Philippine Eagle week celebration turns 19

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DAVAO CITY, Philippines—The country’s celebration of Philippine Eagle Week is now on it’s 19th year.

Presidential Proclamation No. 79 series of 1999 declares every June 4 to 9 as the Philippine Eagle Week.

The proclamation is to make flesh on the government’s effort to save the endangered Philippine eagle from extinction.

The Proclamation calls on every Filipino “to take action on the protection and conservation of the country’s bird icon.”

This year’s the celebration carries the theme, “Strengthening the hope for saving the Filipino heritage – the great Philippine Eagle.”

On Monday, June 5, the celebration started with a parade at 10 in the morning from Rizal Park to SM City Davao, where an exhibit was opened.

On June 6, a poem competition called Balak Para sa Agila willbe held, also at SM City at 6 in the evening.

The following day, an eco-art workshop for children will be conducted at the annex building of SM City Davao. The eco-art workshop for adults will following the next day at the same venue. Both workshops will start at 10 in the morning and end at 2 in the afternoon.

Also at the annex building in SM City, the closing program will be held on June 9; program starts at 3 pm.

To cap the celebration, the Philippine Eagle Center will be open to the public the whole day of Saturday on June 10.

The Philippine eagle was formerly known as monkey-eating eagle (its generic name, “Pithecophaga”, comes from the Greek words “pithekos” or monkey and “phagein” meaning eater). It was later renamed the Philippine eagle under the Marcos administration after it was learned that monkeys comprise an insignificant portion of its diet, which consists mainly of flying lemurs, civet cats, bats, rodents, and snakes.

Efforts to save the Philippine eagle were started in 1965 by Jesus A. Alvarez, then director of the autonomous Parks and Wildlife Office, and Dioscoro S. Rabor, another founding father of Philippine conservation efforts. Charles Lindbergh spearheaded a drive to save the bird from 1969 to 1972.

In July 1995, then President Fidel V. Ramos signed Proclamation No. 615 naming the Philippine eagle as the country’s national bird. He said that the eagle is found only in the Philippines and as such should be a source of national pride.

“If the national bird dies,” Ramos said at that time, “so will all the country’s efforts at conserving its natural resources and treasures.”

“The Philippine eagle is the largest predator we have,” Dr. Dennis Joseph I. Salvador, the foundation’s executive director, once said. “By using the Philippine eagle as the focal point of conservation, we are, in the process, saving wildlife and their habitat.”

The Philippine Eagle Center is located in a far-flung area in Malagos of Calinan District in Davao City. It takes almost an hour to travel from the heart of the city to the center where visitors get to encounter Philippine eagles placed in cages.

Primarily a research facility, the Philippine Eagle Center is nestled at the rolling foothills of Mount Apo, the country’s highest peak. Several Philippine eagles have been raised as part of foundation’s breeding program. Most of them are being induced to breed in captivity. Pag-asa is one of its noted attractions; it made the headline around the world as the first tropical eagle conceived through artificial insemination. Pag-asa is the Tagalog word for “hope.”

“Pag-asa connotes hope for the continued survival of the Philippine eagle, hope that if people get together for the cause of the eagle, it shall not be doomed to die,” said Salvador, who was named one of the outstanding young men (TOYM) in 2000 for leadership in wildlife conservation.

Salvador believes the fate of the Philippine eagle is associated with forest conservation. A pair of the critically endangered bird needs at least 7,000 to 13,000 hectares of forest as a nesting territory, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. “The forest is its only habitat,” Salvador claims. “Without the forest, the species cannot survive over the long term.”

Aside from deforestation, another threat to the survival of the country’s bird icon is hunting. “Some do it because of ignorance but most, I believe, because of arrogance,” Salvador pointed out. “People believe they can get away with it so they do it. This of course it aggravated by poor enforcement of the law and clear lack of political will.” -Henrylito B. Tacio/

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