A Night at the Opera

It’s not everybody’s cup of Chinese tea, but I happen to like Peking Opera.

In the 1980 and 90s when I made frequent visits to Beijing (Peking), I was often able to fit in a ‘night at the opera’.

Males often sing female roles in Peking Opera

Males often sing female roles in Peking Opera

Peking Opera is recognized as China’s national opera. It’s a performance art incorporating singing, reciting, acting and martial arts. It arose in the late 18th century and was fully developed by the mid-19th century.

Although widely practised throughout China, its performance centers on Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai. The art form is also preserved in Taiwan, where it is known as ‘Guoju’. It has also become popular in many other countries including the United States and Japan.

The famous heroine Mu Guiying in traditional Peking opera

The famous heroine Mu Guiying in traditional Peking opera

Alas, it does not have much of a following the Philippines. I once suggested to a member of the local Chinese community that we stage a Peking Opera to raise funds for the Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation. He said I shouldn’t bother as he doubted anyone would show up. A pity.

Peking Opera features four main types of performers. Performing troupes often have several of each variety, as well as numerous secondary and tertiary performers. With their elaborate and colorful costumes, performers are the only focal points on Peking opera’s characteristically sparse stage.

Opera star Kang Wansheng preparing for a performance

Opera star Kang Wansheng preparing for a performance

Peking opera is sung and recited using primarily the Beijing dialect, and its librettos are composed according to a strict set of rules. The operas tell stories of history, politics, society and daily life and aspire to inform as they entertain.

The music of Peking opera plays a key role in setting the pace of the show, creating a particular atmosphere, shaping the characters and guiding the progress of the stories.

Costumes are flamboyant and the exaggerated facial make-up uses concise symbols, colours and patterns to portray characters’ personalities and social identities.

Performers us their skills of speech, song, dance and combat in movements that are symbolic and suggestive, rather than realistic. Above all else, the skill of performers is evaluated according to the beauty of their movements.

A painted 'mal' face, or 'Jing', in a Peking Opera play

A painted ‘mal’ face, or ‘Jing’, in a Peking Opera play

Peking opera was denounced as ‘feudalistic’ and ‘bourgeois’ during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, and replaced by revolutionary opera. But after the Cultural Revolution, performances started again.

While still popular among the older generation, Peking Opera is struggling to attract younger audiences though it is attempting to widen its appeal by improving performance quality, adapting new performance elements and performing new and original plays.

With many Filipinos going to China on holiday these days I thoroughly recommend a trip to the local opera house if they get the chance. It’s quite a spectacle.

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Rare deer born in Bacolod

A Visayan spotted deer fawn was born recently at the Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation’s Biodiversity Conservation Center (NFEFI-BCC) in Bacolod City.

The sex of the fawn is not yet determined. It’s the fourth offspring from breeding pair Girom and Sandy. There are currently 14 deer at the center.

Mother Sandy and fawn

Mother Sandy and fawn

“The Visayan spotted deer is the largest endemic species of the West Visayas Faunal Region,” said Dr. Joanne Justo, the center’s curator.

“The species is now critically endangered and currently known to occur only in Negros and Panay islands. Deforestation and hunting for food and pet trade have greatly contributed in the decline in number of deer.”

The NFEFI-BCC is breeding this species in captivity and eventually the captive-bred animals will be released back into the wild. But this can only be done once studies have proven that the habitat is adequate and well-protected for their survival.

In the meantime, the center is involved in animal exchanges (or ‘breeding loans’) with other DENR-accredited institutions to ensure the genetic diversity of the captive population.

Second Negros Interior Biodiversity Expedition Underway

A team of environmentalists from the UK and the Philippines set off on Saturday on its second biological expedition to the interior of the North Negros Natural Park (NNNP).

The Negros Interior Biodiversity Expedition (NIBE) team, which includes scientists, biologists, mountaineers, teachers and logistics experts, first ventured into the park in April 2009.

NFEFI president Paul Lizares, Don Salvador Benedicto Mayor Marxlen dela Cruz, NIBE team leader James Sawyer, Dr. Neil D'Cruze, Dr. David Farrance, Ruth De Vere, Steven Megson, James Benares, Michael de la Peña, NFEFI trustee Robert Harland (l-r standing). Emerson Trinidad, Errol James Mallorca, June Rey Alib, Ernie Mallaoca (l-r front row)

NFEFI president Paul Lizares, Don Salvador Benedicto Mayor Marxlen dela Cruz, NIBE team leader James Sawyer, Dr. Neil D'Cruze, Dr. David Farrance, Ruth De Vere, Steven Megson, James Benares, Michael de la Peña, NFEFI trustee Robert Harland (l-r standing). Emerson Trinidad, Errol James Mallorca, June Rey Alib, Ernie Mallaoca (l-r front row)

Team leader, London-based James Sawyer, said the findings of the 2009 expedition clearly showed that the center of the park contains some unique habitats.

“These require further scientific study, and that’s why we are back,” said Sawyer. “We hope the expedition will provide us with more data and analysis that confirms the park is of major biological importance.”

The park is home to a multitude of rare and endemic species, while also playing a vital role in watershed protection for surrounding communities.

Among its many activities during the three week expedition, the team will position 20 remote cameras in strategic areas so any movements by rare and threatened species such as Visayan Spotted Deer and Visayan Warty Pigs can be recorded.

The team will also undertake a study of local dung beetles as they feed on the waste of certain animals and they will indicate the presence of those animals.

And using pitfall traps, the team will be able to ascertain which reptiles and amphibians are present in the park.

The expedition is partnered by the Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation, Inc (NFEFI) which sponsored the permit enabling the expedition to enter the park.

Said Paul Lizares, president of NFEFI: “We are delighted once again to be working with the NIBE team.
We hope the results will be of further value in the management of this important park as well as help raise its profile even further.”

The expedition is also being supported by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit of Oxford University, the University of Texas, the Philippines National Museum and the Natural History Museum of Oxford.

Adding support with logistics and security is Don Salvador Benedicto Mayor Marxlen dela Cruz who praised the collaboration between a team of foreign nationals and local mountain trek leaders in  working together to preserve the biodiversity of local forests, particularly in the area of DSB.

The expedition will end on April 19.

NFEFI Marks 25 Years of Environmental Work

But more funding is needed

The Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation (NFEFI), which has worked tirelessly for 25 years to protect and conserve the

Visayan Bleeding Heart Pigeon, one of  the most critically endangered animals  in Negros

Visayan Bleeding Heart Pigeon, one of the most critically endangered animals in Negros

environment and wildlife of Negros, is calling for more funds to continue its vital work.

“It’s an uphill battle”, said NFEFI president Paul Lizares. “Despite new laws and the work of our group, the environment is still getting a raw deal from many inhabitants with continued illegal logging, poaching, selling of endangered species and many other ‘crimes’ against nature.

“We are in danger of running out of time. If future generations are to enjoy their birthright of a beautiful environment we must all pull together and act before it’s too late”.

NFEFI projects are mainly managed by volunteers. Over the years these volunteers have worked to reforest hundreds of hectares especially in the all-important Upper Calimban-Imbang watershed, which provides clean drinking water to Bacolod.

NFEFI has also established one of the country’s leading conservation breeding centers. Housed by the Provincial Lagoon in Bacolod City, the center is home to some 120 endangered animals and birds.

As part of its drive to raise more funds and to mark its 25th anniversary, NFEFI will be hosting a donors’ reception on Friday, December 2 at Nature’s Village at 5:00pm. It’s being sponsored by CEMEX Inc.

The emblem for the reception is the Visayan Bleeding Heart Pigeon, one of the most critically endangered animals in Negros.

“We welcome support from all those interested in helping to save our environment.  Members of the public can become NFEFI sustaining members for as little as Php1,000.00 a year. Corporate sponsorship is also welcome,” added Lizares.

A rare and critically endangered Philippine  Visayan Spotted Deer

A rare and critically endangered Philippine Visayan Spotted Deer

The reception will feature a short one-on-one discussion with prospective donors while Mitu Ato band from Palawan will play their music on indigenous instruments.  An art exhibit and photo sale will also help raise funds for the Foundation.

Any company, organization or individual wishing to support NFEFI and who would like to attend the reception can contact NFEFI at (034) 433-9234 or trustee RobertHarland on 09163437048.

Major mangrove project launched in Sipalay

Sipalay City, in partnership with the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) and Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation (NFEFI), has launched an ambitious four-year project to plant 20 hectares of mangrove forest along the city’s northern coastline.

The reforestation project aims to reverse the degradation and loss of mangrove forests in the area.

Signing the MOA on Friday to launch the mangrove project in Sipalay. (l-r) NFEFI president Paul Lizares, EDC's Roberto Cama, Sipalay City Mayor Oscar Montilla Jr, DENR's Chief Regional Executive Director Julian Amador

Signing the MOA on Friday to launch the mangrove project in Sipalay. (l-r) NFEFI president Paul Lizares, EDC's Roberto Cama, Sipalay City Mayor Oscar Montilla Jr, DENR's Chief Regional Executive Director Julian Amador

“The benefits of mangrove forests are enormous”, said NFEFI president Paul Lizares.

“More than 70 per cent of all tropical fish spend part of their lives in mangrove forests which give them shelter, food and nursery grounds.

“They provide protection from strong winds and waves, offering a buffer zone to help shield coastlines from storm damage. Additionally, they provide soil stabilization and help stop soil erosion. Sea grass beds and coral reefs depend on healthy mangroves.”

A typical mangrove forest

A typical mangrove forest

Mangroves have specially adapted aerial and salt-filtering roots and salt-excreting leaves which enable them to occupy the saline wetlands where other plant life cannot survive.

They are also useful in treating effluent, as the plants absorb excess nitrates and phosphates, thereby preventing contamination of near shore waters.

They absorb carbon dioxide and store carbon in their sediments, thereby lessening the impact of global warming.

Batting for Mambukal Bats

The Philippines is host to at least 79 species of bats – one of the largest bat populations in

Large Flying Fox (Pteropus vampyrus). One  of the three flying foxes found in Mambukal.*

Large Flying Fox (Pteropus vampyrus). One of the three flying foxes found in Mambukal.*

the world. Some 52 species are insect-eating and 27 live on fruits.

Among fruit-eating bats, nine species are large flying foxes; four of which are only found in the Philippines. They play a critical role in the environment as key pollinators and seed dispersers of many economically important plants.

Mambukal Mountain Resort in Murcia has one of the largest colonies of flying fox bats in the country. Species include the Island Flying Fox (Pteropus hypomelanus), Large Flying Fox (P. vampyrus) and the Golden-crowned Flying Fox (Acerodon jubatus).

The Large Flying Fox is the biggest bat in the world while the Golden-crowned Flying Fox is the heaviest.

Bat workshop participants at Mambukal Summer Resort

Bat workshop participants at Mambukal Summer Resort

To help local Mambukal staff and tour guides have a better understanding and appreciation of their bat neighbors, the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation (PBCFI) and the Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation (NFEFI) in partnership with Mambukal held a three-day workshop last week at the resort.

Speakers were PBCFI director of field operations Lisa Marie Paguntalan NFEFI’s Biodiversity Conservation Center (BCC) curator and veterinarian Dr. Joanne Mae Justo and PBCFI/NFEFI-BCC education officer Mimie Ledesma,

“Given Mambukal’s prominence as a local tourist destination as well an important site for flying fox colonies, having well-informed staff and community guides who can develop bat-related activities will considerably enhance the resort’s eco-tourism programs,” said Dr. Justo.

Some 30 participants were given a series of lectures and field exercise on the conservation status and importance of Philippine bats particularly the flying foxes as well as basic training on bat identification, roost count monitoring, rescue techniques and the correct way to handle bats.

“This was a really useful workshop and we are most grateful to NFEFI and PBCFI,” said a Mambukal Resort staff member. “It will go a long way to help make our unique bat population an added attraction for visitors.”*

Running for Change

Start of the 10k run

Start of the 10k runGetting ready for the start of the 3K run

Some 350 runners from Negros and Panay competed in Saturday’s ‘I Run For Change’ fun run featuring distances of three, five and 10km plus a special one kilometer event for children.

The run, to raise funds for two key environmental groups in Negros, was the climax to a month of activities in support of Earth Month.

With ABS-CBN's Jay Jalandoni (left) winners of the men's 10K run. (l-r)  third-placer Rogelio Zaragoza, runner-up Joel Alcorin and winner Eric Paneque. Looking on is Earth Month organizer Kaila Ledesma.

With ABS-CBN's Jay Jalandoni (left) winners of the men's 10K run. (l-r) third-placer Rogelio Zaragoza, runner-up Joel Alcorin and winner Eric Paneque. Looking on is Earth Month organizer Kaila Ledesma.ABS-CBN's Jay Jalandoni (left) with winners of the women's 10K run (l-r) third-placer Ailyn Grace Salas, runner-up Jennylyn Nobleza, winner Stephanie Cadosale. At right is Earth Month organizer Kaila Ledesma

Organizer Kaila Ledesma said she was delighted with the turn-out for the event.

“We had expected 300 runners so 350 was great. Everyone had a terrific time and much-needed funds were raised for the Philippine Reef & Rainforest Conservation Foundation and Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation” she said.

“The run was also designed to create wider awareness of the urgent need to protect and conserve our fragile environment,” she added.

At 73, the oldest competitor was Dr. Gil ‘Baby Doc’ Octaviano. The youngest was two and a half year-old Robert Harland Jr,

Robert Harland Jr., youngest competitor at two and a half years

Robert Harland Jr., youngest competitor at two and a half years

Winner of the women’s 10km run was Stephanie Cadosale with a time of 42:38 minutes. Second was Jennylyn Nobleza and third Ailyn Grace Salas

Winner of the men’s 10km run was Eric Paneque with a winning time of 33:37 minutes. Second was Joel Alcorin and in third place Rogelio Zaragoza.

Major sponsors of the event were Coca-Cola, Melba’s Farms, United Molasses, First Farmers Holdings, Cool Runnings, Run Club, Zagu, Powerade and Frunk Training Systems, Energy Development Corporation and Havaianas.

Changing the World

“I” for Change has been the catchy theme for a host of activities in April to celebrate Earth Month. It signifies that one act to help the environment and be environmentally aware can make a difference.

Batfish at the Danjugan Island marine reserve and sanctuaries

Batfish at the Danjugan Island marine reserve and sanctuaries

Organized by the Philippine Reef & Rainforest Conservation Foundation (PRRCF) Earth Month celebrations, which started one April 1 with a fund- raiser art exhibit at the Orange Gallery, will reach a climax on Saturday, April 30 with a fun run and a concert.

The Earth Month ‘I RUN for FUN’ run kicks off at 5am on Saturday at the newly-opened Art District behind Lopue’s Mandalagan. It will feature three, five and 10 kilometer runs plus a special one kilometer event for children.

Athletes, runners, joggers or just plain walkers of all ages with their families and friends are invited to join in the fun, and at the same time do their bit for the environment.

Registration is open until April 28 at the PRRCF offices at MK room 14a, Art District, Lopue’s Mandalagan; NFEFI’s Center by the Provincial Lagoon; Cool Runnings at the East Block Canter and the Run Club Bacolod at Robinsons’ Mandalagan.

Youngsters taking part in a coastal clean-up as part of a youth  marine and wildlife camp on Danjugan Island

Youngsters taking part in a coastal clean-up as part of a youth marine and wildlife camp on Danjugan Island

In the evening, Earth Month celebrations will end on a high note with a free concert at the Arts District. Starting at 8pm, it will feature the exciting sounds of noted guest acts including MALIGNU, Mike Tupas of Mitu’s Tribe and Arthur Mirano, Grupo Espading, Wicked Tarsiers and Stealth.

The Earth Month fun run and concert are designed to increase environmental awareness in Bacolod City and to raise much-needed funds for the vital work of the PRRCF’s Danjugan Island Education Program and reforestation projects of the Negros Forests and Ecological Foundation.

Said organizer Kaila Ledesma “We’ve had incredible support for the many Earth Month activities from sponsors and local artists, who generously donated the proceeds of their work or performed their music without a fee. We are truly grateful for the strong support we have received.”

ANP Showroom to Kick Off Earth Week

Earth Week 2009

Earth Week 2009

Earth Week 2009 kicks off in Negros this Saturday, April 18 with a cocktail party at the ANP Showrooms to raise much-needed funds for the Negros Forests & Ecological Foundation (NFEFI).

The party starts at 6:30pm and will be held on the third floor of the Showroom’s building in Lacson Street, Bacolod City.  Tickets are Php 500 each and can be bought at the Showroom or from NFEFI’s offices by the Provincial Lagoon.

“NFEFI is at the forefront of the battle to help preserve and protect the fragile environment in Negros and we are delighted to have this chance to make a contribution to their valuable work”, said Kathleen Trebol, from the ANP Showroom.

“We hope residents will extend their support to helping the environment by joining our party on the 18th.”

The critically endangered Philippine spotted  deer

The critically endangered Philippine spotted deer

Since 1986 NFEFI has reforested large areas of the Upper Caliban-Imbang Watershed, with endemic trees. This initiative has been sustained with the help of other government institutions and different communities, thereby ensuring the protection  of the remaining patch of forest within the North Negros Natural Park – an environmental hotspot and one of the top ten most important areas of forest in the world.

NFEFI’s Biodiversity Conservation Center by the Provincial Lagoon serves as a captive breeding and rescue station for many of the endemic and threatened animals found in Negros and other places in the Philippines. It’s home to rare and endangered animals including Philippine spotted deer, Visayan arty pigs, Visayan Tarictic hornbills and many other animals all in danger of vanishing for ever.

“While NFEFI’s work is certainly helping to preserve the environment, there is an enormous amount still to be done and that is why we need to help and support of every Negrense,” said NFEFI chairman Paul Lizares.

Under the banner ’13 Days of Environmental Activism’, other Earth Week activities starting on Sunday, April 19 include film and quiz shows, discussion groups, exhibitions, tree plantings, recycling shows and clean-up treks.

Junior Zookeeper Workshop Set

The Negros Forests & Ecological Foundation’s (NFEFI) Biodiversity Conservation Center’s 2009 Junior Zookeeper Workshop starts tomorrow, April 14 at NFEFI’s enclosure by the Provincial Lagoon in Bacolod City. It ends on Saturday, April 18.

Preparing food for the animals - youngsters at a NFEFI Junior Zookeeper workshop

Preparing food for the animals - youngsters at a NFEFI Junior Zookeeper workshop

It’s open to youngsters between 7 and 15 years and is designed to give a greater understanding and appreciation of Philippine wildlife and what it takes to be a zookeeper.

Classes, which are from 1:30 to 4:30 pm daily, will be a mixture of  interactive lectures, practical activities, games and hands-on experience in caring for endangered Philippine animals. It encourages problem solving, discussion and team work.

The program aims towards having fun, but, at the same time, building an understanding of animals’ needs in the wild and in captivity.

Getting ready to feed the animals - youngsters at a NFEFI Junior Zookeeper workshop

Getting ready to feed the animals - youngsters at a NFEFI Junior Zookeeper workshop

Courses will be run by NFEFI-BCC’s veterinarian, Dr. Joanne Justo and education officer Mimie Ledesma.  To make the most of the experience classes will be kept small.

Topics include Philippine biodiversity, the role of zoos and breeding centers, bird, mammal and reptile biology, animal welfare, feeds and feeding behavior, environmental enrichment and tour guiding.

All participants of the course will receive a Junior Zookeeper certificate and the opportunity to enroll as a junior zoo volunteer.

The cost is Php 1,000 for each participant and includes afternoon snacks and a training kit. All proceeds will be used for the upkeep of the many birds and animals in NFEFI’s care.

For further information, please call NFEFI on 034 433 9234.