OLOPSC co-founder, Madam Carmen, unveils her nature-stewardship story

By: Miss Ludie Lyn S. Sevillano, LPT
GS Faculty Member

          OLOPSC co-founder and second President, Madam Carmen Caday Salvador is currently in the “front line” of nursing a new garden several months after stepping down from her presidency in 2019. After witnessing her remarkable leadership in OLOPSC, one would wonder about her current activities and how she embarked on her new journey.

Madam Carmen’s Personal Background

          The OLOPSC Matriarch, Mrs. Carmen Caday Salvador began her OLOPSC journey with a day care center and nursery school in 1976.  Being a devotee of Mary, the center was named Our Lady of Perpetual Succor Day Care Center. It offered Nursery, Kindergarten and Preparatory courses and had around 50 pupils at the start of its operation. The school’s former president (2006-2019) earned her degree, BS Nursing at Far Eastern University in 1962 and got her professional license a year after her graduation. In her retirement year, she set up another nursery, but this time for ornamental plants. She is a mother of five, a school founder, and a nurse by profession, and now she begins her nature-stewardship story.

The Beginning: School co-founder’s environmental stewardship

        Madam Carmen cultivated her own garden when she and her family started operating a recreational garden and resort known as “God’s Love Family Farm” (GLFF) in Silangan, San Mateo, Rizal in 2003.

          As one of the people who knows Madam Carmen’s story best, Dr. Armida Salvador-Samaniego,  the third and current school president, narrated her mom’s garden activities. “We have been taking care of, nurturing, propagating ornamental plants and fruit-bearing trees since 2003 when we purchased the property. It has been a retirement activity of our Chairman when she stepped down,” said Dr. Samaniego in an online interview last December 14, 2020.

          As of writing, the family farm is currently not in operation. But its closing gave birth to a new idea in the form of the OLOPSC garden, also known as the O’ Garden. Since the COVID-19 protocols strongly advised senior citizens to stay home, Madam Carmen brought the ornamental plants from GLFF to the OLOPSC campus, which is adjacent to her house, so that she can see them and tend to them daily.  As a result, she came up with the idea to convert a section of the OLOPSC parking area into O’Garden, which is perfect timing as more and more people are becoming “plantitos” and “plantitas” during the pandemic.

Back to Nature: The installment of the school’s commercial garden

         The Chairman’s horticultural passion continued when an offshoot public garden, named OLOPSC Garden was installed inside the campus situated near Gate 5. Madam Carmen runs the O’ Garden which serves as her new sanctuary and retirement pastime.

        Originally, the O’ Garden’s site was the school’s parking lot. The conversion of the OLOPSC parking area into a garden started on July 1, 2020, making the school’s ambiance livelier and greener.

        Roughly 90% of the plants in the O’ Garden were collected from GLFF. The school’s commercial garden sells a variety of plants which cater to the needs of budding green thumb customers in the city and other neighboring communities.

         While expanding the facility, the newly-set up school garden has been using its Facebook page as a virtual shopping channel to showcase available plants while accepting online orders and offering door-to-door deliveries.

         Aside from selling plants and some vegetables, products like pots (plastic and cement), soil (like loam and potting mix), and rice hulls are also available onsite at reasonable prices. Services like repotting, rehabilitation of plants (reviving a dying plant), and others are also available to walk-in and drive-thru customers,  while following stringent social distancing measures. To meet the growing demand, several OLOPSC employees who were displaced during the pandemic were reassigned to the garden.

        With new people coming in and out of the garden every day, strict safety protocols are put in place such as temperature checks upon entry, placement of alcohol dispensers in strategic locations, and requiring everyone to wear face masks & face shields at all times. There are wide, open spaces in the area and walkways where social distancing is maintained. Separate entry and exit gates are used as well. Staff and shoppers surely feel safe as they browse through the beautiful plants on display.

      When asked about the permanency of the O’ Garden, Dr. Samaniego believes that Madam Carmen plans for the school garden to be transferred to a more permanent  area in time. “If things get back to normal, like our students going back to school, I believe that she would want to continue promoting love for plants, and perhaps enhance her collections of plants for selling,  necessitating the  transfer of  O’ Garden into a more permanent area,” she said in an online interview.

       Although plants give plenty of benefits, Dr. Samaniego advised that people should consider knowing their plants well by doing some research because some plants can be harmful to pets in our homes. She even recommended that some aspiring plant buyers should not start with rare and expensive plants. Low-maintenance plants could be a good start like Sansevieria, Pothos, Syngonium, and Euphorbia.

Going Green: People have been going greener since the pandemic hit

      While having Madam Carmen as the proponent of the O’ Garden, some advantages bloomed during the creation of the school’s public garden. With the series of advertisements and postings through the garden’s Facebook page, many people have started visiting the new garden.

      Plants have been shown to boost moods, improve air quality, and increase productivity and creativity. Not only has the propagation of plants improved, but also the caring hearts of individuals.

     O’Garden is open to the public where customers can tour and see the different plants available. “We visited OLOPSC Garden and bought some plants and soil. I enjoyed looking at and touching different kinds of plants around the garden and I was amazed by the positive gestures that the four gardeners showed me. They attended to my needs with patience. They told me the name of plants and how to transplant them,” said a plant buyer, Mrs. Lucita Obal, on her Facebook post last November.

         Newcomers will not feel lost as Ms. Josephine Berto or Ms. Jo, Head Gardener of OLOPSC, can assist you around the area.

       In addition, Mrs. Obal thanked the staff for assisting her. “I was amazed when gardener Josephine carried the sack of soil using her head up to the gate. Thank you so much, Ms. Josephine and to the other lady-gardeners who helped me carry my plants.”

       And with the rise of the budding green thumb buyers, other plant lovers / customers ventured into the school’s commercial garden last December. Mrs. Joan S. Legarse, a customer, expressed that her 64-year-old mom has been into plants even before the pandemic, and as a way of supporting her mom’s penchant for plants, they both visited the garden. “[My mother has been] a plantita right even before the pandemic but she’s more on decorating the outdoors. This time, joining the trend of placing plants indoors makes her hobby more fun, interesting, and relaxing,” she said last December on her appreciation post via Facebook.

      The O’Garden indeed left a mark in the hearts of the customers. “To support my mom’s love for plants, the best place to visit is none other than the OLOPSC Garden where you can find a variety of ornamental plants. Affordable pots and plants to choose from plus you will be welcomed, assisted and toured by their accommodating staff,” Mrs. Legarse added.

      A wide array of plants were available like Deiffenbachia or “Bakya”, Syngonium or “Arrowhead”, Zigzag, Lime Crotons, Santan (Red/Orange/Yellow), Pothos, Insulin, Philodendron “Green Emerald”, Birds Nest Fern or “Dapo”, Anthurium or “Wave of Love”, Calathea Lutea, Aglaonema, Aglaonema “Red Lipstick”, and other plants. Products are reasonably priced and different items are featured from time to time on the garden’s Facebook page.

     Indoor plants can also be purchased at the garden. Fruits in season like avocados and guyabanos and freshly-picked vegetables like pechay and okra are also available.  With its continuing trend, the number of deliveries and services doubled last December during the 12-12 and 2-day Christmas sales.

     Truly, Madam Carmen’s helping hands never stop. Her passion continually grows, providing livelihood to those in need and giving hope to many.  During her former role as the school’s president, she nurtured  young minds this time and she is now nurturing God’s gift of nature through her OLOPSC Garden.

For more information, visit the garden’s Official Facebook page at facebook.com/OlopscGarden or visit the store along T. Bugallon St., Concepcion 1, Marikina City. OLOPSC Garden is open from Mondays-Saturdays at 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.