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Tribute to ‘Pamana’

AMONG THE reactions received on the death of “Pamana” (Heritage), the three-year-old Philippine eagle shot to her death some days ago, one of the most moving was this letter from Emily Abrera, board chair of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and a member of the board of the Philippine Eagle Foundation.

The PEF is a private organization devoted to restoring the population of the Philippine Eagle, primarily through nursing future generations in its reservation on Mt. Apo, raising public awareness by hosting visitors to its sanctuary, and releasing mature eagles into wildlife sanctuaries.

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As we all know by now, Pamana was killed within the borders of the protected area in Mt. Hamiguitan, very near the spot where she was released just last June 12. Pamana’s shooting has led some to speculate that Mt. Hamiguitan might lose its protected area status (a title bestowed by Unesco), due to the failure of the human population in the area to protect the wildlife in their territory.

Though muted, public reaction to Pamana’s fate has been intense, though it seems to consist more of sadness and loss than anger or a call to action. Still, those who feel for Pamana do so out of mourning and regret, not just for the eagle herself, but also for the continuing (and seemingly frustrating) struggle to delay, if not prevent, the disappearance of these creatures. What must be done to protect not just the Philippine eagle but also all wild creatures—rare or common—from human cruelty and indifference?

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HERE is what Abrera has to say:

“Thank you for your thoughtful column. I am a member of the board of the Philippine Eagle Foundation, have been for many years now, since I first encountered the start-up center on the slopes of Mt. Apo in the early ’80s. (I was there to shoot a commercial, but that’s another story.)

“I was happy that I was able to attend the release of Pamana last June 12, with co-director Johnson Ongking of Boysen (who helped much in the fundraising for the release, as it costs a great deal each time we release a Philippine eagle back to the wild.)

“It was a very moving event. Many members of the community turned up on that chilly, misty morning on the slopes of Mt. Hamiguitan; their pride was so palpable.

“Pamana, like all Philippine eagles, was a beautiful bird: fierce and wild and incredibly regal. Two other friends who were with me on that morning were amazed at the sheer size and presence of the bird. (Pamana alighted for a few minutes on the stone walkway, her crest of head feathers raised and her wings on alert. She surveyed the small group of officials who respectfully retreated in silence, before she took off for the trees.)

“When we received the news, I was in Palawan, with the same two colleagues, and I cannot describe our shock and sadness, and that awful edge of bitterness that inevitably accompanies anger. And to think she was named Pamana! She was meant to live and thrive, and produce more eagles… not die in two months’ time!

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“That night, I dreamt of eagles in flight and awoke with this thought, which I shared recently:

“In a strange twist of destiny, Pamana is actually living up to her name. In her death, she has raised awareness for the Philippine Eagle in a big way. This is her ‘pamana’ to us and to the environment. I get teary when I recall how swiftly she flew from her cage that morning as soon as Kim (Atienza, host of the environmental TV show ‘Matanglawin’) opened the latch, so eager to be free and so willing to embrace her assigned role as the ‘taga-pamana.’ Who could have guessed it would be in this tragic way?

“Still, this thought has comforted me somehow.”

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ABRERA enclosed a watercolor and a poem created by Sophia Louise Cudiamat, 16, the daughter of a friend, as a tribute to Pamana. May this young woman’s words bring us comfort, too, as well as determination to restore the Philippine eagle, the only such creature in our borders, to sustainable numbers.

The poem is titled “#JusticeForPamana.”

Is it so easy for us

To say we care

When in times of sadness

We sit back and stare

Do we appreciate

By using bullets and chains

Do we enjoy taking

Until nothing remains?

We pride ourselves

The alpha species we say

We can speak, feel, and think

Our gain, another’s dismay

Is that what we call humanity

Is this the civilized path

If nothing not walking

Can escape our wrath

So is this now the normal

Is this an acceptable thing

To shoot down what’s brave enough

To use its own wings

So we capture what’s free

And kill what is growing

As we’re killing our own future

Without even knowing.

We have no excuse, in the wake of Pamana’s killing, that we did not, do not know, about this continuing travesty. Save the Philippine eagle, all wild creatures, and their remaining habitats!

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