Have you always wanted to see the famous sakura trees in person? Good news! You are now closer to finally checking that off your bucket list without having to travel overseas. Typically, the sakura season in Japan and Korea only lasts about a couple of weeks. If you can’t travel there at the exact time, you will most likely miss the spectacle. Lucky for us, we don’t have to travel far anymore to experience them ourselves. We have cherry blossoms now here in the Philippines!
If you want to go to Japan, check out our Japan Visa Application Guide.
Cherry Blossom Trees In Benguet
You can see these beautiful cherry blossom trees in Atok, Benguet; about 3 hours away from Baguio City. The trees were planted back in November 2015 at the Benguet-Kochi Sisterhood Park and have just started to bloom this year. They were planted as a gift from the Kochi prefecture in Japan to commemorate 40 years of friendship with the province of Benguet. They originally gave 100 trees but only about 40 of them survived because they were not planted during the right time. But the ones left are healthy and have already adjusted to the cool weather in Benguet which can be compared to Japan’s weather during spring time when the trees are in full bloom. Hopefully, they all survive until adulthood! (fingers crossed!)
How to Get to Benguet-Kochi Sisterhood Park from Baguio
- Go to Dangwa Terminal located behind Center Mall in Magsaysay Avenue
- Ride a bus or a van going to Sagada, Bontoc, Mankayan, or Abatan. They all pass by Atok, but ask the driver to drop you off to be sure.
- Fare is around 100 Php. Travel time is around 1.5 to 2 hours from Magsaysay Avenue
- Get off at Marosan’s Restaurant.
- Head over to the Paoay Barangay Hall to register which is behind the restaurant.
- From there you can hike to the park for about 30 minutes or rent a car for 400 PHP.
What can you expect during your visit?
If you brought or rented a car, the caretakers will guide you as to where you can park. There are no official parking areas yet, but the they will direct you as to where you can leave your car.
There is no entrance fee to get in the park as of this time, but there are donation boxes near the entrance.
Once you’re inside, you will find two varieties of sakura flowers: the Yokiwari Sakura with pink flowers and Sindaya Sakura with white flowers. The trees are still young and small, but they have already produced flowers. To fully mature like the cherry blossoms in Japan, they have to be nurtured for about 6 more years. So no twirling around in slow motion under a sakura tree like in the Koreanovelas; at least not yet. If you can’t wait for the sakura trees in Benguet to blossom, you have another option.
Sakura look-alike Trees
There are similar-looking trees in Palawan, Cavite, and Antipolo. Their beautiful light pink and white blooms look very much like the sakura flowers although they come from different species. What’s interesting is that they’ve always existed but nobody really paid attention to them.
Puerto Princesa Palawan
Since 2005, every 4th of March, people have been celebrating the Balayong festival in Puerto Princesa. The Palawan cherry or the Balayong treeclosely resemble the famous cherry blossom flowers. It has light pink and white blossoms just like the Japanese sakura trees. The Balayong trees also bloom in season, but since they are more accustomed to the tropical climate, we can enjoy them for a longer period of time. Balayong trees typically bloom for 4 months, from February until May, compared to the roughly two weeks of their Japanese or Korean counterparts.
Cavite and Antipolo
In De La Salle University Medical Center (DLSUMC), Dasmarinas Cavite and in Assumption Antipolo Rizal, there are trees that also look like cherry blossoms. They have light pink flowers too like the Balayong and sakura trees, but they come from a different species called the Tabebuia. Their flowers are trumpet-shaped and are clustered together like small bouquets on the branches of the tree.
Controversy of the Sakura Trees in the Philippines
Although we have native trees that are as beautiful as the sakura, many people are still excited to see the actual Benguet sakura trees in full bloom. However, there are some who have shown concern about having these foreign trees in Atok, Benguet. They believe that it is not healthy for our biodiversity and that we are not sure about the impact it may cause in the long run. They can become invasive and have negative effects on the ecological systems of Benguet. If, for example, certain foreign diseases affect the sakura trees, it may also potentially cause harm to the vegetable farms in Benguet. According to The Wildlife Act (RA 9147) “no species shall be introduced without official clearance, and any such shall need environmental impact study…”
Some people also think that we don’t need sakura trees in the Philippines since we already have our own local version that’s as beautiful; and that there is no need to bring in these new potentially harmful species just to pretend that we’re somewhere else.
What do you think? Do you think having sakura trees in the Philippines will have negative implications on our environment? Have you seen any of the local cherry blossom trees?