Planting of threatened tree is highlight of ‘Balacat Festival’ in Pampanga
MABALACAT CITY—Planting an endemic but diminishing tree species in this city, named after that hardwood, will be a major activity in the local government-sponsored Balacat Festival.
At least 75 seedlings of Balakat (Ziziphus talanai) will be planted on March 1, the third day of the 5-day festival, said Arwin Paul Lingat, the arts, culture and tourism officer, during the news forum of the Pampanga Press Club at the Park Inn by Radisson in SM Clark in Angeles City on Wednesday.
The Balakat is considered vulnerable in the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Aside from its sturdy wood, Balakat has several medicinal values.
Two Balakat trees, which are tall and probably the oldest, stand in front of Our Lady of Grace Parish and inside the nearby Mabalacat Institute (MI) in the city proper, according to Councilor Roland Peña, who the Inquirer requested to verify for lack of a written inventory.
By his reckoning, less than 100 trees that are 30 years old and up are still around, including those planted by Fr. Alvin Manalang around a Catholic church at the Mawaque resettlement.
Peña recalled an old Balakat inside the Mabalacat Elementary School fell during Typhoon Santi (international name Nari) in 2013.
Around 20 to 30 Balakat along the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway did not survive tree-balling in 2015, he said.
He said the Balakat in MI became the source of 500 wildlings and seedlings in the Balacat propagation project by him and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in public schools in the city. No large-scale propagation was done after that, Peña said.
The City Environment Code of 2016, which he authored, declared Balakat the city’s tree and protected it.
Yokohama Philippines in nearby Clark Freeport, has planted 200 trees from Peña’s nursery.
An undated story of the Department of Education on a survey in Camachiles National High School showed that around 70 percent of students do not know that Mabalacat was named after the tree, have not seen a Balakat, or have any idea what it looked like.