its 6th anniversary, Cebu Daily News pays tribute to a rare
songbird that lives a second life in the pages of CDN as the
paper's sassy, snooping, tell-it-as-it-is mascot.
today, Siloy appears in its other true color - blue.
the sunlight strikes its feathers, the blue gloss of the male
black bird stands out.
by CDN photo editor Tonee Despojo, who staked out the nest
of this endangered treasure in Casili, Consolacion town with
bird guide Frankie Bacolod.
of the Siloy
a cool bamboo grove in northern Cebu, Francisco Bacolod
looked ahead towards a hill and whistled.
tune hung in the air. Before he could finish, the
the clear afternoon light, the melody returned –
a bird singing for six seconds or longer.
was a siloy,” said “Frankie”.
for its long and uninterrupted melody, the siloy is
nature’s “alarm clock” for farmers
and wakes them up at dawn, he explained.
by some magic spell Bacolod grew wings, he could easily mingle
with Cebu’s indigenous bird population.
“bird man” of barangay Casili, Consolacion town
is a walking avian archive. He knows by heart the names of
about 50 native birds – its local, scientific, and English
names, including their peculiar sounds and traits. He is probably
the only Cebuano with this remarkable skill of mimicking bird
calls of this range.
shy, low-flying siloy, also known by its other local name,
the Black Shama, is difficult to draw out into the open. The
territorial bird is suspicious of human beings in its habitat.
demonstrated that part of his skill last July to a Cebu Daily
News team which visited him in his hut in barangay Casili,
where patches of tertiary growth forest are fast being squeezed
out by subdivision development.
Siloy flew towards him but stayed at a distance, singing out
out the elusive bird required blending into its habitat for
photo editor Tonee Despojo built and observation post a few
meters from a bamboo grove and covered it with dry leaves.
would enter his camouflage hut just before sunrise, bringing
along his breakfast, and wait.
and the remains of old worn and cut bamboos were abundant
in the patch. "It is the favorite nesting site of this
bird," Bacolod said.
the help of Consolacion's "bird man", the CDN team
prepared two bamboo poles as potential nests. One branch was
angled 90 degrees. But it was the second pole, bent to a 45
degree angle that caught the attention of a gray-winged female
siloy and her mate, a more striking figure with blue-black
one month, the CDN team waited and watched the ritual of egg
laying and hatching. The male siloy inspected the nest. Only
after it had passed scrutiny, did the female inhabit it. Blue
eggs hatched after 18 days.
siloy, said Bacolod, breeds between February and September,
and lays two to three eggs a year. Sometimes one egg is hatched
bird's main diet consists of insects like beetles and crickets.
It also feeds on the sap of fruits in its location.
didn't get to finish high school but is a practical expert
when it comes to the siloy and other local bird species.
interest was sharpened during his stint as bird watcher of
the Philippine Wetland and Wildlife Conservation Foundation
(PWWCF) starting 1983.
working for biologist Perla Magsalay, who pioneered in bird
conservation, he memorized the names of more than 100 local
birds and became a guide for local and foreign visitors.
1985, Bacolod served as the guide of Dr. Robert S. Kennedy
a noted ornithologist who went around Cebu province. Kennedy
paid for the teenager's studies when he enrolled as a grade
six pupil of Consolacion Central School.
the scientist returned to the United States, he left a word
that the young man may later follow him and should prepare
for possible training there. "For reasons I still don't
know until now, that didn't happen," Bacolod explained
Kennedy helped set up a conservation program for the endangered
Philippine monkey-eating eagle. In 2000, Oxford University
Press came out with his 528-page "A Guide to the Birds
of the Philippines".
the wildlife foundation closed in 1989, Bacolod had to look
for other work, jumping from one job to another. In 1997,
he got employed as an air condition repair helper and was
promoted to technician about a year later.
Bacolod, who is in his 30s, still finds time to spend up close
with his tiny neighbors.
walks out of his hut and whistles. If he's lucky, a shy songbird
answers. (Lino Gilbert K. Parone)