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In Memoriam Christian Perez

In Memoriam-Christian Perez
By Arne Jensen

I had the great pleasure of working together with Christian Perez as we were both volunteers in the WBCP Records Committee and in the Birds Rarities Committee.

Working together for the WBCP’s Records Committee

Bird Survey, Coastal Manila Bay, Bulacan

During my years as Chair of the Record’s Committee, Christian served as the Committee’s Vice-chair. In the Rarities Committee he served as its Secretary.

In both functions Christian was very accurate and reliable and as such he was extraordinarily helpful both in getting things done and in creating new activities.

It was for example Christian that in practice organized the transition of WBCP’s bird database from being a tedious manual process to the electronic process now known as e-Bird, the online database of bird observations providing scientists, researchers and amateurs with real-time data about bird distribution and abundance.

Once a year, he oversaw that all Philippine bird data gathered from different sources got converted into the annual report which was made accessible at the WBCP website.

Christian was also the first when it came to collecting all documented rare bird observations and putting them in format so one can see these observations, often more than 100 years old and up till now.

Christian had his sometimes strong opinions but he always had a very kind way to argue his points. He was very well-liked among birders and he was surely an adventurer that liked the Philippines. This can be seen in the fact that he visited all provinces of the country.

             Aerial survey of birds in North Manila Bay with the Armed Forces of the Philippines

In Memory of Christian Perez
By Tinggay R. Cinco

Photo by Willem Van de Ven

I first met Christian Perez way back in 2009 during a birding trip to the De La Salle University-Agrivet Sciences Institute in San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.  Checking on the list of participants, I saw that there were no unusual names; Until lo and behold, at the meet up point along Commonwealth Avenue, I was surprised to meet Christian Perez, a foreigner with a Filipino sounding name, or so I thought.

Christian and I both joined the WBCP in 2008.  We went on many birding trips together. One of these was the exploratory trip in 2009 to Wawa Dam in Montalban, Rizal, which was my hometown.  Venturing into the inner forests, we both saw a lot of lifers!  During this adventure, I got to know Christian a bit more.  While having a break, I found out that Christian was French because he had several pieces of croissants in his back pack.   Kidding aside, settlers in the area regarded us as objects of curiosity.  Christian even won the hearts of the women, receiving three marriage proposals, despite having Ivan and Mads in our group! 

During the Club’s Big Year in 2012, while roadside birding in Puerto Princesa, I spotted a pigeon some 30 meters away perched atop a tree.  I called the attention of our guide Rommel Cruz, who later identified the bird as the Thick-billed Green Pigeon.  Christian found it difficult to view the Thick-billed Green Pigeon and got annoyed at me since I was pointing in the tree’s direction saying “Over there. Oh, there!”  He was already irritated and said, “ Where, where, where?  Is it your two o’clock, my two o’clock?  Whose two o’clock? Don’t just say, there, there, there!”

Another unforgettable moment was when we were birding at Hijo Plantation in Tagum, Davao del Norte. Ambassador Robert Brinks and I were the only lucky ones in the group to see the South Philippine Dwarf Kingfisher darting towards a tuft of cogon grass. Christian was so frustrated that he did not see this uncommon kingfisher; he led the rest of group back in the afternoon, ending up disappointed for its non-appearance.

Similar incidents would occur several times in future.

Admittedly the favorite amongst the bird guides as the “spotter” in the group, for rapidly catching sight of a bird, I must confess I am not that good in doing IDs.  Later, Christian gave me the moniker “Eagle Eyes.”

I also worked with Christian in the Records Committee.  He was precise, meticulous, and very strict.  I almost gave up when the Records Committee was in transition from the manual encoding of the data base to eBird almost 10 years ago.  Christian was a staunch advocate of migrating to the eBird system to modernize the club’s database.  After surfing the net and encoding hundreds of data, I would often receive emails from him, pointing out errors, oversights, and generally, mistakes. My carelessness irritated him very much since he had to re-do the sequencing of numbers for the species names.

Adventurous, sedulous, considerate, kind and occasionally even funny! Who would ever think of ordering French fries with Crispy Pata or Leche Flan? Once, at a check point, upon reaching Davao City after a 5-hour trip from Bislig, the military did a routine inspection of our van. Christian rolled down his window and asked the military personnel on duty in fluent Filipino “May problema ba pare?”(Is there a problem?) The soldier was caught by surprise!  Only Christian could get away with this. 

Meals shared during the Manila Bay Survey in Bulacan

Christian, you will indeed be missed. I will never get the chance to hear your Rarities report nor receive your numerous emails regarding the Records Committee.  I was deeply saddened when you replied back to one of my emails earlier this year that you were battling  with a serious illness.  On hindsight, the “lifer” (Christian calls all members he first met “lifers”)   WBCP member I met 14 years  may be French, but proved  to have a big heart of a Filipino.  Chase and twitch endlessly, travel boundlessly to places you aspired for.   It was great birding with you! 

Paalam, Christian. C’était un honneur.
By Maia Tanedo

It didn’t occur to me that Christian Perez of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines was a Frenchman. Reading his name listed on club trips on the club’s YahooGroup, I assumed he was a Filipino. So, I was quite surprised when I finally met him in person and he turned out to be a friendly gentleman – tall and handsome with his silver hair and charming smile. He would provide a sense of comfort and familiarity whenever we would meet.

I’ve shared many trips with Christian in my years as a WBCP member: from birding in a bangka in Ipo Dam, exploring in Kuching and Frasier’s Hill in Malaysia, and joining the team in a survey of Manila Bay. That’s the thing about sharing birding experiences – they create lasting memories that are fondly remembered no matter how many years have passed. And I will always fondly remember Christian.

The Manila Bay team, soaked after a day of exploring on a bangka.

When I learned about his illness, I messaged him immediately and he replied with his usual familiar way and with gratitude. He would always reply to my messages, with a frankness about his situation but still with a thankful outlook. Always a gentleman.

I wept when I heard that he had passed. It didn’t seem quite fair that a good man was taken. I was looking forward to catching up with him in the next club trip or social event.

At one of the club’s parties in Alice V.’s residence

I will treasure the shared memories I have with Christian. I will always feel privileged to have been welcomed into his home with him showing his collection of old books. I know I will smile every time I will recall him almost leaving me since I was a bit late to a carpool with him on the way to twitching the Falcated Duck and Baikal Teal in Candaba – him teasing me about how close I got to being left behind while at the same time offering me brewed coffee and croissants from the back of his SUV. I will remember him and remain honored I had met him and can call him a friend.

Goodbye, Christian. It was an honor.

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