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Archive for April, 2011

‘Malulungkot rin naman ako dun…’ James said over our dinner last night.
‘Eh bakit ka pa aalis?’ I asked the question which baffled me since learning of his decision.
‘For our future.’

It was in 2008 when James and I decided to explore opportunities abroad. Most of our seniors were working either in one of the tax haven islands or in the Middle East. James and I agreed that what we were looking for was for us to work in one city, even if for different companies, as long as we would still be together. I received offers in a city he did not receive any from. It happened the other way when he received an offer to work without me. We both declined.

Years have passed and we have both grown older. Our needs and those of our families have significantly increased. Back when we were still in college, we dreamed of retiring in a farm where it would be easy for old people to relax and enjoy the fruits of our hardwork.

At our age today, we still do not own a house, a car, a significant investment that would ensure our dream. During the last quarter of 2010, there were opportunities to join our friend in a tax haven island for a challenging position with remuneration impossible to command in Manila. He was the first one to receive an offer and we decided, as mature individuals, that it is high time for us to be serious in our dreams. But I was not lucky enough to receive an offer yet.

James and I have shared more than ten years of friendship and almost a decade of partnership. There was no major event in each other’s lives without the other. The longest time we have not been with each other was during school vacation which lasted two months tops without cellphone or Skype.

He signed a two-year contract and plans to save enough money for an investment in the Philippines which means no vacation within the first year, or even within the entire contract period. We had several months to discuss the details, the arrangements of bills, phone subscription and Skype access.

But I know, despite all the planning, this is our biggest challenge ever. We have been living our lives, scheduling our time, allotting our resources, with the other person in high consideration. How can we then adjust to this change? Who will come with me to see the latest movies or admonish me for my extravagant spending? Or to clap his hands whenever I tell my latest success story or to raise his eyebrows for my blatant lack of religiousness?

I am afraid to live each day until I get to fly and work with him or until he goes home. I am afraid I will not be strong enough. I am afraid he would soon forget me (a lot had).

But I know, believe, our love will see us through. We have been to the darkest days and emerged together, stronger. This is just another chapter in our lives that we intend not to be the last.

‘For our future’ he said. The operative word is ‘our’.

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The first time I have been to a zoo was when I was seven years old. It was Manila Zoo and there were still lots of animals there at that time – rhinos, giraffes, hippos, antelopes of all shapes and sizes, and tons more. I went back two years ago with James and it was a pitiful site. Half of the cages were covered in feces, the animals, or whatever’s left of the number of species exhibited, were thin and sickly. The smell was intolerable. We went home sad after the experience.

Now that I am on vacation leave, James and I took the opportunity to go to the Avilon Zoo in Montalban, Rizal, with my oldest nephew, Vien. From our place in Cainta, we went to Sta Lucia East Mall for there is an FX terminal bound for Montalban. For P40, we snaked through the streets of Marikina, San Mateo and then Rodrigiuez to what seemed like a day’s travel to such unknown lands. At last we reached the landmark gas station, rode a tricycle to the zoo along a very rocky path.

The fee was P300 for adults and P200 for kids and a tour guide for P400. We no longer took a guide so we had a lunch first (yes, we went there during high noon, under the glaring sun of Rizal!) and saw three arapaimas in the large pond. Armed with Off lotion slathered on our skin, bottles of cold water and lots of face towels, we went inside the zoo to look at the animals.

We first saw the numerous geese, swans and ducks and then the pet animals and then the farm animals. The Martha-wannabe in me dreams of having my own farm taking care of silver pheasants, golden pheasants, peafowls and swans! Then we went to the arid habitat section where we saw the small fennec foxes and snobbish caracal. It was a bad timing for us for certainly these animals are taking cover from the midday sun. Then we went to see the flightless birds section where I saw ostriches and learned that there are several types of cassowary!

Off we went to the bigger mammals section where a hippo was resting under a bridge, wallabies (cousins of the kangaroos) were resting in the shade, a tree kangaroo was on a branch, small deer were grouped together, probably gossiping among themselves the arrival of a cute guy like me!

Me, my nephew and the warty pigs!

Then we went to see the big cats but before that we saw an opportunity to feed the arapaimas with chicken heads for only P20! We took the challenge and I panicked when I saw how it was like to have more than ten arapaimas jumping out of the water to get to the food! I forgot that these fish jump out of the Amazon River to catch birds and small monkeys in the canopies when the river overflows. Then we saw, or rather awakened, a lion, saw Bengal Red and White Tigers, Puma or Cougar, Clouded Leopard and a Malaysian Sun Bear. I know he is a bit out of place but do you know that Sun Bears are victimized by the traditional Chinese medicine trade which considers their bile medicinal? The poachers attach plastic tubes to the bear’s insides to draw out the bile while the bear is still living! Efforts are being made to stop this heinous crime to animals!

Elegance!

Then we went to see the small and big primates : lorises, marmosets, macaques (there is a white one who was alone in the cage who masturbated in front of us – oh, what sadness can do to one’s sanity!) and orang-utans! The big primate spat at the noisy onlookers and they all laughed. I wanted to tell them that the reason he spat was because he was irritated of them! So move on!

The naughty white guy!

Then off we go to the reptiles: numerous crocodiles, alligators and gharials. Gharials are smaller crocodilians with elongated snout perfect for hunting fish and small invertebrates. They are not known to attack humans but they fall prey to habitat destruction.

Next stop were the birds! Well, you know how I love big birds with beautiful behinds (and you know what I mean *wink*) and the exhibit did not disappoint me, from the ultra colorful peacocks to the lesser colored finches, to the noisy sun conures to the laughing thrushes, from the big-beaked hornbills to the scary falcons.

Can't wait to get my hands on that ass!

There was a never a pungent smell of feces in the air and we saw a lot of zoo staff cleaning cages, changing the food bowls, hosing down plants and showering the birds with water. There are also satellite snack bars inside the zoo perfect for sudden thirst. I particularly like the benches in front of the birds’ cages inviting the patrons to sit down and listen to songs of nature. The restrooms, available around the property, were also clean.

Soon the tour was over; we got home, took a quick shower (for Tessa and Sam would soon become too curious with all the animal smell we took home) and simply were very happy with our latest zoo trip!

Now, that monkey got me thinking of my family tree!

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Wanna fox?

I am not referring to the candy but to the small canid with thick fur and bushy tail that is a character in Dora the Explorer.

Foxes belong to the Canidae family, with wolves, coyotes and our domestic dogs belonging to the same family. These are omnivorous animals – preying on both meat and plant matter. Fox habitat ranges as extreme as deserts (Arctic Fox in the northern ice lands and South American Gray Fox in the dry Atacama desert and some, like the Red Fox have been seen looking for food within the outskirts of human settlements). Foxes are cunning creatures, relying on their acute sense of smell and sight to hunt down prey and escape bigger predators.

However, some foxes have not been cunning enough to maintain number population with the greatest threat to any species’ survival – humans. The fur trade of the early last century saw the decline in the number of foxes such as Arctic and Red Foxes valued for their thick fur. The pest control of the prairies in the 1800s which targeted coyotes and squirrels actually decimated large population of foxes. Hunting with dogs was also rampant in the old days. Hunting foxes with dogs in England is now prohibited but one can still hunt with other means.

Arctic Fox

But one of the greatest breakthroughs of modern times may actually save the fox from obliteration. Sometime in the 1950s, Dr. Dmitri Belyaev was approached by one fur farm in Estonia to help breed a tamer fox. Dr. Belyaev started choosing only the tamest of the then-wild foxes for breeding. After 35 generations, Dr Belyaev and his team were able to domesticate one wild animal in modern times – the domesticated Russian Silver Fox.

They, however, were surprised to see changes other than the behavior of tamed foxes – fur color, tail length and barking. Foxes are prized for their stunning solid coloration but tamed foxes resulted to other color patterns – dotted like that of a Dalmatian, mixed like that of a Shih-tzu and white striped just like that of a Papillon. The ears also started drooping like a common domesticated dog. The tail was also irregular – some were curled like that of a Siberian Husky, others were still straight like the wild fox. They also started barking like our dogs!

 

tamed fox behaving like a cat

The culprit in these changes was identified as the adrenalin – the hormone that gives the animal its fight or flight response. This is the same hormone that allows us supernatural strength during emergencies. Since the tamed foxes no longer see any threat in humans and other animals, its adrenalin level dropped giving way to other hormonal levels. The different hormonal chemistry led to the physical changes and scientists are now confident that this may be the reason on why we have different breeds of dogs so much different from its ancestor, the wolf.

Now, one can order domesticated silver foxes from Sibfox, a private company in Las Vegas, Nevada, a distributor of silver foxes from its farm in Novosibirsk, Russia under the Institute of Cytology and Genetics. Sibfox only serves one location – the United States and one can own a tamed fox for almost US$7,000.

So since these tamed foxes are used to the cold regions and would not fare well in tropical Manila, plus the very expensive cost of owning one, I think I should wish for something to take care of that I can easily afford, a Papillon. I can be contented being called foxy!

 

*special thanks to National Geographic and Pics-site.com for the pictures

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