With the goal of pushing forward with its vision and plans for 2021, the Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF) organized its final Umpukan iteration for the year.

This Umpukan titled “Umpukan sa Nayon: Greening Our Cities,” aimed to seek concrete solutions on how NPF can transform the NPF Property in New Seaside Road and Diokno Boulevard in Parañaque City into an urban park—a platform for citizen-led biodiversity conservation and restoration.

This Umpukan also expressed NPF’s support to the Generation Restoration campaign of the United Nations Decade of Ecosystem Restoration from 2021-2030. Also championed by our partner Philippine Parks & Biodiversity (PPB), this campaign includes restoring ecosystems in urban cities in order to achieve biodiversity targets. PPB co-founder Marinella Lomotan facilitated the discussion.

Held last December 5, 2020 via Zoom, NPF’s Umpukan sa Nayon invited experts and specialists in environmental sciences and biodiversity to impart their expertise and recommendations on the concrete strategies NPF can apply in order to begin creating a green creative hub. “This [park] shall be our dream and legacy, but we want our dream to be science-based,” explained NPF Deputy Executive Director for Operations Dr. Laya Boquiren-Gonzales.

The importance of collaboration was emphasized by NPF Executive Director Atty. Lucille Karen E. Malilong-Isberto in her welcoming remarks. Acknowledging that the pandemic has given the foundation more time to further refine its plans for the property, she believes that with the help of experts from different fields and the support of the public, it is possible to finish the interim park by 2021.

Each speaker presented their recommendations on the type of layout and features for the park as well as an extensive list of the flora and fauna that can thrive in the area.

Head of Corporate Social Responsibility of the Energy Development Corporation’s Binhi program, Atty. Allan Barcena’s main suggestion is to set up an Arboretum or tree park on NPF’s property. He enumerated the different features that make up an Arboretum. This includes a site development plan—a map that lists down the types of trees planted and their descriptions, an entrance marker, and a solid path walk. Atty. Barcena also explained that as part of Binhi’s arrangement with their partners, they provide seedlings composed of their identified priority threatened species.

He then went on to explain that planting the trees is only the first step. “We don’t just engage in planting but more importantly, protection and maintenance is a big part of our tree growing projects,” said Atty. Barcena.

Following through with the discussion on the use of trees native to the area, Prof. Pastor “Pat” Malabrigo from the Department of Forest Biological Sciences in the University of the Philippines Los Baños, brought up the adoption of the City Biodiversity Index (CBI). The CBI is a self-assessment tool designed to help cities better understand how they can improve their biodiversity conservation efforts over time. He explained how it consists of 23 indicators that measure the city’s native biodiversity, the ecosystem services it provides, and its governance and management. Prof. Malabrigo stated how this index gives importance to the use of native biodiversity.

“By using this as a guide, we can prevent the unintended possibility of contributing to the bioinvasion problem,” Prof. Malabrigo explained. “The biggest culprits for the bioinvasion problem we are facing now are the landscapers…[who] become interested and in love with acquiring plants they do not know well.”

He then proceeded to provide examples of invasive exotic species such as the water hyacinths that invade our rivers and other bodies of water, the Coronitas that dominate our forests appearing as vines on tree canopies, and the sky flower that has the ability to cover entire trees, preventing it from performing photosynthesis and eventually killing it. In contrast to this, he then provided a list of plants and flowers local to the Philippines that NPF can use.

Prof. Malabrigo ended his presentation by highlighting that “every exotic species in landscaping has the native equivalent. We only need to be aware of our diverse plant resources.”

Moving forward, Dr. Annadel Cabanban from Wetlands International-Philippines, discussed the importance of wetlands. She explained that the loss of wetlands due to urbanization has increased the country’s susceptibility to flooding and climate insecurity. In response to this, one of the programs her organization is spearheading is to integrate wetlands in urban planning and decision-making for resilience building. Dr. Cabanban commended the design of Landscape Architecture student Karina See submitted as a course requirement at the University of the Philippines Diliman. She explained that out of the designs proposed, this particular layout caught her attention primarily because of the presence of a wetland and the integration of the nearby river. According to her, this can provide an opportunity to learn about the importance of rivers and what is needed to be done to improve the state of riverbanks in order to prevent flooding.

To further shed light on the area that the planned cultural park is located in, Dr. Jurgenne Primavera provided insights on the natural beach forest location of the land. Establishing first the definition of a beach forest as “anything above the high tide”, Dr. Primavera then showed photos and examples of the varying tree and plant species that can thrive in that type of area. According to her, there are a total of 156 native beach forest species, with 80 of those being trees.

Dr. Primavera suggested NPF to plant the Bangkal tree along the riverbanks of the property. “The important part about this tree species is that it is resistant to waterlogging,” she explained as she showed photos of this type of tree standing firm after the incident of the recent typhoon Ulysses.

She cited more examples of beach forest plants that the foundation can incorporate such as native bushes along the pathways of the park and also recommended planting legacy trees or trees that bear historical and cultural significance to the Philippines. Examples of this are the Molave tree and the Dangcalan tree. Dr. Primavera echoed the earlier sentiments of Atty. Barcena that follow through and consistency is important in maintaining and preserving these species.

“A lot of us have been in lockdown for months, and we are really starting to feel the ‘quarantine fatigue’ [so I think] it’s really good to have tree parks…particularly in Metro Manila,” Atty. Barcena said when asked if parks are still relevant in a post-COVID time. “It has been scientifically proven that spending time with nature particularly with the trees can help not only boost our immune system but also our emotional well-being.”

Dr. Cabanban supported this by exclaiming, “Ang mga parks ay importante kahit walang pandemic.”

The Umpukan closed with the issue of sustainability being raised, with Atty. Malilong asking how public parks are funded and maintained and how to ensure constant public support and demand for such projects. Going back to her initial emphasis on collaboration, she hopes that this Umpukan is only the start of a continuous partnership with the invited resource speakers and their respective organizations.

“I find it really necessary to listen to scientists,” concluded Dr. Boquiren. “So that the design of Urban Parks will integrate aesthetics, science, and human well-being. We do not want to make expensive mistakes because it will be unfair to the Filipino public.”

The Umpukan sa Nayon is only one of NPF’s solutions-building activities. The foundation wants to further sustain conversations and is looking forward to the public’s support for its future plans for the property in Parañaque.

Umpukan sa Nayon was designed as a series of multi-sectoral consultations for the development of programs for the future NPF Cultural Park and Creative Hub. Learn more.