by Tinggay Cinco
The 9th Ibong Dayo Festival was held in Balanga City, Bataan last Feb. 22, 2019 with the theme “Mga Ibong Kahanga-hanga sa Lungsod ng Balanga.” Its translation from Pilipino meant “The Amazing Birds of Balanga City”. Truly an amazing feat that the Ibong Dayo Festival became the binding force for Balanga in uniting its citizens to conserve and appreciate nature within its boundaries. Balanga hosted the 5th Philippine Bird Festival in 2009, highlighting the migratory birds that stays in the city during the winter months from November to March. The Black-winged Stilt became the symbol of the Ibong Dayo Festival. As a favoured feeding ground for thousands of wintering migratory birds, Balanga became major bird watching destination in the country . As an eco-tourism destination, the city was designated as one of the original 12 birding sites in the Department of Tourism’s book Birdwatching in the Phil.-Vol.1. After the 5th Phil. Bird Festival in 2009, the city continued these bird festivals in partnership with the Wild Bird Club of the Phil. becoming a major eco-tourism event in promoting birdwatching and nature conservation.
In the succeeding years the Ibong Dayo Festival was nominated for the Pearl Awards by the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines-Department of Tourism (ATOP-DOT) for best eco-tourism practices in 2015. The Ibong Dayo Festival won the Pearl Awards for three consecutive years thereby elevating its status to the Hall of Fame Awards. The Balanga City Wetland and Nature Park , as the first wetland park constructed in the Philippines evolved into a major eco-tourism attraction. The wetland park was instrumental in being an educational center for learning with regards to migratory birds together with existing biodiversity in its environment.
The early morning atmosphere during the 9th Ibong Dayo Festival at the Balanga City Square was electrifying! Participants came in colourful floral attire with bird themed head gears, hand crafted by the schoolchildren . Dancers performed on stage accompanied by drum beaters. Balanguenos converged in the city center to join the foot and tricycle parade to begin the festive event. People lined up the streets from the city proper down to the Balanga City Wetland and Nature Park in Bgy. Tortugas . Waving crowds, colorfully decorated tricycle floats , and street dancing. A real sight to behold . Balanga City shifted to fiesta mode!
As the saying goes, all roads led to the Balanga City Wetland and Nature Park for the day’s activity . Bird themed portraits and cake decorations were exhibited as competitions showcasing local artistic talents were done several days prior to the 22nd of February. A contest among schools were held as students and teachers creatively decorated homes in Bgy. Tortugas using migratory birds for their motif.
The covered court became the program’s venue. Mayor Francis Garcia welcomed special guests and participants to the 9th Ibong Dayo Festival. The festival was graced by Under Secretary Art Boncato of the Department of Tourism (DOT) as the guest of honor. Usec . Art has already supported bird festivals in the past when was then the DOT Assistant Secretary for Mindanao during the 9th Philippine Bird Festival in Zamboanga City in 2014. Guest speakers included former Representative Gina Devenecia from Pangasinan and Dr. Annadel Cabanban for Wetlands International.
Welcome remarks were delivered by Mayor Francis Garcia. Guest of Honor was Usec. Art Boncato of the Departmen of Tourism. Other program speakers were former Rep. Gina Devenecia of Pangasinan,
Dr. Annadel Cabanban of Wetlands International and Ms. Teresa Robles of the Balanga Tourism Board.
Special song and dance number from the Bataan National High School.
A plaque of recognition presented to the Wild Bird of the Philippines from the City of Balanga.
The program was also highlighted by the introduction of the Junior Tour Guiders that gave a sample of their witty narratives during a simulated sight seeing tour of Balanga. The audience were entertained with a special song and dance number from the Bataan National High School. Simultaneous youth oriented outdoor activities were also on going through out the morning. Visiting students participated in kite flying, street dancing, origami and face painting . Lectures on conservation came after the program led by Wetlands International with Dr. Annadel Cabanban and WBCP’s ornithologist Arne Jensen, orienting both elementary and high school students in the general concept of wetlands and its importance to migratory birds.
Meanwhile members of the WBCP conducted a bird watching session for students. Mike Lu gave a brief talk on introductory birdwatching assisted by Jon Villasper and Cathy Mendoza for bird identification. Egrets, Collared Kingfishers and Whiskered Terns were some of the birds seen. The WBCP members also had a few minutes of birdwatching after the festivities. Taking advantage of the low tide, we were able to spot some Common Redshanks, Marsh Sandpipers, Little Terns, Black-headed Gulls and more than 200 Plover sp. Birdwatching wish fulfilled!
Team WBCP headed back to Manila by mid-afternoon. Congratulations to the tireless efforts by the local government of Balanga for continuing its campaign for nature awareness and conservation. They have maintained their commitment through the passing of laws and ordinances, educating students and protecting the migratory the birds within their boundaries by preserving the favourable environment for biodiversity to exist. The Ibong Dayo Festival has levelled up in providing a learning experience in appreciating nature and its conservation in the most festive and enjoyable way.