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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Lessons from dogs and the Liloan lighthouse

Inspired by a required material for a reading report entitled “Grace Saves the Crew,” my infatuation for lighthouses has continually tailed me like a shadow, and that the desire to become a parola in the next life hasn’t at all waned.
Shipwrecked 10-year-old Grace assured her companions on a lifeboat that hope is near with the flicker of light from the parola – the lighthouse standing sturdy against the storm and dark mantles of cloud on a bay point. Grace imbibed that wisdom from her grandfather who had been lighthouse keeper for most of his life.
It had been ages since I happened to flip the pages of that reading material, but for every time I am asked how would I like to be in the next life or if I’m zapped or petrified to transform into an object of use, ermm…great use, the answer would always be to become a lighthouse, an awesome structure that serves as refuge when in face with the turbulent waves of life and sorrow at the extreme.
On the last ten remaining hours of 2005, I was with my mountaineering team – my small peer group – but we weren’t literally on a climb. We were there salivating at the opportunity to be able to reach atop the Liloan lighthouse which today stands as a living testimony to American engineering and architecture of 1904.
The group decided to gather at the foot of the parola to appreciate how “astig” (play-up of “tigas” which means “tough”) it has become through the ages. The other reason why we decided to travel 18 kilometers out of Cebu City was to get upclose with the parola for fear that with the ongoing development of a high-end residential subdivision there in barangay Catarman, set to become the 24th seaside lighthouse community in the world and the first in the country, we might one day lose access to this lighthouse, and would only savor her beauty gained through ages and purpose either on postcards or aboard a marine vessel standing on bay waters.
As we were huddled on a small tarpauline spread for a sit-upon, we shared a serving of some “doggy stories” with the ushering in of 2006 deemed Year of the Metal Dog based on Chinese lunar calendar.
With the sky momentarily lightened up by the colors of flares and fireworks that some had already indulged in ahead of the midnight bang, the mention of dogs created vivid recollections of those beautiful dogs in stories which were once introduced in my reading and writing classes.
There’s the dog who lost his way, but couldn’t quit forget how his master smelled, and has returned home in most amazing manner in Anton Chekhov’s Kashtanka. Then there’s White Fang (who was actually a wolf-dog) – the canine that starred in Jack London’s literary masterpiece on adventures in the frozen wastes of the Yukon territory.
Another story, The City of Pompeii, retold the life of Tito and his loyal dog buried alive in molten lava spewed by furious Mt. Vesuvius. Early excavation teams unearthed remains of a dog with teeth sunk onto a loaf of bread believed it had scavenged from a bakeshop hours before the eruption to feed to a starving master. The dog was believed to have belonged to an orphaned street kid Tito.
Though most of us would rather raise a brow or shrug a shoulder to superstitions on the lucks and jinxes the dog might bring to our lives, I do bank on the characteristics of dogs to influence, in some way, our decision-making powers and our priorities this year.
For one, a dog’s loyalty amazes most of us. The dog is said to be man’s best friend, however the line may sound overused today. It has been proven in time that a dog is a loyal companion and a reliable help in times of danger.
Dogs, classified by zoologists under Canis familiaris, are among the first animals domesticated by man about 2,000 years ago. They herded sheep and cattle, and protected them from wild animals. Such dogs became known as sheep dogs and cattle dogs.
Dogs are grouped into classes. Working dogs like the Doberman, the Great Dane and the St. Bernard are raised to do tasks like herding sheep and cattle, protecting and watching over lives and properties, guiding the blind or pulling sleds, and other heavy objects.
Sporting dogs such as the Golden Retriever, the Pointer and the Field Spaniel are those used for hunting birds. They bring back the birds or animals that their masters shoot or hunt for as a sport.
Toydogs and lapdogs like the Pomeranian and the Chihuahua are petted like toy dolls.
Above all, the enormous power of a dog’s senses, especially those of smell and hearing, can be utilized efficiently for crime prevention, crowd control, tracking, and drug detection.
While I was there with back flat on the tarp, stretched below the parola, I was playing at the thought that maybe if the leaders of both the church and the country do learn from the characteristics and purpose of both lighthouse and dog, we would have hope in the light that flickers whenever events involving our faith and us as a people threaten inner and social peace, and our loyalty we can always give like a dog that wags its tail in thanks to a master who feeds it no better than morsels.

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ADDY.BUDDY. “I love to eat all of those (referring to “Of Timbura, Chikinini and Boy Bawang” – January 2 issue). I like your column…well said very well said….HNY2U. !!! best wishes and more power to you…” – pepe <
PPoculan@aboitiz.com> Jan. 2- 13:14:11