“I’ve had an involvement with wood since a very young age. My parents are antique dealers and I remember, even as a 5-year old, they were already taking me on their buying trips…I’ve had such a close involvement with art and antiques for such a long time that it’s hardly surprising I’ve made this into my career.”
British-born, Cebu-based artist James Doran Webb is the man behind the inspiring sculptural masterpiece “Mag-anak,” a work of art that represents his fascination for the eagle family, masterfully brought to life from scattered driftwood collected close to his home or purchased from his network of wood gatherers. Webb’s close affinity to the Philippines began as an avid sports enthusiast travelling the country in the name of outdoor pursuits. In those years, James was immersed in sports of every sort, from mountain biking, kayaking, hiking, adventure racing to Iron man racing, thus becoming a familiar and friendly face in countless local sporting events. His love for travel and adventure took him to see more of the Philippines than the average Filipino traveler, and this exposure inevitably brought familiarity and passion for the land that made this foreigner decide to stay.
It is in Webb’s studio in Cebu that he began designing driftwood furniture in the early 2000’s. His abundant supply made the artistry flow naturally because from his driftwood pieces, he saw animal shapes take form, leading to his creation of such elegant and dynamic works of animal art, as visible in his masterpiece “Mag-Anak.”
“This is the Haring Ibon, or the king bird, the largest eagle in the world. During the research of the sculpture, I travelled to Davao City a couple of times to visit the Eagle Center there, and what really struck me was this life-long bond in between parent eagles, such a really strong bond, and because of this, I decided to represent a family.”
It took James 12,800 hours to complete Mag-Anak, which utilized dead wood dating back to the 1800’s and needed about 2,300 pieces of bolts and screws to set all the parts in place. The towering sculpture measures a total of 6 meters from the ground up and weighs a total of 3,300 kilograms. So striking and life-like is Webb’s depiction of the eagle family that even the claws of the eagles were said to have come from 200-year old nails. The mother eagle is larger than the father eagle and is shown landing atop their towering perch with outstretched wings, where the father looks up while tending to their eaglet. It is an amazing scene straight out of the eagles’ natural habitat that exhibits the strong familial bond shared by these mighty winged creatures.
An advocate of the environment, Webb explains the connection between the raw materials he used for the sculpture with the magnificent but sadly, endangered creature he has such a big heart for.
“One of the most prominent features of the sculpture is the tower, and I used 19th century Molave sugarcane sleepers for this. This represents the industrial revolution which has a major factor in the loss of habitat. This has brought the eagle to the very brink of extinction. What I’ve learned through the process of making this sculpture is that this magnificent bird has no place in our modern world. And you know the irony is, that we are the ones that have killed it. And yet now, it’s only through our direct intervention that we can save the Philippine Eagle from total extinction.”
The Philippine Eagle’s critically endangered status is a sad reality we are facing today. Its numbers have dwindled to a low of only 400 pairs in existence, and as man is the culprit for this alarming decline, so too should man’s collective efforts be fast tracked to reverse this situation.
If a foreigner like James Doran Webb can see the beauty and relevance of this majestic bird of prey endemic to our lands, invest so much of his time, passion and creativity to bringing its plight closer to our hearts, how can we Filipinos not draw inspiration from him and begin to take action.
Mag-Anak (Family), Unconditional and Enduring Love is a driftwood sculptural masterpiece of the Philippine Eagle Family by James Doran Webb, commissioned by Shiori Sudo and Michael Needham as a gift to Enchanted Kingdom upon the opening of the AGILA Flying Theater.
Its ceremonial unveiling was held on December 11, 2016, headed by Vice-President Leni Robredo, who embodies the nurturing care that the Philippine Eagle gives its family.
As the Agila: The EKsperience attraction has at its core a celebration of the Filipino’s indomitable spirit, EK has extended an invitation to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to officially open Agila: The EKsperience at its grand launch on December 14, 2016. However, due to the President’s trip to Cambodia and Singapore, Department of Tourism Assistant Secretary Ricky Alegre attended on his behalf.