Most people beat the heat of summer by going to where the coolness of the water can be felt even just visually. I’ve been to the Twin Lakes: Balinsasayao and Danao twice this week to guide University guests. As I bring them around the big lake, I love talking about two of my favorite environmentalists: the Bird Man and the Bamboo Man.
I never had the opportunity to listen to Doctor Joe, the birdman of the Philippines, live! But I love the recollection of Silliman campus kids who had those great times with him walking under the shades of acacia trees and he would tell them bird stories.
It was the 10th death anniverssary of Dr. Dioscoro S. Rabor, the country’s preeminent zoologist and conservationist, on March 25. He is never forgotten, his legacy is enduring.
He received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Silliman University in 1974. The name Rabor is internationally known. His legacy shines through pioneering works with birds which included the discovery of the sad state of the Philippine Eagle. Even in retirement, he was still active with consultancies in Wildlife Biology. Rabor's passion for nature conquered points beyond Negros island. Try to climb Mt. Ilong-ilong in Mindanao and you would find the name of this Cebuano carved on a stone at its peak and check on environment stories of Mount Isarog in Southern Luzon and you’ll find the same prominent name. He trekked and climed Philippine mountains as part of more than 50 expeditions into the forests of more than 25 islands. He discovered and named most of the Philippine birds. Other exotic species of animals including rats were his discoveries. Some of them were named after him like Rabor's Wren Babbler or the Napathera rabori found in the Sierra Madre Mountain.
A book on Philippine Birds by Robert S. Kennedy has this dedication, “to Dioscoro Rabor and wife Lina, ‘whose pioneering field efforts for more than half of the 20th century helped shape the field of ornithology and conservation in the Philippines.’”
To trek around the lakes is for me an experience of Rabor’s passion and when I’m rewarded with a sight of an endangered specie like the Negros bleeding heart pigeon, I do express thankfulness to the Bird Man for he paved the way for the new generation of Filipinos to still experience wildlife in a virgin forest.
Another person whose passion for conservation is so inspiring is the Bamboo Man of the Philippines, Frans Kleine Koerkamp who celebrated his 70th birthday with his friends at South Sea on March 29. He was actually born on February 11, 1936 in Netherlands. Frans who also came from a poor Dutch family is inspired by the molding he got from a monastery where he found his life motto, “Hand ignarus mali, miseris succurrere disco” (Since I came from poverty and misery, I have learned to help the poor and the miserable).
This ordained Carmelite priest came to the Philippines in 1964 and had Escalante, Negros Oriental as his first mission area. The severe poverty of the hacienda workers led him to take a strong resolve to help the poor. He underwent trainings on Cooperatives and helped the poor by organizing them into unified forces for community development.
In 1972, Frans mission brought him to Iligan where he was exposed to rampant human rights violations under the Martial Law era. A community development worker from Escalante Inday Rabelista also came to Lanao to work with credit cooperatives. With the same point of departure and with a shared vision, their friendship grew deeper. On March 29, 1979, they were married and have become strong partners in the service for others. Their respective missions brought them to Manila where they had their son Jobert in 1982 and daughter Monette in 1984.
With deep emersion into the Philippine society and the experience of the various crises faced by the people he loved and served, Frans has become a true Manoy, a foreign Man with a piNoy heart.
And having visited many parts of the Philippines, he has found a dreamland: Dumaguete. It was in 1994 when he realized his dream of building a home for his family on this University town.
And it was at this time and place that he found a great way to help the people: a community effort to preserve and develop a livelihood out of the lowly Philippine bamboo. Buglas Bamboo Institute (BBI) was founded by Franz and the revived traditions out the common kawayan is now being cascaded to other communities.
Kawayan, as a primary feature in Philippine architecture and landscape, has gained back its respect and glory. Thanks to Manoy Franz, our country’s Bamboo man.
Summer is the time to conquer nature! And as we go far and deep into our happy wanderings, let Doctor Joe’s free flight with the birds and Manoy Frans’ love for the bamboo be our compass so that we will never be lost in the dense fog of human selfishness.