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Green thoughts of Luisa Perez-Rubio's passion for gardens

Flower power: Maria Luisa Perez-Rubio shows off a glorious gumamela (hibiscus) at the last Makati Garden Club plant and garden sale.

MANILA, Philippines - About 1955, or so the legend goes, a petite, energetic woman started a horticultural center in the heart of Makati. With her dynamic presence, she persuaded her good friend Enrique Zobel, to “donate a bit of earth” for the center’s headquarters that soon evolved into the Makati Garden Club, “MGC”. Maria Luisa Perez-Rubio sat at the helm of the Makati Garden Club, steering it for over 40 years into an organization of ladies that strongly believes in preserving the environment and developing interest in the community to do the same.

Because they believed in conserving their open spaces, Ayala Corporation, through the generosity of Don Enrique Zobel, built a clubhouse for the Garden Club members and has allowed the club to operate and grow throughout these 40 years.

Maria Luisa went on to head numerous other projects and organizations, successfully running her own company, Pacific Products, that manufactured and sold paints and resins, as well as co-founding PBSP (Philippine Business for Social Progress) with a group of 50 top Filipino business leaders 40 years ago to pursue poverty reduction programs. She served as PBSP’s president for over 15 years, and today, this NGO is ranked as one of the top charitable organizations in the world, receiving numerous awards for its indisputable management and organizational skills. PBSP is today headed by Manuel V. Pangilinan.

In 1994, MGC and PBSP teamed up to sponsor “Festival of Trees,” a fund-raiser featuring a live auction of festively decorated Christmas trees creatively designed by top artists and landscapers. The likes of Bobby Mañosa, Jojo Lazaro, Yuyung La’O, Toni Parsons, Impy Pilapil, Ging Delos Reyes, Teyet Pascual, Rajo Laurel, Inno Sotto, and many others have participated in this event over the years. From Christmas trees, the event expanded to silent auction items of paintings and Christmas ornaments and wreaths, and still again to mystery boxes featuring lavishly wrapped boxes filled with beautiful mystery gifts. The annual event has generated tens of millions of pesos to support livelihood projects of PBSP from Cebu to Antique to Mindanao.

Maria Luisa sadly passed away on March 20, 2011, at the age of 86. She left a wonderful legacy of strong individuals to keep up her bequest in keeping MGC alive and strong. It was her vision that urban sustainable development could coexist with a clean environment, and testament to that core value is how MGC has flourished in a highly polluted corner of Makati. She believed that the greening of Makati was a must to offset the offshoot of modern-day development. Sadly her lungs gave way to pneumonia — ironic, given that she lived and loved the Makati Garden Club, her second home for over 40 years.

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