Modern Living

Let’s PAWS for Nita Lichauco

DOG DAZE - Kathy Moran -

In my lifetime, there are only a few people who I havecome to truly admire. And I dream that one day, I, too,may be as devoted, caring and loving as they are.

When it comes to animal-love, there is only one womanwho has been at the forefront of fighting for what shebelieves in, with a passion that cannot be surpassedby anyone I have known. She is Philippine AnimalWelfare Society (PAWS) president Nita Lichauco, orTata, as she is fondly called by those who know andwork with her.

It must have been in the mid ’90s that I first metNita. It was an assignment given to me by a formereditor in another paper that I worked for at the time.

I recall that we wanted to feature something aboutanimals, and at every turn I made, the name NitaLichauco came up.

“I love all animals,” Nita said to me during thatinterview. “Many people think it is strange, but Iknow that it is true.”

It was admiration at first meeting.

Nita continues to serve as an inspiration for me as Icover events in the Petlife section for The PhilippineSTAR. It is always a joy meeting her at pet events because she is so full of love, not just for thepeople who work with her for the same cause, but moreso for every animal she meets at these events.

When our Lifestyle editor Millet Mananquil told usthat we would start a Petlife section a few years back,it was one very happy occasion. It meant that I could do something that I truly loved — write about pets.

The Petlife section years have been very rewarding forthose of us in the Lifestyle section who love pets,and I have been one happy pet lover.

The best part of  my job at Petlife is meeting petsand humans who love, and are in love with, their petcompanions. Moreso, the time I get to spend with Nita and PAWS has been more than rewarding.

Nita recently celebrated her birthday and PAWS madesure that it would be one for the books. Believe me,there is no animal advocate in this country whodeserves it more.

At the recent “Dine With PAWS” charity dinner, atribute was held in Nita’s honor. Rich Ilustre, theever-creative TV director and PAWS volunteer, and AnnaCabrera, PAWS program director, put together a video-tribute for Nita.

Here’s an excerpt from the tribute:

Ma. Teresita Pardo Lichauco was born in Capiz and is the eighth of 10 children. At a very young age, Nitaalready displayed a strong affection for animals.

“We always had animals around the house,” sherecalls. “My parents taught us to be kind and torespect animals even at a tender age.” She proved themost affectionate among the children, always bringinghome stray animals to care for. “My mom kept saying, ‘Not again,’” she laughs.

After her pre-law course, Nita broached intentions ofstudying medicine, a doctor asked her if she could dissect anything for which she gave a big NO. So muchfor medicine. Nita studied music instead, and marriedAlejandro Lichauco in 1957.

The couple, however, has no children. “When people askme about that, I answer, “Oh, about 800 because I consider all the animals we have taken caredof as my children.”

Nita joined the Philippine Animal Welfare Society in1964, one of only six Filipinos at the time.

“I was in charge of making stuffed toys, which we soldin bazaars,” she remembers. “I needed to havesomething official because I was doing rescues on myown.” When the founder, Muriel Jay, died in 1968, thegroup faded away. In 1986, she formed a group of herown, choosing to revive the organization she firstjoined. Thanks to Nita, PAWS was back on its, uh,paws.

Starting with a small group, Nita persevered throughthe years, saving a virtual Noah’s Ark of animals.

Beyond the familiar cats and dogs, Nita adds that PAWShas also helped care for tigers and protested againstthe putting up of dolphin shows, elephant shows andoceanariums in the country. So, aside from being aRescue 911 for K-9s and felines, PAWS has become awatchdog group for our other fine, furry friends.

She explains that PAWS is here because there is apressing need for it right now. “It’s better to dosomething now than to wait until we have a niceoffice. You can’t wait.”

 That’s also why her membershave to sacrifice to be able to do this kind of work.

“We are 100 percent voluntary. We use our own vehicles, our own wallets. Never mind that we don’thave money. We don’t care. It is necessary. That iswhy we do this.”

Nita is thankful and excited that many young peopleare now signing up for their cause, helping change themindset of Filipinos when in comes to animals.

Nita says that Philippine society really isn’t humanewhen it comes to animals. “As Asians, we tend to lookat animals more as property, more as utility ratherthan pets. But slowly, we are changing.” Primarily, Nita says people treat animals badly out of ignorance.

“Filipinos are not deliberately cruel. The crueltystems from ignorance of the fact that animals have theright to humane treatment.”

Despite being 80 years old, Nita is not about to slowdown in her dogged devotion to PAWS. In fact, she doesnothing else now except work for the animals — fromconfronting dog meat traders, lobbying the newAnti-Rabies Act, to presiding as vice chairman on theCommittee on Animal Welfare.

“I am what you would call driven. It’s beyond me. Itjust pushes me. And I know that there are more peoplelike me just like all the volunteers of PAWS. We get together and do everything we can in order to helpbecause the animals need us so badly. Someone wrote, “True passion forgets fear, overcomesfatigue and winds over all difficulties. That’s thekind of passion I wish everyone would have.”

* * *

Each night before I sleep, I thank God for Nita. Iknow that all animals in the Philippines are happybecause of her devotion and dedication to the humanetreatment of animals. I add that I might be grantedeven a fraction of Nita’s dedication so that I, too,may do something good for the animals who love us so.







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