Mike Lu looks back at 10 years of Philippine Bird Festivals celebrating country’s natural treasures and spreading the joy of birdwatching to different provinces across the Philippines.
The Philippine Bird Festival was the Wild Bird Club’s response to the World Bank Environmental Champion award that we received a few months earlier in the year 2005. WBCP Vice President Alice Villareal’s joke became a challenge for the Club to reach out to an even greater segment of society through a bird festival.
The first Philippine Bird Festival was a one-day event participated by local conservation NGOs at the Crossroad Convenarium in Quezon City. At the height of the global avian flu alert, we beat the odds and came up with enough activities – lectures, film-showing, coloring, face-painting, photo exhibit and even a forum on the avian flu – attended by more than 1,500 students. The only sponsor of the festival was Mirant Foundation, which later on became the Team Energy Foundation. They continued to support most of our succeeding festivals.
The second Philippine Bird Festival entitled: Endemik – dito lang sa Pinas, highlighted the endemic bird species in the country. The festival became a two-day event with double the number of exhibitors which now included government agencies like the DENR and LGUs (Candaba, Alaminos). The number of students also doubled, and we initiated the Conservation Forum which focused on the status of the globally-threatened Philippine Duck.
The third Philippine Bird Festivaltook place in the island of Cebu with the Cebu Flowerpecker as mascot bird. Foreign birdwatching/conservation organizations were invited for the first time and a post-festival trip was organized for delegates to the Olango Island Bird Sanctuary.
This is the first time that we partnered with an NGO – the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation.
The fourthPhilippine Bird Festival was in Palawan. The Katala Foundation invited the club to hold the festival in Puerto Princesa City (Palawan). With the full support of Mayor Ed Hagedorn, the festival was well-attended by school kids and both foreign and local NGOs. Day trips were simultaneously organized to the St. Paul’s Underground River Park (which a few years later, became a UNESCO World Heritage site) and the Iwahig Penal Colony.
The fifth Philippine Bird Festival was in Balanga. The warm response of the City of Balanga was felt from the beginning of the festival until the end. A fluvial parade to a proposed wetland park started the festival. More than 12,000 students attended the festivities held at the People’s Center andDoT Secretary Ace Durano was the guest-of-honor. A Conservation Forum was organized to tackle the environmental threats in the province and six Brahminy Kites were released in the mountain areas as part of the festival activities.
The 6th Philippine Bird Festival in Davao was most significant as it was also the 1st Asian Bird Fair as well. The WBCP is a founding organization of the Asian Bird Fair which seeks to highlight the different bird fairs in the region. Our local partners, The Philippine Eagle Foundation and the City of Davao rolled out the red carpet for the close to 200 delegates who attended the 2-day bird fair at the Waterfront Insular Davao. Among the highlights were the Club’s presentation of the updated Philippine checklist to the birding community and the visit to the Philippine Eagle Center.
The 7th Philippine Bird Festival in Dumaguete marked the first time the Club worked with an educational institution, the Silliman University as well as the City Government of Dumaguete, the Provincial Government of Negros Oriental and an NGO, the PENAGMANNAKI. The icon bird was the endangered Negros Bleeding Heart, where a breeding and research facility is located on campus.
The 8th Philippine Bird Festival was back in Manila. To highlight the importance of Manila Bay, the bird club partnered with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the 3 regional offices that encompasses this important body of water. The festival was held at Rizal Park and invited organizations include local and foreign conservation organizations as well as ecotourism organizations. Delegates visited the Las Pinas-Paranaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area.
The most memorable bird festival was the 9th Philippine Bird Festival in Zamboanga, not only because it had to be rescheduled due to the MNLF siege a couple of weeks before the event but because the bird festival was the first event to be held in the city after siege with city residents all coming out in full force to support the festival. Birdwatching sites were in close proximity to the city center: the Zamboanga State College for Marine Science and Technology campus where Great Egrets were breeding and the Pasonanca Watershed where Mindanao forest species can be seen.
The 10th Philippine Bird Festival was in Balanga. To celebrate the 10th Philippine Bird Festival, we partnered with the Provincial Governor’s Office and the City of Balanga to highlight the diverse bird life found in the province. Each LGU adopted a bird species to represent their municipality and a Conservation Forum has held to tackle the threats to biodiversity in Bataan. Activities included a climb up Mt Samat, an auction in support of the Asian Bird Fair Network, and very memorable Mayor’s Welcome Dinner and Governor’s Farewell Dinner.