A hobby takes wings


Armed with his super zoom-cameras and dressed in camouflage, Department of Education Undersecretary for Administration Alain Pascua tries his best to trek to the forest every month to go bird watching and take pictures of his feathered friends at least twice a month. Despite his busy schedule, the active wildlife advocate nurtured this hobby for over a decade now.

Department of Education Undersecretary for Administration Alain Pascua

How he first fell in love with bird watching, however, had nothing to do being in nature per se.

“It was 2004, and I was part of Senator Panfilo Lacson’s team for his presidential run. I also helped my ninong [godfather]Jerry Pelayo who won as mayor of Candaba, Pampanga. It was by pure coincidence that [Pelayo’s] chief of staff, Leni Manalo—my longtime friend and a lecture buddy in youth training seminars and political consultancy—invited me to Candaba to observe and check out possible projects,” Pascua, an engineer by profession told The Sunday Times Magazine.

“We saw a lot of migratory birds in the farm, and from there, I took on bird watching as a hobby and advocacy,” he added.

As part of the Kaakbay Party List, Pascua enjoined his partymates to take part in helping Candaba conserve its swaps and protect its wild birds.

“Within a year’s time, we organized the group to produce information brochures on the migratory birds. It was difficult for us to find pictures of the winged visitors as most of them had copyright, so we decided to buy cameras and took photos ourselves. From there, I started doing bird photography,” he recalled.

Pascua, who is also the vice president and co-founder of Wild Bird Photographers of the Philippines (WBPP), said his group further began joining the Manila FAME exhibit in 2013, considered as the country’s premier design and lifestyle event. Under the agency’s auspices, they held their first exhibit titled, Birds as Art, at Makati’s Ayala Center.

“We mounted the exhibit anew just last year with Manila Fame at the SMX Convention Center and World Trade Center. It was a three-day commercial exhibit, and we sold almost a million pesos’ worth of framed photos of wild birds, and my exhibit was the bestseller,” he related with pride.

According to Pascua, Dusit Thani bought at least 30 exclusive frames from him in 2015, now adorning every suite of the hotel.

Using fade-resistant Giclee printing, his largest frame of the Philippine Eagle sold at P75,000. Smaller frames cost between P5,000 and P12,000.

“Giclee is pigment printing that can resist fading for the next 75 to 100 years as long as it does not get soaked in water or directly exposed to sunlight, with the paper material acid-free archival,” said the photography enthusiast.

For those who want to take up bird photography, Pascua believes that the first step is to develop a keen love for the environment first, and then a lot of patience.

“It may take up to seven hours of waiting just for a chance to see the birds,” he warned.

Of course, one must be physically fit to endure a two- to three-hour trek to up a mountain. After making sure one is interested to take the hobby seriously, then the equipment comes next, top of which is a camera with long lenses so as to be able to take long shots.

“It’s not just about taking photos of a bird, the photos should also have a story,” Pascua added. “You should have composition in your photos. What’s most challenging is how you capture the birds with your framing,” he explained, opining that bird photography is most difficult of all.

“It’s difficult because you have no control of the situation, of your model, and of the lighting. But nothing is more rewarding for bird photographers than having taken a photo of a rare bird,” he stressed.

“Best of all, it also helps in reducing stress,” he concluded as he prepared for his next foray into the woods.


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