A NAME, EIGHT BIRDS & SOME STAMPS

punay-bird-ptilinopusmerrilliPhoto: 1982 issue Philippine stamp for 30 centavos (sentimos), documented online here.

My childhood nickname refers to a fruit dove.  Which particular species, I wondered?  According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, this document identifies 4 different species as “Punay” on p. 66.  There are also other pigeons that go by the same name.  Which one was I named after?

It might be Treron formosae filipinus,  or the Whistling Green-Pigeon, once hunted as food fowl.  Here is a photo of the Japanese species, as I can’t find a local photo.  Here is another, clearer side view photo, from Mangoverde.com, publisher of the Mangoverde World Bird Guide.

punay-bird-treronformosaefPhoto:  Treron formosae (Japan).  Screen capture from this birdwatching site, with detailed descriptions.

Or it may be Ptilinopus marchei, the Flame-Breasted Fruit Dove / Marche’s Fruit Dove.

punay-bird
Photo: Ptilinopus marchei. Screen capture from British Oriental bird specialist Desmond Allen’s video originally posted here.

Or it may be Ptilinopus merrilli, the Cream-Bellied Fruit Dove or Merrill’s Fruit Dove.   Here’s another screen capture from Desmond Allen’s video.

punay-bird-ptilinopusmerrilli2
Could it be, perhaps, Ptilinopus arcanus, the Negros Fruit-Dove?  (See illustration below.) My mother is from Negros.   There are no extant photos of this bird. The last documented sighting was a female specimen collected in 1953, unless you count this site‘s claim that “local contact Rene Vendiola sighted a Negros Fruit-Dove last year” (2002).  International birder Sander Lagerveld reported to Oriental Birding that “the male Negros Fruit-Dove reportedly looks like a miniature Yellow-breasted Fruit-Dove.”  (Clicking on Lagerveld’s name leads you to his 3-part Philippine bird tour report, complete with maps and local contact info!)  In the meantime, here is an attractive illustration of that female bird, from BirdLife.org:

punay-bird-ptilinopusarcanus

There’s also Ptilinopus leclancheri, or the Black-Chinned Fruit-Dove. If you notice I’m posting another screen cap from Desmond Allen’s video – it’s because his videos are so very clear and show excellent frontal views in good light.  However the “black chin” is not very apparent until you look more closely. Please also check out this excellent photo, from the gallery of photographer Romy Ocon.  Here is another, by Mark Harper.  There is a 2008 issue stamp!  Look for it here.

punay-bird-ptilinopusleclancheri2
How about the Treron pompadora, or Pompadour Green Pigeon / Philippine Green Pigeon? Here is a very clear photo by Romy Ocon, and another by J.P. Carino.  This, happily, has a population that is not as threatened or endangered as the others.

And lastly, there are the bleeding-heart birds.  The Luzon Bleeding Heart, Gallicolumba luzonica rubiventris, is called Punay.  This is such a beautiful bird, check out this fantastic photo by Ken Ilio.  The Mindoro Bleeding Heart, Gallicolumba platenei, is also called Punay.  Unfortunately I have not found a photo of the bird at this time.

It appears that Punay is the local name given to some smaller varieties of fruit dove, green pigeon or bleeding-heart pigeon.  Many of the birds listed here are threatened species.

As of this writing I want to look for the stamps featuring the Punay doves.

Birdwatch.ph (Wild Bird Club of the Philippines) is a wonderful site promoting local and provincial birdwatching activities.  It also offers a downloadable taxonomic list of scientific and common names, among other great references..

There are a good number of Philippine bird references in print, or that you can Google for, if you would like to know more.  I’ll list them in a later blog, together with a list of links to local birdwatching groups and information sites online.

ATTENBOROUGH AND THE FLYING SQUIRREL

In the late 70s, little girls usually stayed in school until their parents came to fetch them.  They would play Chinese garter/jump-rope games, patintero (a kind of tag) and show each other the contents of their Hello Kitty pencil cases.  My mom the Biology professor didn’t fetch me, because I was old enough to go home by myself.  We also happened to live only four blocks away.

Walking home was fun, more fun than walking to school in the morning.  I learned which flowers, when picked, had sweet dew in them that children sucked (I don’t know the names, but it was a red trumpet flower that grew in a bush on the way home).  I learned which hedges were the likely hiding places for pet spiders.  On certain days, I practically ran home, because Sir David Attenborough‘s BBC series Life On Earth would be showing on Channel 9.  Or it might be Jacques Cousteau, sharing yet another inner space adventure from his famous vessel The Calypso.  These two are the heroes of my imagination.

The other day I read in print and online news about Nepenthes attenboroughii, a newly discovered species of rat-eating giant pitcher plant unique to the Philippines. The rare pitcher plant was found on the island of Palawan, one of our last natural frontiers. The species was named by its discoverers after Attenborough, as a gesture of thanks for his lifelong career as a natural history filmmaker for the BBC.  His Life series (Life on Earth, The Living Planet, The Trials of Life) spanned from 1979 to 1990, which was most of my life in school!

One summer I was working as a student assistant at the UP Zoology Dept. where my mother was assistant to the Department Head.  She gave an exam for Natural Science 3 and asked me to proctor while she lectured in the next room.  One of the exam sections covered parallel evolution.  She had two columns listing animals, and instructed students to match scientifically unrelated animals that evolved similar physical characteristics, and to name the characteristic they shared.  The ones who’d listened to the lectures and read books had no problems answering the questions.

One guy, not particularly known for his studiousness, raised his hand.  “Miss, er, can you explain the two-column thing again?” I explained it according to the script my mother gave me, without giving too many of the answers away.  Then it transpired that he had no clue what some animals listed looked like.  Obviously he didn’t study.  A bit exasperated, I said, “My goodness, many of the answers were on tv last week!  Don’t you watch Life on Earth with David Attenborough? If you watched that show you would be able to answer this entire exam.”  While most of the class started giggling, many of the other students had their “Aha!” moment right after that remark and scrambled to make up for lost time.  The episode I was talking about showed and discussed the similarities between a bat and a flying squirrel.

The guy who didn’t study was (I think) the same guy who later used brilliantine pomade to protect his hands while dissecting a cat in my mother’s class for Comparative Anatomy.  Eventually I believe he became a doctor.  Now that I look back on it all I want to laugh at how prissy and supercilious I was as a proctor.  It didn’t occur to me that other kids preferred to spend their afternoons doing things other than watching BBC nature documentaries.  But I loved it then, the way I love the Discovery Channel and the National Geographic Channel now. In fact one day I want to order the Attenborough videos.

So now the Philippines has a link to David Attenborough.  Jacques Cousteau has a link with the Philippines, too – the Calypso docked here in the early 1990s when Cousteau was  investigating an underwater cave system in Palawan, before sinking in a storm off Singapore in 1996.  Imagine, two of my TV heroes, both linked to the country via Palawan.  How cool is that?  My sister, our friends and I mourned when Cousteau passed away in 1997.  We had decided to learn scuba diving because of him.  I no longer dive, but I still enjoy snorkelling.  The oceans still hold much fascination for me.

When I close my eyes I can see David Attenborough’s wildly windswept hair, and I can hear his voice, cultured yet emphatic.  He’d probably be walking on the beach in his chinos, barefoot, pointing at a horseshoe crab and examining the undersides, comparing it to trilobites.  Goodness, he must be in his mid-80s now.  Today we have a crop of extreme adventurer-naturalists, whom I think owe their inspiration in some part to his filmmaking.  They’re very entertaining right enough, but sometimes I do look for an enthusiastic but contemplative commentary from a naturalist who lets Nature be the star instead.

NATIONAL ARTIST AWARDS CONTROVERSY, A PRIMER

Some of these links were previously mentioned in All Choked Up, but I’m reprising them for a more updated and cohesive blog entry.  They are in nearly chronological order.

National Artist Awards (Wikipedia)
National Artist Awards Brouhaha: Artists Speak Out (Spot.ph)
What They’re Saying About National Artist Dagdag-Bawas (Gibbs Cadiz blog)
Statement from BenCab on National Artist Awards (Spot.ph)
Palace Choices of 4 National Artists Protested (Inquirer.net)
Two NCCA Commissioners Speak Up (Gerry Alanguilan blog)
At Large, Rina Jimenez David (Opinion, Inquirer.net)
‘Massacre’ of National Artist Awards Rued (Inquirer.net)
‘The Corruption of Culture’, PENMAN by Butch Dalisay (Philstar.com)
CCP Deplores Arroyo’s National Artist Picks (Inquirer.net)
National Artists Ready Protest (Manila Times)
Carlo J. All The Way (Lourd De Veyra blog, Spot.ph)
Caparas, Guidote, Malacanang Defend National Artist Selection (Spot.ph)
Cecile G. Alvarez on Cory and National Artist Status (Manila Bulletin)
Frank Rivera, In Defense of Cecile Guidote Alvarez (Gibbs Cadiz blog)
Caparas Hits Back At Critics (GMA News)

I have my opinions, but I hope that reading more about the issue will help you form your own.  There is more protest about Caparas and Alvarez, because of qualification and delicadeza issues, rather than the other two “presidential prerogative” awardees.  There is no doubt that Francisco Manosa (Architecture) and Jose “Pitoy” Moreno (Fashion Design) are already internationally recognized senior artists in their respective fields.  Part of the protest concerns Music candidate Ramon P. Santos (who garnered the highest points after rigorous screening) being dropped from consideration in order to accommodate the four previously mentioned candidates.

There will be a “funeral” march Friday, August 7, 2pm, at the Cultural Center of the Philippines.  Let’s see what happens.

Later:
August 7 Editorial (Philstar.com)
Shouting Match Erupts In Artists’ Protest (Inquirer.net)
Artists Offer Black Roses for the Death of the National Artist Awards (PEP.ph)
SC Blocks Conferment of National Artist Awards (GMA News)

ALL CHOKED UP

We are just in the middle of the year, and the loss of a musician and a heroine of democracy has impacted greatly on our collective attention.  Earlier, we were shocked by the untimely death of Michael Jackson.  On Wednesday we bury our beloved Corazon Aquino, who will be deeply, deeply missed.  The cup of personal grief for these two individuals runneth over with tributes and farewells (some heartfelt and raw, some artful, some so copiously sanctimonious they make you cringe)  – you know the kind,  you read them on all the social networks.

Kris Aquino has managed to make her account of her mother’s last days all about herself, yesterday, on The Buzz (it’s a Youtube series, in Kris’ trademark Taglish).  Of that tendency, we are not surprised.  She had her moments, where she successfully left her script and explained why the Aquino family did not accept the government’s offer for a state funeral.  She had me at “NOW you want to honor my mom?” The Aquinos became at odds with the Arroyo administration in recent years.  Kris was complaining about the government proposal/threat to pull out Cory’s two remaining PSG security staff, on the pretext of unit dissolution and “accounting”, after Cory publicly criticized Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.  GMA News says Malacanang Palace has apologized, full story here.

Hillary Clinton and Kirstie Kenney shared some very kind words in a recent ANC ambush interview.

Am all choked up, watching the GMA7 News Tribute Live Stream.  Was on EDSA 23 years ago, tear gas, flowers and all.  Losing Cory is like losing one’s own mother.  We are bereft, and hard-pressed to find another whose qualities include the purity of intention to serve.

——-

While we’re on the subject of Death, or on another plane of meaning, Loss of Significance, do read about the controversy surrounding the National Artist Awards.  The Filipino Art Community is all choked up – with anger and dismay – about it.  Spot.ph has a good primer on the controversy.   Inquirer columnist Rina Jimenez David minces no words in her column about certain “awardees”.  Another Inquirer article describes the selection process as a massacre, emphasizing the cinematic schlock one awardee is known for.  (Would you call a film career based on massacre movies and other people’s comics as grounds for receiving a National Artist Award?)  Quite the travesty we have here.

In his column in the Philippine Star, The Corruption of Culture, our friend Prof. Butch Dalisay reminds us that “executive privilege… cannot command the obeisance and respect of artists, who are accountable to a higher order of sense and sensibility, beyond the reach of lobbies, Charter change, Executive Orders, and blind ambition”.

(Many thanks to Mai Tatoy for the Yellow Ribbon, and to Noah Lacanilao for the NAA Obit, via Facebook.)