Wife, colleagues recall famed vet’s passion to save Philippine Eagles

Published November 20, 2021, 2:41 PM

by Keith Bacongco

DAVAO CITY – The widow and colleagues of the late veterinarian Roberto Puentespina Jr. recounted how passionate he was in his effort to help save the critically-endangered Philippine Eagle.

In the industry, his colleagues described his passion in wildlife veterinary care and environment as infectious.

Dr. Roberto “Doc Bo” Puentespina Jr. (right with cap) working on an injured Philippine Eagle in 1995 assisted by Philippine Eagle Foundation staff. File Photo courtesy Rene Lumawag Archive/Manila Bulletin)

Olive, a renowned artisan behind the world-class Malagos cheese, recounted that a week after she had their first son, Roberto III, she could not just easily reach out to him because he was at the Philippine Eagle Center.

“When I married him, I knew that he is not just mine. He is such a big personality that I knew I had to share him with a lot of his passion and projects. In fact, when I had my first son nahirapan nga akong tumawag sa kanya dahil nasa Philippine Eagle siya,” she recalled during the tribute night with their fellow University of the Philippines alumni, mostly from Los Baños campus.

Maybe a week after he was born, she recalled, they had an activity at the Philippine Eagle Center. Olive was referring to their first son Roberto III, who was born in 1995.

She added that while she was moments before giving birth to their third child, Sophia in 2000, her husband was, again, with the Philippine Eagles.

“I think there was a health audit, wherein they would catch the eagle that’s already inside the cage and examine its health status,” recalled Olive.

The 57-year-old veterinarian succumbed to an illness on November 15 at a private hospital.

Popularly known by his nickname as Doc Bo, he is regarded as among the pioneers of the wildlife veterinary care in Mindanao. He had contributed his services to keep the eagles in captivity healthy as well as providing medical services to some injured eagles before being released back to the wild.

He further gained fame when he pioneered the use of birds and other animals in his weekly “Malagos Bird Show” to create awareness on the protection of environment and climate change mitigation.

Former Philippine Eagle Foundation breeding program chief Domingo Tadena attested Olive’s statement saying that Doc Bo had dedicated so much of his time in providing his services to the Philippine Eagles.

Tadena, who had worked with him in conservation efforts of Philippine Eagles for 30 years, recalled that they were able to hatch 21 eaglets with the support of Doc Bo.

Now 74 years old, he recalled that he first met Doc Bo sometime in mid-1980s up in the hinterlands of Baracatan of this city, where the first captive-breeding camp was located.

“He was still studying in college when he went to our camp to work on his school requirement. And he brought a big bottle of rhum. After that, he offered to become a volunteer. And until he became a doctor, he continued to volunteer to us,” he told Manila Bulletin.

Tadena recalled that Doc Bo spent a night at the camp because he had to work at night. “The eagles would attack you if you’re inside the cage during the day. “

Former PEF field biologist Dr. Camille Concepcion-Silvosa also shared the same sentiments saying that Doc Bo’s passion and generosity was infectious and inspiring. “You will be sorely missed Doc Bo. You are my environmental education hero.”

For Anna Mae Sumaya, former PEF animal keeper, also described Doc Bo as very passionate on his work adding that he never failed to impart learnings. “I will always remember him as a warm and compassionate person who always has good stories to share.”

Tadena further acknowledged Doc Bo’s vital contribution in their effort to save the Philippine Eagles, adding that the former was always around whenever they needed his medical services especially for injured eagles.

In 1995, he recalled, Doc Bo assisted the PEF staff to save an injured eagle from Surigao that suffered a fractured leg. “He placed a splint on the fractured leg of the eagle. It was a successful one, the leg eventually healed.”

He added that Doc Bo loves to be always in the field especially in the forests.