Cebu, Philippines – He claims to be a friend of Cebu’s rare and elusive songbird “Siloys” and he has found a way to communicate with them.
“When I call them, they come to me immediately,” says Pedro Villarta, the head of forest wardens of Alcoy town’s Barangay (village) Nug-as, believed to be the home of the fast disappearing songbird.
Villarta describes the voice of Siloy as a sound that closely resembles humans, especially when one tries to whistle a tune.
About a year ago, the municipal government of Alcoy asked him to record the voice of siloy for the town’s presentation in the Sinulog Grand Parade in Cebu City.
In the middle of recording the birdsong, Villarta came up with the idea of learning the birdsongs, themselves.
It took him two-months to master the bird songs. But when he did, he was gratified. The birds came flocking to him, looking as if they understand.
“I was so happy when the first siloys came,” he said.
Later, he would wear something green whenever he called out to feed the birds.
Villarta heads the 22 forest wardens in Nug-as, where the Cebu Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc. recently inventoried 700 of the songbirds.
Barangay Nug-as, about 14 kilometers away from the town proper, is where Villarta guards the 700-hectares forest reserve.
Villarta, who also lives in Nug-as, says the songbirds do not answer his call at all times.
There are times when they refuse to come out.
Alcoy Mayor Nicomedes delos Santos ordered him to catch a siloy last Friday so that the town had something to present to the participants of the Suroy-Suroy sa Sugbo.
“Napagaw na lang ko ug tinaghoy, wa gyuy migawas,” Villarta said.
The birds refuse go out during breeding season, when the female birds are giving birth to their young.
Villarta says the months of July and August are the bird’s breeding season.
Had he caught a bird last Friday, he would have promptly returned it to the forest afterwards, he explains.
He describes the songbirds as “friendly” but a bit shy.”
“They don’t want to be seen by humans,” he says. “Ang uban gani ana nila basta madakpan, moutong man (Some of them would stop breathing when they get caught),” he says.
But he is thankful that young people in the barangay are beginning to take care of the endangered bird.
Young volunteers are urging barangay residents, particularly the children, to protect the birds, he says.