Article by Joi Muñoz
Illustration by Liana Libongo
Published 2020 October 14
Nowadays, in the search of new hobbies and healthier lifestyles, gardening and “plant parenting” has become a worldwide trend, as it is said to provide peace of mind during these trying times. The Atenean community is no exemption from this, and as a result, the Ateneo BOx and the Ateneo Environmental Science Society (AESS) joined together to aid the rise of the gardening hobby by co-hosting the Leafin’ a Good Life: How to Be a Better Plant Parent Workshop, held last October 3, 2020 via Zoom.
Hosting the event was Mir Kim, a BS Biology major and an active member of both BOx and AESS. Mir warmly welcomed the participants, and mentioned that their goal for the day was to remind them about the importance of the little things done at home, and that they are there to coexist with the environment and all other non-human living things.
Mir then introduced the first speaker, Mr. Jose Diego Roxas, a graduate of BS Agricultural Biotechnology from University of the Philippines Los Baños and a licensed agriculturist working at the Bureau of Plant Industry. He took the spotlight with his talk, Journeying with Halamans: A Guide to Making Moments With Plants. He began with a short narration of his own plant parent journey, which started with a humble mungbean, and his experiences as he grew his own garden.
“Even up to now, some plants die on me,” Mr. Roxas admitted. “It’s normal for a garden. So if you take care of a plant and it ends up dead, I don’t think you should be that upset because it’s pretty normal, even for seasoned growers of plants. It’s part of the learning process.”
He then moved to discuss making memories with plants, from doing research, to planning the purchase, to patiently waiting for these plants to grow. Giving good tips and starting points for the hobby, Mr. Roxas emphasized the importance of patience, and that learning to take care of plants teaches this virtue, as well as others that aid in one’s holistic development. He described growing plants as a hearty activity that not only teaches how to commune with nature, but also teaches how to connect with other people.
After Mr. Roxas’s talk, the participants joined a quick pop quiz on Slido, and had a short stretching session to wake up their body and mind. Mir then introduced the next speaker, Ms. Jemillie Madonna de Leon, a Botany professor at the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), to share her knowledge in her talk, Plant Appreciation 101: “Tree-suring” Plants in the Society and Environment.
Ms. de Leon explained the importance of plants in our environment such that, not only do they provide oxygen and other basic needs, but they also rejuvenate and detoxify the land. She mentioned that, while the world’s flora count is in the hundred thousands, many of these are considered at risk of extinction. Even the Philippines, though it holds two thirds of the earth’s biodiversity, its flora are faced with threats like habitat degradation, kaingin, pollution, and even invasive species.
However, she reassures the listeners that there have been conservation efforts made, like the government’s own Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB)’s initiative to make policies for pollution control and environment management, and the National Museum’s exhibit, The Flora of the Philippines, aids in conservation and research development. Even ADMU has made efforts itself, by making sustainability reports regarding endemic species inhabiting the campus, as well as managing Ateneo Wild, a page geared towards sharing the diverse wildlife in ADMU. These are only a few of the many efforts Ms. de Leon mentioned, and they were enough to know that despite the many challenges that the world’s flora face, there are things that everyone can do to help in the movement towards plant conservation.
After another quick pop quiz, Mir announced the beginning of the Q&A session. The participants submitted many of their questions through Slido, ranging from transplanting seedlings, to using chemical fertilizers, to the speakers’ favorite plants. These questions were happily received, ending the event with all the information that these AESS and BOx members need in order to be the best plant parents that they can be.
“This event was really beneficial for both orgs because we were able to practice our advocacies by instilling within the participants the significance of plants in our everyday lives and in the environment around us,” VP of Organization Strategies and Research Cait Camarao said, after having attended the workshop herself. “And what better way to help them with their newfound love for plants than by educating them with practical ways on how to start or nurture their plantito/plantita journey!”