The View from the Palace
Manila Bulletin, Tempo, People's Tonight and Balita.
By Ignacio R. Bunye
January 13, 2008
At the invitation of Candaba Mayor Jerry
Pelayo and his wife Lani, my undersecretary, Martin ‘Tinton’
Crisostomo and I, with some Malacanan reporters in tow, motored
to the Candaba bird reservation last Saturday. We left Manila
at 8 a.m. and reached Mayor Pelayo’s birdwatching rest
house around 10 a.m. There we met Dutch Ambassador Robert
Brinks, Michael Lu, president of the Wild Bird Club of the
Philippines, Alain Pascua, president of KAAKBAY, other birdwatchers,
(some as young as 9) and Pampanga-based media.
After snacks of hot coffee and pan de sal, we walked along
a muddy and slippery elevated round in the middle of the swamp
unmindful of the drizzle. The tree-lined road was littered
with white feathers (from egrets no doubt) and droppings.
Our guide said that the tree branches would droop as the egrets
come to roost towards sunset and from a distance, the trees
would appear to be covered with snow. Until then, I could
not see any bird, except for a few sparrows which I could
watch even from my backyard. I began to wonder if I had traveled
in vain. Then all of a sudden, as if alerted to our presence,
the birds suddenly rose from the ground. Watching approximately
17,000 birds, numbering 40 species, simultaneously take off
and is simply awesome.
In the early 80’s,
the 32,000 hectare Candaba swamp, which lies in the
path of migratory birds coming from Alaska, Russia,
Japan, Korea and China. is said to have been visited
by even more birds. A local resident said, the skies
darkened as the birds , then estimated at 100,000, took
to the air. But clearing of the natural habitat, draining
of water, hunting and poaching contributed to the rapid
decline in bird population.
In 2004, Mayor Pelayo carved out a 70 hectare bird reservation
and passed a municipal ordinance banning hunting in
the Candaba swamp. Soon he persuaded, other Pampanga
mayors to pass a similar ordinance until the ban was
adopted in the whole province of Pampanga.
In 2006, bird watchers reported a bird population
of 11,000 and the increasing trend has been observed since
then. Bird watchers have observed 90 different bird species
in the reserve, half of which are migratory.
A beautiful documentary, prepared by KAAKBAY, entitled “Wings
in the Water: The Birds in Candaba Swamp” describes
the Candaba Swamp as an important staging and wintering area
for migratory birds from October up to April of every year.
On February 1 and 2 this year, Candaba will host the first
annual Ibon-Ebon Festival.
If you are up to it, all you need is a pair of binoculars,
good rubber shoes, broad brimmed hat, a pencil and a notebook
to record your sightings. You will most likely encounter Great
Egrets, Eurasian wigeons, garganeys, northern pintails, wandering
whistling ducks, northern shovelers, common pochards, tufted
ducks and purple swamphens.