In Central Luzon lies the province of Aurora, and within that province lie eight municipalities. Out of the eight, only one of them does not align itself by a coast, and that is Maria Aurora. Even so, it is the most populated out of all the municipalities of Aurora.
It is not often that a park, much less an Ecopark, is the biggest attraction of a region, and yet the Balete Ecopark is the pride and joy of Maria Aurora. With its close proximity to Manila, more and more Filipinos are headed this way to enjoy unspoilt nature.
About the Park
People come to Balete Ecopark for two things – to visit the age-old Balete tree (often referred to as the Millennium Tree) and to sample some of the region’s delicacies. It was in 1952 that the piece of land the tree stands on was bought over by the Ronquillo family, where they set up a small pasalubong (souvenir) stall for tourists to the area.
Today, the family is still in disbelief that their products have become the sensations they are now. Travelers from far and wide come to visit the tree, and are glad to have a bunch of friendly faces selling delicious snacks waiting for them.
The Balete Tree
The Balete tree has been standing for over 600 years and takes around 60 adults holding hands to encircle the base of the trunk
Trees are not usually centerpieces, but this lone tree certainly is. The Balete tree has been standing for over 600 years and takes around 60 adults holding hands to encircle the base of the trunk. History and sheer magnificence of this tree make this Ecopark worth the visit.
Locals believe that Balete trees, in general, are home to mythical creatures, such as the tikbalang(demon horse), duwende (elves), kapre (smoking giants), and diwata (fairies). Nonetheless, it has not stopped both foreign and local visitors from coming to this neck of the woods, just to marvel at something that has stood the test of time.
The Balete Waterfall
A five-minute uphill trek from the tree will take you to the Balete Falls. Although small, this waterfall is unique, as it spurts out from a hole in the short cliff. It is very simple, a one stage waterfall, and yet its towering presence is not to be missed!
It is entirely common in Filipino culture to purchase goods and snacks for friends and family after going on a trip. This was the reason the little stand was set up all those years ago, and it has flourished since then.
While you are able to purchase many of these snacks, such as the Pakumbo (slow-cooked coconut in brown sugar, vanilla, and pandan leaves) and Suman (glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk) in markets in central Luzon, these are special.
A unique taste is reported by many trying it at the Ecopark, and as a bonus, you can watch how they are being prepared!