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MANILA - When I visited the century-old Katipunan tree of Novaliches last week, I read once again the 32-year-old marker at its base:
"This tree was a mute witness to historic events. This very site where it stands was once a wooded hill which was a staging area of the Katipuneros during the Philippine Revolution. Under this tree, the Katipuneros held meetings, treated their wounded. Andres Bonifacio, founder of the Katipunan, was here on several occasions."
The duhat tree (Syzygium cumini), is about two kilometers from La Mesa Dam and the old Barangay Pasong Putik (now Lagro) in Novaliches, where Tandang Sora, the Grand Old Lady of the Revolution, was arrested by the Spaniards in August 1896 prior to her imprisonment at the Bilibid Prisons in Manila and eventual exile to Guam.
The place is also just five kilometers north of the heroine's birthplace at the now renamed Barangay Tandang Sora, formerly called Gulod ng Banilad or Banlat, Novaliches.
The "duhat" tree also witnessed the gallantry of the Katipuneros of 1896, headed by Gat. Andress Bonifacio.
In the early months of the 1896 revolution against Spain, the "duhat tree," located in the then municipality of Novaliches, province of Manila, served as shade to Katipuneros during their various meetings.
Historical records show that Melchora Aquino or "Tandang Sora," was present in several of these meetings held under the protective shade of the duhat tree.
It was also there where Tandang Sora used to treat wounded Katipuneros as a result of their frequent encounters with the Spanish soldiers.
In recognition of the important role played by this tree for the cause of the then infant revolutionary movement, it was officially named as "Katipunan tree" in l980 to perpetuate the memory of Bonifacio and his brave men.
The ancient tree continues to stand, swaying with the wind, and annually witnessing the celebration of the country's Independence Day every June 12.
Despite its being over 100 years old, the historic duhat tree in Novaliches, Quezon City, continues to bear fruits, although not as big and succulent as those it used to produce during its younger years.
Estimated to be more than 150 years old, the heritage tree, renamed "Katipunan" tree after the revolutionary society founded by Andres Bonifacio on July 7, 1892, is actually located in Barangay Kaligayahan, Novaliches, birthplace of "Tandang Sora," and site of the first bloody encounter between the "Katipuneros" and the Spanish forces on Aug. 26, 1896, or three days after the historic August 23 "Cry of Pugad Lawin."
The tree is a source of pride for Novaliches, a former town of Rizal province which is now divided between Quezon City and Caloocan City.
The National Historical Institute (NHI) and the Tree Preservation Foundation of the Philippines Inc. (TPFPI) officially declared the tree as a Katipunan tree in 1980 to perpetuate the memory of the revolutionary organization that launched the Philippine Revolution against Spanish rule in August 1896.
The ancient tree, when it was officially marked and renamed Katipunan tree, originally measured six meters in diameter at the base and about 50 feet in height. The shade generated by its outspread branches encompassed about 30 feet in diameter.
It is now within the compound of the 65-year-old Metro Manila College (MMC), formerly the Novaliches Academy, the pioneer secondary educational institution in Novaliches.
Due to its old age, its height has actually been reduced to about 25 feet (considering the gradual loss of many of its branches which had not re-grown) and the shade it generates is half smaller.
Mrs. Natividad M. Villano, director for Student Affairs of the Metro Manila College (formerly the Novaliches Academy), said that every June 12, the heritage Katipunan tree is the center of a simple Independence Day celebration held under the joint auspices of the Knights of Columbus-Novaliches District Assembly of the Saint Maximilian Kolbe Parish Church and the Metro Manila College.
I wish I could grow the same tree species in my own backyard. I picked up about a dozen of its overripe black fruits, which had fallen to the ground.
At home, I put them in a big can with soil, hoping that during this rainy season, some of them, though smaller than those I had seen last year, would sprout into seedlings, which I can replant someday to replace the historical tree when it "finally bows of existence due to old age."