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Friday, January 9

The Gorilla in Us! Climb the Balete Tree in Maria Aurora

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Sitting on top of this Balete Tree in Aurora is a wonderful experience.

A thirty-minute trike ride on concrete roads and somewhat bumpy streets brought us to a wonderfully exotic activity—a first and one-of-a-kind experience only in Aurora Province. So from the stunning views of lovely sunrise in Ampere Beach, Dipaculao, we headed to the Millenium Tree as the locals and tourists tag, probably the oldest of its kind in the whole Asia. A Balete tree that somehow transformed us from humans to gorillas.

Part 8 of Baler-Aurora Trip: An Exotic Adventure

The Millenium Tree in Maria Aurora, Aurora
There are no entrance fees whatsoever, but you can hand some few bucks to the kids or guide who will lead you to the top of the tree, once you get to the Balete Park (as the locals call it). At first, I hesitated to climb the tree as it was really that tall (and I am afraid of heights without any body harness, remember safety first!) but it would be incomplete if we will not be able to experience this climb-a-tree-like-you-were-still-a-kid activity here in Baranggay Quirino, Maria Aurora, Aurora (when they Balete tree in Baler, it’s actually in nearby town of Maria Aurora).

Balete tree (I think it’s of the Ficus genus, or the tree called Banyan) is what Filipinos call collectively to trees or plants that grow on another plant (epiphyte). Some of these Balete trees are known to be ‘strangler figs’, because they strangle or entrap a tree and later entirely kill the host tree (like a parasite). But this Balete tree in Aurora could have probably been a monster, as the tree was really huge. It looks like a frozen statue of the moving and walking trees in the movies Lord of the Rings and Maleficent. And the branches—they look like the arms, legs, and fingers of those creepy living trees found in the movies.
We are on top of the tree! (Balete Park, Maria Aurora)

Inside the Balete tree in Maria Aurora

So the challenge here is not just to take pictures with you as the foreground and the tree as background of your photo. It should be you, with a selfie, on the tree. Yes, you need to climb a few minutes by tranforming into a gorilla and reach the top of Balete tree. Lalabas ang talent mong umakyat…at mare-realize na nanggaling ka nga sa apes hehehe. Without further ado, let us climb the oldest Balete tree in the province!

The first thing you need to do is to get inside the tree. Literally. No, you don’t have to chip off the barks and create a hole, because there was like an entrance gate going to the center of the tree. Parang Tree of Life. Once you get to the middle of the tree that is where you will start to lengthen your legs and arms and start ascending until you reach the tree haven on top.

The experience of getting inside the Balete tree in Baler, I mean Maria Aurora, is somewhat eerie rather than fun. It was like I and my friends were going to meet an encanto or a kapre or those little duwende inside…probably baka naapakan na din naming yung mga duwende eh. The gigantic 600+-year-old tree stands about 60 meters tall. Statistics also tell that it needs at least 50 people to stand side-by-side and hand-in-hand to hug the tree in circle. Folklore says that these chambers are where these mythical characters live; some others even say that rituals were done here and that witches and wizards go here to sacrifice animals and perform sorcery. And the creepiest among them all, this is where White Ladies often stand by. Whatever, these are all myth and fiction after all. Mas nakakatakot kung may ahas na buhay sa loob. Luckily, there were no wild animals frolicking along its branches the time we climbed the Balete tree.
We and the Balete tree!
If I were the Amazing Spiderman, I would have just clung my web on one of the higher branches, swung my way on top of the tree and clicked the camera button for a selfie. But in reality, you really have to walk on those branches that seem to be sturdy and can support human weight, grip tighter on the branches and reach the top. By then, you can shout, “Achievement Unlocked! Monkey Skills Level 1”. The views on top of the trees were amazing…uhh..probably because it was that high and I cannot imagine now how to get down the tree haha.

Fortunately, it was easier to get down as we were guided by the local kids who stand by this Balete Park. We only spent a few minutes on top of the tree, but the feeling was really great. It was a like a feeling of kid in me who reached the top of the tree and once again dreamed of building a tree house where we can relax and chill and talk about our ambitions in the future. The experience was like me as the protagonist in the movie “Life of Pi” where he and his tiger were diverted to a floating island nowhere to be found, and climbed a tree where they slept for a few hours. It’s one of my travel experiences that are just that memorable. On top of the tree, we actually just listened somehow to the sound of silence, other than snapping echoes of the twigs and leaves and the stories of the local guides that told us that some TV personalities like Mylene Dizon actually also climbed the tree. Sarah Geronimo also went to Balete Park but did not climb the tree though.

As they say, one of the oldest fig trees in Southeast Asia
 Honestly, I find Balete tree as one of the creepier trees out there in the forests, but I also find it to be one of the most ideal trees for a tree house. When we finally reached the ground from the top of Balete tree, we gave the kids some few bucks for their effort to bring us on top of Balete tree—where a kid in me could have probably shouted, “I’m on top of the world!”

Baler-Aurora Trip: An Exotic Adventure Travel Series:
Part 8: The Gorilla in Us! Climb the Balete Tree in Maria Aurora

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