Saturday, August 06, 2011

Taking it from the birds

Taking it from the birds
By Erma M. Cuizon
Sun.Star Cebu
August 6, 2011

CONCERN about nature and our world goes back before Christ.

Like in the Middle East in what Arabs called the Arab Agricultural Revolution in the 8th century, there was concern. Up to the modern times, there was the Great Smog in 1952 that affected London and killed 4,000 people, there was concern.

So now, how come it has taken us so long to do something about our environment? Do we need more natural disasters for us to worry (or do something) about our abuse of the ecosystem, asks one environmentalist.

Nilo Arribas, Jr. is a member of a group called Wild Birds Club of the Philippines who helps neighbors and the public realize the range of our environmental problem, from the point of view of birds.

He grew up in a small city in Mindanao as a boy who expected his parents to give him caged birds as gifts to make him happy.

As a boy, he never realized that the alimokon (brown fruit dove) inside the cage was unhappy. As with other birds, a caged one would have just the right colors, it jumped or flew gracefully in its wild life, it was a living toy for a small boy, or it was a friend for him, but a trapped friend. Then Arribas would later realize the bird was unhappy in his trap of a cage.

Arribas is a member of the wild birds club, which started as a small group of friends in Manila who’d come together for coffee along Roxas Blvd. to watch birds fly by for an hour or more. Then the club organized guided bird tours to the mudflats, like where the Mall of Asia is now, like in places where the sea and river meet, or mangrove areas.

But why care about birds?

In a world without birds, who’d eat insect pests and weed seeds? Some birds are scavengers, helpful in the problems of basura in the city. They also help pollinate flowers and other plants, moving seeds from one place to another and propagating trees in their own way, away from the mother tree, flushing the natural surroundings over and over again into lush growths of greens.

And they give us food, of course, like the chickens and ducks.

But the most interesting thing about birds is the story of bird migrants, which travel across the world annually like you haven’t done, not even on a plane, to cross from the cold countries in the northern hemisphere during winter, to Japan, passing by (to stay a few weeks or a month, or more months) the Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary in Mactan, Cebu.

A photo exhibit put up last July at SM Cebu was probably one of its kind; an exhibit of migratory bird photos photographed by bird lovers. It opened with words from poet Simeon Dumdum, Jr., author of “If I Write You This Poem, Will You Let It Fly,” which is a book of poems on 129 kinds of birds in our life.

The exhibit was undertaken by the Philippine Business for Social Progress, MDR Microware Sales Inc., SM City Cebu, Pacific Online Systems, Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. and the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines.

Has your grandma seen a photo exhibit of birds with bird-loving amateur photographers as participants? Not photos of tamsi (sun bird) nor goryon (sparrow) but Chinese egrets, Asiatic dowitchers, plovers, sandpipers and others of the world-traveling kind. The migratory birds come once a year to refuel and stay away from the winter and keep warm in Olango Island until it is time to go back to their nesting grounds in China, Siberia, or Alaska.

And again, the thought is simple. You could let it hit you as easily as the tamsi hums, as the sayaw dances, or the manatad swoops. God gave us his creation for us to take care of it and we get what we deserve if we don’t.

So now, shouldn’t we take it from the birds?