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Venus Garden is honored and proud to be a partner of Ibagiw 2020’s Creative and Nature Crawls, happening all weekends this November. More so because Venus Garden was once a dumpsite. Venus Garden is a story of transformation, from a humble space that dreamt of becoming a beautiful and happy place.
Five years ago, I begged the owners of our small village in Baguio, in Gulf View Horizon, Suello to turn-over to my care, an unsightly dumping ground for trash, fronting our then newly-built home. The first task was to haul truckloads of garbage and uncover the lay of the land. It was a very deep ravine, with several sinkholes, not uncommon in Baguio’s topography. The local stone crafters, experts in mountain and ravine contouring, fashioned two distinct spaces bordered by hardy stone fences (kabite).
We filled the higher portion with enough soil to plant 5-foot tall pine trees and some odds and ends, leftover from landscaping our home. We erected an Ifugao house, using hard wood recycled from old houses. Today, the pine trees are more than 20 -foot tall, giving the place a semblance of a mini-forest, a small park in the middle of a small village. It is a living proof-of-concept that successfully greening a space starts by planting established saplings ensuring a high survival rate. It inspired me to start an advocacy of gifting 3-5 year old pine trees to friends in Baguio, co-parenting them, binding us for years to come. My hope is to grow into maturity 1,000 trees around Baguio, a modest objective that will contribute to restoring Baguio’s green and clean environment.
When the lockdown was lifted in June and with our company’s policy of 100% work-from-home, we decided to be based in Baguio. Joining the global interest for planting as an outcome of this pandemic, I started the second, more ambitious transformation of Venus Garden – creating more usable spaces and converting the ravine section into a garden.
We planted Podocarpus around its borders so in the future, they will grow into a green privacy hedge for the garden. On the mid and upper levels, we created more terraces and planted them with grass. A picnic area was fashioned where the children can freely roll in the grass and enjoy eating outdoors. Stepping stones were installed where one can walk and muse. A few benches were positioned strategically so one can read quietly, listen to the birds, watch the butterflies, enjoy morning coffee. A vertical garden on one side was created complimenting a rock garden with locally-sourced stones.
The last phase was to develop the deepest and most challenging section of the ravine where several sink holes are located. We fortified the sinkholes to protect them from soil erosion, access steps were laid down and using the existing rock formation, we installed a water feature that produces a soothing, gurgling sound. Inspired by a chunk of rock shaped like a cow’s head, animal-shaped topiaries were strategically planted, delighting both children and adults. Flowering plants now dot the slopes. We created a Dap-ay, the traditional, circle-shaped ceremonial space made of stones where Igorot men would decide on village issues. In the center is a bonfire pit, for keeping warm on cold, clear nights.
This project has kept me busy and happy. But more importantly, creating this garden allowed us to help many people – providing them work, buying fertile soil from the horse owners of Mines View, sourcing planting materials from Baguio and Benguet plant farmers, all affected by this pandemic.
With no grand plan or design and dictated by existing shapes in the property, Venus Garden continues to evolve. Aided by long-established local methods for creating garden spaces and using very little cement, I constantly move plants, create new points of interest, install art works. It is unlike any other garden – it is an on-going personal creative project meant to make me, its chief gardener happy.
I am now sharing this personal space, opening it to the public, hoping that others will be inspired to create their own gardens, their sanctuary, their own beautiful, happy place that perhaps they can share with others, too, especially during this pandemic when one needs to spend more time in open spaces, breathe freely and allow nature to heal us.
Visit Venus Garden as part of the Ditop Creative and Nature Crawl that includes BenCab Museum and Mirador Jesuit Villa Retreat House. To join Ibagiw 2020 Creative and Nature Crawls, contact Agetyeng Travel and Tours at (074) 4222335 or 09988537155 and Esgala Travel and Tours at (074) 4222335 or 09209517972 to book
(Ed note: Venus Navalta, who is pitching in for this weekly column, purposely to make the Baguio community well-geared to breathe in nature, breathe in art, and breathe in culture. It’s a welcome privilege to have a communications icon like her, whose credentials are second to none in terms of expertise and experience, give worthy insights into Ibagiw)