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The Philippine Former National bird, Former National bird of The Philippines

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Maya: The Quintessential Filipino Bird
by: Mike Baños

The humble little Maya is more deserving to be the national bird than the lofty Philippine Eagle, or more familiar as the |Monkey-Eating Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi), the current National Bird of The Philippines.

Most of us Pinoys probably felt good when Fidel Ramos changed the national bird from the lowly Maya to the regal Philippine Eagle. Not exactly renowned for either brawn or brain, many Pinoys probably thought having the diminutive Maya for a national bird was carrying humility a tad too far.

But the Philippine Eagle! Now, here was one regal bird which should be the match if not the better of other avian icons such as the American bald eagle of the US of A.

Ramos said the Philippine Eagle more accurately reflects the nobility and majesty of the Filipino spirit with its great size, soaring flight and magnificent looks crowned by a head of feathers which makes it one really regal dude.

Sadly though, it is also an icon of what is wrong with the Philippines. There are but a few eagles left in increasingly fewer places in Mindanao due to the encroachments on its habitats made by man, specially those of the scorched earth and chainsaw-wielding kinds.

In contrast, the resilient Maya continues to thrive inspite of the depredations on its traditional habitats wrought by the all-conquering destroyer: man.

Most farmers see the little birds as pests, though it is more the farmer and the kainginero, and not the bird, who are invaders in the Maya’s traditional habitats with their plantations and kaingins. It is nature’s way of cutting man down to size that the Mayas periodically raid the ripening fields of rice grains that farmers and kaingineros impertinently sow in lands that are rightfully the domain of the little birds. Sounds familiar? Hmmmm....

It is also the tiny Maya who is closer to the nobility of the Filipino spirit than the Philippine Eagle. Small in stature, sociable by nature, and resilient to the changes man and nature have wrought on its environment, it is an ideal that the new generation of Filipinos can look up to as the national bird, rather than the endangered Philippine Eagle which is a more appropriate role model for the country’s elite, needing a disproportionately wide stand of forest to sustain a very small population, and preying on the smaller rodents and birds for its sustenance. Unlike the Philippine Eagle, the Maya is a survivor, and does not need the full might of the World Wildlife Fund and the questionable support of the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to ensure the sustainability of its simple lifestyle. It can survive on its own, like the greater mass of the hoi polloi, enduring grinding poverty, cowering under the talons of greater Raptors higher up the social totem pole, cheerfully taking the crumbs of grace fate throws its way, like the ripening stalks of rice grains in paddies that invaders have sowed on what used to be its home and playground.

In this centennial year of the Philippine’s Independence, let’s make ourselves heard and bring back the Maya as the national bird. It may be small and not as impressive-looking as the Haribon, but it is this very attribute which makes it possible for the Maya to survive within its means in whatever environment it is faced with.

Truly a reflection of the values and traits that the newer generationd of Filipinos would need to face the emerging world order in the new millennium.

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The Maya: A Filipino Bird With An Attitude
by: Mike Baños

blurb: Humility, not pride, is the quality that Filipinos need most to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.

I’ve previously made a pitch for the return of the "lowly" Maya as the Philippines national bird. Like I said before, the sociable maya better exemplifies the Filipino virtues of bayanihan and pakikisama than the solitary Haribon.

The small rice bird is a survivor, able to weather man’s depredations on its environment far better than the endangered Philippine Eagle which needs an inordinately wide forest stand to sustain a small population.

Certainly, the latter’s lifestyle has no place in a world reeling from global warming as a result of the wanton consumerism espoused by the glutton economies of the so-called G-7 who account for a mere fraction of the world’s populace yet consume over ninety percent of its resources.

The very reason why Fidel Ramos chose to replace the Maya as the Philippine Eagle smacks of the Pinoy’s unfortunate penchant to ape things Western, or American for that matter.

Tabako thought the Haribon the better of the Bald Eagle of the US, but failed to see the virtues of the lowly maya which are more reflective of the Pinoy’s strengths as a people.

Just look at how both the mighty and sundry have sought to ride on the coat tails of Pinoys who make it big in the global arena. Paeng Nepumoceno, Eugene Torre and Bata Reyes know only too well the Presidents who honored them with the highest accolades of the land did it as much for the benefit of the awardee as for the awardor.

But has there been a Pinoy bowler, chesser or cue artist who has been inspired to scale greater heights than their heroes? That’s because the Haribon mentality which placed a premium on Pinoy pride of past glories was misplaced in the first place.

Paeng, Eugene and Bata all can tell you it was not pride in their abilities but rather respect for their opponents and humility at the enormity of the task facing them that inspired them to work harder to perfect their game even when they were already at the top of the world during their prime.

Qualities which recall, certainly not the regal, high-flying Philippine Eagle, but the small, lowly maya with both feet on the ground (as my good friend Joe Nebrao is wont to say), fully aware of its limitations and weaknesses, cheerfully living off the crumbs greater Gods and Eagles may throw its way, yet learning to co-exist with man and his depredations better than the Haribon, and ultimately, we suspect, outliving even man and his ricefields and kaingins.

The late, great economist E.B. Schumacher sums up the case to restore the maya as the country’s national bird best with the title of his bestseller, "Small is Beautiful," and the four cardinal virtues he espouses to restore man’s balance in life: prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance.

As the Good Book sums it all up in two of its immortal passages: 2 Corinthians 7-10: To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties, for when I am weak, then I am strong.

And not the least, from the Gospel according to St. Matthew Chapter 19, verse 30, and Mark 10:31 : But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

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Maya: The Power of Symbols
by: Mike Baños

Blurb: Many lawmakers agree national symbols are important but changing it isn’t.

For the last seven years, I’ve been running what could best be described as an "underground" crusade to restore the Maya as the Philippines national bird. I’ve gone to friends in the Senate and the Lower House with my treatise but while many of them agree it’s important and promised to support it, most everyone also agrees there are much more pressing matters which take priority in legislation.

Just how important is a national symbol? History is replete with many which sparked many a crusade, and lead they did, since they were most often in the van, head of the column, leading edge of the flying wedge: like the dragonheads of the Viking long ships which discovered America long before Columbus; the Cross of the Crusaders who fought to win back the Holy Land for Christendom; the Crescent which led Saladin and His Holy Warriors to spread Islam over most of the civilized world; the Dragon of China; the Bear of Russia; and for most of this young century and the last, the Bald Eagle of the United States of America.

Which must have piqued Fidel Ramos so much he moved Heaven and Earth (that’s the Upper and Lower Chambers of Congress, folks!) to replace the homely Maya of the rice fields with the Philippines fast-vanishing predator, the Philippine Eagle (hastily renamed as befitting a national bird, kasi naman how would Monkey-Eating Eagle sound as a national bird? Holy Smokes! Tabako must have exclaimed.

So began my crusade during the centennial of Philippine Independence in 1998. Many of the people I talked to agreed with my case for restoring the Maya as the country’s national bird but would invariable end with : "But we have more pressing matters to attend to!"

There’s never been a pressing moment than the present for such changes because symbols, especially national ones, are a barometer of the national psyche: take a look at the US Bald Eagle with its aggressive stance, befitting of the last remaining superpower on Earth, bullying the whole civilized world over the alleged Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in Iraq; the Russian Bear, scaled down now from its Soviet forebears but certainly not lacking in teeth and claws to bully its fellow nations and satellites of the Russian Confederation like in Chechnya; and the Imperial British Lion, fast sinking into the abyss of oblivion as the glory and splendor of its empire where the sun never set fades to black with a little help from Tony Blair.

Honorable Senators and Representatives of the Philippine Congress, not one of you I believe would like to see the country going the way of the Philippine Eagle: his solitary home savaged by depredations of man’s greed; his children hunted to extinction by thrill seekers making sport of the nation’s patrimony; his future in the hands of warlords in whose fiefs he uncertainly ponders whether he finds refuge or imprisonment.

Rather, let the Filipinos and citizens of the world recall the Maya to mind when they think of the Pinoy: small, hardy yet ever merry and in the company of his kind; surviving in the forest, mines, cities and highways of men where the great Eagles and Falcons find certain destruction.

No time like now to rescind Tabako’s EO, fellas. Let’s bring back the Maya as the Filipino National Bird. Because it is a national symbol that truly befits the Filipino and reflective of his creed and ideals, and not a pathetic copycat of a former colonial master, and ironically, whose only excuse for being so is to help him survive his changing country.

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The Filipino Is A Maya by: Mike Baños

May 2, 2006

The Maya should be the Filipino national bird.

Symbols such as these are important, because they represent the heart and soul of a nation and its people.

Thus, when Fidel Ramos decreed that henceforth, the Philippine Eagle should be the Filipino national bird instead of the lowly Maya, many Filipinos were heartened.

Already suffering from a depressed national psyche as "The Sick Man of Asia" in a sea of booming Economic Tigers, the Haribon brought a timely boost to the Pinoy's bruised national bird.

Here, at last, was a symbol every Filipino could be proud of---Pithecopaga jefferyi, last survivor of the fierce raptors of the Dinosaur era, with the second-longest wingspan among the world's great eagles.

Yet, the high-flying Haribon is also symbolic of many things which are wrong with our country.

It is a solitary patrician, soaring among the lofty skies where it is rarely seen, beyond the reach of ordinary mortals like you and I.

Unlike the small and plebian Maya, it is big, white and proud. Like the colonials and estrangheros who continue to hold the masses in their grasping claws.

In contrast, the black and brown Mayas live close to the ground, humbly sharing its abode with the small and sundry.

The Haribon has a lavish, luxurious lifestyle. It is a predator high in the food chain, preying on lesser animals below it on the social totem pole, and needing an inordinate amount of forest to survive.

Compare that, to the frugal Maya, happily subsisting on the crumbs that eagles and men, casually brush off tables of conspicuous consumption, generously sharing in its poverty the little it has with the members of its flock.

Unlike the Haribon who would die without his forests, the Maya is equally at home in the boondocks and the city, gracefully co-existing in the buildings and rice fields which men have build, on what were once its home and playground.

The Filipino is neither proud nor patrician. He doesn't need neither mansion, car nor mistress beyond his simple needs to be happy.

He is humble. He is frugal. He is generous. He is a survivor.

And it is in being small, and black, and humble that he is strong.

We are not Haribon.

We are Pinoy.

And the Pinoy is a Maya.

As the good book says in the Gospel according to St. Mark, chapter ten, verse 31:

But many that are last first shall be last, and the last first.

Let us put the Maya back into the Filipino.


Mike Baños
Executive Editor, Z-Free Press®Mike's Maya series:
Maya: The Quintessential Filipino Bird
Maya: A Filipino Bird With An Attitude
Maya: The Power of Symbols
The Filipino Is A Maya
Mike Baños has been a writer for most his life, a journalist for most of it, with occasional delusions of being a poet and songwriter. He grew up in Zamboanga City, learned the ropes of journalism under the late, great E. Rene R. Fernandez and writing from Linda Cababa-Espinosa. He writes a twice weekly column "Hammer & Anvil" for the Mindanao Gold Star Daily, which is also published online by American Chronicle. He is a member of the Cagayan de Oro Press Club, Inc. and its faculty pool for the training module "Responsible and Independent Journalism." It is being implemented in partnership with the South East Asia Rural Social Leadership Institute (Searsolin) of Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan).

Mike is the Executive Editor for all OP/ED articles in our Z-Free Press.