October 4 was the feast day of St. Francis of Asisi, patron saint of animals and the ecology. For those in the dark about religious history, he emphasized that the animals and nature are also God's precious creations. He addressed this mundane issue directly while others focused on ethereal matters like saving souls or condemning them to that flame-engulfed place called Hell. God's world is all around us, hiding in plain sight, you included. We are it, and so animal abuse is an affront to God's creation and to our basic human sensibility.
The world celebrated the feast day with animal blessings, calling it the World Animal Day. Compassion and Respect for Animals (CARA), a Philippine-based animal welfare group, celebrated the feast day with an animal blessing at Malate Church, one of the oldest churches in Manila outside of Intramuros ( walled city of Manila ). Allow me to digress.
The church dates back to the 16th century, rebuilt in 1773, and restored again after WW2. My memory of this church hinges on a tragic incident in my family, the death of a first cousin who was no more than 22 years of age, killed in an automobile accident, sometime in the mid 1960s. He was the lone fatality. His wake was held in one of the apses of this church, the one on the left as you enter. I can still frame the moment in my mind, an indelible image of his casket surrounded by hulking wreaths on tripods along with flower arrangements that did more to assault your olfactory senses than please them, the plaintive cries of the mourners in black veils, my uncle seated in a discreetly located pew and hunched over with grief , the overpowering blast from the funereal lights, the children playing, too young to fathom the tragedy and recognize the unfulfilled promise brought on by my cousin's untimely death. Sad. Obviously, I need to revisit this church and create a new and pleasant memory.
Fast forward to October, 2008 and we have a very nice slide show of the animal blessing held by CARA at that very same church. It looked like people and their pets arrived in droves. You will see a wide variety of pets, from dogs to turtles to snakes. The huge attendance reflected the growing awareness to animal welfare in the Philippines. Once considered an odd concept, a sidebar to life, a pastime for people who had nothing better to do, animal welfare is slowly moving to the forefront of Filipino social consciousness. As it has often been argued, one can measure a society's level of civilization by the manner they treat their animals. Perhaps, that is slowly dawning on Filipino society. Here is an excerpt from Nancy Cu Unjieng's ( President of CARA) email:
"...And so they came, in their Sunday's best, wearing fur, feathers, scales, shells...CARA Welfare Phils. (Compassion and Responsibility for Animals) sprinkled angel dust once again to animals and their humans. To make the occasion more significant, their medical mission was made to coincide with the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the honored saint known for taming even the wildest wolf. Venue was the historical Malate Church.After the animals were given free rabies vaccines, medical check-ups, free collars, leashes and mange soap they, with their humans waited patiently for the blessing of animals after the noontime mass. How wonderful it was to watch the procession on the center aisle, while St. Francis beautiful prayer-turned-into-a-song filled the entire church. And guess what... the animals were all behaved! I somehow expected the place to sound like a zoo but it seemed they felt the whole event was something special for them. "
Here is the slideslow: