Every spring, tourists from all over the world flock to Japan to catch the country’s beautiful cherry trees in bloom. The delicate sakura blossoms are such an iconic part of Japanese culture that checking the cherry blossom forecasts and holding viewing parties have become a local yearly tradition.
Well, if you can’t make it to Japan this year, you can just drive down to Dasmariñas instead. The pale pink blossoms of the balayong tree closely resemble sakura, so much so that it’s also commonly called the “Palawan cherry tree.” As it turns out, visitors and staff at the De La Salle University Medical Center in Dasmariñas, Cavite have been enjoying the sight of these “cherry blossoms” for years.
In the Philippines, the tree is native to Palawan—in fact, a balayong park patterned after Japanese sakura gardens has been constructed in Puerto Princesa, and residents and visitors will be able to enjoy the balayong blossoms in a few years’ time. In Metro Manila, you can also find balayong trees at the Manila Seedling Bank and within Malacañang Palace grounds.
According to the botanist Leonard Co, balayong is Cassia nodosa, a species that is actually closer to Philippine trees like the acacia, narra, kamatsile, ipil, and tindalo. In the meantime, sakura trees are Prunus serrulata.
Now, until you book your tickets to either Palawan or Japan (or make that drive down to Cavite), please enjoy these photos of the balayong trees in Dasmariñas.