DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 20 November) — “When I married him, I knew that he was not just mine. He was such a big personality that I knew I had to share (this man who had) a lot of passion and projects.”
This was how Olive Puentespina described her husband Roberto, popularly known as Doc Bo, before her fellow alumni at the University of the Philippines, most of them from Los Baños campus.
Like many of Doc Bo’s colleagues, Olive recalled how passionate her husband was in his endeavors especially during the days when he volunteered as veterinarian of the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF).
In 1995, Olive recalled, about a week after their first son Roberto III was born, she could not reach Doc Bo because he was with the Philippine Eagles.
Five years later, she was into labor with their third child and could not reach Doc Bo because he was again up at the Philippine Eagle Center in Malagos. “I think there was a health audit. They would catch the eagle that’s already inside the cage and examine its health status.”
The 57-year old veterinarian succumbed to an illness on November 15 at a private hospital.
Popularly known by his nickname Doc Bo, he contributed medical services as a volunteer to help save the critically-endangered Philippine Eagles.
His efforts allowed the eagles to be released back to the wild.
Doc Bo also pioneered the use of birds and other animals in his “Malagos Bird Show” on Sundays to create awareness on the protection of environment and climate change mitigation.
Domingo Tadena, former conservation breeding chief of the PEF, also described Doc Bo as a very passionate veterinarian, adding that they shared many memorable moments.
Tadena, who had worked to save the eagles from 1978 to 2008, recalled that he first met Doc Bo at the first captive-breeding camp in the hinterlands of Baracatan in Toril District sometime in the mid-1980s.
“Estudyante pa sya sa una, niabot lang man na didto sa among kampo sa Baracatan sa una, naa pa gyud sya dala na long neck. Pero wala sya dala habol” (He was a student then. He arrived in our camp in Baracatan and brought a long neck (bottle of rhum). But he didn’t bring any blanket), Tadena recalled with a chuckle.
He added that Doc Bo visited their camp to collect fecal samples as part of his school requirement.
Since it’s was so risky to collect fecal samples during the day, Doc Bo spent a night at the camp so he could collect the fecal samples. “Atakehon ka sa agila kung mosulod ka sa cage na hayag pa. Kenanglan sa gabii gyud ka mosulod” (You will be attacked by the eagles if you enter the cage at daytime. You should go at night), Tadena explained.
Since then, Doc Bo served as volunteer until he became a veterinarian in 1991.
Tadena lauded Doc Bo’s contribution in their effort to save the Philippine Eagles, adding they were able to hatch 21 eaglets with his support.
In the 1990s, Doc Bo was always around whenever they needed his services in providing care for the eagles in captivity as well those injured and rescued from the wild.
Tadena cited one of Doc Bo’s valuable efforts when he assisted the PEF during the rescue of an eagle named Marikit in Surigao sometime in 1995.
He added that they airlifted the injured eagle using a military aircraft to this city for medical attention.
Doc Bo applied a splint on the fracture leg of the eagle. “Na-ayo baya to” (The eagle healed).
While he is saddened by the passing of Doc Bo, Tadena said he is grateful for the opportunity of having worked with him.
“Kung successful ang hatch, apir-apir pud kami. Tapos pakals og tanduay dayon. Kung dili successful gani, uban pud kami didto hinilakay” If the eagle hatch succeeds we would celebrate with Tanduay. If it is not successful, we cry together.
Anna Mae Sumaya, former PEF animal keeper, said Doc Bo was very passionate about his work.
“He never failed to impart learnings every time we have cases. I will always remember him as a warm and compassionate person who always had good stories to share,” said Sumaya, who is now working in a wildlife park in Dubai.
Olive described her husband as a visionary.
“He taught me patience. Because he thinks so fast. His vision is bigger than what he can immediately do. We have to support him with his visions. Sometimes di pa nga namin nakikita eh. Saan ba papunta ito? Ganun sya ka bilis,” she explained.
According to Olive, her husband created different communities outside of their family. “And he made different experiences and memories that I don’t even know about. “
In 2017, Doc Bo established the Davao Thermo Biotech Corporation, a large-scale biodegradables-to-fertilizer that employs Hyperthermophilic Composting Technology.
This technology, which originated in Japan, is the first in the Philippines.
He launched the The Yellow Drum Project, which aims to divert biodegradable waste even at the household level, from the landfill to their composting plant.
Doc Bo was one of the key figures in the UP Alumni Association in Davao. (MindaNews)