TREE PLANTING. Nueva Vizcaya Vice Governor Jose Tomas Sr. (second from left) and other volunteers show their narra and cacao seedlings during a tree planting activity at the Tam-an mountain farm in Busilac, Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya on Thursday (Jan. 6, 2022). Tomas is pushing the province to become the narra capital of the country (Photo by Villamor Visaya Jr.)

By Villamor Visaya Jr., Philippine News Agency stringer and Philippine Daily Inquirer correspondent

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya – Vowing to plant more “sturdy” trees, Nueva Vizcaya Vice Governor Jose Tomas Sr. is bringing the province into the map as the narra capital of the country.

“As a Philippine national tree, narra symbolizes resiliency—which aptly describes my experience in cooperative development and now in public service. Narra wood describes the indefatigable spirit and strength of character of the people,” he told the Philippine News Agency on Friday, a day after he and cooperative member and workers of Tam-an Banaue Multi-Purpose Cooperative had planted 250 narra and cacao trees to mark his 64th birthday celebration at the mountains of Tam-an farm in Busilac village here.

“We used to be the haven of narra and other sturdy trees in the province but illegal logging has been a factor in the decline,” Tomas said.

A large and strong shady tree, narra (pterocarpus indicus) is a large deciduous reddish hardwood that is most wanted as furniture material.

Aside from narra, Tomas also advocates cacao planting, which he said would give “economic returns for decades”. A cacao tree is expected to bear fruits in five years and live for 100 years.

“Sturdy trees like narra thrives in the province because of its unique topography of mountains and rolling hills,” he said.

Nueva Vizcaya has about 63,071 hectares of mountains that include the Mt. Pulag and upland areas in Kayapa, Dupax del Sur, Dupax del Norte, Solano, Bagabag, Villaverde, Diadi, and Ambaguio.

Prior to his plunge into politics in 2019, Tomas steered Tam-an into becoming the first billionaire cooperative in Cagayan Valley. It now has PHP2-billion assets with close to 700 workers and 200,000 members.

Tomas was then the chief executive officer but his son, Jose Jr. took over when he was elected vice governor.

“When the cooperative was organized in 1991, it started with just capitalization of PHP25,000 and with just 25 incorporators. God is good all the time,” he said, citing the challenges that they had weathered.#