It was more than 10 years ago when Ed Manda, a good friend of then Bishop Carlito Cenzon, approached the city government of Baguio and presented the bamboo as an alternative solution to the erosions and denudation of parts of the city and Benguet at the heels of Typhoon Pepeng in 2009.
This was also presented as an alternative source of materials for construction. Bishop Cenzon was inspired and suggested to have a nursery at the seminary in Liteng because it would be the best example for erosion control apart from the other purposes of propagation and sharing for the other parishes of the Diocese.
After a decade, the Liteng nursery evolved into the bamboo sanctuary that is now a destination of Baguio visitors. The pandemic had allowed it to take its own course and direction. The pole bamboo or Phyllostachys aurea is the most prolific in the area for now. It used to be that this bamboo had versions in black, green, and gold.
At that time, these were planted in neat rows and the distinction remarkable, today they are still there but need some expansion. There were Buddha bamboo plants, Japanese bamboo, hedge bamboo, and other types that were introduced to the area. The Phyllostachys aurea, apart from being picturesque, easily adopted to the soil. Within four years, the network of roots and shoots wove into the ground and stopped the erosion that was eating away land from the hill on which St. Francis Xavier Seminary was built.
The bamboos were growing tall, and the photos taken at the site were slowly beginning to look like a place in Japan. By word of mouth, this nursery began to earn some reputation as visually amazing, and the caretaker hired by Manda took the initiative to use some of the poles as red railings to secure the perimeter of growing bamboos. This also helped to compliment the green backdrop. The caretaker expanded the walkway to cover more parts of the slope going downward. What used to be a clay path, now has some cement tiles to make the promenade through the site safer and undulating.
Recently, the harvested poles have been made into keepsakes like shot glasses, cups, and walking sticks. The walking sticks are ornately carved with tattoo designs and symbols that are also burned for the dark tinge. Like an honesty store, the basket for the payment is on the table for those who take interest in the items. In the initial plans, the mountain of bamboos could have provided the raw materials to convert into planks for furniture making or other products. These are also good for basket weaving and in the advanced technology of China be made into towels and clothing fabrics. There is also beer and bamboo shoots for edible by products. These and more are the promises that still have to be captured by the Filipino imagination beyond the admiration of its photographic properties.
In 2019, the upper portions of the property were added as part of the sanctuary, the bamboo seedlings were brought up to cover the balding portions of the land. After three years, the plants are slowly taking over the ridge but leaving a deck that gives some awesome view of another part of the city and the watershed. The number of visitors are easily accommodated because there is enough open space to share. There are some seats for those who want to rest before going back down to the parking area or back out to the entrance.
This provides a short stop for Baguio tourists. Those who like to walk through gardens will find this area interesting enough but definitely, there can be more bamboo to see and appreciate if the former plans were re-established.