Baras Bird Sanctuary Revisited (Barangay Baras, Tacurong City, Mindanao)

Baras Bird Sanctuary Revisited

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

The last time I visited the Baras Bird Sanctuary was during the successful celebration of the Bird Festival 2017 last May. Lately, I visited it again but it was some kind of a reunion with college buddies, Rey Malana, the owner of the avian reservation park and Charles del Campo who was with his second wife, Neneng. When we arrived, the park wardens were busy with the laying down of new tiles for the pathway that wound around the bamboo and “kakawate” grove. Mr. Malana, himself, showed as around while pointing to interesting birds, some of which belong to very rare species. While going around, we had to cover our head with salakot to protect us from bird droppings.

 

Overhead, branches of trees and leaning bamboos lush with foliage and twigs were dotted with nests. Birds of various species were oblivious of our presence. Egrets were either on the ground while the rest were minding their nest. Fallen bamboos were left to rot to maintain an ambience akin to a forest. Meanwhile, a few feet away from the pathway, the brownish Upper Katungal or Kapingkong River continued rushing toward the Ala River.

 

After our tour, Rey treated us to a film showing that featured a documentary about the sanctuary. I was personally amazed at how the city and Baras with its Bird sanctuary were beautifully presented, especially, from the bird’s eye view.

 

Rey confided that he has been a nature lover ever since he observed the regular homing of egrets to the bamboo grove of their farm. To keep the avian park well-maintained, the city government has granted it a subsidy. Working in tandem with Rey in keeping the birding hobby and nature awareness in Tacurong alive is Ms. Emelie P. Jamorabon of the city tourism office. She surprised me with her thorough knowledge of the birds that have found home in the swamps around the city, as well as, the Bird Sanctuary itself. When I paid her a visit, she excitedly opened a site in the internet about the birds of Tacurong posted by avid birdwatchers who regularly visit the city.

 

Both Mr. Malana and Ms. Jamorabon are hoping that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) could further help the city government in preserving the identified homing areas of endemic and migratory birds, especially, the almost three hectares Baras Bird Sanctuary. Another identified area is a swamp within a private land in Carmen, which according to Ms. Jamorabon will be developed into a subdivision.

 

Those who are interested to visit Tacurong, the gateways are Davao, General Santos and Cotabato cities. The staff of the City Tourism Office on the second floor of the City Hall, and the receptionists, as well as, the park wardens of the Baras Bird Sanctuary are more than willing to assist for quick tours.

The Bird Festival of Tacurong City (May 12-13, 2017)

The Bird Festival of Tacurong City (May12-13, 2017)

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

The just concluded Bird Festival of Tacurong City, held on May 12 and 13 has been a resounding success with several travel bloggers and prominent personalities who are nature lovers in attendance. A contingent from ABS-CBN from Davao City also covered the duration of the affair which included activities such as forum on birdwatching and nature conservation at the Notre Dame of Tacurong College, photo exhibit at the bridge area of Fitmart, bazaar, and art exhibit highlighted by actual application of tattoo on willing visitors, by local tattoo artists at the parking ground of the sanctuary.

 

The Baras Bird Sanctuaty is located in the barangay of Baras which is a few-minute drive from the downtown area. Owned by Rey Malana and subsidized by the city government, it is situated along the eastern bank of Kapingkong River. Bamboo groves and madre de cacao trees or “kakawate”, many of which are more than 50 years old provide home to the indigenous and migratory birds from mainland China and neighboring Southeast Asian countries. But, dominant among the avian population is the locally known “tagak” or heron.

 

The sanctuary started as an ordinary “farm” of the Malana family with bamboo groves providing shade to the long stretch of the river bank. When Rey who took care of the property observed the steady arrival of birds which eventually enhanced the increasing population of the indigenous ones, he decided to protect them.  Foremost of his restrictive policies is the non-entry of vehicles beyond the entrance shaded with the branches of trees and bamboos creating an impression of a tunnel. This is necessary to prevent the disturbance of the bird, especially, the nesting ones.

 

Due to the popularity gained by the sanctuary, thanks to the discreet visit of bloggers who shared their experience among their followers, the local government under the stewardship of Mayor Lina Montilla, initially, provided support. Later, the local tourism office headed by Ms. Emilie Jamorabon, tried hard how to harness the popularity to boost their tourism effort. With the early festivals having shown encouraging results, Ms. Jamorabon sought support from friends for the rest of the festivities that followed.

 

The avian festival has decidedly boosted the tourism program of the city which to date is already gaining ground due to the mushrooming of inland resorts located along the peripheries of the downtown area, most especially, in Baras and New Passi, home of the internationally-known Monte Vicenteaux Resort. According to Ms. Jamorabon, more plans are being conceived to encourage birdwatchers from other parts of the country to visit Baras. Among the plan is the putting up of viewing posts and accommodation facilities that would follow the concept of “nature tourism”.

 

The Baras Bird Sanctuary, is the first-ever community- protected avian haven in southern Mindanao. It provides a serene oasis in the midst of vast palm oil plantations that stretch from Montilla, Katungal, up to New Passi. From the air, the canopy of the palm trees looks like a stretch of dark jade panorama….no wonder the winged creatures found solace among the branches where they built their nests to mark their well-chosen home!