Much of the Philippines' natural habitat and landscape has been greatly altered by human activity. In fact, a number of the areas we visited on our "fam" trip were not as birdy as they might have been due to the effects of subsistence farming and hunting, large-scale agriculture, and logging. There are some areas that are bucking this trend, with the local government and people working together to preserve special places and unique parts of the ecosystem.
One such place in north of Manila, near the large wetlands known as Candaba Swamp. Thanks to my delayed flights I missed most of the birding at Candaba Swamp on the first morning of the trip, but my fellow travelers told me it was a very birdy spot.
As we were leaving the swamp, we passed through the nearby town of Candaba, where we were to meet the first of many mayors we would encounter over the next two weeks. After a quick handshake and photo with Mayor Jerry Pelayo, we were ushered a short distance away to a large, open walled building, for a presentation by the local school kids.
The hardcore birders in our group groaned silently. It was prime birding time, and (nothing against the kids) we were hungry for more new birds.
Boy, were we in for a treat.
The local kids—there must have been 200 or more—had created a 30-minute dance performance, accompanied by the school's fantastic drum corps. They had made their own costumes to look like birds and added these to choreography and acrobatics were worthy of a Broadway show. The drums were thumping a groovy beat and the dancer/performers ran and twirled and catapulted in beautiful unison.
Two years ago, Candaba initiated its first annual Ibon-Ebon Festival (Birds-Eggs Festival) as a way to honor the rich birdlife that is found in the nearby wetlands and to honor the local patron saint, San Nicholas of Tolentino. This saint is considered the patron saint of the Candaba poultry and egg industry as well as the wild avian riches nearby.
The 2009 festival was held in February, (and now it was March) but we still had the pleasure of watching the dance performance that was created for the Ibon-Ebon Festival. I can just imagine that some of these young Candaba residents might become bird watchers as a result of having such a fine birding spot nearby, and a local birding festival. They'll also have a great bird organization to join, when they're ready, in the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines. The WBCP conducts both field trips and bird surveys in Candaba Swamp.
The dancing birds' wingspans were longer than my reach.
Here are some additional images and a short video of the dance performance. Enjoy!