Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Solomon Dolphins in Subic

(Blogger's note: In reaction to my first article "Animal groups seek return of Solomon dolphins in Subic to their native habitat" that was published by yahoo.ph on November 20, 2011, Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore issued a statement to contradict the claims of ACRES Singapore and Earth Island Institute. This is the follow-up article.)

RWS: Our dolphins are in a well-established facility in the Philippines

By VERA Files | The Inbox – Thu, Nov 24, 2011

By Khrysta Imperial Rara, VERA Files

The 25 dolphins from the Solomon Islands that are now in Subic are well-cared for and free to interact with each other, according to Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) in Singapore.

In a statement sent to Yahoo/VERA Files in reaction to the article "Animal groups seek return of Solomon dolphins in Subic to their native habitat," Lim Soon Hua, RWS director for communications, said their dolphins currently in the Philippines are in a "facility which comes with a dedicated veterinary clinic, a marine mammal clinical diagnostic laboratory and enclosures that exceed international standards such as those set by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums."

The RWS-owned Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) are temporarily kept in Ocean Adventure, an open-water marine park in the Subic Bay Freeport zone, about 100 km northwest of Manila Bay.

Lim said "The area where our dolphins are housed is restricted for safety and security reasons."

Lim also said the wild-caught cetaceans have " ample space to swim, interact and bond with their fellow pod mates and are cared for by our team of veterinarians and marine mammal specialists who collectively represent over 300 years of relevant experience working in more than 60 marine mammal facilities globally".

"Our Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins were acquired according to Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) requirements. The movement of marine animals, including dolphins, is governed by the United Nations Environment Programme which upholds the policies of CITES. The species of dolphins that will be housed at the Marine Life Park are not classified as endangered, nor are they threatened with extinction," he further said.

Lim said "We have always maintained that there are no plans to conduct animal shows. As part of caring for our marine mammals, the Marine Life Park team has introduced various enrichment devices that are water resistant, durable and safe for our animals. Dolphins in the wild are often in search of opportunities to interact and play. In zoological environments, balls and hoops encourage play activities among dolphins. These activities promote health and social interaction among the animals."

He said the Marine Life Park opens in 2012, and stressed, "We believe it will have a role in inspiring and promoting marine conservation."

On Nov.12, several animal protection groups, among them Singapore's Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), Earth Island Institute (EII) and the Philippine Welfare Society (PAWS) launched the "Save the World's Saddest Dolphins" campaign at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. They called on the Philippine government to ban the re-export of the dolphins to the RWS Marine Life Park in Singapore and return them to Solomon Islands, their native habitat.

They went to Subic on Nov. 14 to see for themselves the condition of the dolphins.

Louis Ng, a biologist and executive director of Singapore charity Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), said the group saw and filmed the trainers using basketballs and hula-hoops during the training. "We are puzzled by this as RWS has always maintained that they have no plans for animal shows," he said.

Trixie Concepcion, Regional Director of Earth Island Institute doubts RWS' claim that the facility where the dolphins are being kept is truly a 'well established facility'.

"The Ocean Adventure Park which houses the dolphins has had 4 out of its 5 false killer whales die in just a few years of operation. All four false killer whales were all juveniles and died before they were sexually mature," she said.

"Moreover," she said, " Ocean Adventure has been sued for the violation of the Environmental Impact Statement System of the Philippines (PD 1586) as well as the violation of the Animal Welfare Act (RA 8485), a well established facility, indeed!"

Concepcion disagrees that the method RWS used to obtain the dolphins conforms to CITES requirements. She said the export of dolphins from the Solomon Islands was put under the Review of Significant Trade in the Animals Committee of CITES in 2008 due to the issue of sustainability.

"In that meeting in 2008, the Solomon Islands government committed to stopping the export of dolphins if it was proven to be unsustainable. This September 2011, the government of the Solomon Islands announced that all dolphin exports will be banned starting January 2012, an admission that the past dolphin hunts have been largely unregulated and unsustainable," Concepcion noted.

Concepcion said that in their talks with the Philippine government pertinent authorities, nobody could verify the present condition of the 25 dolphins. "They could not even tell us if all 25 dolphins are alive," she said.

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")

See related links: http://ph.news.yahoo.com/blogs/the-inbox/animal-groups-seek-return-solomon-dolphins-subic-native-104221072.html and


Free the Dolphins in Subic ! Return them to Solomon Islands' waters !

Animal groups seek return of Solomon dolphins in Subic to their native habitat

VERA Files | The Inbox, yahoo.ph –

Sun, Nov 20, 2011 By Khrysta Imperial Rara, VERA Files

Representatives of Manila and Singapore-based animal protection groups are blocking the reported plan to send the dolphins in Subic to Singapore. They also want them returned to where they came from- Solomon Islands.

The campaign, "Save the World's Saddest Dolphins" launched at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig last weekend, gained urgency because of reports learned by the animal protection groups that the dolphins will be sent to Singapore by the end of this year where they will be one of the main attractions in Resorts World Sentosa that will open its (marine) park next year.

"The main thing here is to block the re-export of the dolphins to Singapore. We believe that Philippine laws should be upheld and Section 6 of the Wildlife Resources Conservation Act of the Philippines was violated," Louis Ng, a biologist and executive director of Singapore charity Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES), said in an interview at DZUP last week.

Ng is referring to the Republic Act 9147 which states that "All activities… shall be authorized by the Secretary upon proper evaluation of best available information or scientific data showing that the activity is, or for a purpose, not detrimental to the survival of the species or subspecies involved and/or their habitat."

Investigations by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature — Cetacean Specialist Group (IUCN-CSG) in 2003 and 2007 concluded that there was no sufficient population data for the Solomon Islands to make a valid Non-Detriment Finding, or an expert scientific opinion showing that the export or trade will not put the survival of the Tursiops aduncus species at risk.

"So the import permits for the 25 dolphins from the Solomon Islands were issued without proper evaluation of the best available scientific data that the importation will not be detrimental to the population of wild dolphins in the Solomon Islands," Earth Island Regional Director Trixie Concepcion said.

"The Philippine government should revoke the permit and send the dolphins back to the Islands," Ng reiterated.

Officers of ACRES ,Earth Island Institute (EII) and the Philippine Welfare Society (PAWS), who visited Ocean Adventure in Subic this week to see 25 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, were told to leave the area immediately and prevented from filming the animals.

The group bought admission tickets and proceeded to the area opposite to where the wild-caught dolphins were being housed. They said there were no signs banning entry to and filming in this area.

"Initially, we were told we could remain in the area but were not allowed to film the dolphins. However, we were later politely told to leave the area and we were not allowed to film the dolphins, but could film anywhere else in Ocean Adventure. We did not hold any placards or hold any demonstration and remained civil throughout the entire time. We eventually left the area," ACRES Campaigns Officer Christina Lee recounted in a press statement.

According to the ACRES, the group saw and filmed the trainers using basketballs and hula-hoops during the training. "We are puzzled by this as RWS has always maintained that they have no plans for animal shows," the statement said.

ACRES is focused on battling the illegal wildlife trade as well as promoting cruelty-free living, community outreach, wildlife rescue and rehab, zoo animal welfare and humane education.

"A vast majority of Singaporeans have spoken up now. They support the issue. The people really want to take action," Ng said.

During the groups' meeting last Nov. 11 at the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) of the Department of Agriculture, Assistant Director Benjamin Tabios assured them that there are no pending applications for permits to import or export any dolphins.

"But that situation could change anytime. Someone could suddenly apply for a permit," Tabios said.

Returning the 25 dolphins to their native waters will be long and costly.

"We hope that Resorts World Sentosa will shoulder the expense of bringing them back to where they were caught. RWS can afford this because in the first quarter of this year, they made a pre-tax profit of 500 million Singapore dollars which is equivalent to 400 million US dollars. And that was even without the dolphins," Ng stated.

"But if RWS does not shoulder the cost, ACRES and Earth Island will," he said.

According to him, RWS originally bought the 27 dolphins in the Solomon Islands at 60,000 US dollars each. Two of the dolphins died while under training in Langkawi, Malaysia.

The Subic trip was part of a campaign to inform the Filipino people of the Solomon dolphin issue. In the coming weeks, the campaign will be brought to different universities in Metro Manila and the provinces.

"The dolphins have lost control over their lives. They can't speak for themselves so it's up to us to speak for them, to fight for their rights and hopefully to secure their freedom," Ng stressed.

"We are asking Filipinos and Singaporeans to put themselves in the situation of the dolphins. Would you like to be forcibly removed from your house? Would you like to be put on an artificial diet? Would you like to be imprisoned forever?" Ng asked. "The answer for everyone is 'no'. So why are we doing this to dolphins?"

Other countries like Chile and Costa Rica have enacted laws banning cetacean hunting in their territorial waters. In Costa Rica, the killing, capture, injuring or use of whales, dolphins and porpoises for commercial gain is not allowed. The government of the Solomon islands has banned the export of dolphins starting January 2012.

Other groups involved in the campaign are Marine Wildlife Watch (MWWP), Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP), Dolphins Love Freedom Network (DLFN), and Save Philippine Seas (SPS). Care and Responsibility for Animals (CARA), Animal Kingdom Foundation (AKF), Palawan Animal Welfare Association as well as the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are also supporting the campaign.


(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")



By Khrysta Imperial Rara

There are three areas that have to be constantly checked for regular and basic grooming at home, according to our guest last Nov. 17, Dr. Rey Oronan, who is currently Faculty-in-Charge at the UP Veterinary Hospital. You’ll have to check the EARS, the EYES and the NAILS of your dog or cat.
I have known Doc Rey since the early 2000’s when I used to bring my cats and dogs to Animal House along Aurora Boulevard and he used to work there. He was new at the time, and he took good care of my two-month old black kitten Bagheera whom nobody thought would survive a bad case of kitten flu or distemper. I had always wanted a black cat and I told Doc Rey Bagheera must live. Bagheera survived that crisis, thanks to Doc Rey.
Another instance that stands out in my memory was when my white and brown Persian cat Amon-Ra was confined due to kidney failure. After 3 days, I asked Doc Rey about his chances of survival. Amon-Ra had been in and out of the hospital for a couple of years. That night, Doc Rey took a long look at Amon-Ra and said, “Take him home now. He could go anytime.”
He was right. Amon-Ra passed away in the early morning. But thanks to Doc Rey's foresight and compassion, I was able to be with my cat and comfort him during his last hours.
Doc Rey, says long-eared animals are prone to ear infections from microbes so you’ll have to clean their ears when you give them a bath. It is also important to dry their ears. There are products you can buy over the counter to clean their ears. But if you want to use home remedies, diluted vinegar and diluted agua oxynada would be good at a 1:10 ratio, that is, one ml of vinegar or agua oxynada to 10 ml of water. You will know when the ears are dirty because they become covered with black dirt, or could smell bad, or cause pain to the animal. If the animal has an ear wound and the wound is too deep or big, bring him/her to a veterinarian.
The ears of an adult dog or cat can be cleaned twice a week. But if the animal has ear infection, doctors usually recommend ear cleaning and medication twice a day. The ears of puppies and kittens, on the other hand, should only be cleaned when they reach 2 months old.

Caution: Do not use soap and water to clean the ears. Alcohol is not good either because it can irritate the ears. Baby oil feels hot on the skin and so could result in a burning sensation. Do not use cotton buds. Use cotton balls or your fingers instead.

Healthy eyes are clear and glassy. The presence of excessive mucus could be an indication of eye infection or dehydration. Or it could mean infection in some part of the body like in the case of Upper Respiratory Tract Infection.
CAUTION: Cleaning the eyes with water may cause infection. It’s better to use eyewash or other medicated eye products that can be bought over the counter.

Nails always have to be clipped short because animals can accidentally scratch themselves, other animals in the home or you. Cats and kittens usually play war games among themselves and they use their paws and nails a lot. Someone could get accidentally scratched in the eyes by a playmate with long nails.
To clip the nails, you could use a nail clipper or nail cutter. Even the ones people use could work as long as you do it properly. This means clipping the nail above the “quick” or the pink part of the nail which could cause bleeding when cut.
An interesting question came from listener Grace Arevalo of Quezon City – What herbal remedies can be used to treat colds, diarrhea and skin problems?
To my pleasant surprise, Dr. Rey gamely entertained the question and was very familiar with herbal remedies!
“Cats really don’t like citrus but Vitamin C is the best remedy for colds. So you can give Vit. C syrup with a syringe,” he said, adding that there is no such thing as an overdose of vitamin C because the body will just automatically excrete the excess fluids.
As for diarrhea, he says the cause must be identified first. If it’s due to the presence of worms, then the animal has to be dewormed. Or if it’s due to protozoa or amoeba, then proper treatment is needed.
Doc Rey said that some cats don’t digest certain foods very well, like rice for instance. I told him that when my cats have a bum stomach, I boil a piece of bark from the star apple or kaimito tree and give them 12 ml twice a day. It always works.
Boiling some guava leaves to make tea also works as a treatment for diarrhea but I put in a bit of honey to soften the bitter taste.
As for skin problems, Doc Rey says you must first find out the cause of the problem. If it’s fleas, then you must get rid of the fleas. He recommends boiling the leaves of madre de cacao or cacahuete and rinsing the animal with it.
Since we are in a tropical country, fleas are present in the soil all year round. If your dog or cat goes outdoors, or if he or she has contact with another animal with access outdoors, then the fleas could transfer to him/her.
We were already trying to beat the time at this point so I was a not able to add that recently, my friend Leng Velasco shared with me her remedy for mange. All that’s needed is Acapulco leaves ground and mixed in virgin coconut oil. Wipe this concoction on the animal’s body using cotton balls every three days until the mange is gone. I noticed that the Acapulco – vco concoction also got rid of the fleas and kept them away for a long time!
Guava leaves can also rescue troubled skin. I boil four guava leaves with a clove of garlic in a cup of water then use cottonball to wipe the concoction in the animal’s skin. It refreshens them and heals wounds since guava is an antiseptic.
Another listener asked for bathing tips. Doc Rey said dogs could be given a bath twice a week. A more frequent bath could damage the skin and strip it of essential oils. Long-haired animals have more sensitive skin and it’s the hair that protects them, he said.
If the weather is cold, bathe him during the warmest part of the day – like at noon – and use warm water. Then dry him with a towel or hair dryer. It’s better than drying with an electric fan because this gives off cold or cool air.
For hairballs, the best natural solution is unprocessed and unsweetened pineapple juice which could be given with a syringe or papaya fruit which could be mixed with their food, according to Doc Rey.
He also strongly recommends brushing the animal’s hair daily because this provides a good opportunity for both of you to bond. You will also be able to see if your dog or cat has skin problems like fleas or wounds. Early treatment can improve your animal’s quality of life.
For his parting remarks, Doc Rey reminded the audience that special considerations have to be taken into account for the Christmas season.
“Puppy proof your house. Dog proof your house,” he stated. This means that your animals must not have access to decors that could prove toxic to them.
“Make sure that leftover food is properly stored,” he adds. Among the foods that could prove hazardous to animals are wine and grapes, chocolates, fatty foods and small and sharp bones. Salty foods must be avoided at all cost.
Unfortunately, we had to end the program at this point. But we agreed that there had to be a second part to this because there’s still a lot of things that people have to know in order to keep their animals safe during the Christmas holidays.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Saturday, November 5, 2011


By Khrysta Imperial Rara

Episode 55, November 3, 2011

Guest: Leng Velasco

Last week’s discussion on the spiritual lives of animals was very interesting and daring, if I may say so, because it delved into a topic that is taboo in the academe, except perhaps in the field of anthropology.

The topic was made even more unusual due to the experiences of our guest, Reiki master and healer Leng Velasco.


Reiki is a Japanese method of healing that allows the practitioner to channel universal life-force energy for the purpose of healing a patient. Anyone can practice reiki but you must first be attuned by a reiki master. Attunement simply means that the reiki master opens and unblocks your chakras or energy centers so you can easily access the divine energy.

Leng was first attuned as a reiki practitioner in 2006 but she was healing animals even before then. “In fact, animals are the reason that I went into reiki,” she quipped.

Leng avers that reiki is a very effective method of healing specially when coupled with psychic abilities. As an example, she recounted how she healed her first animal patient, a friend’s rabbit.

"I first asked the rabbit for permission to heal him and then he approached me. As I stroked him, I sensed that he had an unseen wound that was already infested with maggots. True enough, I found such a wound hidden beneath his thick fur on one paw. My friend didn’t know about the wound,” she recalled.

Leng then advised the rabbit’s human to bring the animal immediately to a veterinarian because the paw needed to be amputated. Leng’s friend later told her that she was right – the vet had to amputate one paw because it couldn’t be saved anymore.

I asked Leng, who also heals people, if she feels anything different when she heals people and when she works on animals. “Healing animals feels very natural and the energy is free-flowing,” she explained.

She said she always asks the animal’s permission first because some just want to be left alone. “You have to be patient with them and explain first the concept of reiki. Then once they understand, they agree to it,” she said.

“When healing people, on the other hand, you first have to compose yourself and you need a lot of positive energy,” she added.

I can relate to that. As a reiki practitioner, I always feel ready to heal animals because their energy is so pure. People, on the other hand, can be more difficult to heal because they carry a lot of emotional baggage. So a reiki practitioner will have to work on healing not only the physical body but the person’s emotions as well. And not all people are willing to open up and release their negative emotions.


So let’s put two and two together. If reiki is divine energy and animals can feel and benefit from this divine or spiritual energy, it’s only logical then that animals are spiritual beings too. And if they are spiritual beings, then they must have a soul.

I have to say this because I have met many people who insist that animals don’t have souls. My mom, who has loved dogs and cats since she was a little girl, still subscribes to the idea that animals have no souls because that was what they were taught in a private Catholic school.

I guess many members of the Catholic faith resort to this spin so they will not have any guilt or remorse when they eat animals. For how can you savor veal in white cream sauce or kare kare or chicken and pork adobo when you are told that the animals on your dinner plate have souls?

When I asked Leng if she thinks that animals are spiritual beings trapped in physical body, she disagreed with the word “trapped”.

“I would rather not say trapped because it was their choice to incarnate in their chosen bodies,” she replied.


Leng subscribes to the Hindu and Buddhist beliefs that like us, animals have a purpose in life. I agree. Many of my cats and dogs have come into my life to be my friends and companions, while others have come to teach me certain lessons. One particularly special feline named D'Artagnan pushed me into the animal protection advocacy and another came to me with a message – that reincarnation does exist.

In Leng’s case, her brown dachshund Duke had a single goal . “He came to be my own baby because I was told by doctors when I was 17 that I would never have children. This is difficult for a woman to accept because family is important,” she said.

Duke the dachshund was a sickly dog since birth. Born January 2001, he was given to Leng when he was but three months old, in April. After staying for a week with her, he had to undergo major surgery for pancreatitis and was diagnosed as calcium deficient. “He survived that operation but his sight was already affected,” Leng recalled.

Then in 2003, he suffered from coumarin poisoning. “His gums bled and he developed hematoma or blood clots all over his body,” Leng continued. “Doctors gave him a 50/50 chance of recovery but he made it once again.”

Unknown to Leng, more was still to come. “Duke was diagnosed with the most critical illness last February 28, 2009. He had bone cancer and a tumor measuring 45mm on his left cheek. I was advised to have him euthanized but I refused because I had a strong feeling that he would make it once more,” she said.

Leng asked for another more sympathetic vet to attend to her dog at the UP Veterinary Hospital. The second doctor recommended chemotherapy but warned her that Duke still had a 50% chance of recovery after the procedure.

Leng, who has the ability to communicate with animals, then took Duke home and asked him what she should do. “I agreed to chemotherapy because when I talked to Duke, he told me to take that chance rather than put him to sleep,” she explained.

The result? Thanks to chemotherapy and massive doses of reiki treatment everyday, Duke is now an active, pesky 11-year old dog who never leaves her side.

Although part of his jaw was eaten away by cancer, he leads a completely normal life as Leng’s “baby”.

“In healing Duke, you healed yourself,” Malotz Quodala, my co-host, stated so aptly.

Euthanasia is a no-no in reiki, says Leng, and this is a significant lesson that she learned from Duke. If she had listened to the vets when they told her Duke had to be euthanized, then she would be filled with guilt and anger now because she would have ended the life of an animal she loved very much and whose time to leave this earth had not yet come.

As another example, Leng also cited the case of her mongrel dog, Brigitte. The dog was having frequent seizures and was always in pain. In March 2011, doctors said she had “lamat” in her brain which was causing nasty epileptic spells.

Leng was forced to consider euthanasia once more to end her dog’s suffering.

One day, when the dog was having an attack and was obviously in pain, Leng called three vets to ask them to euthanize the dog and end her suffering. But strangely, the vets she contacted in early April did not have the medicines needed for euthanasia. So she gave Brigitte reiki energy to ease her pain. The dog fell asleep and never woke. “She died peacefully in her sleep,” Leng said.


In response to a listener’s query about whether dogs go to heaven when they die,

Leng recalled that once, she decided to check and see where all her animals who had departed from this life had gone. She meditated and saw them all together in a wonderful place that she later learned was called “Rainbow Bridge”.

“They were all together in this huge, beautiful garden where there were no fights. It was so beautiful that I didn’t want to leave the place anymore,” she recalled. “They all recognized me and came running to me. I was so happy because they remembered me.”

She, however, is quick to add that this awesome place is not necessarily heaven. “They are in a spiritual realm where they are awaiting rebirth,” she opined.

Malotz then asked an important question – must one always have to meditate to see these things?

“Meditation is a must to access your inner self,” Leng replied.

To this, I would like to add that meditation is a must for healers so they can relax, replenish their energies, raise their energy level and protect themselves before a healing session.

It was certainly an enjoyable exchange because Leng shared a lot of her unique and interesting personal experiences. She sees the spirits or “souls” of animals often with peripheral vision. “They have a form. Sometimes I see them still in their physical bodies, sometimes they are just all white,” she explained.

Author Ptolemy Tompkins, in his book The Divine Life of Animals describes several sightings of a non-physical essence leaving an animal’s body at the time of death. In one case, fellow author Eileen Garrett recounted how, after the suicide of her parents when she was still a young girl, she was put in the care of a strict aunt who punished her when she said she could see spirits. To get back at her aunt, Garrett killed her favorite ducklings. This is Garrett’s story in her own words:

“Bending over the edge of the pond, I caught each small duckling

as it came floating by and held each one under the water, one

after another, till I had drowned the entire brood. I laid them in a row

on the grass beside me, and as I contemplated them I became filled

with a terrible dread of the wrath to come. I felt now that God

himself might come to punish me for this, and I remained rooted to

the spot, frozen with fear, awaiting the force of his anger. The

very intensity of my fear created a state of suspended quietness in

which I seemed scarcely to breathe, yet I was alert and waiting,

anticipating the final overwhelming disaster.

In this condition I gazed at the little bodies lying on the grass,

half hoping that somehow they might still be alive. The little dead

bodies were quiet, but a strange movement was occurring all

about them. A gray smoke-like substance rose up from each form.

This nebulous, fluid stuff wove and curled as it rose in winding spiral

curves, and I saw it take new shape as it moved out and away

from the quiet forms. As I watched the spectacle, fear gave

way to amazement. I became almost joyful, for I thought the

ducklings were coming alive again, and I waited in tense expectancy.”


There are numerous accounts of “soul sightings” in several books. My favorite book by far is Bill D. Schul’s Animal Immortality which documents the experiences of many people whose pets had died. In all documented cases, the animals stayed on with their human guardians even after they had left their physical bodies.

When my mom’s 10-year old Persian cat Good Chi died last September 25, she was devastated but she wouldn’t show it. She cried and called me when she found his lifeless body under her bed at about 6am, then wouldn’t talk about the cat or her grief to anyone anymore. That’s really her personality so I was worried that she was not able to grieve properly. But she had him buried in a special place in her garden and visits him there everyday.

Days later, I asked her if she still felt his presence in her room. “I still feel him at my feet when I walk to the toilet in the early morning. And sometimes I suddenly wake up because I feel a weight on the top left corner of my pillow, where he usually sleeps,” she said.

My mom had a stroke in 2005 and limps until now. We all took a leave from work to stay with her for the first two weeks that she was bed-ridden. But after we all had to resume our normal schedules, it was the cat who kept her company 24 hours a day.

Good Chi understood that he could no longer play rough with her. So he gently, patiently and faithfully escorted her every morning to the toilet and stayed there with her. They spent the days together, she, seated on her rocking chair with her loyal cat lying on her lap. At night, he would sleep either on her pillow or on her right arm. Even my dad marveled at the way Good Chi watched over her.

I still talk to Good Chi when I go to my mom’s house. I can’t see him but I know he’s still there. Once, about a week after he passed away, I looked back at her bed as we were leaving the room. I noticed that on the top left corner of her big pillow, a round portion had sunk in, as if some weight had been placed on it.

“Thank you, Good Chi, for sticking around and watching over Mom. You are welcome to stay as long as you want,” I said aloud, not caring whether anyone heard me.

But when I recounted this story to Leng Velasco, she said we must now release Good Chi so he can cross over and then find a way to come back to my mom.


As another proof of a non-material intelligence that animates animals, several authors have also documented cases where animals who have passed on enter their guardians’ dream world.

Last October 31, Leng witnessed the brutal killing of a dog who was to be sold as dogmeat. She heard the dog cry out but didn’t get to him in time because her feet felt like lead and seemed to stick to the ground. Perhaps it was fear or shock at the scene unfolding several meters away from her at a nearby house.

“The dog, named Saddam, was chained and beaten on the skull four times with a steel pipe,” she recounted. Saddam was her landlord’s one-year old dog and Leng knew him well because she used to feed him.

That night, Saddam came to her in a very vivid dream. She saw his youthful face, pained and sad, and his tearful eyes. At the same time, she felt a sharp pain in her left neck, in the same place where the man had hit Saddam with the pipe. Then the message came clear – the man has to be brought to justice.

Leng is now finding ways to correct this wrong. She is in touch with Animal Kingdom Foundation and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and studying the best option to bring this man to justice.

For my part, I asked her to interpret a dream I had in the early morning of October 30, a Sunday.

My dream went like this:

I was in Rome looking all over the city for my very first Persian cat, D’Artagnan. I spoke to 2-3 people who had given him food and shelter

as he moved from place to place. Then I found him at a veterinary

Clinic at the end of the day. We were reunited and happy. I felt that both he and I had found Home.

Here’s some background on D’Artagnan:

D’Artagnan was a grey and white healthy and intelligent male cat. He was five years old at the time that he died. He was put to sleep by a misguided veterinarian who believed that cats who bite people must be euthanized because they become dangerous once they have tasted human blood.

I wasn’t there when the vet killed my cat and it really turned my world upside-down. It was very traumatic for me and I’m sure those last seconds of his life when the vet threw a stone at him to draw him out of his cage were traumatic for him too.

But Leng said the dream means closure to this distressing event in my life.

She said that the issues have now been resolved and D’Artagnan and I are now at peace on this. She also thinks that D’Art is now ready to come back.

What a wonderful way to end the 55th episode of Kwentuhang Pets Atbp. I am really looking forward to meeting D’Artagnan again.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Coping with the Loss of an Animal

31 October 2011
Guest: Armi Santiago

By Khrysta Imperial Rara

It’s a day away from All Saint’s Day and a couple of days from All Souls’ Day.  It’s that time of the year when most people, in the Philippines at least, are either already visiting the graves of their relatives who have passed away or are still busy cleaning up their memorial plots. Thousands are also  taking advantage of the four-day weekend to go on holiday with friends and family.

I just hope that amid all this, we give at least a minute to think about our beloved companion animals who have already left this earthly plane and are now waiting for us at the Rainbow Bridge.

Last Thursday (Oct. 27), I invited Prof. Armi Santiago of the UP Film Institute to the show to talk about coping with the loss of an animal. I’ve known Armi for a long time and she really loves animals. The fact that her most of her dogs died of old age will attest to this.


We talked about Rainbow Bridge, which according to many websites, is a beautiful meadow where animals, especially companion animals, go when they die. It’s supposed to be doggie or kitty heaven. There is so much food, water, clean air, and love there.  Animals who were sick or old when they passed are restored to health. They just play and frolic around until it's time for their humans cross over and they go to meet them. Together they then enter the gates of Heaven.

I must admit that it’s a wonderful concept because it’s a comforting thought. All of us want reassurance that our animals will be safe and happy when they leave this material existence.

Yesterday, I had a long discussion with a psychic friend, Leng Velasco. She told me about a dream she had a few years ago. In her dream, she wanted to know where her deceased animals had gone so she was led to a beautiful meadow with bright skies, lots of sun, lots of trees and fresh air, lots of food and fresh water. She saw all her animal friends who had passed and they were happy and healthy. She stayed a while with them then she had to come back.

When I told her that was Rainbow Bridge, she answered: “What’s that? I don’t know that.”  She didn’t know about Rainbow Bridge but she saw it in a dream! I think she must have done some astral travelling to visit her animals. This is another validation of the existence of Rainbow Bridge. Leng is psychic and she can see and sense things that most people don’t know about.


Back to Armi Santiago at the DZUP studio.  Armi is very attached to her animals so she became teary-eyed several times during the program. Her voice cracked and I was afraid she would break down  while talking about her dogs DJ and Sparky. 

Armi comes from a family of animal lovers. Her father taught her how to care for animals and be responsible for them from a very young age. She doesn’t agree with the term “losing a pet” because she believes an animal is never ours to keep in the first place. “They are not lost to us. They return to their Maker who just lent them to us,” she avers.

Her father taught her the importance of giving animals a decent burial and burying all their toys, collars, dishes, etc with them. “It’s a sacrilege to let another animal use them,” she says.

Grieving is a process and for those who love animals, there is no difference between grieving for a beloved person or animal.  The grieving process usually goes through several phases, namely DENIAL, GUILT, ANGER, SADNESS, and DEPRESSION.

Though many humans or guardians go through difficult times when their animal passes, Armi says she has no problem expressing her grief and does not go through denial, guilt, anger nor depression.

Grieving is a personal experience. Just because a person doesn't cry doesn't mean he/she isn't grieving inside. There are many ways to grieve and cope. For some, letting go is not easy. Perhaps the best way is to find meaning in the whole thing, keep your mind busy with other things, write or keep a journal,  do a ritual or a memorial. You can do a ritual with candles and flowers or create scrapbooks or albums in memory of your animal friend. 

When my very first cat died, I sort to do candle-making to keep my mind busy because I just couldn't write. The whole thing was too painful to write down.


Armi's lucky. When my very first cat, D’Artagnan, died in 1997, I was devastated. I couldn’t do much work for six months. Every time I was at the computer, or alone in the house, or driving,  I would break down crying.  He was a very intelligent, special and psychic  cat and when a vet euthanized him without my permission,  it turned my world upside down. It  broke relations with my family but it also led me to my present advocacy. I remember I used to spend seven hours or more on the Internet researching similar cases. It was then that I discovered the concept of ANIMAL RIGHTS and WELFARE. I learned that the animal rights movement already had a huge following in the United States but hardly anyone knew about it here in the Philippines.

So the guilt and anger I felt for six months gave way to a determination to help the animals in whatever way I could. The guilt and anger disappeared when I realized that D’Artagnan played a special role in my life – he had come to my life when I was searching for meaning and purpose and he had sacrificed his life so I could find my path.


Armi described in detail how her dog Sparky died at the age of 18. She could not bring herself to wash Sparky’s beddings.  But when she decided to do it several weeks later, Sparky’s feline best friend, Sweety Pie, lay on the beddings, refused to leave and would not let Armi  get them.

Could it be that Sparky’s spirit was still using the bed so Sweety Pie would not let Armi take it away?

When a stray kitten was born in my garage 15 years ago, I allowed him and his mother to stay. I named him Moustache. Although his mother was all black, Moustache was black and white because he took after his father – a huge male of the same color who would hang out and check on them often. One day, when he was about 3 months old, Moustache kept on crying his heart out outside the kitchen door and whenever I would offer him food, he refused to eat.  Later that day, I saw the body of his father who had been hit by a speeding car. Moustache kept on with his plaintive cries but refused to eat for 3 days. I guess he was mourning the loss of his father.

Another one of my cats, Bonne Chance, refused to eat for 2 days after Bagheera, her dashing jet black mate, died from severe colds that vets were not able to cure. She also refused to let her 2 kittens suckle. We force-fed her on the third day and when she saw that her kittens were licking off the milk dripping from her mouth, she relented and let them suckle again.

So do animals grieve? Of course they do but their different personalities deal with sorrow in varied ways.


A listener texted to ask if animals reincarnate after die.  Armi replied by recounting her experience with her dogs, Sparky in particular. Armi has the habit of bringing each of her cats and dogs to the statue of the Virgin Mary in her residence in the UP campus. She says a prayer for each one while holding them close to the statue. Sparky, apparently, has the habit of smelling and licking the statue and pawing at it.

When a colleague of her husband gave him a puppy months after Sparky died, they accepted the gift and called him Toffee. One day, while Armi was holding Toffee up to the Virgin Mary, the pup suddenly smelled, licked and pawed at the statue just like Sparky used to do when she was still around. This made Armi wonder if Sparky had indeed come back as Toffee. But she decided that Sparky was Sparky and Toffee was Toffee and Toffee was merely Sparky’s gift to them.

Personally, I have had similar experiences. Some of my cats have come back and I never had a doubt about who they were in their previous lifetimes. The signs were all over the place.

But that’s the subject of our radio program this Thursday, November 3. We'll be discussing the animal soul, the spiritual lives of animals and their role in our lives. Psychic and reiki healer Leng Velasco will share her insights and experiences with us. 

 For those who can’t listen in, I’ll be writing about it after the show.  A bientot!  

Thursday, October 20, 2011


EPISODE 31             MAY  12, 2011


Posted by Khrysta Imperial Rara


I cannot imagine a world without animals. Whether they’re companion dogs and cats, or inhabitants of the seas and forests, the presence of animals adds a touch of magic to an otherwise humdrum world. We live in a highly competitive and stressful world where work seems to be the main preoccupation for most people. But seeing a black and yellow butterfly flutter around the garden or a pied fantail tease a dog into play makes me pause from whatever I’m doing and watch in utter fascination.  A few seconds of enchantment make me forget the hassles of work and allow the mind to start afresh.
Anna Maria Gonzales, architect and urban developing expert, explained that animals have existed for millions of years while man as homo sapiens has inhabited the Earth for only 200,000 years. So it is man who has encroached into the land of the animals, if we are to view evolution from that perspective. Then he built farms and cities, subdivisions and resorts. In doing so, he appropriated lands otherwise occupied by the animals, called himself “civilized” and called them “wild”.
So now we have “urban wildlife”, a term I consider to be an oxymoron. They are the frogs, geckos, lizards, birds, snakes, and other “untamed” animals that have made their homes in the urban setting. Why did they choose to live in our subdivisions or villages? Well, as Anna explained, they were already there before our subdivisions, villages and cities were built. Perhaps “displaced populations” is a more apt term. They, too, have a survival instinct so they go – or stay – where there is food, water, shelter and a place to breed – or privacy.  So many of these urban wildlife species make their homes in places where they can be hidden from man’s view, places where there is thick vegetation and abandoned structures, like parks, cemeteries, empty structures, abandoned cars, tall trees, rusty, neglected pipes, etc…  
“Humans are king” and “Technology will take care of everything” seem to be the motto of urban development from the day man first built settlements until now, Anna says.  Forest trees are razed to the ground to make way for subdivisions where houses are equipped with air conditioning units to make up for the cool air that seems to have disappeared with the trees. We live in comfort while we destroy the environment.

Many of these urban wildlife species are beneficial to man and environment.  Malotz recalled the bats that roosted in her mom’s place. While they are often hunted for their meat,  Anna pointed out that bats are an indicator species  - their presence indicates a healthy environment while their absence from a place where they should normally roost indicates an unhealthy environment. Plus everyone knows that fruit bats play a key role in an ecosystem – that of propagating the seeds of fruit trees.             

 As such, they are no longer just indicator species. They become keystone species.

Though we may not be aware of it, the animals in our midst have a vital role to fulfill in our “urban ecosystem”. Frogs eradicate mosquitoes and other insects, birds are both predator and prey and are also an indicator species. Animals, as Anna said, give us a sense of connectedness with the rest of life. They can help restore our lost connection to the natural world. They are also proof of a higher consciousness at work. And, as I said earlier, animals  enthrall us and make us laugh with their antics and unusual ways.


So what do we do with the wild animals in our midst? Compromise would be best, I guess. Be compassionate and know that this planet is not ours alone. We share the Earth with a myriad other species. We can build more cities but let’s take them into consideration too.

 Wildlife corridors or animal travel corridors can help the animals cross under a road and meet up with friends and family on the other side of a busy street, for instance.  And perhaps a little “planned neglect” can help too – why not allow shrubs and some weeds to grow in our empty lots so grass birds and other species can feed and make their home there. It won’t hurt you if the land is not occupied or being used anyway.