Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Learning the Trees that Places were Named after

I bet most of you have heard of places like Cabuyao and Lumban in Laguna, Lucban, Sampalok and Mauban in Quezon, Anilao in Batangas, Apalit, Dao, Betis and Mabalacat in Pampanga. What some of you might not know is that these towns (and a few more others around the Philippines) are named after trees. In most cases the certain town was named after a particular tree because it is or was abundant in that particular place. Let us have a run down of some of these towns and give you an idea of what plant it was named after:



Antipolo in Rizal Province was actually named after a common plant related to the langka, the tipolo tree or Artocarpus blancoi. It was said that the tipolo tree, now known as the antipolo tree, was abundant in the area (maybe up to the time that Rizal hunted in the woods of the province now named after him). A quick survey of Antipolo might not give a good idea what the tipolo tree would look like. It is not as abundant as it was before but you could still find the tree in some wooded spots or flanking the developed subdivisions. If you are eager to find an antipolo tree you could find a few trees labelled in the Antipolo church compound.




Cabuyao in Laguna was named after the kabuyaw tree or Citrus hystrix (very similar to the Thai's makrut or cooking kaffir lime). The town was formerly named Tabuko. When a Spanish friar crossed the Bai lake (which is now Laguna de Bay), he landed in the town and immediately asked some women who were on the shore what the name of the place he just stumbled on. The women misunderstood the Spanish visitor and thought he was asking the name of the trees abundant near the shore. They said 'kabuyaw'. From then on the town of Tabuko became to be known as Cabuyao. Today, there are no full grown trees of kabuyaw in Cabuyao, Laguna. I went on a field trip to find kabuyaw and saw only a lone tree in the town of Calauan but I heard that some specimens could still be found in the remaining forests of Mts. Makiling and Banahaw.




Lumban town, embroidery capital of the Philippines which is famous for pina cloth and the Caliraya lake, is also named after a tree - the lumbang or Aleurites moluccana. The lumbang or candlenut tree is actually popular in Asia and has a lot of uses. Oil could be extracted from the plant and used similar to linseed. The seed has medicinal properties, used as a mild purgative. Though when I got to go Caliraya lake, I did not spot a lumbang tree along the way. But some still claim that lumbang is still quite common in parts of Calabarzon area.




Lucban town of Pahiyas and longganisa fame was named after another citrus tree, the lukban or suha, a variety of Citrus grandis. The tree was prehistorically introduced to the Philippines but is now widespread in the Mt. Banahaw area, particularly the stretch from Majayjay in Laguna to Lucban, the town. The tree cultivation makes the area famous for the lucban fruit, but this citrus variety is inferior in sweetness compared to the Davao suha.




I found this tree leading to the Taytay falls in the municipality of Majayjay in Laguna. It is called malauban. I had the hard time looking for its botanical name but eventually I learned that it is also called lamog or Planchonia spectabilis. www.discoverquezon.com states that Mauban town was named after this malauban tree. Story goes that a church located in the area had an image of St. Buenaventure which always disappeared, but the town folks kept on finding the lost statue perched on a malauban tree.



The old town of Betis in Pampanga is now a district in the town of Guagua. This place is upto now known for its woodworks. what is less known is that the town was named after a lumber tree namesake, which was said to be abundant in the area - Madhuca betis. But today, no betis tree could be found in Betis. But its legacy remains in the old furnitures once carved by the local craftsmen. I spotted a very big betis tree in the UPLB botanic garden but was surprised that the Bantay Kalikasan was rearing good sized saplings in their La Mesa nursery. Betis is a very attractive tree with the 2 toned colored leaves but folks say becomes undesirable come flowering season (I heard from Prof. Ed Gomez that the flower has a certain stink).





When I was small (hard as it is to imagine), my parents used to bring us to Dau in Mabalacat, Pampanga to buy px goods. This is where the military surplus coming from Clark Field were sold. It was much later that I discovered that the px haven has a tree namesake, dao - Dracontomelon dao. The dao is a large tree still could be found in UPLB and recently introduced to the UP campus (by Professor Ed Gomez). The native tree is widespread, also could be found in other Asian countries.



Incidentally Mabalacat, Pampanga was named after another tree once abundant in the area, Ziziphus talanai, or the balakat tree. The place was said to have a lot, hence ma-balakat, now spelled Mabalacat. The balakat is a nice big tree with the spines common in Ziziphus species (but not as spiny as its cousins - FYI, it is said that Jesus Christ was crowned with the branches of another Ziziphus species, Z. jujube or the jujube tree). I am not sure if balakat could still be found in Mabalakat. A big balakat tree could be seen behind the new Ayala Techno Hub in UP Diliman.



Another Pampanga town named after a tree is Apalit. What is les known even to Apalit residents is that the town got its name from our national tree, the narra or Pterocarpus indicus. Apalit is old Kapampangan for the narra tree. When I went to Apalit, Pampanga a year ago, narra trees could still be seen flanking the streets and the river.



Across the Pampanga River to Bulacan is the town of Calumpit, again baptized after a tree. The kalumpit or Terminalia microcarpa is a large tree with a layered growth similar to its close relative - the talisay tree ( another tree which places were named after,the towns of Talisay in Batangas and Cebu) or Terminalia catappa. Kalumpit has very attractive medium sized leaves and bears edible fruits (sometimes called the batangas cherry - looking like a siniguelas).



Talisay or Terminalia catappa is a very widespread tree used particularly in coastal towns as the tree is abundant in beaches and coastlines (hence a lot of places were named after it including the towns in Cebu and Batangas). It has attractive large leaves turning to bright warm colors when nearing its shedding off stage. The fruit nut is edible, hence its name of sea almond. Edvin Santiago of Velvet blooms gardens said that the nut is sought after in Middle Eastern countries where it is considered a delicacy.



The Batangas coastal municipality of Anilao is well known as a haven for dive sites and resorts. But not a bit as popular as its name sake is the anilao tree or Colona serratifolia. I yet have to confirm if there are indeed anilao trees in Anilao

14 comments:

didaskalos said...

The Lumban is more popularly known as Jatropha in the Philippines these days (21st Century).

metscaper said...

that should not be. Jatropha is a different ganus and we have a particular vernacular name attached to it - tuba tuba or tubang bakod. Jatropha is quite toxic.

RJ said...

You have a nice site here. Balakat is critically endangered. I searched for some, there are around five in Mabalacat (or so I think), and some in Tarlac. Fr. Blanco noted he found his somewhere south (Laguna etc.). Have you found a balakat tree somewhere? Thanks.

metscaper said...

I found 2 balakat trees in UP Diliman.

Bombing said...

I got involved last year in a project that seeks to plant endangered Philippine trees along the entire stretch of the SCTEX. Members of the team informed me that they found a balacat tree in a church yard in Mabalacat. I think they were referring to the Our Lady of Grace parish church on McArthur Highway. Not too sure though, but, I think, it's worth checking out.

New Barbercue Pit said...

I would like to plant some trees in Guagua Pampanga but I'm here in the US. The place is my Dad's house. I was wondering if you could recommend someone local a nursery so that I can send my brother there.

metscaper said...

Sorry not sure where to get balakats.

Nesil said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nesil said...

Where can i find lumbang oil?

metscaper said...

I think lumbang is an under utilized tree here in the Philippines, not like in other countries where the nut is really collected for the oil. i see trees with just the discarded nuts. Not sure where and if they sell the oil here.

1784 said...

Hi, I've been trying to find information about a certain "sinukuan" tree. I have a small seedling and I cannot visualize how it will grow. It has yellow fruits/seeds on the underside of the midrib.

jen08kate said...

hi!
i've been looking for informations about the Anilao tree, i was wondering what it looks like, some say it's a mangrove tree, but some said it's not. so i wondering if you could help me with this...thank you =)

metscaper said...

Anilao is Colona serratifolia. I only saw one small tree of this, in a garden and not in the wild. Not sure where to find one.

Unknown said...

I am very interested in lumbang. I am in Palawan now. Where should I go to get the fruits or seed?