Friday, May 25, 2018

Birds in the City: Maria Capra Spotted at the Heart of the Makati Business District

Pied Fantail or Maria Capra bird
I've been nursing a predisposition for spotting wildlife, most especially birds, everywhere I go.  Lately, I've been stuck in the city against my wishes but I would like to think this also presents an opportunity to be more observant and see animals who continue to brave the challenging conditions (pollution, the human hazard) in an urban environment.

Passing by nearby Washington Sycip park at the heart of the Makati business district one afternoon, I know there are quite a few birds that inhabit the array of tall trees there but wasn't expecting to see much save for the usual Eurasian tree sparrows which I see feeding outside my window everyday.  Well, Maia TaƱedo of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines was right in pointing out in an eBon newsletter post that there are other birds that do live or visit Metro Manila.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Life after Boracay, A Tale of a Thousand Philippine Beaches and Destinations

Saud Beach in Pagudpud
You would think that an archipelago consisting of 7,641 islands would be hard-pressed to agonize over the closure of one high-profile beach among many dotting the landscape. Especially one country blessed with 36,289 kilometers of coastline, ranking second only next to Indonesia's 54,720 km in Southeast Asia. But that's what happened exactly with the temporary closure of Boracay, the country's main draw when talk comes around to discussing beaches. 

Boracay, it seems, has become synonymous with over-development and the face of mass tourism gone bad. The powdery-white beach hasn't lost its allure but that's something that cannot be said about the increasingly-frequent algal bloom that mars the turquoise water, the disappearance of the island's marshlands, occasional flooding of areas further inland, the bottleneck of vehicles, etc. Closures like this are not a novelty. In Thailand, idyllic islands in the Andaman Sea are closed to the public for a 5-month period every year to let nature renew itself. Closer to home, in the mountaineering circle, we've seen the closure of trails and parks such as those of Mounts Halcon in Mindoro and Banahaw in Laguna for the same reason. 

For the time being, this development may be providential. Too often and for far too long, the Department of Tourism has been pushing the same set of destinations, with Boracay at the forefront, embodying the quintessential tropical beach -- powdery sands blindingly white under the sun, turquoise sea, and an all-day, all-night revelry vibe. It was as if there are no other good beaches or for that matter, excellent tourist destinations elsewhere in the country. Maybe, this closure can open the tourist's eyes to the Philippines' other draws -- a lot of which are staggeringly beautiful in their own right, as exotic as one can find in the bay of Thailand or the coast of Vietnam which are a short plane ride away; maybe even comparable to the sights of faraway India or the adventure thrills/skydiving/wreck diving in the Arabian Gulf after catching those Mumbai to Dubai flights

In Luzon, why not drive or travel up north to Saud Beach in Pagudpud, located at the edge of Ilocos? The beach is excellent, the crowd less maddening, and if you're based in Manila, requires no air travel. On the way there, you can break the long drive with stops in the ancestral town of Vigan in Ilocos Sur, and marvel at the giant wind turbines in Bangui, in Ilocos Norte. If you have more time in your hands, spending a day or two on Currimao's black sand beaches can be an enjoyable experience. Some say that the black sand can be therapeutic especially for aching backs and bodies; I think that if one can get over the "white sand is better" mentality, one can fully enjoy the time spent here. 

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