraming puno sa Kamaynilaan. We all need the greenery amidst the pollution around us.

    1. @Earlie: The ABS-CBN Foundation, Inc. (through Bantay Kalikasan) rehabilitated this park in 1999. I hope they continue to protect it from encroaching development and the nearby Payatas landfill.

      @Tadong Genius Kuno: Didn’t see a pizza place there. Maybe it was just a stall?

      @Kathy: Yup, it’s worth visiting.

    1. @Gemma: Wow, thanks for the carpet compliment! 🙂

      @Enzo: I’m sure it’s not always breeze-less. Maybe it was just the time of year. Our summers are generally like that. Visit the park in the cooler months then.

    1. Hi Blair! Perhaps it’s for security reasons. They don’t want any pictures of the dam that may be used in plotting attacks or mass poisoning. I took the photo of the sign, not the dam itself so I guess that’s fine.

  12. Nice you show a different approach on the pictures being taken at the La Mesa Eco park. I fell asleep here in your page looking at the photos ha ha ha!

  13. ito pala ang lamesa ecopark. I always here an informercial when I was younger about the dam and a certain foundation. I forgot the ad na. hehe. place looks nice!

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