Leonard Co remembered with tree-planting ceremony and re-launch of “Common Medicinal Plants of Cordillera”

By LYN V. RAMO

BAGUIO CITY — The book on medicinal plants and herbs in the Cordillera, which the late botanist Leonard Co wrote in the ’70s was re-launched on his first death anniversary in this city. A tree-planting and exhibits of Leonard Co’s works were also some of the highlights of the commemoration.

Community Health Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera Region (CHESTCORE) in cooperation with the College of Science of the University of the Philippines Baguio, spearheaded the book-launching to commemorate Co’s first death anniversary on November 15 at the UP-Baguio Alumni Center.

Co is a prominent Filipino plant taxonomist and ethnobiologist. According to his colleague, Dr Julie Barcelona, Co “spent most of his botanical career studying the forests of Luzon’s Sierra Madre. Leonard’s enthusiasm has motivated many students in the Philippines to pursue a career in Botany. His attitude for the sincere pursuit and sharing of knowledge in Plant Taxonomy has given real meaning to words like biodiversity conservation, scientist, endemic, endangered, capacity-building, participatory, community.”

The commemoration was dubbed in Baguio city as “Leonard Co: Pagpupugay sa magiting na Iskolar ng Bayan.” Co’s seminal co-authored book entitled “Common Medicinal Plants of the Cordillera Region” was first published in 1989. The local newspaper Northern Dispatch Weekly published in series some parts of the book from 2002 to 2007.

An exhibit of Co’s talk on “Botanical Inventory in the Philippines” was also set up at the UP-Baguio Galerya.

The activities concluded with planting of several native fruit trees in honor of Co, who was also a staunch advocate of native trees restoration in the Philippines.

Romella L. Comia-Rasalan,executive director of Chestcore, said Co, a former UP Baguio student, volunteer staff of Chestcore and long-time research collaborator of College of Science faculty, was killed in an alleged crossfire between the Philippine Army’s 19th IB and the New People’s Army in Kananga, Leyte while doing biodiversity research for the Energy Development Corporation (EDC). Co was killed along with forest guard Sofronio Cortez and farmer Julius Borromeo.

Performers during the commemoration included Bong Ramilo, Luchie Maranan and the Dap-ayan ti Kultura ti Kordilyera.

In Manila, environmentalists and Co’s former colleagues and friends staged a protest action in front of the Department of Justice along Padre Faura Street on November 15 to urge the government to pursue impartial investigation on the crossfire theory, which they have questioned from the start. ()

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