On the eve of All Saints’ Day, a special graveyard had its early share of visitors whose expressions of love and yearning transcend species.
Pictures of dogs and cats—such as that of “Pochie,” “Miming,” “Jumbo” and over a hundred more—lined a wall inside the animal shelter of the Philippine Animal Wefare Society (PAWS) compound in Katipunan Valley, Loyola Heights, Quezon City.
Flowers, candles and, yes, stuffed toys turn the wall into a shrine, above which runs a poignant epitaph: “Gone but not forgotten.”
PAWS, a crusader for humane animal treatment since 1954, offered the pet memorial in 2007 for the benefit of city dwellers who don’t have an area to bury their beloved pets. It has since become part of the traditional Undas pilgrimage in Metro Manila.
Among the early visitors on Saturday was Shirley Moquete from Binondo, Manila, who lit candles for her cats Mimi and Mickey. The two felines were actually strays that she found and started feeding one day, until they became permanent members of the household.
“We decided to put them on the memorial wall to keep them alive in our hearts,” Moquete told the Inquirer.
She admitted having no fondness for cats before the adoption, but that she learned to love them the moment they started feeding from her hand.
“When Typhoon ‘Ondoy’ struck [in September 2009], I braved the neck-deep floods just to look for Mimi,” she recalled.
Among the recent burials was that of 8-year-old Takeio, “a princess-type male shih tzu,” as described by his owner, Lanz Evangelista. “He’s handsome, sweet and intelligent,” she said.
“We cleaned the area where he was buried. We talked to him and we cried because we missed him so much,” she said. “We availed ourselves of this pet memorial because we don’t want his body to be treated as trash. We wanted to preserve his memory.”
“It’s not really a cemetery,” Morales explained. “There are no markers. But the pet owners can visit anytime and offer flowers.”
The memorial wall was built for those who want to display the pictures of their pets. Here, the use of space is priced at P2,500 per tile for a five-year display, with the contract renewable.
Funds raised from the burials and the wall displays go to PAWS campaigns against animal cruelty and other projects.
“If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever,” read the message inscribed on a tile, in memory of the dog, Violet. The owner left her a small violet teddy bear, a violet candle and violet flowers.
Another tile that bears no name, but only the silhouettes of four cats, borrowed and tweaked the title of a Julio Iglesias ballad: “To all the cats we’ve loved before.” Erika Sauler