The Chinese, who are really ingenious, are wont to plant one of these [balete] trees on a stone (so small that both the tree and stone can be held in the hand), just as if it were in a flower-pot, and then it can be carried from one place to another; and the tree, like a dwarfed orange tree, grows in proportion to its roots, hardly reaching five palmos in height.
As this method of planting these trees on a stone may seem as difficult as it is curious,I shall describe how I have seen it done. They take a sprout of the tree when it is already covered with roots, and a stone which must not be too hard, or smooth, but not very solid, and somewhat porous or hollow. These stones are found there in abundance among the reefs and shoals of the sea. They tie the little tree or sprout to this stone, covering the latter so far as possible on all sides with the fibres and roots; and to make it grow, they cover the stone with water.
With the water the tree clings much more readily to the stone, entwines about it, and becomes grafted into all its pores and cavities, embracing it with remarkable amity and union.A large balete stands in the patio of our house in Manila, near the regular entrance. In the year 1602, in the month of April or May, I saw it all withered, with its leaves falling. Thinking that it was dying I was greatly grieved, for I did not wish to lose so fine a tree. My sorrow was increased when I saw it next day almost without a leaf; and I showed it to our procurator, who chanced to be with me while I was inspecting the tree.
But on the third day I beheld it covered with new leaves, tender and beautiful, at which I was as rejoiced as I had previously been saddened; for it is in truth a beautiful tree.In this I saw represented, as in a picture, the truth of the resurrection."
Link (here) to the original webpage which contains Fr. Pedro Chirino's decription on Chinese bonsai in the Philippines
Relacion de las Islas Pilipinas by Fr. Pedro Chirino, S.J. (Rome, 1604), originally in Spanish and translated into English by Mr. Ramon Echeveria in 1969. (Padre Chirino was born in 1557 in Osuna of Anadalucia. He graduated in both civil and canon law at Sevilla, and entered the Society of Jesus at the age of twenty-three.