By Marivir R. Montebon
Google and Wikipedia can confirm these stunning facts about the Philippines. But I know these by heart.
1. Olango Island, part of Cebu province, where I was born, is the nesting and refueling station of migratory birds from Siberia during the bitter cold of winter. Some species include Asiatic dowitchers, Chinese egrets, and sandpipers.
They fly in huge flocks down south, making a stop over in Cebu where the tide flats are expansive and mangrove forests provide for food and resting place. The migratory birds continue their flight towards Australia and New Zealand to further enjoy warm weather. They fly back to Siberia, when it gets warmer.
The flight of the migratory birds was my first article written and published after I finished college and worked for the Philippine News and Features. I remember it was reprinted by the Manila Standard and Manila Bulletin. A great elation for a neophyte journalist. I remember the feeling.
2. Cebu, particularly Toledo City, is the home to the largest open pit mine owned by the US outside its territory. It begun extracting precious minerals as copper, silver, and gold in 1935.
As a child, our family used to travel towards the village of Lutopan to meet our cousins, I saw the mountains looking like sliced mocha cakes. The Biga Pit, the biggest of the four pits where copper and gold abound, looked to me like it has been bit by monsters and dinosaurs.
Toledo City is extremely silted and its water polluted. During the dry season, the Sapangdaku River looks like a desert made of pebbles and sand. When it rains, its raging chocolate brown waters drain to the Tanon Strait.
I wrote about the environmental woes of Toledo City as an effect of mining, among which a fish kill in the 1990s and drying up of underground water wells. Former Vice President Noli De Castro, then of Magandang Gabi Bayan, made a follow up story based on my report. Also for PNF.
3. Davao City, one of the world’s largest cities in terms of land area (2,443.61 sq. km.) is home to the largest living eagle in the world, in terms of length. The haring ibon (king of birds) or the monkey-eating eagle, now a protected species, has a wingspan of approximately 2 meters (6.6 ft).
The Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi) snatches monkeys, dogs, or goats for food and lives high in thick foliage of tropical rain forests and lays only one to two eggs a year. It is a loyal creature to its mate and protective of its young until they are able to make it by themselves in the wild. Hunting and deforestation threatened the Philippine eagle to endangered levels, but civic and government efforts to protect the species are being intensified.
My boyfriend said, you mean the Philippine monkey-eating eagle is bigger than the American bald eagle? Yes, I said proudly. But he blurted, maybe the American eagle has a bigger d..k. Gotta check that out.
The Philippine eagle is now the official national bird of the Philippines, replacing the inconspicuous maya.