Friday, October 16, 2015


I was fortunate to have joined a group of journalists and environmental advocates during the release of a rescued Pinker’s Hawk Eagle on October 14 at Lower Tibolo, Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur. As an area belonging to the Mt. Apo Natural Park (MANP) and with still lush forest vegetation, Lower Tibolo is considered a fitting place to liberate the bird which was recovered by a certain Bernie Apal on September 7 while entangled in tree-roots within the area of HEDCOR Sibulan plant particularly in Tomari creek.  According to Bernie, he caught the eagle unresponsive, scrawny and its left eye was injured. 

Upon hearing the incident, HEDCOR authorities eagerly referred the bird to Davao City’s wildlife veterinarian Mr. Bo Puentespina of UP Mindanao who later nursed the eagle by providing appropriate medication and intensive tender and loving  care. After 37 days of rehabilitation, Dr. Bo recommended that the eagle could already be liberated back to its natural habitat.  In a short span of time, the 3-year old eagle instantly gained weight and have recovered quickly. 


Christened Mabikker (a Bagobo term which means strength and power), the Pinker’s Hawk Eagle is considered endangered and threatened. It is also a biodiversity indicator considering that the wilderness is its home, just like any other bird species and wildlife in Mt. Apo. According to Dr. Bo, the Pinkers Hawk’s Eagle is endemic to Mindanao and with the upturn of Mabikker indicates that the forest of MANP is still an abode of assorted birds in the country.

Just like an ordinary person who left a home for more than a month, Mabikker was excited to stay back to his territory. I could see in his eyes the restlessness and enthusiasm, especially when  Dr. Bo removed the cover in his eyes. When Bernie released him, he glided his way up and the 750-gram eagle appeared to be very small when he soared to the skies of MANP. After spending several seconds gliding, he perched to a tree-branch some 5 meters to where I was standing. We had our moment of looking at each other and I can read in his eyes how thankful he was not only to me but to all the people present during his release. Indeed, the wilderness is just right for Mabikker as a home.  


Mabikker’s memory flashes back to me until now and somehow I always thought that the only way to make these creatures happy is to exert more efforts to restore their natural habitat, the forest. As a person who wishes to be as free as birds, I don’t like to see more and more birds struggling in search for a home. Time and time again I have always been conversing that if human and animals, or birds for that matter, reside in a single habitat together, there is a disaster. The forest is there home, not ours. They deserve to own it all throughout their existence. Our role should be to provide them that kind of home, comfortable and free from all human threats whatsoever. 

Being a company operating in MANP, HEDCOR’s gesture to rescue Mabikker is laudable. As always, I have been very appreciative to  private companies’ efforts to integrate biodiversity conservation as a component to their existence in their project areas especially in protected areas like Mt. Apo.  HEDCOR’s attempts for environmental awareness campaign dates back when they started their hydropower project in Sta. Cruz and to date they are leveling up their IEC efforts through biodiversity orientation, birdshow experience, bird habitat restoration through reforestation and the newly-inked Wildlife Inventory and Biodiversity Assessment Project in close coordination with UP Mindanao.  

It is therefore my fervent hope that as we glide towards the era of industrialization let us not forget that we have a shared responsibility of not ignoring the plight of our wildlife.
P.S. Mabikker's release was graced by DENR Officer Ed Ragaza, HEDCOR President and Chief Operating Officer Rene Ronquillo, Tibolo Barangay Captain Henry Monon and Sibulan Barangay Captain Danilo Abe. This blogger would thank HEDCOR personnel Lloyd Revilla for the invitation. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Beyond the huge waves of Siargao Island

My attempt to witness an international surfing competition in Siargao Island was spoiled last year because I had to attend to the preparation of our 130th town anniversary celebration. I just said to myself I had to lengthen the urge for at least one more year and hoped that a very good friend Meggy would still invite me to the same event this year. And she did just that. While my colleagues were head and shoulders busy for the same anniversary preparation, there could be no stopping me to witness the event, otherwise, I have to chase it again next year. 

Meggy had to also stretch her energy being the overall team leader, aside from being the driver everyone would love to be with in a long trip. Two other friends from Davao media joined the trip in Maya and Tats. We took a 5-hour extensive land trip from Davao City in an early morning of September 27 and another 2 and a half hours boat trip from Surigao City to Dapa Port, Siargao Island.

Siargao island has been very popular because of its huge waves but I have some impressions of the place more than just the big waves. Tourism is very much alive in Siargao, particularly in the Municipality of General Luna (GL) where Barangay Cloud 9 is situated, a haven for surfers from foreign and local scenes and where the annual international surfing competition is held. When we talked to GL Mayor Jaime Rusillon, Siargao had a dramatic transformation when he started his tenure as the town’s chief executive. According to him, it was practically a shift from nothing to something and tourism became the number one contributor to GL’s growing economy. When they started the international surfing contest, tourist arrivals also grew largely. In 2014 alone, a total of 60,000 foreign tourists visited GL while local arrivals was accounted to 300,000. 

Investments relative to tourism also recently flourished in GL. The growing number of resorts, restaurants and accommodation facilities were erected over the last five years which also generated employment for local residents and revenues for the local government. While they are inviting more and more investors to settle to GL, the good mayor said they have an existing tax holiday program for tourism-related establishments that encourages the private sector more to invest in this town. 

On our second day in Siargao, we visited Cloud 9 in search for John Mark Tokong, this year’s Siargao International Surfing Champion. Christened “Marama” by his local folks because of his prudent attitude towards the waves that made him a surfing icon, John Mark outlasted other competitors onward to winning the championship diadem and pocketed the 8,000 US dollars cash prize. Despite his popularity, I saw John Mark being genuinely humble and a down-to-earth fellow. Born and raised by a simple family in GL, John Mark aspires to rule more international surfing competition in the country and even in the international scene.

To maximize our remaining time in Cloud 9 after a brief but memorable chat with John Mark, Meggy and Maya decided to take a short surfing lesson while Tats and I spent the rest of the afternoon shooting the beautiful seascape of Cloud 9. We also met with national surfing figure Luke Landringan while having dinner at Kermit restaurant. 


I enjoyed our trip to Siargao very much because aside from being a truly wonderful destination, I also gathered several yardsticks of tourism program that somehow can be applied in my hometown. What amused me much is the fact that the local leadership of General Luna town is using tourism as their priority program to catalyze economic development.