Text by Tinggay Cinco
Photos from Tommy Tan, Rache Go, Russ Corcino, Johnny Orn, and Riza Melicor
All roads this past summer led to Tacurong, the City of Goodwill. The 12th Philippine Bird Festival held last May 11-12 in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat was the highlight of all the activities in 2018 of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP.) The event also coincided with the 4th Tacuring Bird Festival which, for this year, was a region-wide bird festival that involved all the provinces of Region 12 – SOCCSKSARGEN (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Saranggani, General Santos.) Delegates from local and national government units and non-governmental conservation organizations were joined by guests from affiliate international bird clubs like Nepal, Taiwan, Thailang, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Germany.
Tacurong City was chosen for the 2018 12th PBF amidst initial apprehensions on security issues and the standing declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao after successful ocular visits of WBCP representatives during the earlier part of the year. These trips were led by PBF Chair Nikdye Realubit, WBCP President Willem van de Ven, Treasurer Mike Lu, and Execom Member Jon Villasper.
Tacurong has been organizing their own bird festivals for the past three years spearheaded by the efforts of Ms. Emelie Jamorabon of the Tacurong Tourism Office and the all-out support of the Department of Tourism Region 12 and Tacurong City Mayor Lina Montilla. Mayor Montilla even attended the 11th PBF in Bacolod City as part of the Tacurong delegation.
The 12th PBF’s theme was “Pispis amligan naton, kay ini bugay sa aton” (“Caring for birds, celebrating our blessings”) which was inspired by the conservation concept of the Baras Bird Sanctuary located in Tacurong City. The Baras Bird Sanctuary in the city speaks for itself in terms of being a role model for bird conservation. Part of the black pepper farm owned by Mr. Rey Malana was converted into a bird sanctuary in Bgy. Baras and is now being co-managed by the local government. From a couple of Black-crowned Night Herons that came to settle in the mid-1990’s, the population of herons, egrets, and other species of birds has grown to 20,000! Presently, the Baras Bird Sanctuary is the main eco-tourism attraction of Tacurong City with visitors coming from various parts of the country. Providing a haven for these herons and egrets and other bird species where they remain undisturbed became a blessing to the City of Goodwill. Baras Bird Sanctuary has earned its place in the birding map of the country. As the pioneer settler in the sanctuary, the Black-crowned Night Heron was chosen to be the symbol and logo of the 12th PBF.
The festival proper kicked off early on May 11 with the “Sadsad sa Kadalanan”, a colorful parade participated in by students, local government units, and local and foreign delegates. Bird-themed floats, colorful costumes, and lively music and street dancing set a very festive mood. After the parade, all the participants gathered at the Tacurong City Cultural and Sports Center where booths were set up. Aside from the exhibition booths, games, dance and fashion competitions were done in the venue with simultaneous forums and birdwatching activities throughout the day.
On the second and final day of the festival, the delegates had a cultural immersion with the T’bolis in the School of Living Traditions in Lake Sebu. The T’boli’s are one of Southern Mindanao’s indigenous people. The participants were welcomed in a traditional T’boli home and were served a breakfast of vegetables and root crops, upland rice, and chicken cooked in bamboo. Coffee from toasted corn was served as well. After breakfast, the T’bolis performed their traditional music and dances for the delegates. A conservation forum for the community was held as well as a birdwatching trip for foreign delegates in the 7 Falls of Lake Sebu.
The 12th Philippine Bird Festival was jam-packed with activities. Beginning with the Welcome Dinner in Manila hosted by the Department of Tourism led by Asec, Eden David. The delegates then flew to General Santos where they were greeted by vibrant music and dance.
The Philippine Bird Festival is a great venue to spread awareness about our rich avian species and their conservation. Every locality where the bird festivals are held becomes a window to the diverse culture and biodiversity of our country, including the culture, landscape, and regional cuisine. It is also an opportunity to discover and connect its people, making new friends and reconnecting with old ones.
Quoting a famous African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child”, parallel thoughts translate to the Philippine Bird Festival. It is amazing that this event has evolved into a conjoint feat on a national scale involving individuals who volunteer for the different activities, the support of the local government units, and the commitment from the lead agencies such as the Department of Tourism and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the private sector who cares for the environment. The Philippine Bird Festival has become an annual event where people can learn about the Philippines’ natural treasures in a very festive atmosphere. There are still so many places in the country to spread the message of love and understanding for nature. Surely, the next PBF is something to look forward to.