La Union’s iconic centennial tree collapses

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BACNOTAN, La Union – One of the famous and historical landmarks of this province -- the so-called Giant Green Parachute or the Centennial Acacia Tree -- which was planted in 1896 on the grounds of Carcarmay Elementary School collapsed Thursday morning.

CENTENNIAL ACACIA TREE – The famous historical landmark of Bacnotan, La Union is this Giant Green Parachute or the Carcarmay Centennial Acacia Tree. (Photo by ERWIN BELEO/ MANILA BULLETIN)

Lester Cardinez, a wedding photographer and resident in the area, said that at about 4:00 a.m. on Thursday,  a loud strange sound was heard coming from the tree and he felt the ground shake. The acacia tree fell on the ground.

The tree was one of the favorite destinations of local tourists for its long branches that fan out like a parachute and large trunk that served as a backdrop for hundreds of thousands of souvenir photos.

“Sa sobrang tagal na nito siguro at nabulok na. Sayang lang kasi hindi na siya magandang tignan," Cardinez said.

“Buti nalang at walang nasaktan na tao (it's a good thing that no one was hurt),” Cardinez added.

The centennial tree, also known as Carcarmay acacia tree or Victor Ortega tree was proclaimed as one of the 13th Philippine Centennial Trees under DENR Administrative Order No. 98-25 on June 3, 1998.

The tree provided shade to millions of pupils,  soldiers, and community locals during the  Spanish colonization period, Japanese, and American invasions.

Years after World War II, a group of Japanese soldiers returned to visit the area where they were once stationed. The problem is they could no longer remember the exact location of their former base. 

One day, one of the Japanese soldiers remembered a tall old tree that they used to hang out. After several inquiries with the locals, the Japanese were able to locate the exact spot of their former refuge and were amazed at the tree’s beauty. Some people, especially treasure hunters, believed that the tree was used as a marker and repository of alleged buried gold chests because of its size and location.