WBCP member Arnel Telesforo makes the long trek from Manila to Banaue to assist in the “Training Naturalist Guides” program of the Department of Tourism.
Banaue Trip Report
by Arnel Telesforo
“I need to leave early!” That was what crossed my mind when Mike asked me to go to Banaue. I left the house early the 26th to make it to the bus bound for Banaue. But first I had a meeting and work to attend to. I arrived at the bus stop with time to spare. The only bus company that plies the Banaue route is the Ohayami Bus Company. A P450.00 ticket will get you all the way to Banaue.
January 26, Thursday
By 6pm, I was in the bus and ready to go. For some strange reason, almost all of the other passengers were foreigners! We were off soon enough, I barely even had time to fall asleep before the bus started on its long journey to Banaue.
The last time I was in Banaue was with Lala Española and her team for the Luzon Parrot Project. I slept through most of the long bus ride and barely felt the trip up. This time I was wide-awake. Maybe it was the excitement or maybe it was because I was alone on this trip. So many thoughts crisscrossed my mind. When we had a bathroom break, I stepped out of the bus, felt the cold air and thought, “We must be getting closer!”
January 27, Friday
9:00 am. We finally reached the Banaue Hotel. Donald Balanhi of the Department of Tourism met me. I was there to assist in the “Training for Naturalist Guides” seminar arranged by the DOT. There are about 35 active guides in Banaue aside from the “freelance guides”. One of the reasons the DOT invited me was to give a “Birdwatching Basics” talk to the guides of Banaue.
But first it was time for some breakfast and brewed Banaue coffee. Over breakfast, we discussed how we could develop birdwatching as a tourism activity in Banaue. We discussed how it was important that the guides have the proper attitude and practices. I thought it was also important to incorporate the traditions they have in their guiding. We also discussed problems and issues related to being guides.
11:00 am. We started with a lecture on Birdwatching Basics. But before I could even turn on my PowerPoint presentation, the guides started peppering me with questions. They had a lot of questions about birds. They wanted to know what kinds of birds can be seen in Banaue. I was able to show them a few of the birds that can be found in Banaue. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time to show them all of the Banaue birds.
I wanted to emphasize the importance of birdwatching, it’s significance to their work, and the value of the birds in their surroundings. The first question I asked them is “Why are there birds?” I also asked them “What is their role in the environment?”. I got all sorts of responses, many less than serious. It was a good thing there were 2 female guides in the group that kept the discussion clean!
12:00 noon. The lecture ended by noon, but even throughout lunch the guides continued to pepper me with questions about birds, especially the unusual birds that they have seen. They were eager to to tell me about unusual birds that they had never seen before in their lives. It was a fun and free-flowing bird discussion. I invited them to go birdwatching bright and early the next morning.
January 28, Saturday
I got up at 5am, but it was still dark so I went back to the hotel. We started birdwatching at about 7am. I gathered the guides in front of the hotel for a short introduction to birdwatching. We were short of binoculars, but we decided to make a go for it. There were just a few birds out. It was a gloomy, drizzly day. Still, the group enjoyed the activity. They were able to see a few small birds like sunbirds and white eyes.
There were other topics covered during the seminar. Anthony Arbias gave a talk on “Why Go Native Plants”. Glen Ocena and his group from Cebu presented Practical Mountaineering Application courses – effects of climate change, hazards of nature, leave no trace, camp management, survival essentials, mountain environment and basic navigation, trail sports (mountain biking and trail running), ropemanship, single rope technique, and practicums. Sixto Martin Esquin as Tom discussed first aid/basic life support, CPR and Emergency Rescue Transport.
Although we were short on time for a real training session, we were able to discuss a lot of the problems related to the environment. There are still a lot of bird hunters in the area. This was painful to hear but I think that somehow we were able to raise their awareness about the birds of the Philippines.
After the lectures were over, I toured the sights of Banaue with Anthony Arbias. For only P200, we visited the 7 viewing peaks of Banaue via tricycle. Then it was time to say goodbye to Banaue and the guides who seemed genuinely thankful for all the lectures. By 4 pm I was headed back to Manila, with plans to return. Next time.
translation by Sylvia Ramos