Our good friends Pagano and Gandang Igorota wrote very interesting comments to our earlier posts on bird banding and bird catching so I decided to publish their comments here so that those who do not read the comments section will not miss the wit of our commenters and the information they add to this topic.
As it happens, Pagano comes from Sagada (where this letter came from) while Gandang Igorota comes from Nueva Vizcaya (where this letter came from), so let’s consider their comments as updates from these two “bird catching” communities. For those who are not yet aware, Gandang Igorota has a blog here while Pagano also has a blog here.
Gandang Igorota on bird catching:
I have heard of the ‘akik’ (or ikik in your Kankanaey language) practice of bird catching in Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya and it was even featured in Magandang Gabi Bayan of Channel 2 some years ago; but yes, as far as I know, the practice is now banned by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
I’ll confess though that in the earlier summers of my life (i.e. when I was still a kid), we used to catch birds (not by the hundreds but considerably many, like probably 50 or more a day and we do it everyday of the two months when school is out) by putting a bait of flapping insect through a stick that is dipped in a sticky paste from a certain tree. We usually catch migratory birds during the summers. The mechanics is that when the bird sees the insect, it flies to it and gets stuck on the paste and then you run from your hiding place to ‘save’ the bird. Nowadays, I don’t see those kinds of birds anymore, I hope they just changed routes… makes me feel guilty that I might have contributed to their extinction. 🙁
Pagano on bird catching:
If that Peace Corps volunteer have had the luck to catch a few birds during their sortie to Ampakaw for him to have the chance to savor the taste of these birds, he would have said ‘yummy’.:-) And it’s not like you only catch a single bird and then head back home. Some of the locals here were known to have caught half a sack of birds in one trip.
Oops…not all the people here approve of the practice of bird-catching. Some of the more environmentally conscious individuals, (count me among them:-D) have tried explaining the migratory patterns of these birds — that when the winter or the cold season in the northern hemisphere begins, these birds head south, where the temperature gets warm. It just so happens that the Philippines is the ‘stopover’ for these birds during their migration to the more southerly countries (Australia, New Zealand, etc.) and we should show a little more kindness to them. I told exactly that to a group of men during a night of ‘irrigation’ in one of our hangouts here and they just laughed. ‘Ayke od waday mangik-ikkan is ikak-an takoy Isagada’ (Nobody does it like we do), they said.
It’s not that the folks here don’t care or whatever. As that Peace Corps volunteer P.D. observed, the practice has been going on for a long time. It has turned into a tradition which gets observed, year in and year out, by the father, then the son, following the trails of their (maybe, more recent) forefathers.
P.D. is also right in saying that bird-catching is now mostly done for sport. How else would we explain why those professionals and the others, who have the money to buy all the meat they want, endure all the hardships (the long trek to Ampakaw, the cold temperature, the loss of sleep, etc.) that ‘ikik’ entails?
It’s the thrill of going up the mountain with friends, sharing in the fun of catching wildlife, and the alcohol-flavored story-telling that ensues the next day, which drives them up to Ampakaw. And if a plate of fried birds accompanies the inebriation, then the discussions get to be livelier.:-) I won’t be a hypocrite to say that I never ate a bird. I did but I stopped. (I prefer the kind which we call ‘siteg’. They’re small and not as tough as the other varieties.)
This is a kind of a dilemma for locals like me. We understand the concerns about the environment but just do try and dissuade the folks from bird-catching and you’ll be treated like a pariah. It will be you against the entire community…
Then bird flu got into the picture. I guess it’s another illustration of nature’s way of self-preservation… And you’re right, Bill. The municipal council of Sagada has passed a resolution banning ikik. Most have followed the ban, but some wisecracks have been heard to say, “If a bird had the capacity to fly from Siberia to Sagada, it couldn’t be suffering from any disease.” They could be right but the local officials aren’t taking any risks. Last year, during the ‘ikik’ season, barangay officials and some volunteers have stayed guard on the way to Ampakaw during nights, just in case. I hope it will continue.