Sunday, September 25, 2011

An Oriental Negros’ Gem: The Bleeding-Heart Dove

I was touring a broken-hearted young lady from Manila and I congratulated her for choosing this side of the island of Negros to be the healing sanctuary of her heart-in-pain. I told her that this part of the country is indeed the best place to forget her “user-friendly” boyfriend.
User-friendly is our label for anyone who takes advantage of a relationship for selfish gain. This Manila girl is a victim of a user-friendly doof. And she made the right choice of taking a trip away from the toxic human elements of Manila. The welcoming hearts of our island are evidently shown everywhere in the gateway called Dumaguete, Romantic Rizal’s City of Gentle People. The lady visitor’s smile kept flashing as she found it almost unbelievable that there still remains a Philippine city that made her feel so safe even beyond midnight. She laughed when I gave her an assurance, “ walang mangyayari sa ‘yo dito. Kung meron man, masarap!” The sarap part could mean the Dumaguete Express of Lab-as, the sizzling bulalo and chocodome cake at Royal Suite, the chicken adobo at Gabby’s, the lengua in Mamia, the vegetable kebab of Jutz’ Cafe, and more.... She agreed and gave the sarap points excellent marks.
Our morning tour had me leading her to one proof of the island’s healing powers as echoed by this distinctive mark of the plumage on the chest of our iconic bird, the Negros Bleeding-Heart Dove (Gallicolumba keayi/featured as logo of the 7th Philippine Bird Festival). We went to the Center for Tropical Conservation Studies (CENTROP) of Silliman University, home of the Philippines’ Bleeding-Heart doves. First, I introduced the dove from Luzon and she was amazed at the beauty of the bird with the “shotgun hit”-like burst of red feathers on its chest. Then, I asked her to compare the Luzon Bleeding-heart Dove with the one endemic to Negros Island. She was even more amazed at the “healing impression” of the line of red feathers on the chest of the more colorful Negros Bleeding-Heart Dove. I told her in a tula manner, “ ipinahiwatig sa mga kalapating ito na kapag ikaw ay nasugatan sa Luzon, maghihilom ang iyong sugat sa pagdating mo sa Negros....” She guffawed at the unexpected love message from nature. But there was more in store for my friend: upon learning that these birds are capable of only one lifetime partner, she began to fall in-love with the Bleeding-Heart doves. What a man could have done for loyalty, the bird could do it better.
What is sad these days, according to the island’s forest angel Apolinario CariƱo, “the population of the adorable species are extremely small, severely fragmented and still facing a continuing decline due to the reduced forest cover....” Environmentalists like Pol are alarmed as these birds are still on CRITICALLY ENDANGERED status, and they are working hard to give the Philippine pigeons the world’s attention.
2011, the United Nations’ Year of the Forests, is ending yet surprisingly, the impact of this celebration was never echoed by the Department of Education to young students. Just last week, I visited a number of public schools around the Visayas and Mindanao, and when I asked students about the Year of the Forests celebration, they have zero-level awareness of the focus on the trees this year. The story of the Negros Bleeding-Heart Dove would have been a powerful classroom inspiration for young Filipinos to be totally concerned with.
I hope more teachers had ushered school kids to view exhibits in the 7th Philippine Bird Festival in Dumaguete on September 24 with the theme, “Langgam Paluparon, Lasang Palambuon.” All bird angels of our islands and from other countries were all there and kids had a great time with them. Our very own Bird Angel Atty. Val, son of the Philippine Bird Man Dr. Dioscoro Rabor, gave a lecture on his father’s lifetime achievement. There were many inspiring points of the festival that LGUs would have supported. I was happy that the Mag-Degamo work spirit of the Oriental Negros Governor’s men was felt from beginning to end. Silliman icon of environmentalism Dr. Angel C. Alcala and University President Dr. Ben S. Malayang III were there with their valuable presence.
The Negros Bleeding-Heart, a ground-dwelling pigeon, is with unique features. Aside from the blood-red patch on its breast, its elegant regal-green crown down to the Mahogany brown hue spreads gradually to its wingtips interrupted by waves of white bands. In its breathtaking completeness, the colors naturally make the Negros Bleeding-Heart’s presence a fruitful reward when on a trek around the Twin Lakes.
The dove is truly our pride and joy as it is endemic to the Philippines. And we really need to work hard that these terrestrial species will have their favorite home, a dense forest, be preserved and recreated at some areas around the island and beyond. We have to ensure that their nestings on epiphytic ferns be totally protected. I wish too that the Provincial Government will make its glory a symbol of the country’s remaining tropical paraiso.
Let us not be user-friendly beings of this planet. Be inspired by the endearing presence of this lovely dove we can call our very own.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Asian invasion in the 2011 beauty universe

I’m interested in the fact that the less secure a man is, the more likely he is to have extreme prejudice. -Clint Eastwood

Extreme prejudice was evident in those times when Donald J. Trump, the billionaire co-owner of the Miss Universe pageant, fixed the selection of the top 15. Trump’s way of ensuring slots for the prettiest representatives would usually result to a “seductive” blonde-dominated line of beauties or all-Latina finalists. This was evident in 2009 when no Asian beauty and only one African made it to the Top 15.

When I reviewed the arrival videos of the Miss Universe 2011 pageant in Sao Paulo, Brazil, I already predicted an unstoppable Asian invasion in this 60th edition of the world’s most popular beauty pageant. Beauties from Asia and Africa clearly made outstanding presence in all events of the month-long pageant.

Without the prevailing biases, three Asian beauties actually had the power to be part of the Top 5: most outstanding was Miss China Luo Zilin (5 ft 11 1⁄2 inches) who was the tallest among the 89 contestants, the best in promotional interview, Miss Malaysia Deborah Priya Henry (5 ft 10 1⁄2 inches), and Miss Philippines Shamcey Supsup (5 ft 8 inches), the one with the most elegant everyday-presence. The other two top slots belonged to beauties who could easily be in Trump’s List: the all-natural blonde beauty Miss Australia Scherri-Lee Biggs (5 ft 9 inches), and the one who looked like the young Brook Shields, Miss Ukraine Olesya Stefanko (5 ft 9 1⁄2 inches) who ended as this year’s 1st runner-up. Miss Angola, Leila Lopes (5 ft 10 inches), was a popular candidate as she was the most stunning black beauty but her too-reserved projection and a-bit-weak ramp skills did not show the all-around-energy expected of a possible winner.

It was some kind of a miracle transition when the pageant ended with a “non-white” winner, Miss Angola. This should be the spirit of international beauty pageants – more accepting of all types of beauty.

The greatest Asian invasion was in 1988 when Porntip Nakhirunkanok of Thailand was crowned Miss Universe, Chang Yoonjung of Korea was 1st runner-up, Mizuho Sakaguchi of Japan was 3rd runner-up and Pauline Yeung of Hong Kong was 4th runner-up. Mexico’s Amanda Olivares, 2nd runner up, was the only South American in the Top 5. The Oriental-dominated glory echoed the spirit of the year of the earth dragon.

There was still the favored-hometown-girl culture in this 2011 pageant. Miss Brazil Priscila Machado (5 ft 11 inches), the only South American beauty in the top 5, was certainly a product of a manipulated entrance. Her placement in the Top 15 should have been for Miss Malaysia but Miss Universe organizers would usually dropped contestants who have joined Miss World – seemed to be part of the war against the other global beauty contest.

Why was Miss Brazil allowed in the first place? Everyone was wondering why was she was still considered even after her naked pictures were circulated all over the net, the day she won the Miss Brazil title. Miss Brazil’s second runner-up title should have belonged to Miss Philippines, the one who gave the best answer during the final Q & A.

Maybe it was Miss Philippines’ very “churchy” answer that brought her away from the crown. Shamcey was asked by the judge, actress Vivica A. Fox, if she would change her religious beliefs to marry the one she loves. The Filipina beauty, a born-again Christian, replied, “If I had to change my religious beliefs, I would not marry the person that I love because the first person that I love is God who created me and I have my faith and my principles and this is what makes me who I am. And if that person loves me, he should love my God, too.” She should have added a line to express respect for other religions. As a global goodwill ambassador like the Miss Universe, should always project a more welcoming spirit.

English-speaking Miss Philippines, just like Venus Raj of last year’s pageant which had the famous “major major” answer, got the toughest question in the question and answer portion of the competition. Shamcey was also the only one in the top five who did not use an interpreter. I wonder why Miss Angola, who is a student in United Kingdom, opted to use an interpreter?

Another unique twist in this pageant: the representatives from the countries with the greatest number of Miss Universe titleholders, USA (7) and Venezuela (6), failed to make it to the Top 10. Miss USA was too thin to shine in the swimwear portion and Miss Venezuala was a perfect body but with face framed with the crowning glory like an old autumn tree.

Miss Angola’s smile - the sweetest of them all and her effortless regal bearing, were clearly the factors that made her the choice of the judges. But in totally, the two Asian beauties Miss China and Miss Philippines were the queens of the universe that evening.

Beauties from the Philippines, Angola and China in the Top 3 positions could have been the ideal and could have been one of the most respectable results in the history of this pageant. Even with the clear injustice, we are still hoping for more unstoppable Asian invasions in the Trump universe.