When in Baler, head down to the next town of Maria Aurora to behold its famed gargantuan balete tree, considered the largest of its kind in Asia.
Dubbed as The Millennium Tree of Aurora, this balete tree has been around for 60 decades, is over 60 meters in height and reputedly will need 60 grown men, holding one another at arm’s length to encircle its gigantic trunk.
Stories may abound in Philippine folklore about how mystical and supernatural creatures dwell in Balete trees what with its tangly roots and eerie shapes invoking that spooky or ominous feeling, but.. I may have forgotten all about that. I think this particular giant is really charming and pretty that upon seeing it, I can’t help but latch to its roots and start climbing immediately.
Apparently, the Balete or Banyan Tree is only one of many species of strangler figs. These are trees that may have started as tiny stray seeds blown by wind or dropped by birds on tree canopies. The moment these seedlings grow and their hanging roots anchor themselves to the ground, the host tree eventually meet its doom. The strangler’s foliage overshadows that of the host’s canopy, stealing sunlight and rain while its roots wrap around the host tree, ensnaring it tightly, taking all of the nutrients and ultimately suffocating and crushing the host tree.
Hmmm.. they may have a dark and brutal past after all. This may also explain the chambers and hollows we found inside this giant tree, able to fit several people, the host tree may have stood here before.
Inside the Great Balete Tree