By Marjorie Gorospe
MARIA AURORA, AURORA—A massive 600-year-old balete (banyan) tree, also called the “Millenium Tree”, is a popular attraction in this town.
It is estimated to be 60 meters tall; its roots have a diameter of 10 to 15 meters and are big enough for people to pass through.
In the Philippines, the balete tree is often associated with supernatural beings. This is also the reason development in the area surrounding the tree had to be delayed, according to Noel Dulay, tourism coordinator at Maria Aurora.
The old tree is located in a private lot, whose owner initially wanted to cut the tree due to superstitious beliefs.
When the family was about to cut it, a member of the family got sick as well as the driver of the bulldozer which was supposed to take down the tree. Since then, they just let the tree grow. The tree was later christened Millennium Tree.
The gigantic size of the tree really draws attention, and is now a tourist attraction,” Noel says.
My colleagues and I didn't miss the chance to get inside the trunk of the massive tree. It's dark inside so make sure you turn on your flash if you wish to take a photo. Walking under the roots is like being inside a tunnel and as you look up, you can see flashes of light.
According to Noel, plans are underway to measure the official height and width of the tree. He says they once tried to ask 60 students to surround the tree.
He adds that the tree’s canopy looked much better before the typhoons which hit Aurora in the past years. There are also plans to implement a few restrictions to protect the tree from visitors.
“While it is an attraction of our town, we still have to do our best to protect it,” Noel says.
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