Filipinos used to live closer to nature. The pre-colonial Philippines had a rich culture where people lived and cared for a paradise. It was, as our heroes and members of Katipunan also considered, the closest we’ve ever had to a Golden Age. It was the age of acceptance of diversity, equal treatment of women, creativity, civilization, and self-sufficiency.
Our resource-rich country provided more than enough for our forefathers. The forest, rivers, and oceans were abundant. The mountains were tilled and cultivated, but also taken care of. Through natural disasters, the locals have felt what it’s like when neglect and abuse takes their heavy toll on the environment. What’s worse, we take innocent species down with us. One of which is the Philippines’s national bird, the Great Philippine Eagle.
Human Activities Cause The Decline of the Philippine Eagle Population
Due to deforestation and hunting, the population of these majestic birds continues to dwindle. Illegal logging limits the ability of Philippines eagles to hunt, reproduce and care for their offspring. According to the Philippine Eagle Foundation, an eagle pair needs 4000-11000 hectares of forest land to thrive. However, shooting and deforestation drive the eagles away from their homes and towards human settlements. This, of course, creates more conflict on conservation efforts.
Further, the Philippine eagle takes five to seven years to sexually mature and only lay one egg every two years. These factors and the long incubation of the eggs make these birds especially vulnerable to extinction.
Why should we save the Philippine Eagle?
The Philippine eagle has a crucial role in keeping the balance of the ecosystem.
Like sentinels, they provide protection to other life forms in their territories. If they are abundant, it signifies a healthy, thriving forest. Unfortunately, their might and power are not enough to protect them and their territories this time. They need stewards to help them protect their habitats and keep what’s left of their homes.
They are our biological heritage and bring positive cultural outcomes to our indigenous communities in the upland areas.
These birds are embedded in their oral histories and perform a role in the human production of unique cultures. There was a time when the Philippine culture was almost synonymous to nature, when the locals have a sense of responsibility over the lands within their vicinity, when people respected the freedom of the wild, when people consumed resources without putting the rest of nature in danger. We are very far off that era, but I’d like to think it’s not yet too late. If we can’t bring back the state of the wild before, perhaps we can at least do something to save what’s left.
The biodiversity-friendly initiatives serve as a source of income for the marginalized communities.
Indigenous people and wildlife take the brunt of the damages we inflict on our natural resources. We owe it to them to prevent further harm, and if possible, reverse what we have done. Instead, both are still in need of justice and protection. Several reports documented the unspeakable things our indigenous people have to face everyday — but this is a topic for another hard conversation.
Using Arts to Save The Great Eagle
Now that we’re veering away from the culture, the stewardship of our biodiversity and natural resources mainly fall to our indigenous tribes and the various conservation efforts by different organizations.
Most recently, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Biodiversity Management Bureau partnered with the Philippine Fauna Art Society for the “Haring Ibon: An Online Art Exhibition,” a culminating event for the annual tribute to our national bird.
More than a hundred artworks of the great and mighty Philippine eagle was featured through different renditions by more than a hundred Filipino artists. I am deeply honored to be chosen as of the artists, and I contributed my painting, “Agila at Sampaguita.”
Personally, it was a feat worth remembering as it was an opportunity for me to work on something that combines my passion for Science, Arts, and Biodiversity. More importantly, it felt humbling and inspiring to witness hundreds of people working together, in one’s simple way for a grand, noble goal of saving our Great Philippine Eagle.