It was not a usual day for me. Why?
There were a lot of reasons.
Last Saturday, October 15, I was roused from sleep at 4:10 a.m. after receiving a phone call from my girlfriend (Jandiane Esteban) who scolded me for answering her calls only after couple of rings.
It's a mortal sin. Yes, she was calling because she's worried for us to be late for a scheduled Watershed Media Tour at 5 a.m. But we made it on time and even arrived there earlier than the other participants-an achievement.
When all the participants were ready, we then headed to Panigan-Tamugan Watershed in Baguio District, Davao City, which is an hour-ride away from our meeting place in Catalunan Pequeño.
The tour was organized by Interface Development Interventions Inc. (Idis) in partnership with Wild Bird Club of the Philippines-Davao (WBCP) and Bantay Bukid, a group of forest rangers monitoring and protecting the watershed from illegal activities in the area.
Lemuel Lloyd Manalo, Media Advocacy Specialist of Idis, briefed the team about the outdoor activity including the conservation efforts and activities along with the threats and challenges in safeguarding Panigan-Tamugan Watershed which will be the future source of drinking water of the city-the P10-billion Bulk Water Supply Project of Apo Agua in collaboration with Davao Water District (DCWD).
Idis promotes organic agriculture centers, river trekking, hiking and camping, cave spelunking, cliff diving, cable-car riding and birdwatching as ecological recreational activities "to gain attraction for the sustainable conservation of the Panigan-Tamugan watershed."
I have been writing about birdwatching (as a business reporter) because of its big potentials in ecotourism but it was only last Saturday when I had experienced it first-hand. Yes. I must agree, it is fun and educational, thanks to Pete Simpson and Martin Pineda of WBCP and birdwatching enthusiasts Stella Estremera (my boss) and Rai Gomez of Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) for guiding us first timers.
Birdwatching or birding is a leisurely activity where a group of enthusiasts spot and observe birds through the lenses of their binoculars and field scopes.
When we arrived in Barangay Carmen in Baguio Dist, we crossed the Panigan River Headwaters via a weak and fragile looking bamboo-made bridge to get to the perfect spot for birdwatching (but I believe anywhere in the forest is good for this activity).
This eco-friendly activity takes a lot of patience and persistence as whether you can or will not be able to witness birds is uncertain. One will completely have no idea how many birds he/she can see in a day or half, but that I think is beautiful. The feeling after spotting different kinds of bird will leave one in awe unless you are unappreciative of God's inventions.
Last Saturday, we got a chance to spot endemic and migratory birds including brown rested kingfisher, mountain white eye, gray streaked flycatcher, a flock of Brown tit-babler, grey wagtail, Colasisi or Philippine Hanging Parrot and Brahminy kite.
Philippines ranked second in the world with the most number of endemic birds (250) next to Indonesia. Of the figure, some 40 bird species can be found only in Mindanao.
To generate more awareness and develop a sense of stewardship, the Philippine Eagle Foundation offers a free bird watching activity every first Saturday of the month, enabling individuals to witness first hand Davao's rich biodiversity. The free activity started last April 2016.
As we went on to cave spelunking in Panigan Cave, we witnessed hundreds of glossy Swiftlet birds. It is also one of the endemic birds in the island-region.
After lunch, we moved to Sitio Sumpitan where we tried its Agricultural Tramline System.
This transportation which was installed for the farmers is a project of the Department of Agriculture intended to assist farmers in transporting their agricultural products.
But, this cable-car-like facility serves not only the farmers as it now opens for tourists who want to experience and have a view of the green, still virgin forest of Mt. Tipolog and Mt. Talomo and the clear free-flowing Panigan-Tamugan River from about 450 feet above the ground.
Farmers and/or passengers can reach the other side of the mountain for about a 15-minute ride.
Indeed, a lot of firsts were collected last Saturday. Birdwatching. Tramline riding. Cave Spelunking. Cacao fruit tasting. Wild berries.
I have gained a plethora of realizations during this half day watershed tour and I'm saving those experiences for my next article. Keep reading.
It was not a usual day for me. Why?