November 15, 2004 (STAR) SUCCULENTOPHILE By Kevin G. Belmonte - It’s been a while since I last wrote something in this space, so I’m glad to be back. Before getting on with the topic at hand, I’d like to say a few things about Josie Cura’s article on stamp collecting and the recently held national philatelic exhibition at the main Post Office in Manila. Over the last week, I’ve had a couple of readers come up to me asking why I featured stamp collecting in my succulent column. Well, my other passion is philately, where I specialize in birds. I also entered an exhibition entitled "An Overview of the World’s Avifauna" in the recently concluded national exhibition and was fortunate enough to garner a Vermeil Award for that entry, which in my book is a good showing for a first-time exhibition.

Mind you, this isn’t the first time I have competed in a national philatelic exhibition. Many moons ago, I used to compete in the Junior (under 18) category as well and also won a few top prizes back then. But the level of judging entries today, as well as the level of competition, has really gone up since those good old days. My entries back then would probably not even attain a bronze medal in today’s competitive landscape. A similar analogy for me is the badminton world. When I was a teenager, I actually was a Class B Doubles Champion at the venerable Club Filipino. I even represented Ateneo in varsity competition while at college there. But in today’s badminton-crazy world, where the level of competition has skyrocketed, I probably would be a Class C second-stringer at best. Oh well, one just has to adapt to this ever-changing world.

Every year, my family and I spend the November 1 holiday in Baguio. It’s a great time to be up in the mountains, with cool, crisp temperatures and very little rainfall. My kids have a blast there celebrating Halloween in the forests in Camp John Hay. And for me, there is nothing that compares to playing golf at John Hay, my favorite golf course, not just because of its beauty but also its clean pine air and wonderfully challenging holes. But if I somehow manage a good enough shot, there’s a chance I could be putting for birdie or even an eagle. This year was especially good, as I had three really nice eagle opportunities, on a par 3, 4 and 5. Unfortunately, I missed out on all three but did manage to convert two birdies. The last opportunity quickly degenerated into a horrible bogie with the tricky greens.

Anyway, my end-of-October trip to Baguio was especially timely because the Benguet State University (BSU) Orchidarium in La Trinidad was holding its garden anniversary. Each of the stall owners created magnificent landscapes fronting each of their stores. And selected plants were also entered in a competition to determine the best plants. The succulent sellers had beautiful landscaped gardens, as can be gleaned from the various photos. Some used only succulents in their garden art, while others mixed succulents and other garden plants to spice up their exhibits. Since my last feature on the Benguet succulent growers a few months ago, I have received numerous requests for contact information and even directions on how to get to the BSU Orchidarium. So across the rest of this article, you will find cell phone numbers and details for these highly successful succulent growers.

Getting back to the various landscapes, wonderful old specimens of notocactus, echeverias, euphorbias, pachypodiums, agaves and aloes were utilized to create many of these arid landscapes. I was particularly impressed with a beautiful clump of Notocactus magnificus, displayed with a nice-sized Pachypodium lamerei in the exhibit of Lolit Peredo. Lolit and her husband Jake are the proprietors of Jalopers Garden and can be reached at (0919) 446-1296.

In the individual plant category, Rebecca Buguelles’s monstrous-growing Mammillaria matudae won the top prize in the succulent category. The amazing clump had both normal-growing heads as well as monstrous, cristated heads, giving the specimen a beautiful but weird overall appearance. Rebecca and her mother, Letty Demis, are the owners of Jarlds Garden Cacti & Succulents, and can be reached at (0919) 674-9452.

My old friend Jane Daclis’s entry of a huge Notocactus leninghausii clump garnered third place. But I was really more impressed with one of Jane’s beautiful aloe specimens. This plant will be featured in my next article. Jane also had some nice agaves. Jane is the proprietor of Golden Spine Cactus. Her contact number is (0918) 518-7321.

In my last feature on the Benguet growers, I visited the cacti and succulent farm of Oltina Andizo along Km 22 on the Baguio-Bontoc highway. Oltina has wonderful specimens and beautiful Euphorbia millii (Crown-of-Thorns) hybrids which I presume came from Thailand, Japan and Korea. Oltina and her daughter, Amparo Apalla, are the owners of Karyzia Cacti & Succulents. Their contact number is (0920) 230-1623 and they also have an e-mail address:

Finally, two other excellent growers are Joyce Tiago, who runs CBS Cacti & Succulents, and Mercy Oracion. During this trip, I purchased some excellent and very large specimens of Gymnocalycium species from Joyce. Her contact number is (0918) 632-2940. Mercy’s is (0921) 243-0292.

I spent a most memorable, sunny morning with the BSU succulent growers and, in the process, learned quite a few more tricks and techniques for raising these plant treasures. In my next column, I will discuss these techniques and highlight some of the beautifully grown succulent specimens I encountered that day.

* * * E-mail the author at

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved