Majestic. Enthralling. Magnificent. These are just some of the words that attempt to describe the Philippine Eagle as it soars across the sky. Measuring about a meter in height and having a wing span of approximately two meters gives justice to its endearing name of “Haring Ibon.”
Despite its mighty name, however, the Philippine Eagle is a critically endangered species, with only about 500 pairs living across the archipelago (Ibañez et al. 2006). It has only been sighted in the areas of Eastern Luzon, Samar, Leyte and across Mindanao.
Birdlife International identifies various reasons for the decline of its population. One of the long-term threats identified by the organization is excessive deforestation. A pair of Philippine Eagles will need about 20 to 50 square kilometers of forest land to range upon and as forest after forest is logged off, the Philippine Eagle loses its home. Habitat destruction likewise affects animals such as lemurs or even wild boars, which the Philippine Eagle is dependent upon. Other threats responsible for the decline of its population are mining and uncontrolled hunting.
Various steps are being undertaken to prevent its further decline through the partnership of Haribon Foundation and the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB). During the foundation day of Nakar Quezon, an advocacy campaign was carried out to remind the people on the significance of the Philippine Eagle. The event was witness to the perceptions and reactions of the Nakarins to the Haring Ibon; reactions and perceptions that we also share as a Filipino people.
Three significant incidents stand out, the first one being that of a mother ushering her child to take a picture with Laila, a preserved Philippine Eagle brought-in by PAWB for educational purposes. The mother told her child that she might never see a Philippine Eagle in her life again and she must take the opportunity to seize this moment. This incident reflects the awareness of the people on the endangered status of the Haring Ibon; an awareness that may not always equal to optimism and proactive protection of this species.
The second incident was that of the fame achieved by the beautiful Laila. Her one-day display at the foundation day fair drew in crowds from small children to senior citizens enthralled by her beauty. This incident reflects the awe that Philippine Eagles elicit from people. Despite its proximity to the people of Quezon, it is still a hidden mystery for them; more so for people reading this article who have never laid eyes on this magnificent creature. This mystery holds a blessing or a curse—of protecting or capturing it.
A third incident would be the appearance of a Philippine Eagle mascot during the story-telling at Gen. Nakar Elementary School. A captivated group of students watched on as the story ended with a juvenile eagle named Malaya flying to its freedom. This incident reflects the hope we place upon the shoulders of our youth; to learn to love and protect what earlier generations have taken for granted.
As the advocacy for the Philippine Eagle goes on, we urge the Filipino people to take a stand for the symbol of our hope as a nation. Let us help the Haring Ibon to soar by protecting its habitat, by protecting the species itself and by continually educating each other. In letting the Haring Ibon soar, we also let our ideals as a nation fly into reality.