"Ang Banog: Haring Ibon" – The Great Philippine Eagle in Portraiture
Widely acknowledged as the world's premier bird photographer ART MORRIS has this to say about this photograph, "Congratulations to Alain Pascua. His Great Philippine Eagle image was awarded second prize in the Captive category of the BIRDS AS ART 1st International Bird Photography Competition. Alain’s eagle was voted second by the contest judges in the Captive category. It received 21 out of a possible 25 points. It placed second in the public vote as well scoring 429 points, just a small15 points away from the first placer. As one of five Finals judges I can say that this majestic and regal species along with its raised crest caught my attention from the moment that I saw it." http://www.birdsasart-blog.com/2012/05/18/and-the-winners-in-the-captive-category-are/
When asked by Art Morris to give some remarks about the making of this photograph, I said, "I photograph birds in the wild, in their natural habitat, but with the difficulty of finding the Great Philippine Eagle in the wild brought about by its dwindling population and the difficult terrains in a few areas where it could be sighted, I contented myself in photographing it in captivity. I have to overcome the obstructions of cages, iron bars and wires though, so I timed my visit to the Philippine Eagle Center in Davao City in Mindanao during the celebration of Philippine Eagle Week when one of the Great Philippine Eagles is usually brought out of the cage and displayed at a public area. My focus was to capture the image of a majestic, royal, kingly and proud Great Philippine Eagle lording over the depressions of captivity, and fittingly portraying its stature as national bird of the Philippines and the largest eagle in the world. I spent the whole day at the breeding center, patiently waited for visitors to come and for feeding time during which periods the eagle was most active with its lion mane-like head crest standing up for seconds. I clicked more than a thousand shots and packed up only when I was contented enough that one of my images have truly captured and given justice to this great bird. That was on June 11, 2010, the eve of the celebration of the Philippine’s 112th National Independence Day, a very fitting day to pay homage to Haring Ibon – the Lord of the Forest and the King of Birds." http://www.birdsasart-blog.com/2012/05/18/and-the-winners-in-the-captive-category-are/
During the 1st Asian Bird Festival organised by the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP) in Davao City in September 2010, this photo was one of the most popular photos on display at the exhibit of the Philippine Bird Photography Forum (PBPF). In celebration of 2011 as the Year of the Forest, the Philippine Eagle Foundation ( http://www.philippineeaglefoundation.org) printed its 2011 Desk Calendar featuring this very same photograph. Consequently, the Mindanao News and Information Cooperative Center ( http://www.mindanews.com) features another similar photograph at the back page of Our Mindanao Magazine Issue 2 in support of the Philippine Eagle.
The same image graced the invitation and occupied the centerstage of the first commercial and benefit Wild Bird Photography Exhibit of WBPP in 2012 in Altro Mondo Arte Contemporanea Fine Art Gallery in Greenbelt V in Makati where almost a million pesos worth of photographs were sold. The photograph, while being the most expensive in the exhibit, was nevertheless one of the most popular and top grosser frames ever sold. The proceeds of that exhibit went for the protection and conservation of threatened avian wildlife in two privately-funded Bird Sanctuaries, one in Dolores, Quezon and the other one in Coron, Palawan.
When asked why WBPP allows the posting and featuring of a photograph of a captive bird, like this image, WBPP President Rey Sta. Ana said, "A photograph of the Philippine Eagle in the wild a kilometer away does not show any grandeur of its magnificent beauty as the country's National Bird. How can you compare those kinds of photographs with what we have now? We are still against keeping captive birds but the question is why is the bird being kept that way? Answer - to preserve the species from imminent extinction - a noble cause of the Philippine Eagle Center in Davao which is what we should support.”
One of WBPP Trustees has put this even more eloquently when he said, "Even though this is a captive Philippine Eagle, and we in WBPP have a rule against posting photos of captive birds, an exception is made in this case because this is our National Bird, and since no clear close-ups of a Philippine Eagle in the wild exist."
"Ang Banog: Haring Ibon" – The Great Philippine Eagle in Portraiture (Pithecophaga jefferyi), Philippine endemic, critically endangered, Philippine Eagle Center, Davao City, June 11, 2010. Canon EOS 50D, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM, Benro GH-1 Gimbal Head and Tripod. Settings: 1/160 sec, f/5.6, ISO 800, Evaluative Metering, Manual Exposure in Available Light.