STRAY NO MORE

A cat and dog shel­ter in Morong, Rizal gives the aban­doned and abused a new lease on life

Northern Living - - FEATURE - TEXT ALYOSHA J. ROBILLOS PHO­TOG­RA­PHY JILSON TIU

“The sanc­tu­ary is al­ways awake,” MBY Pet Res­cue and Sanc­tu­ary founder and owner Marita BaquiranYa­suda says over the ca­coph­ony of al­most 600 dogs and cats, and the ran­dom cluck­ing of a few chick­ens roost­ing nearby.

Hid­den be­hind an in­dus­trial red gate that doesn’t al­low even a peek into the front yard, the sanc­tu­ary is easy to miss—if not for a small tar­pau­lin that reads: “Donate food. Spon­sor spay. Vol­un­teer.” You ac­tu­ally hear it be­fore any­thing else. Stay by the gate long enough and the bark­ing starts; once you’re in­side, it never seems to stop.

There is some­thing com­fort­ing in this chaos that is con­fined in a 1.8-hectare lot found along an un­marked road in Morong, Rizal. You feel it when a wag­ging tail brushes past your leg or a wet nose sud­denly sniffs your arm, or when a tiny, lithe body rubs against your feet, purring. For a few of th­ese four-legged friends, a lick is cus­tom­ary, but mostly you see hun­dreds of cu­ri­ous eyes watch­ing your ev­ery step.

“When I’m in Japan, I have a host of pre­scrip­tions. I have main­te­nance for high blood pres­sure and ane­mia. But when I'm here and I spend time with the an­i­mals, I don't take any medicine. I’m per­fectly healthy—stronger than a bull at 50,” BaquiranYa­suda ex­plains with a chuckle, her face tear-stained. She has just fin­ished re­call­ing the mo­ment she re­al­ized she couldn’t stop tak­ing in home­less dogs and cats. And as with any­thing that finds firm re­solve, her de­ci­sion to put up MBY sprung from con­flict. In this case, it was trig­gered by an­i­mal cru­elty.

“You’d be sur­prised by how there are a lot of peo­ple who are cruel to an­i­mals,” she notes, re­count­ing see­ing a group of girls at­tack a help­less cat strug­gling to pro­tect five new­born kit­tens.

But the roots of MBY go far­ther than this. It started in Japan, where Baquiran-Ya­suda still re­sides with her fam­ily. Her hus­band, who is Ja­panese, sud­denly im­posed upon her the re­spon­si­bil­ity of adopt­ing a cat in the hopes of solv­ing a grow­ing ro­dent prob­lem at

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