July 06, 2020 - Monday
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Davao City, Philippines

House birds into social distancing

May 25, 2020 - Monday 4:05 AM by Jimmy Laking

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My only issue with quarantine is that for two straight months now I have been cut off from my barber.

But I am delighted to learn my hair is healthy and mostly black for someone past middle age. Yet here and there, thin strands of white cannot be denied.

One look at the mirror reminded me of a time when country music, John Denver, and long hair were the vogue. It also reminded me of a time when I stumbled into assistant fiscal Rodrigo R. Duterte for the first time inside a law office along Claveria Street decades back. He was, like me, also wearing long hair after a fashion.

But with no amount of coaxing was I able to grow my beard ala-Ric Obenza, the artist and environmentalist who presides over a decades-old program in Marilog district in bringing back the forest to the highlands.

With a beard that is all white and probably more than a foot long, Obenza (who is also long past middle age) can be mistaken for a Shaolin mystic.

With my gulayan sa bakod taking my time in between, I had occasion to take stock of my winged friends that frequent my mini-garden every time I turn my back.

I discovered I had a pair of fantails (Maria Capra) patrolling that garden. Their fan-like tails and black and white feathers stand out as they straddle the fence. The household cat cowers in their presence and hides underneath a table.

There is also a small bunch of house birds that chirp around my plants and at the biodegradable pile at the corner of the garden.

From a distance, I confirmed what I had long been told: birds do not crowd each other out as humans do. They behave and act with considerable distance from each other. Straddling the fence, they make up quite a sight especially against an overcast sky.

Their behavior is in sharp contrast to the bats who live in proximity with each other in caves by the thousands and who are observed copulating mid-air under cover of darkness.

Of course, none beats the Philippine Eagle as far as social distancing is concerned. With an average territory of 13 square kilometers as its domain, the eagle is known to share that area only with its mate and none other.

My house birds and I play a hide-and-seek game. When I am around, they are nowhere to be found. But once I turn my back, they would swoop to the garden out of nowhere.

They seem to like it best when I had just turned the soil over or when fruit peelings have just deposited at the bio pile. But like I said, there was no rush in going over that pile and the loose soil, only organized foraging if it can be called that.

They always seem to manage by themselves well. Besides, I have yet to hear of a bird dropping from the air because of hunger, the pandemic notwithstanding.

It is also noteworthy that the sacred books hold the bird in high esteem.

Matthew 6:25-30 for one partly says: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

Islam as a religion has also referred to birds as protectors, messengers, nutritional sustenance, and symbols of soul.

In that gulayan sa bakod, I think it is enough that we enjoy each other’s company at a respectable distance.