FRAIL in her small frame, Rebecca Perez held out a green dipper to passersby while she sat on the sidewalk of Colon St. in Cebu City on a sunny Thursday morning.
She did not utter a word to them. Her silence and untidy yellow shirt spoke loudly for her.
There were persons who gave their loose change, while others avoided looking at her.
Some stared at Perez and her family of five dogs—one adult and four puppies. She left her four other puppies on the pavement of Barangay San Nicolas, where she is staying for a few days.
Perez cannot fit all her pets in a baby stroller, which she bought for P100 from a junk shop. The 39-year-old itinerant said she is expecting her canine family to grow.
“Kon hatagan kog itoy, ako pong dawaton (If anyone gives me a puppy, I’d accept it),” she said. One of Perez’s pets is the white-haired Jennifer, the only dog that has a human name.
“Kini si (This is ) Baby,” she said, touching one of the puppies. She later placed her hand on another puppy, “Kini Baby ra pod akong tawag niya (I call this one Baby, too).”
Touching two brown puppies, she said, “Kining duha kay kaluha, Baby ra pod ilang mga ngan (These are twins and I call them Baby as well).” A kitten slept inside her bag. Perez did not give it a name. Perez said several strangers laughed at her for raising dogs, but there were others who felt sorry for her. Sometimes well-meaning folks would hand her dog food, said Perez, who often begs for leftovers from eateries, as she cannot afford to buy food for her pets.
After her parents died, she said, her stepbrother’s family did not allow her to live with them, saying they believed she has a mental illness.
“Nabuang daw ko, wala man ko mabuang. Kasabot man ko estoryahan (They said I am mentally ill) ” she said. The wife was scared of her, she recalled.
Perez wrote her complete name on a sheet paper, showing she has not drifted outside of reality. She knew last Thursday was a national holiday, Bonifacio Day. She did not insist on living with her stepbrother, because she was unwanted.
After becoming homeless, she started taking care of stray dogs. She took shelter near a river in Barangay Calamba until a tragedy forced her to leave the place—a flood drowned her first two dogs.
Perez does not know if her human kin will accept her back and her pets in the future, but she had one objective in mind in the past days: save money so she can buy a pushcart, which can fit Jennifer and the Babies.