There were nearly 300 of them—pet dogs of residents of Makati City and nearby areas. They had come to attend a “despedida” (sendoff) party thrown on Sunday by the city veterinary office and the Animal Welfare Coalition.
The honoree was Kabang, Zamboanga’s 2-year-old hero dog.
A female aspin (asong Pinoy) that lost the upper portion of her snout to save two girls from being run over by a speeding motorcycle, Kabang is leaving for the United States Monday for “a much-needed” facial reconstruction surgery.
“It was both a despedida and a blessing for Kabang. Tomorrow (Monday), a motorcade will send her off to the airport,” Dr. Van Joe Ibay, executive director of the welfare coalition, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
Ibay said it was Filipino tradition to bless someone setting off on a voyage. “In Kabang’s case, we are praying for her safe journey and her successful operation and recovery in the US,” he said.
Like a VIP
Kabang’s special day coincided with the observance of World Animal Day and World Rabies Day, an annual event where the Makati City government through its Veterinary Services Office lines up activities for pets and pet lovers.
Like a true VIP, Kabang left immediately after the 7 a.m. Mass officiated by a priest and attended by the 300 pets and their owners.
Kabang’s veterinarians said the heroic dog could not stay longer at the party because she might catch various illnesses. The dog had been in the city for a month for a stem cell treatment at the Makati veterinary clinic to boost her immune system before her flight to America.
Vivien Manalastas, head of Makati’s veterinary office, said her office organized Sunday’s event because “we recognize the heroic acts of pets like Kabang, which displayed loyalty to her masters when she saved their lives.”
“Bantay,” also a dog and the veterinary office’s official mascot for the animal welfare campaign, graced the event.
“Bantay accompanied Kabang, his BFF (Best Friend Forever),” Manalastas said in jest.
Kabang—touted as the Philippines’ Hachiko—became popular after the media published the story of how she saved two girls from being hit by a motorcycle in Zamboanga City in December last year.
In saving the two girls, Kabang suffered injuries that disfigured her face.
Hachiko was a faithful dog in Japan that continued waiting for his master at a train station every day for nine years even if the master had already died.
Since the December accident, a group of veterinarians and animal welfare advocates, called Team Kabang, has been supporting the Filipino dog.
The group asked for financial help to fund the dog’s facial surgery at Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital in the University of California Davis.
Ibay said the special surgery, which requires expertise and equipment not available in the Philippines, would close the wound of Kabang and even prolong her life.
“Kabang will be treated by foreign veterinarians. Our resident veterinarians, Dr. Anton Lin and Dr. Edgardo Unson, will observe the medical procedure so that in the future, the surgery can also be done here,” Ibay said.
He said public support for Kabang had been overwhelming. Donations kept pouring in.
“The donations have exceeded both our target and the surgical cost, which is $20,000,” Ibay said, adding that the excess amount would be used for the dog’s recovery and adaptation.
Kabang’s travel and that of the accompanying veterinarians to the United States will be shouldered by Philippine Airlines.
The team helping Kabang also tried to raise money for Rudy Bunggal, Kabang’s master, so he could go with his dog to the United States. But Ibay said Bunggal and his wife had no identification papers, like birth certificates, which they needed to secure their passports and US visas.
In an earlier interview, the veterinarians said that months after the accident, Kabang showed them a “fighting spirit”
“For a pet that has gone through so much, he has no fear and anger,” Unson said.
Kabang’s story has tugged at the heartstrings of animal lovers in and out of the Philippines.
“If Japan has Hachiko, we have Kabang,” said Mona Consunji, external affairs coordinator of the Animal Welfare Coalition.