Life Lesson from a Masseuse and Her Cats in Raja Sulayman Park

Traveling masahista brings her pet cats with her.
Traveling masahista brings her pet cats with her (the feel belong to the masahista’s client).

I was waiting for a friend in the Rajah Sulayman Park outside the Malate Church, facing Manila Bay. It was a beautiful day, with clear skies and a soft breeze. It was a Saturday, so there were a lot of people sitting around or taking a stroll. When you’re in this little pocket of Manila, it’s easy to forget how dirty and congested it can be.

Off to the side, a traveling masahista (masseuse) was giving a customer a back rub. She had laid out a tarp with Korean words on it nearby, on which she placed her belongings, which included a bag, an umbrella, and a cat and two kittens. The three felines had makeshift collars around their necks, and were sleeping peacefully on the tarp. It was a poignant scene, even though the masahista seemed matter-of-fact about everything.

The thing about living in a third world country is that there is an unsaid but prevalent belief that the lower one’s income is, the less responsible/ loving he or she is towards pets. This is probably why pictures of a man saving puppies from a flood that’s reached the second floor of his yero (galvanized iron)-roofed house is touching, or, yes, why a masahista bringing her pet cats to the park is cute. This entry isn’t about that. I once heard a story about a liberated pit bull who spent two years (practically his whole life) in a tiny, dirty cage in a well-off household before he was liberated. Animal abuse or care depends on the person, not social class.

What makes the masahista and her cats adorable is the complete trust they have in each other. The masahista trusts her cats not to freak out or run away, and the cats trust their human not to abandon them. All four of them go about their routine (even if in the case of three of them, this involves napping), confident that when the day is over, they’ll all pack up and head home together. It’s a simple kind of love. One that needs no flowery words or grand gestures. And most of the time, it is also the most satisfying.

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