An audience with The King of Philippine Skies
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’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!
Posted on December 8, 2014, in reflections, Wander-lost Adventures and tagged Davao, Haribon, Monkey-eating Eagle, Philippine Eagle, Philippine Eagle Center, Philippine wildlife. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.