Homegrown bonsai artist Jun Frago encourages Palaweños to venture into the art of making bonsai.
Frago said that living in a naturally diverse province where valuable tree species are at arm’s reach is an advantage in bonsai making and also helps preserve and protect the environment by bringing it closer to the people.
With a background in gardening as their family business, Frago started his fascination with bonsai at a very young age.
“Bata pa lang po ako naghahalaman na po kami. Bale paghahalaman na po yung business namin. Around elementary, pag papasok ako sa school dadaan ako sa mga kakahuyan usually mga puno ng acacia,” he recalled.
At that time, he wished to be friends with Doraemon, a fictional character from a Japanese manga who draws gadgets out of his pocket, to help him with his hobby.
“Di ba si Doraemon naglalabas ng mga gadgets. So pipicturan niya lang yung halaman tapos nasa paso na,” he candidly shared.
Without the help of an imaginary friend, Frago was still thankful that he learned the art of bonsai the hard way.
In more or less 20 years of doing bonsai, Frago has made bonsai making, one of his bread and butter, into a passion.
“Passion ko na sya. Naging passion ko na yung paghahalaman and passion ko na rin yung art. Im into arts na rin kasi bata pa. And then pagdating sa bonsai, dun ko nakita na ah maipapalabas ko rin pala yung pagiging artistic ko sa pagbobonsai,” he said.
For starters, he encourages newbies to venture into cutting or seeding local tree species.
Frago believes that it is a sustainable way of growing bonsai, especially these are more likely to thrive given the local climate.
For bonsai techniques, Frago was generous in giving personal tips to those who visit his home-based garden.
In 2014, Frago and other bonsai enthusiasts founded the Palawan Bonsai Society (PBS). PBS members share his passion and they collectively elevate the standard of bonsai in the province.
As the local affiliate of the Philippine Bonsai Society Inc. (PBSI), the Palawan Bonsai Society has conducted numerous exhibits and workshops about the art of bonsai.
They have also showcased local bonsai to international exhibitions here and abroad.
Frago admits that there are a lot of bonsai enthusiasts in the province but is unaware of any platform to further their craft.
“Actually marami, sobrang dami po. Yun nga lang may kanya kanya tayong level ng pananaw sa pasok sa mundo ng pag bobonsai. Mayron kasing iba dyan na gusto lang for collection. Pambahay lang, naappreciate ng mga friends na nakakakita. Yung iba may sariling understanding din. May iba din na extreme. Yung sumasali sa competitions,” he said.
All of them are welcome to join the Palawan Bonsai Society, according to Frago.
For himself, he considers his approach to be extreme as he actively joins exhibitions and contests.
“Sa akin gusto ko sinasali sa mga show sa competition kasi doon ko mas naaappreciate yung ginagawa ko pag may award pag nananalo masarap sa pakiramdam,” Frago said.
On December 10-11, the Palawan Bonsai Society will be having a bonsai exhibit and workshop at Balai Princesa, Socrates Road, Puerto Princesa City.
“Magkakaroon po kami from December 10, 9am to 6pm, Open po sya sa mga interesado,sa mga curious sa kung ano nga ba ang bonsai. Marami po kaming ididisplay. And on December 11, 9am onwards, magkakaroon po ako ng free open Basic Bonsai 101 workshop sa mga gusto pong matuto,” Frago invites the public.
To reach the younger generations, Frago is also in the process of opening a YouTube channel dedicated to sharing his passion for Bonsai.