“Ikaw Gyud”

by Juan L. Mercado

“He  knows all   of  Cebu’s   plants,”  Jaime Picornell said  in  introducing  Germany’s new  honorary  consul: Franz   Seidenschwarz . “Add  our  birds, insects and  trees,” the wife  murmured  to me in the audience.

We watched Gov. Gwendolyn  Garcia and  Ambassador  Christian  Lortsche, at Casino Espanol  rites, unveil  the  new consulate’s  marker. That  ended  a 95 year absence. From 1871 to 1914, Germany had an  Imperial Vice Consulate here.
“Most honorary consuls have legal or business backgrounds,” Sun Star columnist  Lelani  Echavez  noted. But Germany  chose  a scientist.  At San Carlos University, and with private  groups, Seidenschwarz  shaped Cebu’s ecological  studies.

“The  Rare and the Vanishing: Cebu’s  Special Plants and  Animals” is the title of a book he authored.  In scientific  journals, a rare damselfly, found only in Tabunan forests, that  he described, is named  as risiocenmis  seidenschwarzi.

It helps this University of Munich  graduate  married  a  Cebuana:  Elizabeth  Cinco. He  speaks Cebuano fluently.

“What’s wrong with the molave?”, Seidenschwarz  asked  stakeholders in Cebu’s denuded watersheds in 1998. “Or tindalo and kamagong”.

The  Philippines  had 1,478  species of trees. So why rely on “imports of exotics?  These  include  Malaysia’s  candlenut tree, teak from India or gemellina.   Native trees – honed by centuries of evolution – are given short shrift in  reforestation programs.

The “imported is sikat syndrome prevails”, he noted.  Monocultures are low diversity, “so unlike the original and mixed forests of Cebu”—  now down to only less than two percent of  land area..

In Sun Star and Inquirer, our columns  tracked his work over the years. The International Union for Conservation and Natural Resources, we wrote,  entered, into its “Red List” of  endangered  species,  Tabunan forest damselflies.

“In 2001, this miniscule population of dappled insects suddenly collapsed”, we recorded. “Local farmers, raising  ampalaya,  washed pesticide containers in the stream that time… Seidenschwarz   photographed  the last male in March 2001. “It remains to be seen whether the species survived this catastrophe,” ICUN said

What’s the  big deal if a dragonfly or two disappear?  No species disappears alone, Oxford University’s Norman Myers notes.  When a plant or an animal slips into extinction, so do its unique genes. These are building blocks for life, food and medicine. Obliteration closes future options.

USC  researchers listed  300-plus Cebu plants with medicinal properties. Only one has been tapped commercially: marijuana..

Seidenschwarz  and colleagues documented birds and plants “endemic” or found only in Cebu. In 1992, they  discovered a few Cebu flowerpecker  (dicaeum quadricolor). Ornithologists  wrote  the bird off as extinct. Cebu  cinnamon is also endangered.

Seidenschwarz helped  design   nature parks, including that of  Maria Luisa subdivision. That’s where he lives today. In a treeless city, a three-hectare sliver is home  for 42 bird species: the siloy ( black shama) found only in Cebu. Other rare birds are: Cebu White Eye and dwarf kingfisher,

In Kawasan Valley, Seidenschwarz’s team found the “Kawasan Mosquito Hawk damselfly. The Kawasan paper kite butterfly is  named from the Cebuano lepidopterist Julian Jumalon. “You can’t find these   in any other place in the world. Even in Cebu, they’re found only in Badian.”

Life has its ironies. Gov. Gwen Garcia  honored the scientist who objected to her father’s construction of a mini-hydro plant at Mantayupan Falls. Then-Governor Pablo Garcia rode roughshod  over concerns of  biodiversity. “We  may never know what we lost,”  Seidenschwarz noted then.

At his oath taking, we  reminded  the mint-new  German consul of his comment. Ikaw  gyud, he smiled.

(E-mail: juanlmercado@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

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