Monday, February 25, 2008
Oldest tree in the Philippines
BUTUAN City - The country's oldest tree is now officially a tourist destination, after the Department of Tourism installed a tourist center near the 500-year-old Bitaog tree in Magallanes, Agusan del Norte.
Officials of the provincial government of Agusan del Norte and the Department of Tourism inaugurated over the weekend the tourist center to accommodate some 200 daily visitors in the village of Caloc-an in Magallanes to view the tree, which in June 1998, was declared Philippine Centennial Tree.
"This 500-year-old tree has witnessed more stories than Jun Lozada," Agusan del Norte Governor Erlpe John Amante said in jest. Lozada is the new Senate witness in the ongoing investigation into the alleged anomalous deal between the government and Chinese firm ZTE Corp. for a national broadband network project.
Local historian Florante More, who nominated the Bitaog tree (Calophyllum inophyllum) as the oldest tree in 1998, said the trunk of the tree measures 290 centimeters in diameter.
The Bitaog tree, however, is much younger compared to the oldest known tree in the world, a Great Basin bristlecone pine located in California's White Mountains and is popularly known as the Methuselah tree. It is believed to be more than 4,700 years old.
Aside from the Bitaog tree, Magallanes town, named after explorer Ferdinand Magellan, also takes pride of its rich history. More said the first Catholic mass was actually celebrated in Magallanes on April 8, 1521, and not in Limasawa.
More said a proof of this is the marker erected during the time of Spanish District Governor Jose Maria Carvallo in 1873, commemorating the first mass in Magallanes.
Two places in Agusan were actually contesting Limasawa's claim - a site in Magallanes at the mouth of the 350-kilometer Agusan River and the Easter Mass Eco Park in Butuan City , where a large cross was erected to commemorate the first mass.
Greg Hontiveros, author of the book "Butuan of a Thousand Years", however, said Butuan hosted a thriving civilization even before the Spaniards came in 1521.
"By the time the Spaniards came, Butuan as a trading port was in fact already on the decline," he said.
Hontiveros said wooden plank-build and edge-pegged boats believed to be more than a thousand years old were excavated from Barangay Libertad.
One of the boats, called Balangay 1 was carbon dated to be more than 1,600 year old. Its relics suggest that the boat measured 15 meters in length and 3 meters wide across the beam.
The relics are now kept inside the old building of the Balangay Shrine Museum in Libertad, near a swamp, where the boats were extracted.
Pagudpud is just an hour's drive from Laoag City International Airport. From here, tourists can visit other popular destinations such as the Bangui Wind Farm, the Hispanic village of Vigan, and the old Paoay Church.