The 9th Philippine Bird Festival held in Zamboanga City on February 26 to March 2 brought visitors from different parts of the world to the Philippines. The locality known as “Asia’s Latin City” was a perfect destination to introduce the country’s rich biodiversity and abundant resources that tourists can marvel.
In the recently concluded festival, delegates from Thailand visiting the Philippines for the first time made sure they were ready before hand. These were Wichyanan Limparungpatthanakij or Jay and Bank Sp of the Bird Conservation Society.
“We did a lot of research on Philippine endemic birds before coming here,” Jay said. “I think I have about at least 25 lifers,” he added. The Thai native has been birding since he was 15 years old, and his enthusiasm for birds showed during the festival. He was so busy birding throughout the event that he had yet to stop and count how many different bird species he included to his list.
John Bakar of the Borneo Bird Club was also excited to see his own set of lifers. He shared a bit about Borneo’s own endemic, the Bornean Bristlehead (pityriasis gymnocephala), while Wolfgang M. from Germany, a self-proclaimed “beginner birder,” had already frequented Africa for his own bird tours.
Pamela Lim from Malaysia was experienced with lenses as well as birding, exhibiting both skills when she decided to sit and wait for a Silvery kingfisher to reveal itself on a riverbank in Pasonanca Natural Park. Gina Mapua, president of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, further supported this method of waiting for the birds. “Sometimes you don’t go to the birds, you let them come to you,” Mapua revealed.
Angela Colmenares-Sabino of Earth Island Institute Philippines and Glacy Macabale of Save Freedom Island Movement were two of the many Filipino delegates. Sabino and Macabale are currently working to preserve both the communities and wildlife within the Freedom Island in Manila Bay. This place is where tranquil ponds and large Mangrove forests still reside in the midst of reclamation and construction slowly closing in on its shores.
The Katala Foundation was also present during the festival. Known for its campaigns to conserve the rare and endangered endemic, the Philippine Cockatoo (cacatua haematuropygia), the foundation sent a delegate from its home base on the beautiful island of Palawan.
John Cofreros and Jenalyn Carlos, students of the Hospitality and Restaurant Management program at Zamboanga State College of Marine Sciences and Technology (ZSCMST), guided Philippine-based though their Mangrove forest on campus. After viewing some of the Great egret nests, the guides led some participants to a huge mound reaching up to 20 meters long. They revealed that there was a sperm whale buried under the mound. “It was found on the shore not far from the city a few years ago. People were following the truck carrying the whale all the way to our school,” the guides revealed.
“Help people help the environment” is an underlying cause for non-government organizations like the Haribon Foundation. For the residents of Zamboanga City, they have shown that they not only have the utmost tolerance of people regardless of religion and language, but that in the midst of violence, they can also appreciate the nature around them as well.
Elton Earl Alviar, a young resident of Zamboanga City had noted that he had lost a friend during the siege. But still wit enthusiasm, he excitedly taught some delegates words in Chabacano, Bisaya, and Yakan, and directed us to places of interest in the city. He described mouth-watering array of cuisine purveyed by both the Muslim and Christian communities of his home city.
The 9th Philippine Bird Festival revealed Zamboanga City’s natural and hidden wonders. It is a perfect sanctuary for birds and other species living in a natural habitat that remains undiscovered for commercial use.
For more information on these birds and type of bird names provided in this article, log on to the BirdLife International website http://www.birdlife.org/. BirdLife is an international partnership of nature conservation NGO’s, of which the Haribon Foundation is a representative for the Philippines.