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A green thumbs-up for Katrina

By JOANNE RAE M. RAMIREZ, The Philippine STAR Published Oct 19, 2020 5:00 pm

Katrina Ponce Enrile takes to heart lessons she learns every day from tending to her garden in Makati.

“Plants teach you to be patient. They teach you to be hopeful. They teach you humility,” says Katrina, president and CEO of Jaka Investments, president of Philcomsat Holdings Inc. and Philippine Overseas Telecommunications Corp. Of course, she is better known as the only daughter of former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and his wife Cristina.

An avowed plantita even before the craze swept over Metro Manila, with some society matrons going as far as to say, “Plants are the new bags,” Katrina has loved plants since she was a child. Asked if her father, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile’s love for plants is one of the secrets to his longevity, Katrina muses, “I don’t know if this helps in both my parents’ longevity, but maybe it does, who knows? I think it makes them happy and that’s what is important.” JPE is 96.

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Here are glimpses of my online chat with Katrina:

Joanne Rae Ramirez: When and how did your love for plants grow?

Katrina Ponce Enrile: My relationship with plants started when I was around five years old, I think, and I would visit my Lola Purita at the Ponce Enrile compound in Maysilo in Malabon and delight in her vast garden. My Lola Purita was an avid lover and expert in orchids and I just loved seeing all the different colors and varieties she had in her garden. She was known here in the Philippines as one of the pioneers in orchid culture.
So, when I used to go home after our trips to Maysilo, nakiuso naman ako! I used to make sure that I watered the plants together with our gardener.  I would time it to when I could hear the kuligligs coming out. That was my first ever experience, apart from taking out all the weeds from our Bermuda-grass lawn. 
Then, as I got more settled in my early 30s — 33 years old, to be exact, I started to buy Vandas and tried my hand at growing them.

In my garden now, I opted for a truly lush and jungle-looking vibe and did it all by myself by just buying and sourcing different plants and then eyeballing them if they looked “natural” enough for me. 

Do you just admire plants or do you actually garden?

I am pretty hands-on when it comes to my plants but I do have lots of help, given the space my garden now occupies. I admire plants, and although I am by no means an expert at it — I don’t even know their names — I am an enthusiast.  I go more for the look rather than how rare a plant is or how expensive it is. It’s more like I need to feel the energy of the plant, if I like it or not. Not just because it’s a fad now or it’s the “in” plant to have, but because I truly love it. Plus, I have been doing this way before this craze came along. We are a family known to love plants!

Why do you like gardening?

I love being in the garden as it has a grounding effect on me and it is a space you can create to give you your sense of solitude and feeling of peace. I love seeing new leaves come out, too. I am ecstatic when I am able to see new roots forming. 

The air seems a lot cleaner, too, when you have so many varieties of plant life around, so you tend to gravitate towards the outdoors more.

I have been doing this for years now but the lockdown definitely gave me more time to focus on my  garden and redesign parts of it. It is never-ending! As they say, it is a work in progress!
I started propagating the real easy plants, too. Like I said I am no expert but just a hobbyist. Gardening 101. 

What lessons about life do plants teach humans?

Plants need caring! If you can care for plants and animals, then to me that speaks volumes of you as a person. Plants teach you to be patient. They teach you to be hopeful. They teach you humility. They teach you how beautiful Mother Nature truly is if we only pay attention.

Are your parents into plants, too? Is that a secret of JPE’s longevity?

My dad knows so much about plants as he grew up in the jungles of Cagayan and he has always encouraged me to get my hands dirty and he actually has his own vegetable garden right next to his kitchen. My mom likes flowers and fruit trees.

What are your favorite plants?

I love them all actually, especially my orchids — when they are in full bloom and showing off or when I see little babies growing beside the mother plant. I love anthuriums, alocasias, begonias, philodendrons. I love those with small leaves, as well as those that have humongous ones; vining or trailing plants, bamboo and fern trees! They make my place look like a jungle! I noticed that I have more birds and butterflies and bees and other insects coming to visit me now. One day, I hope to see fireflies in my garden! That will make me so very happy! *