Students celebrate the Katala bird

Katala Foundation Inc.’s mascots wow students with their dance number during the first-ever Katala Festival in Puerto Princesa City.

Around 750 elementary and junior high school students joined in the first-ever Katala Festival in Puerto Princesa City. Attended by different schools in the city, the event packed with fun-filled activities was held at Palawan State University Gymnasium on Friday, March 9.

Katala Foundation Inc. (KFI) chief operations officer Indira Widmann said the activity was organized for young people to become aware of the critically endangered Philippine Cockatoo, which is increasingly seen foraging in the city.

“With this festival, we hope there will be many more people reporting cockatoo sightings within the city, so that we will encourage especially kids not to anymore persecute, not to anymore cause any harm to visiting cockatoos,” Widmann told Palawan News.

Next to Rasa Island in Narra and Pandanan Island in Balabac, Widmann said Puerto Princesa City, with just less than 100 individuals, is the third most important population stronghold globally for the Philippine Cockatoo.

Students snap a photo with Lusi, the Philippine Hornbill, the newest addition to Katala Foundation Inc.’s mascots.

Meanwhile, recent estimates suggest 1000 individuals are still left in the wild.

Avid bird photographer, Department of Education (DepEd) Undersecretary Alain Del Pascua, considered the event as “a breath of fresh air.”

In his message, delivered by DepEd City Division Superintendent Elsie Barrios, Pascua said the population of birds in the wild indicates the status of the environment.

“When we see bird numbers drop or they simply fly away – we become aware of environmental issues – water or air pollution, habitat destruction, pesticide effects, endangered species, bird hunting practices and regulation, illegal wildlife trade, predator populations,” he said.

Ceasar Sammy Magbanua, provincial government chief of staff, said the capitol will support the KFI in any way possible for the activity’s continuity in the coming years.

“On our part, whatever assistance they need that we can provide, we’re always willing to support,” said Magbanua, adding that environmental protection is one of the main thrusts of the current provincial administration.

GMA 7 executive and KFI President Joel Jimenez said they envision to have a bigger festival next year, possibly involving Kapuso artists.

“We want to make it bigger so people in Palawan really feel that they own the Philippine cockatoo. If there’s a sense of pride among them, then they will not let something bad to happen to that bird,” he said.

Jimenez believes that awareness campaigns are important in promoting the cockatoo conservation advocacy to a wider audience. “If more people know about it, you can get more people to become advocates of your cause,” he said.

Meanwhile, students in the day-long festival vied for contests, such as extemporaneous speaking, poster making, environmental chanting, and many more. They also immersed themselves in various activities, like coloring, face painting, bird watching and storytelling.

The festival also saw the launching of KFI’s new mascot, Lusi, the Palawan Hornbill. Lusi will start to join Katali, the Philippine cockatoo, and Bakoko, the Philippine forest turtle, in entertaining kids during KFI’s information drives in the province.

The first Katala Festival in the city was made possible in partnership with the City DepEd, PSU, Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, local Department of Environment and Natural Resources offices and KFI’s other partner agencies.

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