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
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
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.