When I first came to Davao, I had a limited time to explore the city on my own and visit the places I’ve always wanted to check out. One of them is the Philippine Eagle Center, the home for the country’s national and majestic bird, the Philippine Eagle. It is one of the largest eagles in the world, endemic to the Philippines. But due to deforestation and human activities, their numbers dwindled out, making them one of the most critically endangered creatures in the world.
I had a strange fascination with the Philippine Eagle for some time. Its appearance, to say the humblest, exudes pride and nobility in every way. It can grow to 3.35 ft (1 meter) and has a wingspan of 6-7 ft. Its talons are large and menacing enough to claw through the meat of a full-grown monkey (it is also called the Monkey-eating Eagle). When it is angered or it wants to emphasize its territory, its shaggy mane draws up like those in a lion’s. Its brown feathers camouflaged the color of the people, and the fact that it’s only found nowhere else in the world except here further qualifies it a national symbol.
So that’s why when I returned to Davao, I promised to myself that I have to go here, even if it means having to go by myself if I have to. I’m staying in a missionary’s house in Toril, near the SM City Davao, and I only have to take one ride going to Calinan. Davao transportation is slowly transforming like that in Manila; shuttle and van services are beginning to dominate the road going to far-away areas. In my case, I took a van which costs around Php 40.00. I asked the driver to drop me to the “Philippine Eagle” since I’m new in the city and he actually did! Now, I don’t know if drivers in Manila are just being trolls or quite forgetful; either reason you can’t rely on their promise that they will drop you off in your destination.
After dropping off to Calinan, a busy town center, motorcycles and pedicabs are already waiting there for visitors to go to the Eagle Center. I agreed to settle the fare to Php 20.00. Anyway, it is a 5-kilometer ride away from the marketplace, and we have to pass difficult, dusty road to get to the Center.
The Eagle Center has a small crowd of visitors during that overcast, slightly drizzly afternoon. Before entering PEC, a guard will charge you a Php10.00 entrance for adults (Php5.00 for kids) in the entrance. The fee is just for the entrance to the Davao City Water District, a small park of sorts where you can have picnics and enjoy some of the park’s kiosks.
The entrance fee for kids and adults are different in PEC. Adults like me (18 years old and above sigh) has to pay Php100.00 for the tour of the whole area, while kids or youth (18 years below) can buy their entrance fee for Php50.00. Of course, proceeds will go to the conservation and breeding of the eagles of the Philippine Eagle Foundation. I think it’s just a small amount you can shed compared to the large difference the Foundation is trying to make.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature currently estimates the number of Philippine Eagle to be just around 180-500, making them one of the most critically endangered animals in the world. Killing or poaching an Eagle is a criminal offence in Philippine law but they are mostly captured for zoos. Deforestation, mining, exposure to pesticides that affect breeding, and human activities are the major contribution to its nearing extinction.
I think one of those factors for its dwindling numbers is its complex reproduction. Philippine Eagles are inherently monogamous – they seek just one partner for life (see, even in the animal kingdom, the faithful ones are dwindling), and they only breed 1-2 eggs for every two years. They won’t breed again until their baby is old enough to take care of itself. It also takes years for an eagle to sexually mature, and sadly, only few survive to breed in the jungle.
The park is small and you can easily navigate around for just 2-3 hours. Aside from eagles, you can see rare species of birds that can be found not just in the Philippines but also in Southeast Asia and India. If you’re still not tired of seeing crocodiles being interviewed on news, you can check out the Estuarine Crocodile at one point in the park. There is also a wide variety of waling-waling (Queen of the Philippine Flower) in the area you take a picture of! The park mostly features endemic creatures in the Philippines, like the Silvery Kingfisher, Pinsker’s Hawk Eagle, Philippine Brown Deer, Giant Scorps Owl and the Philippine Warty Pig.
But one can’t deny the main attraction is this badass over here: Pag-Asa (Filipino word for Hope). He is the first eagle bred in captivity back in 1992 (we are practically the same age!) and now, he finally had his first chick hatched (Mabuhay) last year! Mabuhay is also bred in artificial insemination, a long, tedious process facilitated by the eagle keepers and biologists in the foundation. Still, I am hoping that the day will arrive that Eagles wouldn’t find it hard to breed in the wild, without human intervention whatsoever.
Upon leaving the park, I bought some souvenirs from the Foundation. There are stalls outside the park selling the same items but I wanted to show my support to the preservation through my own little way. The items are a bit more expensive, but like I said, it’s a small price to pay for the survival of these eagles.
The Philippine Eagle is more than just an attraction or a national symbol – it’s an advocacy. After the tour in the park, I made it a lifelong plan to dedicate myself in contributing for the preservation of these wonderful creatures. I can organizations like the Haribon Foundation or raise awareness about the importance of preserving their habitat. More importantly, I’ll make it a mission to advocate the Philippine Eagle as more than icon, but a testament of how everything about the Philippines isn’t hopeless at all. Our country may be facing quite a number of difficulties right now- from natural disasters to government incompetence, lack of education and poverty in rural areas- but just like the Philippine Eagle, we can have that chance to rise again. Everything may be quite helpless and bleak now, but always, let us remember there is Pag-asa.
The Philippine Eagle Foundation is a private, non-stock, non-profit organization dedicated to saving the endangered Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) and its rainforest habitat. Organized in 1987, it had before that time been operating as a project undertaking research, rehabilitation, and captive breeding. Staffed by highly trained and dedicated personnel, it has today evolved into the country’s premiere organization for the conservation of raptors. For more information, visit this website: http://www.philippineeagle.org/foundation/
HELP SAVE THE PHILIPPINE EAGLE AND OTHER PHILIPPINE WILDLIFE!
Sometimes I question myself why I write. Do I write for fun? Or for the hell of it? Or that I just have to do it because I’m lofty enough to regard myself as such. Sometimes, I have selfish reasons. I want myself to be heard and the people to listen to me. Sometimes, I convince myself through empty words and platitudes. Writing, in itself, is ego-inflating.
When I write, I throw away the conscious part of me, the insecure, ugly side that’s clings into my skin like a thick aroma of weakness and falsehood. Sometimes, I never write at all, content with my thoughts and ideas left unheard, unspoken, betraying the craft with just a shake of a head and thinking that it’s not worth of a word.
Words come easily to me when I write. I prefer email than voicemail. I like texting more than calling. I can have a personal conversation face-to-face with a friend and think about more comforting words to say when I face a blank paper. I would have enjoyed the time when people write letters for each other, never mind the inconvenience of late response and distance. Words that travel a great distance are priceless.
Sometimes, I’m envious of those writers who knew what words to say to express themselves. Sometimes, I even think that I write just to prove that I can write as well as they are. Sometimes, I write to prove to myself that I can write as well as I think I do.
Sometimes, I write to release the stress and exhaustion after a long, hard day, un-poetic day. Sometimes, the thing that causes so much stress and exhaustion is writing itself.
I often question myself why I write, but I’m finally realizing it doesn’t matter at all. More than an art or a craft or a science or a hobby, writing is an unpardonable vice of my life; a constant part of my existence. To deny it is to deny living. Whenever I am plagued by the question of why I write, or the urge to write, I try to think of a scenario where I cannot write anymore.
And that is something I cannot imagine living without.
I’ll start this off with a confession. Philippine history never really interested me as a kid. I dreaded the moment our Sibika at Kultura teacher would arrive in the room and make us memorize the name of the governor-general who governed the country, or the year the Andres Bonifacio created the Katipunan, or countless vague information we will only forget after the long tests and recitations.
I only became a student of my own country in college, when my fervor and determination to serve the nation is in its highest. My friends and I never had an organized body of thinkers and doers, or a slogan, or a single-minded advocacy for that matter; we’re just a group of college kids who talked about politics and the society inside a jam-packed jeep or bus, trains, bars, fastfoods or anywhere in public space, as long as there’s someone nearby who can hear us. We believe that by just these simple things, we are unconsciously making them think, even for just a passing moment. We are subtle propagandists. We believe people should think beyond the date when Rizal was executed, or how many islands does the Philippines have.
Discussion of the Philippine history back in my elementary days is always filled with questions of ‘Who’. ‘What’, ‘When’ and ‘Where’. Apparently, dealing with the ‘How’ and ‘Why’ to Filipino gradeschoolers is too much for us to handle and we are quite unprepared for the critical thinking these questions entail.
One of those great ‘How’ questions I like to ask myself (and my friends) is: How we became a nation? How did a group of 7, 107 islands came to be known as the Philippines of today?
AN ARCHIPELAGO OF KINGDOMS
Way before the Spanish empire claimed the Philippines as its own, the archipelago is already thriving with several kingdoms, clans, nomadic tribes, sultanates and confederation of barangays. Each region, each province, has its own form of government, independent against the neighboring tribe. The island form of Luzon is comprised with several kingdoms or tribes warring against each other. The Rajahnate of Cebu was in a constant rivalry with the tiny island tribe of Mactan. The Kingdom of Butuan has its own flourishing golden empire. The Sultanate of Sulu was at the height of its power, recognized by its neighbors as a fearsome kingdom of Tausugs. It is, as they say, an each of its own.
For practical purposes, Spain rounded up the whole archipelago and called it a country. It was a forced unity, rooted for political and geographical reasons instead of racial homogeneity. True we are part of the Austronesian race, but Spain tore any form of cultural ties between our Malay brethren, introducing Western religion and culture similar to that of Latin America. For all intents and purposes, the Filipino ‘race’ is only formed throughout the Spanish colonization. It is noted that even the revolutionary sentiments are divided throughout the archipelago, with most people in the Visayas of the Central Philippines more loyal to the Spanish crown than the Tagalogs in Luzon.
American resistance is greater in Visayas and Mindanao than in Luzon. Let us not forget the Moro War between the Americans.
THE ISSUE OF THE NATIONAL LANGUAGE
One of the ground-breaking reforms enacted during the Philippine Commonwealth is the declaration for the country’s national language, Filipino. It is a language heavily based in Tagalog, a language extensively spoken in Manila and other parts of Luzon but not so much in Visayas and Mindanao. According to the National Language Institute, Tagalog was chosen based on the following factors:
1. Tagalog is widely spoken and understood in all Philippine regions
2. Unlike Visayan and Bicolano, it is not divided into smaller daughter languages
3. Its literary history and legacy is the 2nd richest of all Philippine languages next to Spanish, just like Tuscan which became the basis for Italian language.
4. The prehispanic language of Manila, Philippines’ economic and political center, is Tagalog.
5. Spanish may be the preferred language of Filipino intellectualists and reformists, but Tagalog is the medium of language of the revolutionaries especially those from Katipunan.
As someone who grew up in Metro Manila all her life, I didn’t have to learn or use a different language deviating from my native tongue in school. It felt natural that Filipinos would embrace Tagalog as their own. Now that I’ve learned so many things and traveled to various parts of the Philippines, I realized the issue of a common language became the source of frustration for most of our brothers and sisters outside Luzon, especially those Filipinos in the South. I couldn’t blame them, most of them wanted to preserve their own language and culture. The only form of resistance they see is to stubbornly insist on using their own language, or a foreign language (Spanish or English), for official and business matters.
Adding fat to the fire is the strict implementation that no other Philippine language should be used in official or national functions. Singing the Philippine anthem in another language apart from Filipino is a crime altogether on its own.
The issue of the national language isn’t the root of most discontent; rather it’s the effect. What is significantly lacking in our national identity is the origin of a common language, one that Spanish and American imperialists managed to solve by ‘uniting’ us under Spanish and English. That reinforces the belief that technically and semantically, our history as a Filipino people only began during colonization. Colonization, for better or for worse, formed the Filipino identity we know now, and one we keep on misunderstanding, unfortunately.
It felt funny realizing this just now, because during my history lessons in highschool and elementary, Spanish colonizers are often depicted as evil oppressors and/or villains who are in our way of achieving the desired freedom. Even Rizal understood the dynamics and complexities of gaining independence as a nation. That’s why his primary advocacy is to make the Philippines a province of Spain, not to uproot the nation from the empire. But then again, Philippine independence from Spain is an inevitable twist of history, an inescapable fate whose effects are still being felt until the 21st century.
I made it obvious in this blog that I’m a firm advocate of federalism. We can’t keep on insisting that we have a ‘united’ ‘collective’ perspective as a nation; that we have the same sentiments and opinion on the history that formed our nation.
We are ‘united’ for political reasons; it makes sense that if there’s one thing which will ultimately unite us, it’s a political reform.
Federalism may not outright eliminate the problems that are deeply-rooted in our society (e.g corruption, political dynasty, etc.) but one thing it gives is the accountability for each and every Filipino to decide who can govern them.
Let each region be accountable over its own people. Just like the good old times, don’t you think?
Violent reactions are very welcome. Just post your comments below. A healthy discourse is never bad :)
I could spend the whole day with her, sitting at her feet until the dying rays of the sun streamed through the veranda window. Her voice, husky and hoarse but firm and wise, carries across the dim-lighted room filled with books, antique wines and pictures of smiling loved ones who have come and go in her life, and that’s why at the grand old age of 104,Lola Jessie carries the burden of remembering a hundred years of memories time itself have forgotten.
She is the grand matriarch of the Lichauco Family, one of Santa Ana’s oldest families. She’s American-born. Before the war struck, an 18-year-old Jessie traveled from the opposite side of the world to the Philippines and married a promising lawyer, the first Filipino to have graduated from Harvard University, Marcial Lichauco. She’s been here all her life, but it was only in 2012 that she received, as she amusingly claims, the second-most important paper she signed next to her marriage contract – a paper noting she is now a Filipino citizen.
Her house at Santa Ana, Manila doesn’t bear any slightest indication of being regal and grand from the outside. It was flanked by a sturdy concrete wall along the streets of Pedro Gil and a plaque by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines is the only indication that this house is as old as Santa Ana itself. It was built back in the time that the Pasig River as at the peak of its glory, ferrying visitors in and outside Manila, and so the house is designed to face the majestic river to welcome its most-esteemed guests.
Walking inside the house is a queer experience of visiting memories encased in glasses, methodically preserved and well-kept by the family. There are Marcial’s stuffed hunts back in the days that hunting in wild Africa is considered a worthy indication of social status and prestige. On the conventional backdoor, you will find yourself staring at a hundred-year old balete tree, its vines lazily fluttering against the hot afternoon wind. The tree has been Lola Jessie’s silent companion, a mute witness to the eventual decay of the Pasig River and of what has was known to be the Queen City of the Pacific, the City of Manila.
Lola Jessie spends most of her time at the second floor of the house, in the veranda overlooking the two things she loves the most- her balete tree and the river. For her, those are the only things that remained unchanging. The tree continues to stand like a proud sentinel, the river continues to flow on its own course, though barely moving because of the mud and trashes down its innards. There isn’t any space at the walls of her house that isn’t occupied – every inch is covered by pictures, paintings and mementos of letters, certificates and family trees detailed in handsome script.
Even when she’s talking, Lola Jessie’s words are painted with interesting stories of different layers; a wistful retelling of what happened during the Great War and the price Filipinos have to pay when the city fell on the hands of the enemy. She would always recall how the remaining ones carted off the dead ones on the street after the Bombing as it they are sacks of rice piled up to be sold to the market. When the City of Manila was flattened beyond recognition, Lola Jessie witnessed the biblical exodus of the survivors from Intramuros and Quiapo to the relatively spared districts of Santa Ana to seek refuge. The Lichauco House became a makeshift hospital for the weak and the orphaned, and it was Lola Jessie herself who presided over the stench of loss and death.
She will struck you as someone who haven’t experienced the darkest moments of our history. Her eyes are bright and shrewd and her movements are sharp and definite despite her frail health. Her sense of humor is just as timeless. She is a voracious reader and her books are free to be opened by everybody. When she asked who among us likes to read, I slowly raised my hand and she turns to me with a mischievous grin, “You can come here anytime.” I smiled and promised I will.
She is as interested with people as she is with books. She asks smart questions and responds with witty answers. When she asked one guy about the course he is studying, he said that he has already graduated. With grand flourish worthy of her age, she responded “I’m asking you what did you study. It doesn’t make a difference if you already graduated.”
I like to think of Lola Jessie as the remaining link of what connects Santa Ana from its rich beginnings. The district, once known to be the Forbes Park during the Spanish rule, home to elegant boutiques and shoppes, is but a far-cry of its old exalted self. Its residents unaware of its lofty history as the seat of a pre-colonial empire, a federation of barangays whose form of government rivals the might of that of Germanic tribes and Scottish clans. Lola Jessie, with all her stories and anecdotes, wise counsels and sentiments about the past, would be a big part of Santa Ana’s journey to stand up and rise to reclaim its dignity.
At one point, she struck up a conversation with one of her visitors. The girl, having been surprised to be singled out, shyly hides behind her male companion. Lola Jessie affectionately pats her arm in a gentle reprimand, then said, “What are you doing? You shouldn’t be hiding there. Don’t you ever hide behind a man!”
She is that precious.
From the first moment we met, we hit it off. It was almost magical, similar to chummy rom-com flicks and books that you wouldn’t read even if you have to die for it. I’ve never thought I could meet someone who’s unique as I am but I did and here you are, still invading my thoughts every now and then and making me wonder of the thousand what-ifs we could have done if we end up together.
My experience with love is mediocre at best but I know when something’s quite the extraordinary from what’s not. I know enough that you’re special for me and maybe it would be a long time (or no chance at all) to meet someone like you in my lifetime. We finish each others’ sentences, laugh at the same time from a thought left unspoken, stick out to each others’ whims and accept each others’ quirks.
You perfectly get me. I’ve told you things I’ve never told just anyone. You’re the other part of my soul. I bare to you my weakness, my dreams, my fantasies, the stories left untold and my biggest fears and you told me yours. Looking back now, it’s ironic to think that of all the things I told you, it’s my feelings for you that I kept locked up for so long. We’ve talked of different things, of ourselves, of other people, but we never talked about us, not in a way I think about now.
I guess that had been my first fault. I didn’t take that leap of faith for fear of shattering my pride. I kidded myself into thinking that you would make the first move, that at some point lightning will strike and you will suddenly hold my arm and turn me around, look at me in the eyes and say you’re willing to take up the chance with me.
But we could never be, and that’s that. Perhaps we’re like two bright lights drawn to each other, but once we touched, we will explode. Like stars dancing in each others’ orbits. We can only draw close but we can’t go no farther. Perhaps, it’s better this way. Perhaps, the other way is better and we’re too stupid to see it.
Always know that you are still in the deepest recesses of my mind, a memory that makes me smile when our favorite song in the radio comes up, or when I remember that lame joke only the two of us can understand.
And hey, maybe we’ll meet again. Maybe one day, you’ll stumble upon this letter and realize it has been you all along. Or maybe you won’t and we’ll eventually meet that someone we’re going to happily spend our lives with. And maybe someday, in some reunion or wild chance that we meet, I’ll make you read this letter and we’re going to make a joke about this.
In the end, I’m hoping that even if we may not be happy together, we will be happy for each other. And looking back now, I think I’m moving closer to being okay with that.
Yep, I think I’ll be okay with that.
The girl who’s too stupid to see ‘it’
Cinemalaya Film Festival is slowly becoming a ‘thing’ now. And why wouldn’t? As its name denotes, it’s a wanton liberation from everything that is ideal and virtuous, idyllic and happy endings. Never have been the characters portrayed so dysfunctionally, so real and flaw(ed)lessly. They question your frame of mind, they provoke you into thinking that everything you ever thought to be right is ‘not right’ for others. They make you feel, they amuse, they remind you of historical and political tangle we are all caught in. They don’t aim to please, they aim to offer a fresh (or so, we hope) perspective.
So here’s a guide for those who think they won’t handle the intensity of the message behind these films. Cinemalaya virgins or veterans, feel free to take down tips on my guide while watching Cinemalaya films.
1. Most films in Cinemalaya may take a long time to build the characters and the plot. Audience used to Hollywood-ish Michael Bay explosions in every ten seconds would find it hard to concentrate at first. But hey, the patience is worth
it. If the film bores you, you’re probably boring. Joking aside, if you can’t handle indie pace, just stick to mainstream and don’t you dare compare these two or no one will like you.
2. Profanity is common. Because it depicts reality. Because real people say ‘putangina’ and ‘gago’. If you don’t, you’re just an abstraction, an abomination. . Or you just hated the thought of cussing verbally.
3. Expect nude/sex/gory scenes. Much as I hate to admit it, some films took way too much time exposing the audience to unnecessary sexual, graphic scenes. Well, using this to captivate or shock audience must have worked before because it’s becoming a trend now. However, you can check out which films that are rated 16 or 18 and pick a film where you think you won’t entirely be grossed out. If you decide to be more daring and picked an R-18, just try not to look scandalized inside the cinema and close that mouth, why don’t ya?
4. Experiment. In my first Cinemalaya, I didn’t check out the directors or the writers or the actors behind the film. I just randomly picked a film with a storyline which interested me that time. And the results were good. Sure some films can
disappoint, but please don’t let it stop you from checking out other entries (PS So far, no Cinemalaya film has disappointed me, but it’s gotta be my weird taste talking so…)
5. Internalize. Cinemalaya films provoke you to think. To feel. To look at an issue in a certain angle. If you felt you’re having an epiphany, don’t stop. Don’t look at your cellphone or veer your attention to somewhere else other than the film. Just think and feel the moment.
6. Look past the technical concerns. If you’re someone who keeps a sharp eye on technical flaws, or problems with lighting, audio, etc., or a general constructive criticism of the film, please try to refrain from voicing your concerns while watching the film for the sake of our sanity. That’s Politeness 101. Reserve your concerns later. Be reminded that these
films are low-budget films and post-production is the most tedious, (even more so) expensive process. Focus on the song, not on the recorder. (lousy metaphor, I know, but film Killjoys are lousier)
7. Watch as many films as you can. This is also showing support for budding Filipino filmmakers. Cinemalaya films do not release copies of their own while your “Guardians of the Galaxy” would find its way on DVDs and blue rays later on.
8. Stay until the end of Q and A. In some cases, the director and the cast are invited for a Q and A by the end of the film. There’s no harm in staying. You will get to know their insights, and if you’re lucky, get them to answer some of your
burning questions. You may even had the chance to get an autograph or have a quick selfie with them if you’re fast enough to ambush them (or glomp them, however, it is strictly inadvisable to do so)
9. Bring friends who knew when to talk and when to shut up. You can’t concentrate if your friend would always be like “Bakit niya ginawa yun? Nakakaantok naman. Ang tagal naman ng climax, etc.” and neither are the people around you. (Why are you hanging out with these friends anyway?)
10. Make it an annual thing. Make it a ritual, or an event to catch up with friends and family. Or add it to your thins to do during your ”me” time. Be part of its evolution and watch out for the next big thing and that film may be the Philippines’ first Oscar win in Best Foreign Language Film Category or recipients of international awards. In fact, support not just Cinemalaya but other indie film festivals out there. I promise, you won’t regret it.
Who among you heard this numerous times? Or found yourself saying this more than once? I can say I’m guilty of the latter. When I commuted to Bonifacio Global City and saw the sleek and tall buildings for the very first time, the first thing that floated in my mind is “Parang hindi ka nasa Pilipinas” Feels like I’m not in the Philippines anymore. It’s like a Dorothy and Toto moment when they arrived to Oz.
The statement is oozing with inferiority over our own country. Sure, it comes as just a passing remark, or something not worth mulling about, but the way it is spoken (in jest or in praise) remains throughout the generations. We are probably bombarded by everyday scenarios of hellish traffics, children begging on the streets, shanties beside rivers and seawalls, pollution, and day by day we’re losing a bit of hope of seeing this country’s true progress. Not just in statistics or graphs or investment upgrades. A true progress that involves maturity of the people and the desire to be part of it. Saying this seems to imply we are nowhere near on achieving that vision, or the belief that this country will remain as it is for generations to come.
Just my two cents, though.