Domingo Tadena & Philippine Eagle Foundation in Davao

Awesome Philippine Eagle
Last November, we went to Davao to immerse ourselves in their environment, culture, and best practices through the Triennial Xchange Series 7, a sub-program part of the Triennial Awards. We had a learning visit in the Philippine Eagle Center, the conservation breeding facility of the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) in Davao City.

Upon arrival, we had an orientation about the foundation's history and also there, we met Mr. Domingo “Mang Doming” Tadena, one of the 1st batch of Triennial Laureates, and is also the former Director of PEF who helps in the preservation of our National Bird which is also an endangered specie--the Philippine Eagle.

We were together with other delegates from YMA-2 ~ Camille Garcia; YMA-3 ~Vernie Naraja; and some from YMA-4 ~ Arnold Echevarria, Clarizza Duhaylunsod, Janica San Gabriel, Mariejo Sevilla, Christine Teopiz, Analyn Villa, and many more which includes RAFI personnel and the like. Though with me was Vernie and Arnold for we were separated to different areas of engagement (Environment, Women-Children-Youth & Health).

Photo-Op with a disabled Lawin
I had seen some documentaries of the Philippine Rain forests and also as far as I can recall back to high school's educational tour. But this was really the 1st time seeing the Philippine Eagle up-close and personal. The AVP that they presented showed that there is a great degradation of the Philippine forests, which are the shelter for birds and of the Philippine eagles. It does not only destroy the habitat of the Philippine eagles, it also affects other things: there might be a landslide due to massive cutting of trees; people might lose their source of livelihood, their shelters and their food. As what was presented by the PEF Personnel, Everything  is "inextricably connected".

Here is a 200 year old tree..its HUGE
By showing us their sponsors and some of their programs and facility, I felt diminutive in their presence. It is as if my problems in life are "NONSENSE" compared to what they do and experience or even face every single day. It is also admirable for the employees to work there. Biodiversity is at the heart of the Foundation's undertaking, it's not enough to just save an eagle while its shelter and food being destroyed. That part of the immersion made me realize that I still have lots of things to learn, do, share and opportunities to pursue my goals and dreams.

There is no need really to cut down a tree, why not make it a tree house?
We should not compete with nature, we must adapt and complete it instead. Here's a quick history Briefer of th Foundation's Beginnings:

Around the 60's, foreign scientists came to the Philippines to do all sorts of research in terms of habitat, animals and the like. A Young Mang Domingo, together with a foreign biologist, Dr. Robert Kennedy, who is also one of the founders of PEF, started an experiment on cooperative artificial insemination, an artificial way of breeding eagles.

The world basically laughed at the attempt or the project for such a thing has never been done anywhere else in the world. They were called bafoons or CRAZY, and never got any support for 14 years straight.

Everything is connected, this is biodiversity
But after 14 years of experimentation, they achieved success. The first eagle that was born through this artificial breeding, after that, the world rejoiced and all sorts of funding poured in. To think, it was in the Philippines that the 1st Artificial Insemination was done for eagles (Philippine Eagle), we were the benchmark.

Plants and flowers have a role to for small game in which is preyed by medium and then Big Game and the cycle goes on
That is one crazy and inspiring story, no external funding for 14 years--living off of donations and other means to sustain their experiments till getting the results they desired. What great determination and the will to never give up, no retreat no surrender. Failure was just a stepping stone, one step closer to success. And this is a True Story.

To think they were able to do this during their time, we the youth should be able to do better, given the resources, the amount of information that we access and process; we can definitely bring our country to greater heights!

Coastal Grey Eagle (It mainly eats fish or seafood? :D)
Another interesting thing was the ridiculously meticulous hatching process for the Philippine Eagle

The Philippine Eagle can only lay one egg per year. Why? Well the Philippine Eagle is monogamous and is a carnivore. And our Eagles do apply some degree of FAMILY PLANNING. If the weather is not right, or if there is not enough food or no proper shelter, they won't lay an egg. Practical Isn't it? (Lupig patas mga Eagle!!! LECHE!!)

In 1990, Bill Burnham, president of the US-based Peregrine Fund, visited the centre. Impressed by Tadena and his team, Burnham wrote to the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, an American charity, which donated $130,000 to help purchase additional land and expanded the facilities further.

The prey, Long Tailed Macaq
And waiting for the egg to hatch is not a joke. You have to watch over the incubated egg for 24 hours and it has to be turned upside down every 3 hours for it to be incubated properly and evenly to increase the chances of survival for the hatchling. You have to do this for 56 days which requires incredible amounts of hard work and patience.

Then on January 15, 1992, a chick was set to break from its shell. With gloved hands, Tadena removed shell fragments as colleagues watched. At last the eaglet, covered in fluffy white down, emerged. There were shouts and cheers. PAG-ASA or "HOPE" was born! Thanks to the media coverage of the birth, visitors began arriving in their hundreds to see Pag-Asa. In 1995, then Philippines president Fidel Ramos declared the Philippine Eagle the national bird. Donations started rolling in.

Close up look on the Philippine Eagle, don't let the photo fool you, it stands roughly as tall as my sternum

Mr. Domingo Tadena experienced first-hand how dangerous the Eagle's charges could be one day in 1981. As he entered a female bird's cage, he heard a warning shout from a colleague. Instinctively he turned, raising his right hand to his face. The eagle flew down and attacked through one of her talons ripping into his neck and cheek, the other talon fastened round his hand.

Mang Doming fell to the ground while the talon in his face came free, but the other was locked on his hand, with a claw spearing his little finger through his protective glove. Colleagues, holding the eagle still, could not remove the claw using pliers. The centre's staff finally tricked the eagle into releasing its grip by covering its eyes so it would open its claws ready to defend itself. "You're lucky the talons missed your throat, or you might have been killed," a doctor later told him.

The breeding programme was also threatened by civil war. During the 1980s, armed guerrillas started visiting the camp and helping themselves to the nine employees' meagre rations. Through all the hardship and tragedy, Mang Doming's love of birds kept him going. "When I first started, it was just a job," he says, "but as I learned more about the eagles, I realised how important it was to save them."

The eagle centre now attracts over 200,000 visitors a year. Education officers together with staff and from time to time Mang Doming himself - explain to school groups that the Philippine eagle's survival depends on protecting our dwindling rainforests. A newly opened information centre is spreading the conservation message. "The main aim is to protect the bird and its habitat."

Philippine Eagle Facts:
  • It is endemic to the Philippines, you can only see it only in the Philippines
  • It is one of the Largest Birds of Prey or Eagles in the World
  • It only hunts and eats monkeys, hence the name, 'Monkey Eating Eagle' (carnivorous)
  • The eagle is a good environment indicator of our forests and environment
  • It is hailed as the Philippines' National bird/eagle
  • They are monogamous and territorial
  • Eagles can be frustratingly anti-social. Sometimes females introduced to potential mates killed smaller males.
  • They lay on average only 1 egg per year and its incubation period is about 56 days
  • It has a unique exotic look unlike the other eagles found around the world.
  • Like most birds, they have a unique mating/courtship ritual when finding a potential mate

Mang Doming  ;)
About Domingo TaƱeda:

Mang Doming started to work with the scientists around his teens, where in he was just a working carpenter for them. His family was poor and that not all of his siblings was able to finish or even go to school. While working with the scientists he was encouraged to pursue his education. Despite being married and having 2 children, he took on the challenge.

He took Highschool under a scholarship while from time-to-time even taking his young children with him to school to care for them. He was even teased by his young classmates in bringing a toddler into the classroom, though the teacher was very understanding and allowed it. Fast forward--he graduated in college and moved up the ranks in PEF and was even  given a chance to travel all over the world. He even took a master's degree and then continue on working with PEF aand the development of the Philippine Eagle Center.

Even as a retired personnel, he still finds time to share about his advocacy to the next generation to preserve not just our Eagle, Environment, but also as our Cultural heritage and an important piece of our History.

We learned a lot didn't we Mr. parrot?
Though we learned a lot from just being there and hearing and seeing our environment still gives me the chills whenever I try to recall such a wonderful learning experience. One thing I learned though despite all the other values shown by the founders, and employees is COURAGE!

The 1st step is always the difficult part, and the Courage to persevere, to continue moving forward. Without Courage, can you pursue the venture they have pursued? Can you stand to face and stare fear, failure and discouragement and carry on? This I believe requires not just a determination but also a solid foundation of COURAGE to get things done.

Thank you and more power to Domingo Tadena & Philippine Eagle Foundation in Davao
Domingo Tadena & Philippine Eagle Foundation in Davao Domingo Tadena & Philippine Eagle Foundation in Davao Reviewed by Vernon Joseph Go on Wednesday, December 29, 2010 Rating: 5