|The View from the Palace
Manila Bulletin, Tempo, People's Tonight and Balita.
By Ignacio R. Bunye
January 13, 2008
At the invitation of Candaba Mayor Jerry
Pelayo and his wife Lani, my undersecretary, Martin 'Tinton'
Crisostomo and I, with some Malacanan reporters in tow, motored
to the Candaba bird reservation last Saturday. We left Manila
at 8 a.m. and reached Mayor Pelayo's birdwatching rest house
around 10 a.m. There we met Dutch Ambassador Robert Brinks,
Michael Lu, president of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines,
Alain Pascua, president of KAAKBAY, other birdwatchers, (some
as young as 9) and Pampanga-based media.
Birds of Candaba |
After snacks of hot coffee
and pan de sal, we walked along a muddy and slippery
elevated round in the middle of the swamp unmindful
of the drizzle. The tree-lined road was littered with
white feathers (from egrets no doubt) and droppings.
Our guide said that the tree branches would droop as
the egrets come to roost towards sunset and from a distance,
the trees would appear to be covered with snow. Until
then, I could not see any bird, except for a few sparrows
which I could watch even from my backyard. I began to
wonder if I had traveled in vain. Then all of a sudden,
as if alerted to our presence, the birds suddenly rose
from the ground. Watching approximately 17,000 birds,
numbering 40 species, simultaneously take off and is
In the early 80’s, the 32,000 hectare
Candaba swamp, which lies in the path of migratory birds coming
from Alaska, Russia, Japan, Korea and China. is said to have
been visited by even more birds.
A local resident said, the skies darkened
as the birds , then estimated at 100,000, took to the air.
But clearing of the natural habitat, draining of water, hunting
and poaching contributed to the rapid decline in bird population.
In 2004, Mayor Pelayo carved out a 70 hectare
bird reservation and passed a municipal ordinance banning
hunting in the Candaba swamp. Soon he persuaded, other Pampanga
mayors to pass a similar ordinance until the ban was adopted
in the whole province of Pampanga. In 2006, bird watchers
reported a bird population of 11,000 and the increasing trend
has been observed since then. Bird watchers have observed
90 different bird species in the reserve, half of which are
A beautiful documentary, prepared by KAAKBAY,
entitled “Wings in the Water: The Birds in Candaba Swamp”
describes the Candaba Swamp as an important staging and wintering
area for migratory birds from October up to April of every
On February 1 and 2 this year, Candaba will
host the first annual Ibon-Ebon Festival.
If you are up to it, all you need is a pair of binoculars,
good rubber shoes, broad brimmed hat, a pencil and a notebook
to record your sightings. You will most likely encounter Great
Egrets, Eurasian wigeons, garganeys, northern pintails, wandering
whistling ducks, northern shovelers, common pochards, tufted
ducks and purple swamphens.