These native orchids, in full bloom at the Manila Hotel

Published June 21, 2022, 9:15 PM

by AA Patawaran

WORLD’S BIGGEST ORCHID – Manila Hotel’s style director Rachy Cuna, the floral architect of the Philippines, inspects the Grammatophyllum wallisii in full bloom. A species endemic to the Philippines, it belongs to the orchid family considered the biggest in the world. These orchids are on display at the lobby of the historic hotel (Jeffrey Lim)

Gracing the lobby of the historic Manila Hotel for the pleasure of its guests this rainy season is the Grammatophyllum wallisii, a giant orchid species endemic to the Philippines. It is in full display the size of an installation art.

Uniquely found in southern Luzon and Mindanao, it does not occur naturally anywhere else in the world. It is often mistaken for its Asian cousins, the spotted greenish yellow Grammatophyllum speciosum and the Grammatophyllum papuanum, but the similarities end with the physical attributes of cane growth and the generous spots on its blooms.

Rachy Cuna, style director of the Manila Hotel and Floral Architect of the Philippines, is very proud to have the Grammatophyllum wallisii in full bloom as the centerpiece of the lobby.

“As you know, the Manila Hotel is a showcase of everything Filipino—arts, culture, heritage, even floriculture, so these beautiful orchids are right at home,” beams Cuna. “It’s a breath of fresh air, especially as its flowering season depends on so many variables, like the maturity of the plant, often triggered by the rain season.”

This native beauty from a private orchid collection, distinctly Filipino for its ivory white base in its 10-centimeter full form, its flowers overlaid profusely with maroon spots and a ruby-red labellum edged in pink, as well as its robust two-meter-tall erect flower spike, is testament to the Philippines as home to many unique species of nature.

Like the Manila Hotel, as American writer Ernest Hemingway once said of the 109-year-old hotel, Grammatophyllum wallisii is a good Filipino story on its own.