Aha. We have another letter dealing with the same subject as our previous post. This second letter was written by a Peace Corps volunteer who was once based in Sagada.
The letter goes into details about the iSagada practice of bird catching or “ikik”. Back to the days when I was based in Sagada, I joined people (mga four or five times lang yata) who were going to Mt. Ampakaw to catch these migratory birds. It is exciting at first but it gets tiring because you have to climb this mountain at night and you have to do it during the cold months of the year. If I’m not mistaken this practice is now officially banned by the local government mainly because of the SARS/bird flu scare a few years back and also for environmental purposes. I’m not sure if the ban is effective.
30 September 1967
Your’ bird, number 45324, showed up in Sagada and haplessly (for it) flew into a net set up for exactly that purpose: catching birds.
Sagada is located approximately 200 miles North of Manila and sits at an elevation of 5,000 feet. The bird, however, was caught on a mountain peak, a short walk from Sagada (mostly straight up), and perhaps another 1,000 feet in elevation higher than Sagada.
Because of its elevation, Sagada (and the rest of the Mountain Province) has a quasi temperate climate. And the Pine tree dominates its climax community. Quite different from the rest of the Philippines.
From what I can gather, the people of Sagada, as well as the rest of Mountain Province (Igorors), have been going up on the mountain peaks to net birds for as long as anyone can remember. The fellow who I go bird-netting with inherited his net from his grandfather, who wove the net many years ago using the bark of a special tree. In times past, birds caught were an important source of meat to the community; now, however, I believe it is mostly done for sport, although the birds netted are eaten as number 44324 will probably be. (45324
is now alive, but it can not fly due to its collision with the net and the subsequent struggle that ensued, between man and bird. We will attempt to nurse it back to health and get it off the ground again — although it is quite doubtful that we will be successful. If the bird does fly again, we will send it back to Hong Kong; if it doesn’t, we will eat it.)
Perhaps you will find the methods used by the Igorors to net birds interesting. The net, about 10 feet wide, tapering down from about 10 feet at the top to about 3 feet at the bottom, is stretched on and attached to two bamboo poles which are about 14 feet in height. The net is made of twisted bark “string” about 1/2 of an inch apart. This set-up, on the peak of a mountain, is stood up and held in the shape of a “V”, the point to the ground. The net is held by a person, who, his hand placed 4 feet up the poles, either squats or sits, waiting for a bird to fly into the net. To attract the birds, to fly to and hopefully into the net, a Petromax (a pressurized kerosene lamp) is placed on the ground, a few feet to the right and behind the man holding the net.
The net, so it is believed, must be facing West. The environmental conditions must also be correct: netting of birds is only done at night; it must be a cloudy night, with the clouds low enough to sweep over the peaks where the netting is done. It is best if the clouds are blowing from East to West, thus sweeping from behind, over, and away from the direction the net is facing. There are usually birds in the East wind; although there are, so they say, birdless, East wind clouds. Sometimes, but rarely, there are birds found in clouds going in other directions, but there must be clouds present. If there are no clouds, there will be no birds. I went up last night to try my luck; freezing on the mountain top, I waited for clouds from 8pm until 4am (these are the usual times for netting), but during this time no clouds blew by; I caught no birds.
The birds that the people catch must mostly be migratory ones, because they just net during a part of the year: from the middle of September to the last of December. 45324 was caught the 27th of September.
We, here, suppose that you are studying the migration of these birds, but in a way this seems a little illogical (to me, anyway), because who would ever catch these birds in the course of their flight? Of course, you were right in this case, but it seems like Igorors catching these birds to eat would be the exception — most peoples would not bother (the birds are so small!), and if one doesn’t catch them he certainly couldn’t read your address on the band. Or are you studying the total time elapsed that the birds take to get back to Hong Kong after 1/6aving?
We would be very interested in and appreciate any information that you can give us about number 45324 and its kind. And any help we could give you, we will gladly do so.