8 Asian Organizations Join Bird Festival Hosted by SU
The opening of the two-day 7th Philippine Bird Festival co-hosted by Silliman University at its West Quadrangle on September 23 featured a festive parade of delegates which included bird enthusiasts and conservationists from eight Asian organizations.
These Asian organizations brought the number of exhibitors up to 28. They were the Asian Raptor and Research Conservation Network, Bird Conservation Society of Thailand, Borneo Bird Club, Chinese Wild Bird Federation, Kaoshiung Wild Bird Society, Malaysian Nature Society, Nature Society of Singapore and Wild Bird Society of Taipei.
Attended by over a thousand kids from public and private primary and secondary schools in Negros Oriental, the opening ushered kids into a line-up of fun educational activities. Decked around the Quadrangle with the acacia trees in the background, 28 booths offered various activities from face painting, trivia games, origami to bird education talks utilizing photos and audio-visual resources.
This year's festival is themed “Langgam Paluparon, Lasang Palambu-on” (Birds in the Wild Help Forests Thrive) and featured the Negros Bleeding-heart, a rare ground-dwelling bird found only in the island of Negros. A wildlife rescue center, the Center for Tropical Conservation Studies of Silliman University is temporary home to the Negros Bleeding-heart pigeon.
The series of lectures, which was also one of the highlights in a separate hall, had Silliman Professor Emeritus and Trustee Dr. Angel C. Alcala as its first speaker on the legacy of Silliman in Philippine ornithology. Capping the two-day lecture series was a conservation forum with Dr. Arne Jensen targeted at issues that impact on biodiversity in Negros and local conservation efforts.
Silliman University President Dr. Ben S. Malayang III said birds are a permanent fixture on the Silliman campus with its over 300 acacia trees and having declared itself a bird sanctuary as early as in the 1970s.
“Bird education, however, takes on a daunting challenge of bringing birds — which, because of abundance in sight, are not given so much attention — closer to the hearts of kids and adults alike,” he said.
He stressed on the importance of elevating appreciation for birds and acknowledged the efforts of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP), the festival's organizer, in achieving it.
“There is a need to elevate our appreciation for them (birds) in relation to environmental conservation. Ensuring their protection, in the same way that we capture their beauty in photographs and paintings, has to be a conscious attempt that is embedded in the way we live our lives,” Dr. Malayang said.
WBCP President Ms Anna Maria Gonzales for her part shared a common question asked on their club's continuing search for birds in the wild, when there are aviaries where they could easily be spotted.
“The answer lies in the fact that birds and humans are better off when birds are free to do whatever they do best — that is, perform the ecological functions — they plant, fertilize and pollinate; they control populations of other creatures that threaten to upset the fragile balance of ecosystems in our very unique archipelago,” she said.
Around a hundred WBCP members were in attendance, with most of them flying in from Manila. WBCP membership is comprised of birders or bird enthusiasts who come from different professions, including diplomats. Among the more popular members present at Silliman was the Dutch Ambassador H.E. Robert Brinks.
Other exhibitors were Earth Island Institute, Isla Biodiversity, Katala Foundation, Negros Forest Ecological Foundation, Inc., Philippine Biodiversity Conservation Network, Birding Adventure Philippines, PENAGMANNAKI, KAAKBAY, Balanga City, Municipality of Candaba, Municipality of Calayan, Department of Environment and Natural Resources-National Capital Region, Team Energy Foundation, Primer Group, and some Dumaguete-based organizations.
Co-hosting the festival with Silliman were the City Government of Dumaguete, Provincial Government of Negros Oriental and PENAGAMANNAKI, a federation of farmers from 20 different people's organizations in Negros Oriental.