"Dwarf Trees" from Fr. Pedro Chirino's
Relacion de las Islas Pilipinas

       Relacion de las Islas Pilipinas by Fr. Pedro Chirino, S.J. (1604), originally in Spanish and translated into English by Mr. Ramon Echeveria in 1969 

       Chapter 10 contains a description of how Chinese immigrants were growing Balete trees (a local term referring to ficus) onto corals.  They would insert the roots into the coral's crevices and place them onto water basins until the roots clasped the host corals.  The arrangement were small enough to be carried by one hand.  The tree would in a certain time of the year be leafless as if dead, but only to shoot out new buds that symbolized the Resurrection of Easter Sunday.
        Since trade between the Philippines and China had been ongoing centuries before the Spaniards came, it would not be far-fetched to think that this art was already flourishing even before the 1600s by the Chinese who had migrated there. 1


1   Ceballos, Poncevic "Vic"  "Taking A Quantum Leap: Bonsai in the Philippines," Bonsai, BCI, July/August 1999, pg. 32; "Philippine Bonsai History," Bonsai, BCI, June 1981, pg. 147, which states that Chirino came to the islands in 1590 and Echevarria was a poet and business executive of Cebu.  Presumably the "corals" were chunks of the dried skeletons of the reef building creatures, as are commonly seen today as souvenirs.

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