A Swedish volunteer enters Philippine Eagle territory
What is it like to leave the big city of Metro Manila and enter the forests of species you've never seen before with the help of Indigenous People? Swede Sophie Mumm shares her story.
By Sophie Mumm, AIESEC Lifeboat Project Volunteer
I applied to the Philippines to learn about disaster risk management and environmental protection in the local context through International Association of Students in Economic and Commercial Sciences (AIESEC), a student-run world-wide organisation that provides volunteering opportunities for young people. I was then assigned in Haribon Foundation.
Upon research, I found out that Haribon is a pioneer Filipino organization for nature conservation and has been in the service for 43 years. Haribon had been working for the conservation of our biodiversity to ensure sustainability of our natural resources. Prior to my immersion with the foundation, Haribon had a series of bird guide trainings to Indigenous People (IP) in Gabaldon, Nueva Ecija called the Dumagat. In my last week in the AIESEC program, they invited Haribon members and volunteers like me to join the trip to simulate a group of tourists who were keen to see birds. By doing so, we would train the IPs into becoming efficient bird guides and to help them interact with future tourists so that they could share their knowledge about birds that thrive in the area.
I got very excited to get out of the city and have an authentic, local experience of interacting with the community and bird watching with the newly-trained bird guides. The bus ride up north took us through fields and hills and I really felt like we were leaving the city buzz. The eco park at Nueva Ecija University of Science and Technology (NEUST) Gabaldon Campus where we stayed at had a beautiful campsite and the surroundings were luscious and green.
We got to go on a trek into the forest of Mt. Mingan, home of the Haring Ibon, the king of the forest, surrounding the campsite and searched for some local birds with the IPs. It’s amazing to watch the local tribe’s men easily spot birds even though these birds were very fast. They could also identify them simply by the birds’ songs or calls. During the activity, Haribon staff was there to assist me and translated the local language so I could keep up with what’s going on.
I got to learn that one of the most common birds in the area was Luklak or the Yellow-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus goiavier). Luklaks are fond of berries and small fruits, sip nectar, nibble on young shoots, and snack on insects which were abundant in the area. The Tyakuk or the Philippine Coucal (Centropus viridis) was one of my favourites, as it has a beautiful colouring on its wings. According to our guides, it’s also generally shy and difficult to see except when perched in open on top of grass or small trees. Unfortunately, we did not see the Haring Ibon despite our efforts. It was hard to spot, but the mere fact that it is living in the region was a sign that the forest is important to save and preserve.
It would be a shame if we would no longer see these birds and other life forms that thrive when the forest, their habitat, is not taken care of. I encourage people to visit Gabaldon and NEUST Eco Park. It is definitely a worthy experience. And maybe you get to see the Haring Ibon?
Sophie Mumm is a BA in Development Studies sophomore at Lund University, Sweden. She volunteered in Haribon Foundation for two weeks under the AIESEC Lifeboat Project.