Nueva Vizcaya Vice Gov. Jose Tomas Sr. is being assisted as he plants a seedling to mark his 64th birthday at the Tam-an mountain farm in Busilac, Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya on Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022. PHOTO BY VINCE JACOB A. VISAYA

By Vince Jacob Visaya, Manila Times news correspondent

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya: Narra symbolizes resiliency and could be an inspiring trait in cooperative development and in public service, Nueva Vizcaya Vice Gov. Jose Tomas Sr. said as he advocated to bring the province into the map as the native tree’s main source.

“Narra wood describes the fighting spirit and strength of character of the people,” he told reporters on Thursday after he and cooperative member and workers of Tam-an Banaue Multipurpose 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.

“Nueva Vizcaya used to be full of narra and other sturdy trees in the province, but illegal logging has been the culprit,” he said.

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

Aside from narra, Tomas also advocated cacao planting, which will 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 thrive in the province because of its unique topography of mountains and rolling hills,” he added.

Researches showed Nueva Vizcaya, a landlocked province in the Cagayan Valley, founded in 1839 has an area of 3,975.67 square-kilometers with 275 villages and 15 towns. Its capital is Bayombong. It is bordered by Benguet to the west, Ifugao to the north, Isabela to the northeast, Quirino to the east, Aurora to the southeast, Nueva Ecija to the south and Pangasinan to the southwest.

Environment studies listed about 63,071 hectares of mountains in the province such as the Mount Pulag and upland areas in Kayapa, Dupax del Sur, Dupax del Norte, Solano, Bagabag, Villaverde, Diadi and Ambaguio.

Tomas recalled that prior to his plunge into politics in 2019, he steered the Tam-an as the first billionaire cooperative in Cagayan Valley, which now has P2 billion in assets with close to 700 workers and 200,000 members. He was the chief executive officer but his son Jose Jr. took over when he was elected vice governor.

Tomas said he was born to a poor family in Ifugao on Jan. 6, 1958. He recalled his experience as a houseboy in order to finish high school and took in various odd jobs as a carpenter, and later as a waiter, a bartender, and then as a beverage supervisor at the Banaue Hotel.

“When the cooperative was organized in 1991, it started with just capitalization of P25,000 and with just 25 incorporators. God is good all the time,” he said.#