Instead of replacing “sampaguita” (jasminum sambac) as the country’s national flower, why not have a second one?
National Museum of the Philippines Director Jeremy Barnes said “there’s no real obligation” to have just one national flower per country. He had earlier expressed reluctance over replacing “sampaguita” as the Philippines’ national flower.
During the hearing of the House Committee on Basic Education, Arts, and Culture on House Bill No. 4952 declaring “Waling-Waling as the National Orchid of the Philippines on Wednesday,” Barnes said rather than replacing sampaguita, it would be “nice” to have a second national flower, citing Indonesia and Singapore as examples.
“The more, the merrier…We [can] highlight orchids because they are special in the Philippine biodiversity, so maybe they do merit highlighting as a family of species within flowering plants in general,” Barnes told the committee chaired by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian.
Barnes also said that the sampaguita, which he described as a “cultural icon,” cannot be replaced just by the basis of biological considerations.
In 2012, a bill declaring the orchid a national flower was filed in the House of Representatives. However, the bill was vetoed by former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, stating that changing the national flower might cause confusion among Filipinos.
Gatchalian said “Waling-waling” seemed to be a heavier candidate for national flower as it is “endemic and it also represents a lot of the qualities” of the Filipino people.
He also said the sampaguita is “tied up” to the country’s “colonial past,” since it was declared as the national flower during the American regime in 1934 by then-Governor Frank Murphy.
Barnes, however, pointed out that it was “quite clear” that Murphy took the advice of a Filipino expert in choosing the national flower.
In the said proclamation, Barnes said it was stated that the sampaguita was chosen for its “popularity, ornamental value, fragrance, and the role it played in the legends and traditions of the Filipino people.”
Barnes also said that the sampaguita was selected because of its “ubiquity and cultural value,” which the National Museum also pays “heavy attention to.”
The National Museum director also said he also doesn’t believe that the sampaguita’s selection was “colonially laden.”
Barnes acknowledges the importance of the Waling-waling since it’s one of the most loved orchids in the world.
“It’s something which Filipinos should be proud of because it originates in Mindanao, in various parts, particularly in the Davao region,” he said.