The unique birds and bird sites of Cebu took center stage at the 3rd Philippine Bird Festival-Sugbu, a bird appreciation and conservation campaign that gathered 2,500 school children of Cebu at the Waterfront Hotel September 21 and at the Olango Wildlife Sanctuary September 22.
Organized by volunteers from the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP), a birdwatching hobby group, the annual festival was in its third year but was being held in Cebu for the first time. “The third Philippine Bird Festival is all the more significant because it is being held outside Metro Manila for the very first time,” said WBCP Michael Lu. “Exhibitors from all over the Philippines, as well as from neighboring countries, [converged] on Cebu to highlight the state of the country’s wild habitats and diverse birdlife.”
This year’s festival trained the spotlight on bird species endemic to Cebu island as well as on special wetland spots in the province that harbor visiting migratory birds. With theme “Just watch, don’t catch,” the event relayed the message that birds are best appreciated in their natural habitat, not in captivity.
The message likewise discouraged direct contact with wild birds, which in turn could reduce the possibility of bird flu infection. “This year’s theme… can’t be more appropriate,” noted Nilo Arribas Jr., festival chair for Cebu. “The Philippines has been spared [from] the bird flu so far and this has given us more reason to participate and interact in a fun-filled atmosphere.”
Through photo exhibits, coloring activities, face-painting sessions and lectures, children at the Waterfront leg of the festival discovered two of Cebu’s natural treasures: the Cebu Flowerpecker (Dicaeum quadricolor), touted the rarest of the world’s rare birds, and the Black Shama (Copsychus cebuensis), an endangered species that inhabits Cebu’s last patches of lowland forest.
Booths of participating conservation groups, festival sponsors and international guests likewise treated the children, with their teachers and parents, to fun drills and exhibits about birds in other parts of Asia and the thrills of birdwatching.
At the Olango leg, co-sponsored by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), around 250 school children from the community got to experience actual birdwatching with volunteer guides from WBCP and Cebu Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc. (CBCF). The students learned to identify the migratory birds taking rest stops in their neighborhood, among which was the Chinese Egret (Egretta eulophotes), a vulnerable species that breeds in Russia, Korea and China.
Conservation groups that joined that festival were Cebu Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, WWF-Philippines, Philippine Eagle Foundation, Center for Environmental Awareness and Education, Katala Foundation and Isla Biodiversity Conservation. International participants were the Wild Bird Society of Taipei (Taiwan), the Asian
Raptor Research and Conservation Network (Malaysia), the Bird Conservation Society of Thailand and the City of Seosan, South Korea. The morning before the festival, participating groups and delegates had a chance to visit South Road Properties, an urban wetland in Cebu City that harbors 61 species of birds, including the endemic Philippine Duck (Anas luzonica).
Sponsors of the festival were Team-Energy Foundation, the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation, Cebu City Mayor’s Office, Sulpicio Lines, Pioneer Insurance, Harbor Star Shipping Services, Georgia Club and WWF-Philippines.