17 Mar2014


Roughly one year ago, I noticed that a relatively large molave tree on a neighbor’s lot in Cebu seemed to have lost all its leaves. This tends to happen once a year, it sheds, but the leaves return quite robustly a few months later. This time around, the leaves never returned and it seems the tree died of natural causes. After several months, brittle branches were starting to break off the ends of the tree, and we started to worry that it might topple over in a storm, damaging our wall and terrace area. So we sent someone to look up the owners (who don’t live on the deserted lot) and ask them to please cut down the tree, and if they didn’t want to do that, I would “buy” the tree. To make a long story short, I agreed to their demand that we pay PHP3,000 for the tree (plus two kilos of lechon) and I would have to pay for the guys who would cut and clear the tree — but all the wood would be ours.


We arranged for our “suki” tree trimmers to come around, and they agreed to cut the tree for PHP2,500, so the minimum amount of money I had to pay for the tree was PHP5,500 + 2 kilos of lechon. If they cut it down and it was hollowed out by termites, I would have done the neighbor a favor, but I would be out PHP5,500 and get no wood in exchange.


Once they cut the main trunk of what appears to be a nearly 100 year old molave tree, a very diseased and hollowed out center became apparent. Bad news it seems, I may have lost my molave speculative bet…


…but further cuts revealed that not all was lost, and there were significant pieces of tree trunk left. Now I had to negotiate with the chainsaw experts to cut me smaller pieces and had to pay by the board foot.


The tree trunk was cut into smaller pieces, say 4-5 feet long, and then again into 2-4 inch thick boards. Some smaller trunks were left whole, perhaps for a carving or two by a cousin who is a sculptor.


I was getting more and more excited as I noticed large pieces of solid tree trunk, but there were potential bugs, holes, soft spots in parts of the trunk… it was really like gambling on the unknown, a bit of storage room wars (that silly television show where they bid of abandoned storage containers blind).


As cut pieces started to make it to our side of the wall, I was feeling like we hit a mini-jackpot…


…but I have to admit, the guys carrying the wickedly heavy pieces were doing all the work…


…and despite the disappointment that several pieces had this spongy damaged part that crumbles like chalk…


…the yard started to fill up with piece after piece after piece of reasonable potential molave wood.


We got two half trunk pieces like the one above, disarmingly small, or so we thought, but nearly 60-70 kilos in weight!


Many pieces were not ideal…


…but we managed to collect and choose four piles of wood stacked this high. I looked up on the internet how best to stack fresh wood so it would naturally dry out.


Potential serving boards, trays, bench tops, etc. — whatever your imagination and carver/carpenter can manage.


I had several circular chopping board pieces cut as well, to serve as trivets, or to display items in some of our stores.


This enormous solid piece, at nearly 4-5 inches thick, may make a perfect bench, and it took 5 people to move it around. For the potential price of this piece alone, my bet had paid off.


Since the chainsaw guys were around, I also had them cut up some pieces of fallen acacia wood from the recent Typhoon Yolanda.


Doesn’t this piece bare an incredible resemblance to Sid, the sloth, in the movie “Ice Age”?

Moral of the story, don’t let those fabulous hardwood trees go to waste. If you spot one in your neighborhood that has died (and I REITERATE DIED), make sure you try and get the wood!



  1. ragamuffin girl says:

    I am drooling over those circular ones, those that can be used as serving boards and of course that long jackpot piece! Well done MM, you saved yourself potential headache from falling limbs, and that wood is beautiful! Just beautiful!

    Mar 17, 2014 | 6:16 pm


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  3. Kron says:

    What I would give to get a motherload like that! I’m a budding wood enthusiast, and now into sculpting and whatnot, and saving up for a lathe to make pens and other things with. Since the wood has already been drying for months naturally, I think they’d only need to stabilize further for a few months or so (cutting wood will sometimes release all the stresses/deformations inherent due to the grain, etc.), and then they just need to be surfaced and finished. Those parts with portions eaten away by termites would still make some fantastic organic display pieces with a bit of skilled carving/cutting… Really good deal!

    Mar 17, 2014 | 7:05 pm

  4. Chinky says:

    Beautiful pieces of wood, indeed!

    Mar 17, 2014 | 7:20 pm

  5. Lee says:

    It is Sid the sloth.

    Mar 17, 2014 | 8:03 pm

  6. EJ says:

    Congratulations on this win-win for you and your neighbours! I love that you added that bit “(and I REITERATE DIED)” . ;-)

    Mar 17, 2014 | 9:55 pm

  7. edel says:

    Even in death, a tree is useful. Reminds me of “The Giving Tree.” Lovely, lovely wood :)

    Mar 17, 2014 | 11:16 pm

  8. amy says:

    I’ve always dreamed of having a big slab of hardwood for a coffee table, because I know it would make a good conversation piece. One friend has one and it is just gorgeous! The older it gets, the better it looks… I’m so jealous! You got your money’s worth, indeed! And you saved a dead tree from going to waste and damaging your property. Two birds with one stone, smart!

    Mar 17, 2014 | 11:36 pm

  9. lorraine says:

    nice tree bounty…but i’m curious…why only 2 lbs of lechon? i would have gone for 5 lbs. :)

    Mar 18, 2014 | 12:01 am

  10. Lyn says:

    2500 pesos to cut a tree. Major envy!
    It costs a fortune here in the bay ugh.

    Mar 18, 2014 | 2:36 am

  11. Kron says:

    Also, what happened to the stump/root portion MM? Big old trees will have a pretty significant root spread as well, though not straight down. The stump from about ground-level down to about 2-4 feet can still probably yield a bit of usable wood, and probably highly figured (think burl) at that.

    Mar 18, 2014 | 5:57 am

  12. marilen says:

    So sad when ‘giants’ have to go.

    Mar 18, 2014 | 7:24 am

  13. MARILENE says:

    Oh wow, I have just developed a new appreciation for wood (old and new) still being mindful of the source. Although, I succumbed to having yakal kitchen counters, that I bought new lumber.

    Good deal MM, it was funny that they inserted the 2kgs of lechon in the deal. he he.

    Mar 18, 2014 | 7:51 am

  14. Rona Y says:

    If the tree had fallen and damaged your property, would you not have been able to sue the owners of the property? Just wondering about property laws.

    i think you should have had someone “squat” on their property. Then the owners would have had to pay that person to vacate it, and you could have used that money to cut the tree down!

    (I have a long story about the idiocy of squatters’ rights in the Philippines …)

    Mar 18, 2014 | 8:08 am

  15. Marketman says:

    Rona Y, I agree, we have the worst squatters rights laws in the world, it seems. But as for the tree, if it fell and damaged property, you would have to go to court and wait 20 years for a judgment, and in the meantime, spend more on lawyers than the damages you seek… but I suppose I would still get most of the wood. :)

    Mar 18, 2014 | 8:15 am

  16. khrishyne says:

    they did not ask for a whole zubuchon…the yield is just wow

    Mar 18, 2014 | 8:17 am

  17. khrishyne says:

    i see gorgeous lechon trays…

    Mar 18, 2014 | 8:24 am

  18. Monty says:

    Live edge wood tables! I’ve seen some nice examples of these in a Starbucks shop in SM Masinag of all places. Makes great conversation pieces.

    Mar 18, 2014 | 11:59 am

  19. Mimi says:

    Wow! My brother would use those wood pieces to paint on. The big plank looks like it could be a table top for kneading bread! Great bargain and countless possibilities!

    Mar 18, 2014 | 3:32 pm

  20. Mimi says:

    PS maybe bring small pieces to a lathe machine place and make skinny rolling pins?

    Mar 18, 2014 | 6:22 pm

  21. Sleepless in Seattle says:

    The beauty of cut wood… I like collecting olive wood,bamboo,acacia,Those are beautiful pieces of wood you have,which I am sure,, you will put them in good use.

    Mar 19, 2014 | 12:36 pm

  22. jakbkk says:

    Sid the Sloth, galing!

    Mar 19, 2014 | 4:52 pm

  23. Ron says:

    no need for DENR permit?

    Mar 19, 2014 | 5:59 pm

  24. Marketman says:

    Ron, not if it’s a DEAD tree. Not to mention at risk of damaging property if it falls over.

    Mar 19, 2014 | 6:09 pm

  25. Kasseopeia says:

    MM, I agree with krishyne: the huge board can be used to display a whole Zubuchon!

    Good deal on the wood/tree.

    Just curious: what’s with the lechon being included in the deal? Haha! Funny, though.

    Mar 19, 2014 | 6:32 pm

  26. AM says:

    Nice pieces of molave…you can make so many things out of them – table, bench, coasters, coffee table, etc. Molave is hard to find nowadays. Good find, MM.

    Mar 21, 2014 | 10:30 am

  27. Mrs. Kolca says:

    Why, hello there Sid! I suppose you will reunite with your body soon! :)

    Mar 25, 2014 | 9:00 am

  28. Mari of NY says:

    Wishing I could do that here in the US where we already pay a whopping price to have the tree cut down. I only managed to get 4 round slices of the trunk, not the best cut either, but manageable. Imagine if I had asked for longer ones!

    Mar 27, 2014 | 2:23 am

  29. pau says:

    I was reading your post and I remember that I just bought a molave bonsai here at mabalacat pampanga. Do you have any posts about how to take care of bonsai? Thanks MM.

    Apr 1, 2014 | 2:10 pm

  30. Matt says:

    Great Project! That looks like so much fun!

    I hope you were (or will next time) let as many pieces as possible keep their ‘belly’ i.e. the round, outer part of the tree with bark. (like in picture 2063). To the right buyer those are worth much more than flat boards. Thanks for posting!

    Aug 20, 2014 | 3:13 pm

  31. gemme says:

    i’ve been on net these past few days, hmmmm, i think for almost a week now… & what topic excites me most.. molave bonsais, molave art crafts, molave root”antique”crafts.. i just love it.. in fact i got a 3-piece set of molave last ammungan festival here in nueva vizcaya where rootcrafts were on sale, a collectors item i think coz the bunk length is around 2mtrs with the natural design curved on it… a piece holds 3-4 strong persons to carry it inside the house.. and yes if i were on your shoes i would do the same too… in fact nowadays we are on mountain trekking purposely for molave “hunting”, of course for the ‘DEAD’ ones…. you rightfully invested your cold cash 5,500.00 into “gold”.

    Jun 25, 2015 | 4:22 pm

  32. gemme says:

    and yes go with the roots too… it would surely have marvelous designs.. you would surely love it i tell you…..

    Jun 25, 2015 | 4:31 pm

  33. Therese says:

    I need a stump to put my wedding cake on. Rustic Theme. Please contact me if you know where I can find those.

    Mar 11, 2016 | 9:14 am


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