, June 17, 2024

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Loving Life More (Thanks to my Pets)

  •   6 min reads
Loving Life More (Thanks to my Pets)
by Yumi Burgos

I love animals. Any kind of animal. Sometimes, even the scary-looking ones and the mythical creatures in the stories that Mama read to me every night when I was still very young. I so wanted a unicorn of my own or a real horse, at least, just like Spirit (of the Cimmaron Herd) or Seabiscuit.

Yumi was 10 years old when she and her mom adopted Milky from Save ALL- Save Animals of Love and Light, a SEC-registered animal welfare group. Tis was taken by Mariana Burgos when Yumi got home from school.

I have always wanted a pet of my own ever since I can remember. More so when I saw my cousins having their own dogs and hamsters and birds. Then, I remember Mama showing me a big bird with a big orange beak and colorful feathers. I think, Tati (my father) was also there then. They told me the bird’s name was Julius and it was “our” bird and that I had to help take care of him. We would usually cut tomatoes in little pieces and Mama would raise me up to reach Julius so I could give him the tomatoes. Julius would pick up the pieces of tomatoes I had in my hand with his large orange beak and eat them. Mama told me later on when I got older that Julius was a kalaw. A kalaw is a wild kind of bird that you only get to see in jungles. They told me it was Tati who brought Julius and it was his surprise for me. Mama told me later that it was a friend’s gift for Tati and, originally, the gift was supposed to be a monkey. But Mama told Tati that a monkey would be a little too hard to manage while I was still a toddler. She also told Tati that I really wanted a horse badly. Tati told her that he would ask another friend who owns a lot of horses for that. But that never happened because Tati was abducted. I was only two and a half years old then. Three days after Tati was forcibly taken, Mama told me Julius suddenly died. Old people say that a pet usually save the life of their owner by offering his/her own life to God. This is one of the things I try to remember always. This is why I believe my Tati is still alive. Julius offered his life for him…

The next time I remembered asking Mama for a pet was when I was 5 or 6 years old, I think. I kept asking her and she kept telling me that I was not old enough to take care of an animal myself. She kept telling me that “…pets are not things or properties like toys that you would acquire and you can just leave lying around, not bothering to think if it is hungry or if it is comfortable enough or if it is happy with its life with you.”

She often tells me that she was raised to see pets as not pets but as family members. They are living creatures just like myself and that meant that I would need to give them the same things that I need for them to be healthy and happy just like me.

Whisky, one of Yumi’s cats (Photo by Mariana Burgos)

When I was six years old, I was finally allowed to have a pet. One Sunday, when we went to hear Holy Mass, I saw little chicks of different colors as well as little colorful birds being sold just outside the church. I asked Mama if we could get one. Mama did not want to. She said those chicks and those birds are sold that way because they are not healthy enough anymore to survive and that they will all die soon. She also said she hated those vendors for making a business out of it because they are teaching little children the very opposite that children should learn about God’s animals. She told me “birds are not meant to be caged” and said that my Lolo, Tati’s dad, shared the same sentiment.

Then she told me of what Lolo did one time, a long time ago when he was still alive. She told me Lolo, while driving along a highway in one of his many trips, saw a vendor selling many kinds of birds. He pulled over and went near the vendor and asked how much the birds were. The vendor gave Lolo a price for a single bird. He could not believe it when Lolo asked how much he selling ALL the birds. Lolo bought all the birds. The vendor was so shocked he was able to sell all the birds at one go. But he was more surprised when Lolo opened all the cages and freed all the birds. That was my Lolo, Jose Burgos, Jr.

Mama said if she had a lot of money to spare, she would do the same thing every time she would see a vendor of chicks and birds. And then, it suddenly came to me. I told her, “why not we save what we can for now? We can save at least one chick.” She gave me a little laugh and said that I was a clever one. And that was when I had “Kirby“.

Kirby was a green colored chick. Mama was a little afraid he would not survive long but she told me we would do our best to make him feel safe and happy as long as we could. Mama said that chicks like Kirby need their mother’s warmth until they get to grow their feathers. She said Kirby needed to be incubated then. So we took a box and put a light bulb on top. We would turn on the light bulb each night when Kirby slept.

Yumi’s dog, Coco, loves playing with cats. In this photo, Coco is playing with Minx. (Photo by Mariana Burgos)

During the day, we let him roam around a little and play under the early morning sun. To our surprise, after almost a month, he grew up into a young chicken Unfortunately, when we came home from school one afternoon, our helper, Tatay Jet, told me that Kirby suddenly died because of the heat. I felt like my heart dropped when I heard this. Mama comforted me by saying we did our best.

After a few weeks, on another Sunday, we saw the same vendor. I begged Mama if we could get another chick. She told me she does not want me to get hurt again with another loss like what I experienced Kirby. I kept begging her still. Finally, she agreed with a bird and not with a chick. She told me that we would have to set it free as soon as we got home at the farm. I agreed but I so wished I could keep her for a while. I named the bird Kirby II. When we got back at the farm, we did set the bird free. While doing so, I was trying real hard not to let my tears fall as I let go of Kirby II. I knew she was not really mine to keep anyway. Mama tells me she belongs to the heavens.

After Kirby II, I felt like I never wanted to have another pet. But that feeling did not last. To be continued.

About the author: Yumi Burgos is the only child of Mariana and Jonas Burgos. Now 17 years old, she is an artist who has won a number of national and international art competitions. She is an active advocate of both human rights and animal rights. She plans to take up Veterinary Medicine in college which is two years from now.

This article also appears in the Manila Standard

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