Story by Lara Climaco

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—Cherry trees endemic to Palawan, specifically the Cassia nodosa variety known locally as balayong, will be the centerpiece of a 7-hectare park at the heart of the city. The local government organized thousands of local folks — including national government agencies, schools, business establishments and barangays — for a tree planting activity last July 28. It was one of several that have taken place since the Balayong Festival was launched in 2005 to commemorate the founding of Puerto Princesa City with its balayong trees in full bloom. The festival is celebrated March 4 every year.

“The Puerto Princesa Balayong Park will be an important tourist attraction and will be a much-loved civic space. This will be a people’s park established via the Filipino bayanihan spirit. This will be a much remembered people’s park where personal milestones are celebrated by families,” according to City Mayor Lucilo Bayron.

The city government has earmarked about PHP 250 million to develop Balayong Park as an alternative tourist destination. When fully completed, it will boast a skyscraper called DNA Tower, sports complex, convention center with a seating capacity of 1,000, children’s playground, water park, and several forest parks. The site will also host the new government center with a city hall fitted with energy efficient systems.

Improvement of the sports complex, costing about PHP 79 million, is on-going and expected to be completed by August 29 this year. Already up are basketball and volleyball courts, a swimming pool, and a grandstand. The development plan envisions a skating rink, a track oval that can also function as a football field, a separate baseball field, and a new swimming pool.

The site has been divided into 10 blocks. Block 1 is where the new convention center, children’s park and playground, cultural museum and library, food park and wedding shrine will all be located. According to materials prepared by the City Mayor’s Office, the big-ticket items are the cultural museum and library costing PHP 57.2 million, the 2-storey restaurant with 600 seating capacity with a price tag of PHP 30 million and the convention center estimated to cost PHP 26 million and covering 1,507 square meters. The park’s wedding shrine is slated to be ecumenical with a budget of PHP 2.4 million and covering 200 sq.m.

The city government has also set aside PHP 2.9 million for the park’s public toilet, to span 128 sq.m. The park’s administrative building, for which 380 sq.m. and PHP 8.75 million have been set aside, will also be in Block 1.

Adjacent to Block 1 is the sports complex, designated as Block 2 in the site development plan.

The city government of Puerto Princesa is targeting several markets for its upcoming destination. With the Palawan cherry trees as the backdrop, it is eyeing the park as a pre-nuptial photo-shoot venue and for mass wedding ceremonies and receptions. Cultural shows, art exhibits, landscape photography, star gazing and bay viewing are also lined up for the exciting new tourist attraction. The meetings and conventions crowds are likewise, a big market for the destination.

Development of Balayong Park will build up over the next five years.