Sunday, December 15, 2013


THE BEST thing about this season is the season.

The nip of the night lingers long after the sun is up. It stays darker longer. So even though one wakes early from habit, one remains in bed a little longer, listening to the world outside, dark, still and waiting.

Or am I just confused, waiting for something when something may just be waiting for me?

During a recent road trip, I learned how different creatures wait differently.

Just a little after midnight, the husband and I travelled far north. Once the city is behind, the landscape flattens and widens.

About 60 kms north of Manila is the Candaba Swamp and Bird Sanctuary. This is located in the Las Piñas-Parañaque Critical Habitat and Ecotourism Area (LPPCHEA), which is listed in the Ramsar international list of important wetlands for conservation.

Just driving past the Candaba Swamp is already instructive. The birds soaring over the trees, mangroves and deserted open spaces (informal settlers were relocated, according to are not the trapped shadows that peck on sidewalks or divebomb cats or churchgoers.

Nearly 200 hectares of wetland attract the great travellers, as well as native species. At their peak, from November to March, the avian visitors of Candaba number 5,000, some crisscrossing Japan, Siberia and New Zealand.

I cannot tell the “rare” Pied Avocet from the “endangered” Philippine Duck. I do know the Chinese Egret. It is awkward in flight, its snowy wings laboring hard to lift the ungainly torso. Even in mid-flight, it always seems on the brink of being pulled back to earth.

But if other birds have their aerial pirouettes and arabesques, the Chinese Egret wears lightly its solitude as if it were just another tier of feathers.

It is a “threatened” species, according to Threats come from the reclamation of tidal mudflats, estuaries and islands, the collection of its eggs and plumes, and the intrusion of photographers in its habitat.

The Candaba swamp perhaps reminds the Chinese Egret of home but it is also found in paddy fields and near airport runways. I have yet to see Chinese egrets in a flock. It is not a noisy communitarian. Occasionally, it will perch on a feeding carabao, a slender white obelisk, contrasting with but not contradicting that hulk of strength and fortitude.

We rarely see a bird in extremis so we take it for granted that they will always be part of the landscape without imposing on it. The expression, “to eat like a bird,” refers to a sparing existence.

When the sun is not even a presence, just a lightening in the horizon, a streak of lavender separating dark sky and even darker earth, the birds of Candaba take to the air. When they take wing, you can see how much morning means to a creature that may not have expected to live out the night.

No other messenger is as eloquent in arguing for passion.

( 09173226131)

* First published in Sun.Star Cebu's Dec. 15, 2013 issue of "Matamata," the Sunday editorial-page column

No comments: