The Philippine terrain has always been rich in floras that, throughout history, have played a significant purpose in society for their medicinal and ornamental value. In 1837, a Spanish Augustinian friar has taken on the task of unravelling the beauty and usage of these plants through his interactions with Filipinos and their native communities.
Father Manuel Blanco selected and compiled roughly 150 Philippine floras and arranged them according to their common names, along with their official scientific and Latin names in a book dubbed, “Flora de Filipinas.”
Father Blanco’s botanical research has been widely read and appreciated for exhibiting the beauty and variety of Philippine flora, as the book also featured illustrations of the plants made by Spanish and Filipino artists. “Flora de Filipinas” was not just simply a reference text, but a valuable landmark of Philippine culture as well.
This is the inspiration of Vibal Foundation for republishing the 180-year-old “Flora de Filipinas” in partnership with Instituto Cervantes de Manila. Eminent botanical expert Dr. Domingo A. Madulid spearheaded the editing and translation into the English language of the book’s 5th edition, whose launch was recently held at Ayala Tower One during the International Book Day celebration.
“Although this book has been widely talked about, the vicissitude of time has not been kind in keeping this relevant work continuously in print. Hence, Vibal Foundation slated this work early on as one of its long-awaited publications under the Filipiniana classical series,” explained Gaspar A. Vibal, Executive Director of Vibal Foundation during his welcome message.
“Flora de Filipinas” gives insight as to how plants are commonly used in 19th century Philippines. It also includes folklore and historical notes showing the cultural context of each plant beyond taxonomic and practical interests.
“We fervently hope that with this new edition, Father Manuel Blanco will continue to demonstrate how he valued the welfare of the Filipino people and deeply respected our intimate and age-old relationship with nature and the regenerative power of plants,” said Vibal.
Its editor and translator, Dr. Domingo A. Madulid, thanked Vibal Foundation and Instituto Cervantes for their interest and support for the project. “They bought me the idea of writing this 5th edition. This new format is an easier read for today’s generation and affordable to the general public. We hope people will treasure and enjoy reading this book – a magnificent work of art,” said Madulid.
“Flora de Filipinas” hopes to revive the Hispanic-Filipino culture and keep it relevant through the times. The book also contains scans of the original botanical plates and shares the inspirational story of 18th century Spanish botanist Juan de Cuellar, who conceived the first botanical garden in Manila.