Father Bong Suñaz

The Vanishing Tree

Father ‘Bong’ Suñaz, now back in the Philippines after serving in East Timor, tells us of the decline of the sandalwood tree in that country before it became independent of Indonesia in 2002.

I remember a beautiful song entitled SANDALWOOD in catechism class back in Manila two decades ago. I still hum it sometimes now and I realize that the place mentioned in that song is the island of Timor, or so I think. I once had the chance to talk about the tree with the head of the Department of Forestry and he said that in Timor the sandalwood tree grows wild, unlike in India and China real plantations were created for economical reasons. He said that most probably during the colonial times of the Portuguese, seedlings of this tree were brought to Goad in Macao hundreds of years before which were also under the colonial Portugal. The tree grows both in the East and West Timor. It is called Cami in Tetun, the local language of Cendana, in Bahasa, Indonesia.