CLOSE to 40 Japanese sakura trees planted in Benguet last year show positive signs as some started to bloom in a park in Paoay, Atok town.
These sakura trees, commonly called cherry blossoms because of their outstanding blooms during spring season in Japan, can be found at Benguet-Kochi Sisterhood Park, which was established by farmer Edward Haight and Japanese national Hiromi Yoshikawa last year.
Haight said there are two varieties of sakura tree planted in the park: Yokiwari Sakura, which produces pink blooms, and Sindaya Sakura, which gives white blossoms. These trees are expected to become fully mature in three to five years. The seeds and grafted trees all came from Kochi Prefecture in Japan.
He said that when they recently saw that those from the grafted plants have started to blossom, they sent pictures of the flowers to Yoshikawa.
“When we sent pictures of the blossom to Japan, it was headlined in their local newspapers there and was shown to us by Mr. Hiroma,” Haight said.
Philip John Haight said the park started when he and his uncle, Edward, had a series of visits by Yoshikawa's team, who gave the idea of an experimental planting of sakura tree varieties on an idle pasteur land in their farm last year.
“They tried to seek other areas in the province for possible areas to plant. But after several surveys, they came back here and said the elevation in our farm is suitable for the cold loving variety of sakura trees,” Philip John said.
Paoay in Atok is where the highest point of elevation in the province.
“When the blossoms were posted in social media, a few days later, 16 vehicles loaded with tourists came here already, unexpectedly, but they still insisted to have an overnight stay,” Edward said. “Plans and constant meetings with the local government to allay such congestions from expected tourists influx are being crafted but it takes time.”
He said the park may bring in tourists when the time comes but farming is the main source of income in the province, and the farm-to-market roads in the area are narrow.
The Haight family said they are not ready yet to fully publicize the park as roads and hotels are not available in the area.
“Visitors are welcome, but parking areas for their vehicles may cause problems, that is why parking lots are being eyed elsewhere and have to hike to the park to decongest any traffic problems,” Edward said.
“We do not like it to become like another ‘La Preza’, in Mt. Sto. Tomas, Tuba Benguet,” Edward added.