Free Concert

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By Roberto P. Alabado III

Planning Perspectives

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


EVERY city and town should have its own choir. The best choir nature has given us will always be our wild birds. Take note of the word - wild, birds are born to fly and cages will always be deathly prisons for these creatures. Birds are best enjoyed when they are observed in the open and even their songs sound more cheerful in the wild.

Let us have a short quiz. How many Philippine birds do you know? ... 2? 5? 10? Most of us can answer with the Philippine Eagle (maybe because we are Dabawenyos) and the maya (European tree sparrow) almost immediately. Some may also mention parrots, kingfishers or even the adorable tamsi. But do we know the specific specie we are referring to? their habitat? their peculiar habits? Sad to say, many children can identify more bird species that are not found in our country... Penguins and ostriches.

Food for thought: Of the more than 600 bird species found in the Philippines, more than 200 of these are endemic species (found only in the Philippines).

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I learned these facts when I attended a bird watching seminar in the Philippine Eagle Foundation. Resource speakers - Adri and Trinket Constantino from the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines gave a seminar to a diverse group of people - students, forest volunteers, barangay officials, municipal staff as well as private citizens. Topics were more on the basics of bird watching as well as identifying the different birds found in the Philippines and more specifically Mindanao.

Local communities like Barangay Sibulan and Mintal expressed interested in integrating bird watching among their tourism activities. Yes, bird watching is a tourist activity and may serve as an attraction for foreign tourists who are interested to observe birds that are only found in the Mindanao. This mostly rural-based activity may help generate opportunities when birdwatchers visit their areas. They will need specialized bird watching guides, porters, accommodation and food for several days just to trek the trails and find these species. This means jobs for our rural communities.

Foreign tourists are always interested on experiencing and seeing things that are unique to the place. Beaches especially white beaches can be found all over the world, ziplines and mountain trails also but our endemic species of animals and plants are one of a kind, found nowhere else in the world but in the Philippines.

My British planner friend, Bob, once told me that the largest organization in UK is a Bird Watching organization. Their members have been inquiring about the Philippines and would like to visit our country just to see the endemic species we have. Hard to believe that people will really spend money and travel thousands of miles just to see birds. He told me that we in the Philippines are missing a great opportunity by failing to develop bird watching as a major tourist attraction.

In my opinion bird watching just like snorkeling and diving, is one of the most environment friendly among the so called eco-tourism activities. Unlike other so-called eco-adventure activities, bird watching mostly consists of just plain walking on trails and observing birds at a distance. Silence is a must so not to scare the birds and disturb the wildlife; careful recording is done to document the species and its numbers so to contribute to their database.

Bird watching, likewise, encourages people to carefully study the relationship between the environment and the birds. It also encourages people to know the different species of plants and trees where particular bird species hang out to make the search easier.

While we are considered to be a bird paradise owing to the number of bird species as well as endemic species, we seem to lack appreciation for these beautiful creatures. Case in point, do you know of a local bird watching club? The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines counts two regular members from the Davao Region and they are foreigners not locals! There are plans to encourage the locals to join bird watching activities to know more about our natural treasures. I hope to see you there.

I hope that DENR and the local environmentalists will see our parks and watersheds as biodiversity centers and not just mere tree forests. If we say that we are really protecting watersheds then we should also protect its flora and fauna from exploitation and hunting. After all, birds are a real indicator of the health of our watersheds. When our watersheds are reforested with hardwood and exotic species like gmelina and acacia, we will have forests devoid of animals and birds. These trees do not provide shelter and food for the birds, deer and wild boars. DENR must identify which tree species are beneficial to our birds and other animals and propagate these instead.

In our cities and towns, let our parks be planted with these endemic trees that will bear fruits and flowers. These will attract more species of birds other than the all familiar Maya (European sparrow). I recall, we had thirty sections named after local trees in our third year level at DCHS, i confess that I have yet to see majority of those trees.

During our brief field exercise on bird watching within the vicinity of the Phil Eagle Foundation, guess how many bird species we observed in the wild? We saw at least 30 different species of birds in the wild. I enjoyed observing the tiny but colorful flower pickers and parrots. About half of these, were endemic species - proud Filipinos in their own right. Such rich biodiversity our city has.

Open your eyes to see the flying jewels of nature and hear the free concerts they sing. If we protect and enhance the biodiversity of our cities and towns, we and our children will enjoy more of these.

*****

rpalabado@gmail.com

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 21, 2014.

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