Saturday, July 21

learning from ginablan

(remembering romblon on a rainy day...)

pato del mar

do any of these sound familiar?  these are the local bird names of common birds found in romblon, romblon.  they were taught to us by the wonderful people from brgys ginablan and mapula of romblon, romblon. taguyabong is egret, lapay is heron, pato del mar is philippine duck, tangkali is kingfisher, bahaw is koel, pitlago is yellow-vented bulbul, tagwatiwot is pied fantail (strangely, maria capra is pied triller!), liloy is magpie-robin, sal-ing is coleto and dalisyang is glossy starling!

we (mel, adri and myself) were in romblon for the wbcp, invited to facilitate in a training workshop for a newly declared bird/mangrove sanctuary.  the workshop was organized by rhonda, a peace corps volunteer who worked with the municipal agricultural office. 

our pick-up from the pier! they got "wild bird club of the philippines" right!
the workshop was to introduce birding and to give an overview of birds and their general identification to the stakeholders of the sanctuary.  we were all nervous about giving a 2-day workshop, but thanks to the organizers and the participants, it turned out to be a wonderful learning experience, both for the participants and even for us!

the birdwatching training sessions - 2 days!
aside from the usual lectures, we also had a birdwalk, open forums, sharing and action planning!  the workshop was held at the top floor of the dream paradise mountain resort at brgy mapula.  it was a perfect venue, the top floor was an open balcony, and it overlooked rice fields and small, forested areas.  the scopes were set up by the balcony and the binoculars arranged on the tables nearby and so birding could be done during breaks!  it was great to spot pigeons, doves, painted snipe, rails, egrets and even philippine duck in the nearby rice fields!  conveniently there were great, intermediate, little and cattle egrets, so the participants could immediately apply the id-ing tricks we had during the lectures!

the venue conveniently provided a balcony for dude birding during breaks.
for some participants, balcony birding was not limited to breaks!

birding even in the rain...

the afternoon of the first day, we had a birdwalk at the sanctuary and the surrounding residential areas. pato del mar, were indeed ducks of the sea!  33 philippine ducks were floating on the ocean, bobbing up and down with the rough waves. while this sight was not unusual to rombloanons, they were delighted to see the pato del mar through binoculars and scopes... with the ladies noting the distinctive "eye make-up" of the endemic ducks. as we walked and birded on the beach and then on the main road of town, the tables were turned. it was as if we were the participants and our hosts the workshop facilitators.  they told us how the tangkali would chase fluffy young chicken chicks, and how they would call people with no homes of their own bahaw (the koel is a nest parasite like many cuckoos), and how the pair of alimukon (emerald dove) could be seen on the same spot on the road everyday. mang tony, the leader of the local people's org, searched all the trees where the bukaw (owls) were known to roost.  unfortunately, he said, on windy days (as the days were when we were there) they would retreat to the taller trees which weren't tossed about during the day. 

a reminder at the entrance of the sanctuary

looking at the philippine ducks floating on the sea

we walked on a nice short trail through the mangroves

after the walk, we parted ways, with our hosts heading home, and us heading back to the resort.  at the resort, i fell behind the others, checking out the rice fields. two young boys joined me, and as i struggled to find them pispis (birds)in the rice fields to look at through the scope, they pulled at my sleeve and pointed to the dalisyang-filled palm tree right beside us.  "look at the starlings! they have nests there!"  and so they did! with much effort i found the carefully hidden nests and showed them to the kids.  "see? we told you!" they said to me and adri, who had come looking for me.

excited brgy mapula kids birdwatching 

the kids helped us spot the glossy starling nests carefully woven into the palm tree fruit

on the second day of the workshop, we started with making our birdlists and sharing of the birding experience the day before.  as we had tried to familiarise ourselves with the local names, the participants now pondered over the english and scientific names of the birds as they flipped through their kennedy guides. the competitive nature of birding showed itself when one of the participants asked if she could add the bukaw to their bird list, since it was usually in their backyard which we had passed, only not there on the afternoon of the birdwalk.  this drew laughter from the group, and it gave us the chance to tell them of birder life lists. in the afternoon, rhonda got them to planning for what they wanted for their sanctuary.  we shared our experiences with other mangrove and bird sanctuaries... in balanga, in olango and bani.  the enthusiasm of the groups was inspiring, as they proposed projects and analyzed their own strengths and weaknesses as the major stakeholders. there was laughter and jeering, debate and teasing, during the sharing, but also a serious appreciation for each others' opinions. 

participants working on their bird lists using the Kennedy guide
they had no problem recalling the birds they saw the previous afternoon
analyzing their strengths and weaknesses, and identifying opportunities and threats to the sanctuary
serious and hard at work...
...but still having fun!
sharing the group output with the class

the ginablan experience was definitely a fruitful one for us. a new place, new friends, a new appreciation for community effort.  it was an experience where everyone was both teacher and learner. i'd love to go back to see how their bird and mangrove sanctuary is progressing. 

class picture: with mayor gard of romblon

we'll be back romblon!

see more pictures here and here.