Why go to all the way to Japan for the spring cherry blossoms festival when you can get the same experience in the Philippines?
While the widely-popular pink sakura flower attracts millions of tourists to Japan, the Philippines has the Balayong tree which is native to Palawan province.
Some Balayong trees can be found beside the building of De La Salle University Medical Center in Dasmariñas, Cavite. Users on Facebook and Instagram shared their photos of the local cherry blossom found south of Manila.
Blooms in Palawan for years
Although the local pink flowers have been picked up on social media recently, locals of Puerto Princesa have celebrated the tree’s flowering season for years.
The term “Balayong” is a local term for the Palawan cherry, a medium-sized tree that symbolizes femininity and love in Puerto Princesa.
Since 2005, the city has been celebrating its founding anniversary on March 4 while the flowers of the Balayong trees are in full bloom. The Balayong Festival highlights the importance of Balayong trees for the locals.
The Palawan cherry today is mainly used for decoration only, but the tree’s timber was once used to build sturdy furniture during the Spanish era.
Cultural influence of cherry blossoms
The Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan draws in millions of tourists every year. The Japanese state weather agency makes estimates as to when the perfect time will be for when the flowers will bloom.
Because of its cultural significance, the cherry blossom is considered as one of the two national flowers of Japan. It is a symbol of renewal for the locals because it blooms on the onset of spring in Japan each year.
According to Insider Journey, the most popular cherry blossom is called Somei Yoshino among more than 200 found in the country.
The Japanese also have a tradition of having picnics underneath the cherry blossom trees called “hanami” or “flower viewing.”
The cultural influence of Japan has reached the Philippines and plans were made to create cherry blossom parks in the country.
In Puerto Princesa, a P250-million Balayong nature park project began in 2017 to further boost the tourism of the province. The Balayong Park project, which started on 29 July 2017, was a three-year project for the city’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
In 2016, the first sakura park project in the country was also opened in Atok, Benguet. More than 30 cherry blossom seeds were planted on a mountaintop and expected to bear fruit by 2019.