Keepers of the Habitat


Once a year, this time of year, rain pours with a vengeance and Negros turns green again, from mangrove forests down below to mountain canopies high above. The cycle of life starts anew, millions of fish eggs hatch in the cover of mangrove roots, while breeze and birds, like the Visayan Hornbill, scatter seeds on vast fertile land. It is an ecosystem of which we are all a part.

The environment is an integral part of Negrense heritage. Though much forest cover has given way to agriculture, sugarcane, which has defined our way of living, grows on hectares of bountiful volcanic soil. Without these vast plantations there could never have been hacienda homes to write about, no heirloom recipes crafted in farm kitchens, no lavish fiestas that cradle native songs, stirring local dances, flaunting woven costumes fashioned out of fibers of plants that thrive on the same fertile soil, nourished by rain that always, always comes this time of year.

Through generations there have been people designated to take care of our natural blessings. They are the keepers of the habitat, a giant role to play, and we honor them in June as we celebrate the environment. The Sagay Marine Reserve in the northern tip of Negros island was designed, created, and sustained by generations of government officials and community volunteers. In this issue, we visit their Suyac Island Mangrove Eco Park.

The forests of Negros hosts endemic avian species that rival their exotic versions elsewhere in the world. Although some are Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species, like the irreplaceable Negros Bleeding Heart Pigeon, we remain thankful that our provincial government continues to lead the way in protecting the Northern Negros Natural Park. Together with leaders of 11 cities and municipalities encompassed by the park, and green movers and shakers like the Philippine Reef and Rainforest Foundation, and the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, they are all keepers of the habitat.

Where there is no protected habitat there can be no postcard-perfect birds. This month, we feature Capt. Floyd Pison Bermejo, a pilot and photographer whose family comes from Sipalay City. As we showcase his photographs of Negros birds we realize this is beyond hobby. We invite you to delight in his work, revel at our endemic avian species, and be inspired to help protect our forests. That makes the Captain keeper of the habitat, too.


Text by: Alan S. Gensoli

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