Have you ever heard of a Sidjapo plant used by many Boholanos as a Christmas tree inside homes, schools, and offices?
Sidjapo or Sijapo, as known by locals, is a sturdy shrub that grows up to 1 to 3 meters and belongs to the genus Wikstroemia from the family Thymelaeaceae. It is widely distributed in East Asia through Southeast Asia and Australia.
In the Philippines, this shrub grows naturally in the primary and secondary forests with low to medium altitudes and can be found in Benguet, Bulacan, Bataan, Rizal, Laguna, Batangas, Sorsogon, Negros Oriental, Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor, and in Mindanao.
There are about 50-70 known species of Sidjapo with 4 major species including Wikstroemia indica, lanceolata, meyeniana and ovata. It thrives in any kind of soil and can withstand any kind of weather.
Every Christmas season, Boholanos especially those living in rural areas would opt to cut a sidjapo plant instead of buying synthetic Christmas trees from malls or other stores. They would remove the bark from the body to its branches up to its twigs leaving the plant bare-white and decorate it colorfully inside their homes.
Aside from being used as a Christmas tree, it also has medicinal uses depending on the species. The root of Wikstroemia lanceolata is used to treat amoebiasis while the leaves of Wikstroemia ovata are chewed and swallowed as laxative medicine.
Sidjapo is an important source of Salago fiber. According to the Philippine Fiber Industry Development Authority (PhilFIDA) of the Department of Agriculture, salago fiber is an excellent material for the manufacture of currency paper, banknotes, specialty papers for art, and other paper materials.
In addition, it can be used to make ropes, fishing lines and nets, hats, and wallets. From 1990-1999, the Philippines exported salago fiber annually to China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand.
The Philippines has many plant varieties that can be good sources of fibers – such as abaca, piña, raffia, salago among others – which help boost the country’s economy.