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Dennis Tolentino

Dennis Tolentino's professional mission is to bring a little bit of nature into Guangzhou and other Chinese communities, to brighten urban and suburban landscapes that have fast been ceding green space to concrete and steel over the past few decades. He's a senior designer and project leader for the landscape design division of Pubang Landscape Architecture Co., Ltd., a Guangzhou-based corporation that designs, constructs and landscapes buildings, principally residential housing projects.

So it's no surprise that Tolentino lauds the beautyand spirituality of flowers in Chinese life.

"Whenever you see color from flowers you feel relaxed," the Philippine native says. And it's not just the sight of flowers that enriches the environment, he explains. "Flowers offer different scents," says Tolentino. "One of the Chinese traditions is that flowers take a central role in life."

The Philippines is southeast of Guangzhou and a little closer to the equator, yet Tolentino thinks Guangzhou has a similarly nourishing climate for the growing of flowers and other plants.

He has lived in other warm climates besides Guangzhou, Manila and Kuala Lumpur, for instance. Yet he thinks the weather here makes it no coincidence that Guangzhou is known as a flower city.

"Climate is the most important thing for the plants," the affable 42-year-old says. "I think Guangzhou is one of the best places to grow plants. It's not too cold and not too hot. Other places have cold weather, which destroys plants. Here you can see green and plants the whole year round."

In China, he says, flowers are more integral to everyday life than they are in the Philippines. In his native country, according to Tolentino, flowers are primarily used for special occasions – for celebrating birthdays, when someone is sick, in church rituals, and by young men courting young women.

In Guangzhou, flowers are more omnipresent.

"During my stay here, I can see that most of the local people like to buy flowers," he observes. "As I am told by my colleagues, flowers have different meanings with (Chinese) culture. The flower represents many things about Chinese culture and traditions, not only as an aesthetic factor and for beautification, but it also has a big role in your life."

Tolentino moved to Guangzhou in August of 2001. The decision to leave his home in the Philippines wasn't easy. He was a newlywed and was unsure his bride would welcome living in a new country so soon after they were married. But "fortune knocks only once," Tolentino realized, and a job offer from a Hong Kong-based firm, was an intriguing one. An interior design company,it wanted to establish a landscaping business in
Guangzhou. The firm helped him obtain a visa for his wife, and as a new husband, Tolentino settled into a new job in a new country.

He worked for the Hong Kong company for about a year and a half when he heard from a Chinese friend that Pubang was seeking a foreign landscape designer. Tolentino thus became Pubang's first non-Chinese designer and has been with the company ever since. Pubang will celebrate its 20th anniversary next year. It began with about 20 employees and now has close to 2,000, with satellite offices in Chengdu, Shenzhen,Shanghai, Beijing and Hainan.

Dennis' design

"I consider this as my second home," Tolentino says of Guangzhou. "The only thing missing is myfamily."

"I find Guangzhou is one of the best places to live, because of the climate, and the people are really friendly," Tolentino explains. "Almost everything I can get from the Philippines is in Guangzhou."

When he moved to the city, much of the space now occupied by soaring sky scrapers was still rice fields."They really did a good job in developing the area very fast," he says. "We need to create some more natural environment around these big structures. We would like to let the people feel they are not living in the city, but even though the city has been developed, we want them to feel nature and the new technology are still in a relationship with humans. Our company motto is to create a harmonious relationship between the human world and nature."

Tolentino believes ardently in that philosophy. "As much as possible we want to protect our Mother Earth," he explains. "Even in the artificial landscapes we create. we want the people to feel the nature, and we want to give them comfortable space and fresh air within the city. We want them to feel they still live in a natural environment, even though they are in a big city."

(By Louis Berney)

Editor:Lynus Tan
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