19th century book on Philippine flora published again

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Philippine soil has always been rich in flora, playing a significant purpose in society for their medicinal and ornamental value. 

In 1837, a Spanish Augustinian friar took on the task of unraveling the beauty and use of these plants through his interactions with Filipinos and their native communities.

Reverend Manuel Blanco selected and compiled roughly 150 Philippine plants and arranged them according to their common names, along with their official scientific and Latin names in a book entitled Flora de Filipinas.  

Blanco’s botanical research has been widely read and appreciated for exhibiting the beauty and variety of Philippine flora, through illustrations made by Spanish as well as Filipino artists. Flora de Filipinas was not just simply a reference text, but a valuable landmark of Philippine culture as well. 

Inspired by this enduring legacy, Vibal Foundation has republished the 180-year-old Flora de Filipinas in partnership with Instituto Cervantes de Manila. 

Dr. Domingo A. Madulid spearheaded the editing and translation into the English language of the book’s fifth edition, whose launch was recently held at Ayala Tower One in Makati City during the celebration of International Book Day. 

 Vibal Foundation executive director Gaspar Vibal and editor and translator Dr. Domingo Madulid

“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 at the event. 

Flora de Filipinas gives valuable insight as to how plants were 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,” added Vibal.

Madulid thanked Vibal Foundation and Instituto Cervantes for their interest and support toward the project. “They brought me the idea of writing this fifth 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,” he said. 

Madulid was a recipient of the National Book Awards and authored several important books on Philippine flora, such as A Pictorial Cyclopedia of Philippine Ornamental Plants, A Dictionary of Philippine Plant Names (Volumes I and II), and A Bibliography on Biodiversity Research in the Philippines. 

According to Vibal, Flora de Filipinas also hopes to revive the rich Hispanic-Filipino culture and to 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. 

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