The Philippine Eagle
Once we left Samal Island we immediately began our long journey to the Philippine Eagle Center to get a glimpse of one of the most largest, rarest and powerful eagles on the planet, the Philippine Eagle. The Philippine Eagle, also known as the Monkey-Eating Eagle, is an endangered species which cannot be found in any other country. Due to the high rate of deforestation caused by logging, the existence of the eagle is on the brink of extinction. Killing the endangered species is punishable by a 12 year prison sentence. Not sure why this isn't applied to the real culprits who are responsible for the removal of the eagle's habitat - the essential fabric of its existence. But I digress.
Again, like everywhere in the Philippines, it takes a few modes of transportation to reach any destination. This included a taxi, a jeepney, and a motorbike.
Election-eve tricycle rally.
Our motorbike driver whisked us through villages with pretty surrounding scenery, as many onlookers nudged their friends as we passed. Again, I'm sure this area doesn't see many foreigners.
The Philippine Eagle Center is a sanctuary to roughly 36 eagles, half of which were bred in captivity. The center, which is supported by the Philippine Eagle Foundation, also serves the public by promoting environmental awareness and educating them about the dire state of affairs in which their national bird continues to find itself.
The Philippine Eagle astonishingly reaches 3 feet in height with a wingspan of 6.5-7 feet.
It's a shame that a bird as large as the Philippine Eagle has to be held captive for the sake of its species existence. Nevertheless, it was a privilege to witness such a fascinating creature as its future is uncertain.
After a wonderful visit to the Philippine Eagle Center, Sheila and I left and began our long journey back home as it was getting late and we didn't want to be traveling at night. We hired a friendly motorbike driver to take us back into town where we would then take a shuttle to Davao City. Along the way, however, our driver's hat flew off as we were cruising down the road. He pulled over, and I quickly ran back to retrieve it. Our driver appreciated the gesture and expressed his gratitude with a candid smile. Sheila aka Ms. Paparazzi did an excellent job capturing the moment.
My Participation in Philippine Politics
Back at the house, political posters were hung as her cousin-in-law, Bobby, was running for re-election. He held the position of an elected low-level government official. From what I could ascertain, his position was the equivalent to a city council member in the United States.
Bobby, who was holding an election-eve rally with his fellow party members up the street, invited Sheila and I to attend and join the family. As a political junkie, I couldn't have wanted to be anywhere else. Sounded great. And just before we left, Bobby handed me a t-shirt with his name on it and asked if I would wear it to the rally. Initially, I must admit, I was a little hesitant as this is a country known to be extremely politically corrupt. According to Transparency International (TI), a non-governmental organization that monitors political corruption, its Corruption Perception Index for 2010 has the Philippines scoring at a 2.4, on a scale from 10 (highly clean) to 0 (highly corrupt). To get an idea where this ranks with other countries, the Philippines tied with Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone on the Corruption Perception Index.
Take a look at it here: http://www.transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/cpi/2010/results
If I was to ever to get involved in politics in the future, I could definitely see this biting me in the behind. I was caught between a rock and a hard place. What was I suppose to do, say no? Yeah right. But I'd heard Bobby talk about politics earlier and what he stood for, and it appeared that his political views were sane enough for my liking. He came off as an extremely friendly and honest man.
It was quite a memorable experience walking to the rally with Sheila's family, as Bobby stood by my side. I aroused inquisitive stares, smiles and laughter from bystanders as we walked through the busy streets. As I'd mentioned earlier, it didn't appear that this neighborhood had received many foreigners. And as one can imagine, I stood out like a sore thumb.
"Iboto si Bobby! (Vote for Bobby!)" I repeatedly hollered, as Bobby waved and shook hands with friends and supporters.
"Oh my God," Sheila said, who looked down and covered her face. "You're embarrassing me."
It's safe to assume that I was enjoying myself.
By the time we had approached the stage, I'd gained a following of children who laughingly surrounded me.
I was really impressed with the diversity of candidates who were running with Bobby. There was a woman - the captain or elected leader of the group - who was running for re-election; a Muslim; and a homosexual. And there were heaps of people in the crowds in support of these candidates, wearing shirts and holding signs. I was impressed.
This woman (pictured above) was a supporter of the opposing party - a party who had had their rally the previous night; however, she felt the need to crash this one. She was a bit unstable mentally, if you catch my drift, who was decked out in clothing and accessories that indicated her support for the candidate that Bobby was running against. She was really creepy with a mischievous smile, who constantly felt the need to spit. Yuck.
At the end of the rally, the popular Filipino singer-comedian Blakdyak (pronounced: Blackjack) performed. He really knew how to entertain the crowd. And as the only tall, white foreigner in the crowd, I knew it was only a matter of time before he honed in on me. In between songs as he was speaking to the crowd, he stopped, looked at me and comically made a comment about me being handsome. The crowd responded with cheers and laughter.
After his performance, as the rally was coming to an end, Neri, the Captain, called me up to the stage. Before we left for Davao, Mindanao never did I imagine that I would be participating in local Philippine politics. But there I was, up on the stage, holding hands with political candidates as everyone took a bow. Oh, life on the road . . .
Sadly, the following morning Sheila and I had to return to Manila. I couldn't have asked for a better experience during my travels in Davao City, Mindanao. I'm so glad that I ignored all the travel advisories that warned foreigners against traveling here. Just think of all the amazing experiences in which I would have missed.
Thank you, Bobby, Mercy and family for hosting us during our travels in Davao. Your generosity and hospitality is much appreciated.