Wednesday, November 08, 2006


That is what we call her — Muning. She’s a stray cat, actually. We first took notice of her when as a kitten she stared furtively at us from the edge of the roof as we enjoyed an afternoon barbeque in the backyard. She was probably born or moved up on the roof from somewhere else by her mother. We never saw the rest of the litter, though; only her.

When she got big and agile enough, Muning started to come down from the roof to wander around the yard. Before we knew it, she had single-handedly gotten rid of those pesky rodents that once ran rampant in the yard. Earning her keep, she had become a member of the household and no longer had to look elsewhere for her daily meals.

Muning was heaven-sent. Although barely a year old and weighing no more than eight pounds the most, she certainly applies her predatory skills into good use. Rats are not fun to deal with. Not only do they pose health risks, they can also scare those with a faint heart. On a couple of occasions, balikbayan friends of my mother from New York were startled upon the sight of rats prancing around the yard in broad daylight. I had resorted to placing poisoned food around the yard, but it was only effective in the beginning. Those rats probably sensed soon enough the cause of death among their peers so they stopped consuming those foodstuffs that suddenly appeared in the yard much like an offering to the gods. Another option I had considered was to get a Jack Russell, but I was discouraged by the responsibility that comes with caring for a dog, especially after having one for seventeen years. And just when I was finally exasperated by it all, Muning came along.

To this day, we have no idea where she sleeps at night. However, she’s out there in the yard in the mornings — doing her rat patrol duty diligently. Later on, she could be found lounging somewhere shady — licking her paws or taking a nap. She would never go inside the house, though; always remaining outside. At night right after eating her dinner, she’s gone.

I am more of a dog-lover if you asked me, but I had a pet cat once that I adored. She was fat and cuddly. She instinctively knew the time I would come home from school (I was in first grade then) and would always be sitting by our door to meet me when I arrived. Unfortunately, she got ran over by a cab. My father later got another one; supposedly from a lineage imported from Texas. Her colors were similar to Muning’s. However, she was a real bitch. She hated everyone in the household, except for my father. If ever I got within three feet near her, she would hiss and expose her sharp teeth and claws at me. Remember the old wives’ tale that it would rain if you wet a cat? Well, not true at all. I used to douse this Texan with a glass of water in the mornings when I didn’t feel like going to school. It never rained afterwards.

She would also disappear for weeks on end and return pregnant. In less than a few days, underneath our stove would be filled with crying kittens. We never once had to put any of them in a sack to throw out in the garbage like others did. Her kittens, I must admit, were always very cute and so had many takers. But I didn’t want to keep any of her offspring; certain it would only grow up nasty like her. However, when I was in the fourth grade, she had a kitten that appeared sickly and had a crooked tail; it was ugly. He was definitely the runt of the litter. However, I told my father not to give him away. With my aunt’s help I learned how to feed him milk with a plastic syringe (without that nasty needle). Eventually, he grew up healthy and strong, though he still had that crooked tail.

I loved it most when he brushed his warm and soft fur against my leg whenever I was doing my homework or eating my meals. He loved it when I’d squeeze him with my bare feet while he grappled to break free. Once free, he’d come back and egg me on again by ramming his head against my ankle. He never bit or scratched me during our play.

Incidentally, going back to rodent control, I was once told that if all else failed, that I should consider letting loose a python in the household. I thought the guy was being sarcastic if not outright obnoxious for making such recommendation. However, as it turned out, it was, indeed, common practice in Manila to buy a snake in Arranque Market in Azcarraga and then put it up in the ceiling.

There was once an American schoolteacher, Josephine Craig, who chronicled domestic life in Manila in 1904 before she proceeded to her final destination in Mindoro. She claimed that for rats, some local folks believed a snake in the ceiling proved more efficient that household cats. She wrote:

Well, we have a perfectly good snake of the python variety living in our roof! The ceiling of the living room is made of sawali, that matting-like material which covers boxes of tea from China. Evenings I hear a slithering sound overhead and the sawali bulges down under the weight of the snake’s body; then there is the squealing of rats as he pounces, and all grows quiet again while the snake digests his meal. I asked Austin if there we re any danger of his coming down to make our acquaintance, but he thinks not so long as the supply of rats remains plentiful.

Personally, I’d rather have Muning on rat patrol out in the yard than have a huge python crawling up in my ceiling. The last thing I wanted to happen is for my ceiling to give under the weight of a python, and have it land on my face as I sleep at night. No, thank you!

Impressions of an American Schoolteacher
Bonifacio’s Bolo by Ambeth Ocampo
Anvil Publishing

Muning - Nikon D80
Bahay na bato in Luneta – Canon IXUS63

posted by Señor Enrique at 11:04 AM


Anonymous Anonymous said...

senor enrique,

for rodent control, i'd choose muning over the sawa. cats are easier to take care of...they're so independent.
for a small breed dog, i'd like to have a boston terrier for a change.



November 08, 2006 1:10 PM  

Blogger RAV Jr said...

Im a dog lover and i hate cat...nah, not really...i just prefer dogs for a pet =)

But to choose between a cat and a snake!!!!! - yep, anything but snake...

Thanks for visiting my blog, I was really honored =)

I got addicted to your writings, i tried reading your posts from the start, i guess that has prompted you to visit my blog as my link is scrawlled all over your site, you should see your site meter =)

Im not done reading your previous posts..hehe...


November 08, 2006 1:24 PM  

Blogger Sidney said...

I am not a cat lover... I like dogs but don't like to care for them. A snake is out of question. Maybe I am a rat lover? ;-)

November 08, 2006 7:25 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not exactly a cat lover 'cause I prefer dogs. Sounds really mean but I had a bad experience with cats; hence the reason why. Plus, I love dogs more ...

Well, having Muning is definitely better than a phyton. Man, I would not want to imagine it falling down on your face while sleeping. That sounds really scary! Eek.

The part where you said you used to the douse the Texan with a cup of water is so funny. Really!

November 08, 2006 7:41 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In our place, where sewer rats (daga sa kanal) easily outgrow any regular stray house cats, I'd go for pythons as rodent control. hehehe

Besides, we would always be told by our father to round up the new born cats whenever they reproduce like rabbits during the summer. It's cat hunting season of some sort.

November 08, 2006 9:36 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm not a cat lover myself. but i do remember there was once a cat whom we fed out of pity. and the three times we gave that cat food, every morning we were greeted by a dead rat on out front door. seems like its way of thanking us. :-)

November 09, 2006 5:08 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I'm not too fond of reptiles, DP. That's why Muning is highly appreciated :)

I had a 17-pound Cocker Spaniel whom I treated more like a child than a dog, and I don't think I'm ready for another one. The responsibility was too much! Jack Russells are supposedly excellent rat terminators.

My pleasure, DOPS ... and thanks much again!

I actually visit regular and new blog friends on a daily basis, but since Manilenyo, I am without a landline and lost my Internet access in the process. I have to contend with Internet shops and sometimes I get thrown out before completing my bloghopping.

I will visit Skycable since I was informed that cable online access is now available in my area. I should be able to go back to my regular bloghopping once I get that.

No, Sidney. I doubt if you're a rat lover ... hehehe.

Those black and white pics of yours are outstanding! Love 'em!

I had a friend whose cat went mad on her, Kyels, and she had to put her to sleep. It was a harrowing experience to have a pet turn against you and attack like crazy.

Yup...I couldn't stand that Texan, and I got even more incensed when it didn't rain after I doused her.

I've seen humongous rats in New York, Jhay. They were horrible...hehehe. But a python would be too much to have around the house, though.

I think that is indeed how they show their appreciation, Carla -- or in Muning's case, justifies her getting free food.

But like Jhay said, most of these sewer rats have a tendency to intrude inside houses. Having a cat is helpful.

November 09, 2006 12:48 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Eric... I'm not too busy now so I thought of resuming my halted 'stalking' of your site.. hehe.

Anyway, malapit na ako matapos dito, nasa November archives na ako. LOL!

This entry reminds me of two things: first, my mother's 15 cats! She doesn't have them anymore now however. She retired from 'cat sitting' about five years ago. But I remember that whenever she fed them - they would scramble for the food - all of them at the same time, minsan nagaaway pa! What mess!

Second, the 4 1/2 meter python that we found in one of our poultry houses one night - preying on our chickens! But they had to kill it, because no one of the men in our neighborhood knew how to catch it live. They feasted on the meat though and someone kept its bile which is said to be medicinal. I shiver at the thought of the python, kasi, paano kung wala yung backyard poultry namin? Di namin alam, baka nasa bahay na, sa gitna ng pagtulog namin, at isa na sa amin ang kinain niya!

February 05, 2007 5:38 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Hi Rhoda! From what I was told, snakes rarel venture anywhere whre there's a cat that lives nearby. Supposedly, cats are too quick and agile for snakes and can cause them great harm.

My aunt had a poultry farm in Subic, too, which often attracted pythons. Yuck!

February 05, 2007 6:59 PM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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