Animals ng bayan
After 15 man years, Marga has died.
Marga is a mongrel whose happy grounds were the campus of the University of the Philippines (UP) in Lahug, Cebu City.
Members of the UP Cebu community led by the mga iskolar ng bayan (scholars of the nation) had been hoping that Marga would survive Ehrlichia, the tick-borne disease that lowered her blood count in the last days of her life.
A donation drive was launched by her caretaker, Rebecca Bayawa, our school’s head of human resources for Marga’s hospitalization and medicine.
Alas, Marga did not make it.
Why was Marga important to UP Cebu?
Alumna Danielle Balanga has posted a collection of pictures of the dog on her Facebook page.
“Marga, we’ll miss you,” she wrote. “Fifteeen years you’ve been both guard and comfort for students, loved by faculty and staff and adored by many.”
There is a picture of Marga on the lawn, resting during a midterm examinations period, when she would “let stressed students pet her occasionally.”
In another photo, Marga greeted freshmen applying for student loans in the American-era administration building.
There was brown Marga in yet another photo, trotting up the catwalk on graduation day.
Especially in her younger days, Marga was an extremely friendly dog.
In his farewell message, Justine Raphael Luis Balane, alumnus and former student council chair wrote: “Bye, Marga. We will miss rubbing your belly.”
“If I passed by an acquaintance at school, I’d look away because I felt awkward saying ‘Hi,’” wrote student Threyna Diaz. “But every time I saw you,
I’d shriek ‘Marga!’ and try to chase you. You brought with you a comfortable, happy presence. Rest now, doggo. You helped a lot of people.”
“Your pawprint is embedded deep in our hearts,” wrote alumna Erica Jean Palmera. “Run free, Marga.”
“Thanks for making college life brighter,” wrote Kershey Reign Dueñas. “On you go to the other side of the road; we’ll guard you all the way.”
Marga had her moment of fame when images of her crossing the road with the assistance of school security staff went viral on the internet. That was not the only time Marga drew assistance in crossing the road.
One afternoon late last year, the artist and psychologist Victor Emmanuel Nadera, then our resource speaker in a workshop on poetry as healing had played traffic cop to let her run safe across the pedestrian crossing on busy Gorordo Avenue.
“This is the UPCAT (UP College Admission Test) when Meloi is playing with Marga. Take care, you two,” wrote Romeo Nicolas Bonsocan. Meloi is the campus cat who predeceased Marga.
In an article published on Modern Psychological Studies in 2017, researchers Trenton Adams, Catherine Clark, Victoria Crowell, Kolleen Duffy,
Margaret Green, Selena McEwen, Allison Wrape, and Frank Hammonds of Troy University wrote: “Research suggests that animals may play an important role in some forms of treatment for conditions such as anxiety, stress, and depression. A recent trend on college campuses is to offer opportunities to interact with dogs and other animals as a way to relieve stress and help individuals deal with other psychological issues.”
Before I left for graduate studies in Denmark and Germany back in 2014, my close friends at the university secretly produced a despedida or farewell video to surprise me with. The last scene was that of the dog Marga, with Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” playing in the background.
Just last month, as the nation celebrated National Mental Health Week, the UP Center for Women’s and Gender Studies in Diliman organized “EmPAWerment: Recognizing the Relevance of Pets to Women’s Mental Health.” States a report on the center’s website: “Pets with their owners,
animal lovers, and those who simply want to spend some time with the animals attended the event.”
Animals keep us human. The etymology of the world animal is telling. It returns us to the concept of the soul. To be animal in the etymological sense of the word is to be someone with an anima, a soul, with an essence beyond mere matter and physique.
Our pets, by their mere existence that invite us to simple, precious things like play, gentleness, and care remind us of the things that make us human, etymologically people of earth, of humus.
We at UP Cebu were fortunate to have had Marga and Meloi and the animals that have gone before them. Today, we still have an orange tabby known as Walter who haunts the corridors, classrooms and office of the College of Communication, Art, and Design. He keeps us balanced as persons who profess the humanities should be.
My students Aaron Laguna, Janita Regalado, and Crea Ocdenaria are writing a thesis on local print media coverage of animal abuse stories. I hope their work enlightens our communities about the importance of taking care of animals. Meloi, Marga, Walter and other animals ng bayan in UP will be honored.
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