Waling Waling
(Vanda sanderiana)

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The Philippines is home to more than a thousand species of orchids. These species are known for their exotic beauty. But the rarest and most beautiful of them all is Waling-Waling. In fact, Waling-Waling is so rare today that it is presumed to be nearing its extinction.

Waling-Waling or Vanda sanderiana, is described as the "Queen of Philippine Orchids". One of the largest species in the world, waling-waling was discovered by German Taxonomist Heinrich Gustav Reicheinback in Mindanao in 1882. Since then, it has become the most sought-after flower in Mindanao. The discovery of Waling-Waling has influenced another thousand colorful and attractive vandaceous hybrids that are now part of the world's multibillion-dollar orchid and cutflower industry.

Waling-Waling is famous for its large and colorful hybrids. It grows on tree trunks in the rainforests of Davao, Sultan Kudarat and other parts of Mindanao. It blooms only once a year, between July and October. However, the continuous plunder of this prized specimen has brought it to near extinction.

The massive deforestation in Mindanao threatens the region's wildlife, including Waling-Waling which used to abound in the tropical forest of Mount Apo and its surrounding areas. Today, it is believed that Waling-Waling has more species abroad, particularly in Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong and Hawaii.

Of the 8,000 flowering plants in the world, about 3,500 are endemic or found only in the Philippines. Human activities, however, pose a great threat to their existence. Experts claim that the country's forest cover has been destroyed at a rate of 2.5 percent annually during the last 20 years. This is three times the world average rate of forest devastation.

In 1972, the country had about 10.4 million hectares of natural forests covering 34 percent of the country's total land area of 30 million hectares. Only 17 years later, this had been reduced to 6.16 million hectares or only 20.52 percent of the total land area.

The plunder of Philippine wildlife continues in spite of a law that is meant to protect the native flora in the country. The Republic Act No. 3983 prescribes conditions under which wild flowers and plants may be collected, kept, sold, exported, and for other purposes. But environmentalists believe that it requires more than a law to preserve the remnants of the country's natural heritage. It requires the active support of the people.

Waling-Waling used to be found only in the Philippines.

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