Manila Bulletin Publishing Corp



ON THE ROOFTOP of one of the condominiums in Poblacion, Makati is a lush garden that has been a special refuge for the building's residents especially during the pandemic. Little do they know that their little oasis in the city would not have been possible without the efforts of one of the building's maintenance staff. Rene Pajutro started the garden in 2009- the same year he started his job as a janitor- with permission from the building's management. The rooftop already had a few plants when he started the garden, but he continued to add to the collection, taking neardead plants thrown out by the building's residents and nursing them back to life. "It's kind of like adopting them," he says in Tagalog. Pajutro, who is part of the building's live-in staff, grew up on a farm in Mindoro where his parents grew rice and vegetables. He's carried his love for plants to his job in the city, and everyone in the building is lucky to be benefiting from it. RESCUED PLANTS The small rooftop, measuring maybe less than lOOsqm, is filled with plants in different kinds of containers, from big clay pots to paint buckets to planters made from mineral water bottles and lined with coal and wood scraps. Different kinds of orchids hang from the interior wall, which is lined with various ornamental shrubs. There is a roofed area, part of which has been used as a trellis for passion fruit vine. The walls are lined with plants that include begonias and snake plants, and there are also greens set in a central area so that visitors can walk around the garden and enjoy all the greenery. Pajutro doesn't know all the names of the plants he grows, but he rattles off the ones that he does: "Sepentina, turmeric, ginger, lychee, lemon, avocado, pineapple, atis, calamansi, grapes, bougainvillea." There are also small sampaloc trees, as well as a tall ornamental money tree. He's also managed to grow an apple tree from seed. "It's still tiny- about two years old," he says. There are also grapes, which, as of the interview, have fruited twice already. He prunes the grapes regularly to encourage the plants to flower. "If I know it's going to rain, I cover the flowers with plastic so they don't get wet and so they tum into berries," he says. COST-FREE FARMING PRACTICES When he knows that there is a storm coming, he lays all the big pots on their side to prevent the plants from getting damaged by the wind and rain. "It's a mess here when a storm is about to arrive," he says.