In the Philippines, some people believe that balete trees are homes of mystical beings such as the bearded smoking “kapre” and the demon horse “tikbalang.”
These trees are also where sorcery rituals are being performed. In Siquijor, we found a 400-plus year-old balete tree which is believed by the locals to be enchanted to this day.
The balete tree belongs to the family of fig trees (from the genus Ficus). There are several species, about 10 of 800 are found in the Philippines. The balete tree is also known as the banyan in other parts of the world. It’s a type of ficus, or what’s also called a strangler fig tree, since the tree grows around a host tree and strangles it.
The leaves are about 6-9 centimeters long and are smooth, pointed, and shiny.
The tree stands at 8 meters up to 20 meters high with adventitious roots from its branches and trunk.