In Basilan, ‘forever tulips’ symbol of war vs plastics | Inquirer News

In Basilan, ‘forever tulips’ symbol of war vs plastics

/ 05:02 AM March 05, 2023

Garcen of plastic tulips at the Lamitan City Ecological Park. STORY: In Basilan, ‘forever tulips’ symbol of war vs plastics

MAIN ATTRACTION | The garden of faux flowers is the central attraction of the Lamitan City Ecological Park which has become a favorite leisure getaway for locals since it opened in 2019. (Photo from the Lamitan City government)

LAMITAN CITY, Basilan, Philippines — Amid a landscape of trees and other greenery at Sitio Panansangan in Barangay Ubit, here is a colorful flower garden that has drawn thousands of visitors since it was opened to the public in September 2019.

The flowers are actually fashioned from discarded plastic bottles, which are nonbiodegradable, hence, each is dubbed the “forever tulip.”


To Basilan locals and outsiders alike, the rise of the 13-hectare ecological park, with the “forever tulip” garden as its main attraction, adds to the growing indications of the province’s departure from a conflict-torn past toward a revving momentum for progress.


In a recent visit, the Inquirer chanced upon couple Nanny and Ashra Manatad enjoying the sight of the plastic tulips. They said they planned to have their prenuptial photo shoot here.

“It’s beautiful here. We see plastics put to good use and we are also surrounded by fruit trees and real flowers,” said Ashra, a native of nearby Tuburan town.“We need parks like this, we need ideas like this, so our people will no longer need to travel to enjoy this kind of scenery,” Ashra added.

On social media, the garden has been “flexed” or promoted by influencers, vloggers and digital content creators, generating the curiosity and interest of netizens who promised to see for themselves the unique attraction.

Lamitan’s pride

Mayor Roderick Furigay said the ecological park had, indeed, become one of Lamitan’s sources of pride.

In the last two years, over 30,000 people had logged to have visited the park, mostly drawn into the Forever Tulip Garden which, with a Dutch windmill erected near it, has a European ambiance.

The park also features a museum promoting Yakan culture and history.


Visits to the park slowed down during the pandemic-induced community lockdowns in 2020 and 2021.

Engineer Raquel Hibionada, head of the local government’s General Service Office, recalled that the park was established in 2016 as part of Lamitan’s comprehensive waste disposal management program that sought to institutionalize garbage segregation at source to make it easy to identify the materials that can still be recycled or upcycled.

“Our nature here is still untapped and if we allow people to become irresponsible in their waste disposal, we might end up with bigger problems in the future,” Hibionada said.

Through its Brigada Basura program, the local government embarked on a massive information drive among households, commercial establishments, offices and schools across 45 villages to ensure that garbage segregation becomes a norm among the city’s 100,150 residents (2020 census), who generate about 8 tons of waste monthly.

Of the 13-ha area, which is located some 9 kilometers from the city center, 4 ha are devoted to solid waste management activities such as vermicomposting for collected agricultural and food waste, recovery of materials for recycling or upcycling, and containment of residual waste.

The rest of the park is planted with assorted fruit-bearing trees like miracle fruit, pomelo and guava, and a number of flowering plants.

“Nothing is wasted here,” Furigay said of how the facility processes the materials brought there.

Consumption habit

Ignacio Samihon, 53, a park worker assigned to handle residual waste and materials for upcycling, said that through a detailed analysis of trash that end up in the facility, “we noticed that we have been collecting more [plastic] bottles daily,” the big bulk of which are from bottled water.

Other collected plastic bottles were for vinegar, soy sauce and soda.

The trend had local officials worrying as city residents were not known as heavy consumers of bottled water because sources of water, especially from a host of springs, are available.

Inspired by what she saw in her travels abroad, the late former Mayor Rose Furigay decided to put into good use every plastic bottle collected while also vowing to keep locals constantly reminded of the need to change their consumption behavior, Samihon said.

This thinking shaped the Forever Tulip Garden initiative, with the former mayor, fondly called by locas as “Mayor Rose” and who led the local government from 2013 to 2022, intending it to continually drumbeat the long drawn-out war against single-use plastics.

The environmental campaigner Greenpeace ranks the country among the top plastic polluters throughout the world, a big contributor to the surging volume of plastic waste that ends up in the oceans.

When it was opened to the public in 2019, the circular garden had 26,877 flowers from discarded plastic bottles that were cut and painted purple, orange, ivory, yellow, blue, pink and red, and then each is attached to a bamboo stick to make it stand on the ground. At the center of the garden is a heart-shaped patch of red.

Footpaths are also made of plastic scraps that are shredded and mixed with cement, sand and gravel.

Visitors, who need not pay to enter the park, can rest on benches made of salvaged metal scraps.


When the garden was opened, Mayor Rose, issued a challenge to the people: “Let this be a reminder for all to be actively involved in the campaign against single-use plastic. Let us all be part of this campaign and say no to plastic now.”

She had hoped that the garden’s size would just stay that way.

But Hibionada revealed that three years since it was established, the garden had grown to almost 50,000 flowers, indicating an increasing use of plastic bottles in the city, and pointing to the need to work more to change people’s habits as consumers.

But local officials remain steadfast in continually giving life to Mayor Rose’s “Abante Lamitan, Atras Basura” battle cry, hopeful that in the longer run, through persistent campaigning, people will choose what is best for ecological sustainability.

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“Unless we do something about it, this garden will become the largest tulip garden in the country and will continue to do so in the next century,” reads a signage that greets every visitor to the seeming garden of conscience.


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