MANILA -- The country's national bird, the Philippine eagle, has been called different names, but it was only in 1995 when it was considered as a national symbol.
Prior to 1995, the country's national bird is the maya, a popular brown and white bird commonly seen all over the country.
Through Proclamation No. 615, signed by then President Fidel V. Ramos, the Philippine eagle became the national bird, a "natural treasure found only in the Philippines," and thus, should become a source of national pride.
Aside from being endemic to the Philippines, the Philippine eagle is considered as the flagship species in the conservation of Philippine wildlife.
The proclamation also states that the characteristics of the Philippine eagle - whose uniqueness, strength, power, and love for freedom - exemplifies the Filipino people.
The Philippine eagle, scientifically known as the Pithecophaga jefferyi used to be called monkey-eating eagle, after it was believed that the animal has a diet consisting of monkeys.
However, in 1978, former President Ferdinand Marcos, through Proclamation No. 1732, changed its name to Philippine eagle after it was proven that the eagle does not feed exclusively on monkeys.
The misconception may be because researchers found undigested monkey pieces in the stomach the first examined specimen of the Philippine eagle.
The proclamation also justified the name change, saying the term monkey-eating eagle "denigrates its qualities." With the change, the proclamation hoped the country can take pride in the eagle's rarity and confidence.
After its name was changed, the image Philippine eagle appeared on several items, including a 50-centavo coin issued by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas in 1983.
Due to its designation as the country's national bird, the Philippine eagle is a protected animal, as stipulated in Republic Act No. 9147, or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act of 2001.
Breeding and preservation of the Philippine eagle, an endangered species, is protected by the government.
Killing a Philippine eagle is punishable by up to 12 years imprisonment, as stipulated in the law.
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