Plantitas and Plantitos Unite! Re-Cultivating a Sense of Awe and Wonder in Urban Philippines

In the new era of quarantine haircuts and dressing nicely only from the waist up for virtual meetings, there is another growing trend.

By Jasmine Kwong

As in much of the world, many city folks in the Philippines have been stuck inside their dwellings because of limited travel due to the coronavirus pandemic. With rare opportunities to visit the mountains, forests, and ocean, people have been desperate to get out of their homes and closer to nature.

So what happens when people are deprived of something they are craving? They seek alternative pathways.

Bringing Nature Into the Home

Since people could not travel to be in nature, they opted instead to bring nature into their homes.

Many Filipinos have turned to plants to help cope with the pandemic. Here comes the rise of a new crop of gardeners, affectionately known locally as plantitas and plantitos. A plantita or plantito  is a wordplay on the words plant + aunt or uncle (which is tita and tito in Tagalog), signifying that it is usually older people who are into gardening. But not anymore!

A New Wave of Gardeners in The Philippines

Joining those with existing vegetable gardens and/or already impressive collections of potted plants, a new wave of green gardeners has emerged. The reduced frequency of human contact and visits into nature have made even those least likely to care for plants more aware of the benefits of having plants in the home.

Over the past year, many Filipinos have been lining their window sills, balconies, and front porches with different assortments of seedlings and flowers. For some, it was out of necessity to feed their families that they began digging in the soil again. For others, cultivating plants wasa chance to interact with other living organisms and to be responsible for caring for them.

Gardening for Physical Health

Photo Credit: Jojie Wong Mayana Plant

Now, there is a growing community of plantitos and plantitas who are increasingly familiar with the Latin names and special features of different plant varieties. One of the pandemic favorites is called mayana – popular not only for its leaves, which come in different combinations of pink, green, red, purple, and yellow but also for its medicinal properties. For example, the leaves of this medicinal herb can be used to help with headaches, to serve as a disinfectant, and to reduce inflammation.

Gardening for Mental Health

Beyond the medicinal benefits for our bodies and the beautification of our homes, however, there are other reasons why caring for plants has been so enriching and life-giving. Instead of jet-setting to the next business meeting or vacation, many of us have had our horizons shrink and our world has been reduced; as a result, we have been encouraged to focus on what is right in front of us.

For many of us, this new outlook has meant paying attention to who is within and around our homes – our human companions, furry companions, and also our green ones. Most importantly, it has given us a chance to admire the creations of the Creator. In the midst of an ongoing global pandemic, many are finally tuning into the signs of life that surround us.

Gardening to Grow Closer to the Creator

Someone once said, “You cannot know what you do not see. You cannot love what you do not know.” Now while new gardeners are learning how to grow from seed and even how to prune and to propagate, they are simultaneously deepening their bond with the natural world and, thus, with the Creator.

Beneath the surface of caring for succulents, air plants, and vegetables, this pandemic may actually be helping us to re-cultivate a sense of awe and wonder of our Creator God through his creation. Maybe post-pandemic, plantitos and plantitas alike will emerge not only with more rootedness in the world of flora, but also with a deeper commitment to care for God’s creation.


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