Salvador: Close encounter with the Philippine eagle

The birdkeepers - Adriano Ocsales, Jessie Mahinay, Lohwana Halaq, Dominic Tadena & Anfrei Flores. (Photo by Jinggoy I. Salvador)
The birdkeepers - Adriano Ocsales, Jessie Mahinay, Lohwana Halaq, Dominic Tadena & Anfrei Flores. (Photo by Jinggoy I. Salvador)

A PHILIPPINE eagle, one of the rarest birds in the world, and seven other raptors — Rosscarrock, Grey-headed Fishing Eagle, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Brahminy Kite, and birds endemic to the Philippines: Philippine Serpent Eagle, Pinsker’s Hawk Eagle Giant Scoops Owl — swoop a few feet before you. Have you ever experienced that in your life?

You will have that chance when you visit the Philippine Eagle Center in Malagos when the foundation launches its newest project, Raptors in Flight, in September. This show is the first and the only one of its kind the world.

“‘Raptors in Flight’ is simply an extension of our efforts to further awareness on the Philippine Eagle and other raptors. By showcasing the birds’ natural behavior and abilities, we hope to engender our people’s appreciation for our national heritage. Guests will see these birds of prey fly as they would in the wild,” said Dennis Salvador, Philippine Eagle Foundation Director.

The idea was conceived years ago. “Since the birds come out of the cages for flight exercise, the keepers came up with the concept to develop an educational flight demonstration to showcase their natural behaviors while in flight. It’s a dual function, like today,” said PEC bird keeper Lowhana Halaq, adding that it was a long training and gradual process for the birds to get used to the keepers, the falconry gloves and cueing, the set-up and the crowd.

Andi Baldonado, PEF program development manager, said the demo is taking the Keeper Talk activity a step further. The former activity showed birds on stumps while keepers would give information about the characteristics of the birds. Raptors in Flight lets the keepers demonstrate the bird’s natural behavior in front of a live audience.

Like proud parents watching their children perform on stage, representatives of the companies that adopted birds in the PEC, saw for the first time, a glimpse of how the birds hunt, feed, and soar. PEC bird adopters are the “wind beneath the birds’ wings.” They are the partners in the preservation of a national heritage and protection of nature for future generations to enjoy.

“Excellent, very nice. I loved the part of Sinag (Philippine Airlines’ adopted Philippine Eagle). I saw the bird when it was two months old and now he’s flying high. I hope Sinag will stay healthy in the coming years,” said PAL’s Vic Suarez.

Prince Alex, the Rotary Club of South Davao-adopted Grey-headed Fishing Eagle, was named after two young boys, Prince and Alex. The boys were in the audience and caught the show in wide-eyed wonder.

Not all birds will be part of the show though. Only birds that have constant human exposure will be part of the program.

Philippine eagles like Diamante (adopted by the San Pedro College National Service Reserve Corps) and Phoenix (adopted by Phoenix Philippines Foundation, Inc.), birds rescued from the wild, are rehabilitated in seclusion. It’s to allow the birds to retain its natural behavior because it will be released back to wild.

Representatives of the two companies were present in the show as well.

“The show was very exciting. It was the first time I saw it and I will recommend it,” Macky Cruz from the Phoenix Foundation said.

“It was a good promotion with regards to our raptors endemic to the Philippines. Environmental protection is part of the advocacy and we hope to promote this program to the rest of our students,” said Remark Mortalla, adviser from San Pedro College.

“Raptors in Flight” is scheduled every Saturday starting September at the Philippine Eagle Center in Malagos. Ticket prices: Adult- P300 for, kids P250 and is inclusive of Philippine Eagle Center tour, film viewing and meet and greet Malaya, the PH eagle mascot. Private shows are also available on request.

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