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They let the pets out for a blessing in the new normal

By KATHY MORAN, The Philippine STAR Published Oct 09, 2020 5:00 pm Updated Oct 09, 2020 11:12 am

I have lived through this pandemic with my pet companions of six dogs and four cats. To say that it has been peaceful would be a lie, but that it has been filled with love, loyalty and lots of fun — now, that is the truth.

So, the fact that I could only take one of my fur babies with me to the pet blessing last Oct. 4 at Eastwood was a real bummer.

But, in these times, where I had to do the driving and making sure my pet companion was safe — which is a must for me — Mr. Gizmo, my long-haired exotic kitty, was my pet of choice.

Sadly, I opted to leave him at home at the last minute because the drive from the south to Eastwood City Mall in Pasig was a bit long and it was quite hot that day.

DRIVE-THRU PET BLESSING

I was informed that in celebration of these #blessed everyday moments, Eastwood City — home to Eastwood Mall, the first and true pet-friendliest mall in the Philippines — is once again welcoming furry pals and “pawrents” to its annual Pet Blessing, but this time, from the comfort and safety of their vehicles.

Riding shotgun. Photos by KATHY MORAN and WALTER BOLLOZOS

I still can remember the day I interviewed Kevin Tan in Eastwood in 2005 for the inauguration of Eastwood Mall as the first pet-friendly mall in the country.

Since 2005, the Pet Blessing, a celebration hosted by Eastwood City, has become an annual tradition in October honoring St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. Pet and animal lovers bring their lovable friends to have them blessed and at the same time, have fun with contests, getting to know other pet owners, and watching shows together with their fur babies and families.

Fifteen years later, the 2020 Eastwood Mall Pet Blessing comes with a twist as pet owners can simply drive through Eastwood Citywalk and have their pets blessed without leaving their vehicle.

“Megaworld Lifestyle Malls continues to celebrate the presence and genuine companionship our pets give us, especially during this time of the pandemic,” says Tefel Pesigan-Valentino, vice president for marketing, Megaworld Lifestyle Malls. “We may not be able to celebrate it the way we used to, but we still have lots of reasons to be grateful for the moments we get to spend with our loyal friends.

“The Drive-Thru Pet Blessing also encourages social and physical distancing as much as possible, which helps ensure the continued safety of everyone.”

Chihuahuas close together

I was at Eastwood by 2:30 last Oct. 4 for the 4 p.m. blessing. To my surprise, as early as 3 p.m. cars started lining up in the drive-through lane.

Guidelines for the Pet Blessing were clearly posted, along with a map of Eastwood City that detailed this year’s route to the Pet Blessing. This included the following: Vehicles should enter from Eastwood City Main Entrance (Citibank Entrance); drive straight ahead to E-Commerce Road; turn Left to Dunkin Donuts; turn Right to Pho Hoa; traverse Citywalk Drive for the Pet Blessing proper; go straight toward TGIFridays; and finally turn right to exit.

Gusto namin maka-experience ng drive-thru blessing,” said fur mom Florelyn, with her daughter and husband in tow. They had their four-month-old Shih-Tzu Calie with them. "Mahal namin si Calie."

The cars started to line up with windows closed and air-conditioners running so as to keep the passengers cool.

Before the blessing started I knocked on several windows and was greeted by smiling “pawrents” and fur siblings more than willing to have their photos taken.

These lovebirds are out for a blessing, too.

Over the years, the famous Pet Blessing has become one of the most anticipated events in the country. The celebration also includes fun and interactive activities. As Megaworld Lifestyle Malls gears towards sustainability this year, a special online contest has been launched where pet owners are invited to dress up their lovely pals with futuristic costumes of their choice using recycled materials. The five best entries will win special gifts and prizes.

Megaworld Lifestyle Malls pioneered the concept of a truly pet-friendly destination in the Philippines by creating pet-friendly facilities and areas across its lifestyle malls, including creative signage and public service announcements promoting responsible pet ownership.

And, to this day, Eastwood Malls continues with its pet-friendly culture by allowing fur babies to eat with their humans in places outside the restaurants. I walked around the mall and talked to a couple I met who were eating a late lunch that day.

"Are you here for the pet blessing?" I asked.

"Is there one?" came the reply. "We come here when we can and bring Bob, our Japanese Spitz. We like it here because it is quiet and Bob likes it, too. And during these times we want to be safe — that includes Bob. He is family, after all.”