Today is the opening day of the 7th Philippine Bird Festival organized by the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP). After a sumptuous breakfast at the hotel, we proceeded to the Silliman University grounds where the festival was being held. It was nice meeting old friends and making new ones.
Throughout the day though, our constant companion was Nestor Dolina. We visited the booths together, shared the joy of meeting our idol, Cedde Prudente, le photographe par excellence of Sabah, Borneo, and attending the seminars together. But most of all, Nestor was with me and Cynthia when we chased after the Spotted Wood Kingfisher at Centrops (aka Silliman Zoo).
Here was what happened: We were sitting in one of the classrooms giving rapt attention to our friend, Marester Bas Macasiano as she spoke of her renowned grandfather, Dr. Dioscoro Rabor (whom I admired since I was a young man).
She then introduced her uncle, Valfredo, Dr. Rabor's son, who in turn recounted stories about his father.
Time went quickly by and after Valfredo had finished sharing memories of his Dad with us, there was a "quiz" wherein a prize would be given to anyone in the audience who can tell what species of bird was named after Dr. Rabor. To which I promptly replied, "Napothera rabori!" which was a kind of Babbler (somehow I forgot the English name at that very moment). Nevertheless, I still got the prize - a set of bird stickers.
While we were enjoying a buffet lunch hosted by the WBCP, we were informed by Adri Constantino that a Spotted Wood Kingfisher had been seen really close (!!) at the Centrops area. Now this bird had been, and continues to be, my nemesis bird ever since I started birding here in the Philippines. To have one that "close" is an opportunity we would never want to miss. And so right after lunch, Nestor, my wife, Cynthia, and I boarded a tricycle and headed to the kingfisher site.
Centrops is a place where local endangered animals are being kept for captive breeding purposes. Housed in this small forested patch in the middle of the city were Negros Bleeding Heart Pigeons, Visayan Tarictics, Spotted Deers, Wart Hogs, and Crocodiles. The person in charge led us to the trail in between the deer and wild boar pens and pointed to a tree. "That's where they saw the kingfisher two hours ago", he said. We looked and there was none. We told him that we will wait for it to return. "OK", he replied, and left.
I waited at the spot. Cynthia roamed the area. Nestor roamed the area. I still waited at the spot. Then it drizzled. We all rushed under a shed just in the nick of time as heavy rain soon fell. Thirty minutes later it stopped. I took one more look at the kingfisher tree and still could not spot the Spotted Wood Kingfisher. Hearts laden with bitter disappointment we left.
What made this story even more pathetic was when we got back to the hotel and I was about to take a shower, I discovered, to my utter dismay, that my mid-section was full of red spots. Chigger bites! Perhaps my proximity to the deers and hogs enabled those microscopic savages to invade my epidermis. Ah, the irony of it all - not getting the Spotted but getting spotted instead.
That night we attended the dinner hosted by the Governor of Negros Oriental Province. Along with the lavish buffet were performances by the local talents, including some cha-cha numbers and a fashion show. After the program, the music went on and some of us started swaying to the latin numbers. Cynthia and I even danced an impromptu rumba. Little did the spectators know that the reason I was swaying my hips quite vigorously was that I wanted to relieve the itch that had been bothering me so much without being too obvious about it.
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