MANILA — Like in previous years, a more than 150-year-old duhat (blackberry) tree dubbed as “Katipunan” tree once again served as a mute witness to the celebration of the 116th anniversary of the Philippine Independence in Novaliches, Quezon City on Thursday.
A flag-raising and wreath-laying ceremony and a short program highlighted the celebration held near the foot of the historical tree located at the compound of the Metro Manila College (MMC), formerly the Novaliches Academy, in Barangay Kaligayahan, Novaliches.
This year’s commemorative ceremonies were organized by the Knights of Columbus, through the St. Maximilian Ma. Kolbe Assembly and Novaliches District Assembly, in coordination with the MMC management.
The annual celebration is intended to pay tribute to the heroic sacrifices of Filipino heroes like Andres Bonifacio, the Katipunan Founder and Father of the 1896 Philippine Revolution, and his men as well as Melchora Aquino, the revolutionary heroine better known as “Tandang Sora.”
The ancient duhat tree was renamed “Katipunan” tree in 1980 by the then National Historical Institute (NHI),the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports, and the Tree Preservation Foundation of the Philippines Inc.
For this year’s celebration, among the guests who hailed the significance of the tree to the Filipinos’ fight for freedom from Spain were Quezon City District 5 Councilor Jose A. Visaya, Knights of Columbus officer Noel Vincent Pimentel, who represented QC District 5 Rep. Alfred Vargas, and local barangay, civic and religious leaders.
In his speech, Councilor Visaya underscored the importance of creating massive awareness among the young generation that there is a living and existing historical tree that witnessed the rich historical past of the Philippine Revolution and the men and women who sacrificed their lives for the sake of freedom from foreign domination more than a century ago.
A native of the Ilocos region, Visaya said he was amazed to know from the narration of 84-year-old Mrs. Natividad M. Villano, MMC’s former high school principal and now HR Personnel Supervisor, that the branches of the “Katipunan” tree had served as protective shade from the sun and rains during numerous meetings conducted by Bonifacio with his fellow Katipuneros prior to the launching of the Revolution on Aug. 23, 1896.
The location of the ancient tree used to be a hilly and forested section of the old town of Novaliches.
Villano, who is a descendant of Katipunan member Bernabe Serrano or “Kapitan Abeng” from Novaliches, said that old native residents of Novaliches, when they were still alive, used to narrate that they had seen the Grand Old Lady of the Katipunan, Tandang Sora, feeding and curing the sick Katipuneros under the branches of the duhat tree.
She explained that Tandang Sora’s house and birthplace in Gulod sa Banilad or Banlat (now in Barangay Tandang Sora, Novaliches) is just about five kilometers away from the site of the historical tree.
“That is why we can also say that our town (referring to Novaliches) was a home also of great and selfless heroes who will not mind dying if it is for the sake of freedom and the motherland,” the former high school principal said.
The tree is currently undergoing a rehabilitation stage to prolong its life by a team headed by Marcelina V. Pacho, Science Research Specialist II of Eco-Systems Research and Development Bureau in Laguna under the supervision of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Councilor Visaya expressed support and assistance to the rehabilitation, preservation and treatment of the historical tree to prolong further its life.
Despite its age, the old tree continues to bring fruits every summer.