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Better cities for animals

By KATHY MORAN, The Philippine STAR Published Mar 20, 2021 5:00 am

He grew up watching Oki Doki Doc, a Pinoy sitcom in the ’90s starring Aga Muhlach as a vet.

Nagustuhan ko talaga ang show dahil napakabait ni Doc Aga sa mga hayop,” said vet Noel Manalo. “It was from watching that show that I knew one day I would become a 'good' vet.”

It has been over 20 years since Dr. Noel “Vet Ng Bayan” Manalo, 45, has become a practicing veterinarian. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Animal Husbandry. And, not satisfied with just being a vet, he took his Masters in Veterinary Medicine, too.

  Vet Ng Bayan Noel Manalo (in blue) during pre-pandemic days tours the Philippines in search of animals in need.

Dr. Noel has won several awards for his work with animals. His animal advocacy was even turned into a TV documentary by Howie Severino.

It is his love for animals that makes this “vet ng bayan” so wonderful to talk to.

“I get a different kind of fulfillment from helping animals,” said Doc Noel in our Zoom interview recently. “Animals are forever grateful for the help we give them — and they are not afraid to let us know.”

Doc Noel started his advocacy of helping pets even when he was a student of veterinary medicine.

Real pet help is a lifetime commitment and sometimes it comes with pain. But alam ko na ’yon since I was five years old – and that is why I am here.

“Nung nag-aaral ako, mahilig na ako sumama sa iba’t-ibang lugar ng Pilipinas para makatulong sa mga hayop,” he shared. “These were medical missions for humans but we would tag along to care for the animals that needed caring for in the areas we went to.”

It was surprising for me to hear that even in medical missions for people there is a contingent that goes for animal care — and it was for missions like these that Doc Noel lived and volunteered.

When he became a vet he started to work for people who could afford treatments for their pets, but his concern was always to be able to use the money he made as seed funds for the less fortunate, whether they were animals or people.

Up to this day, Dr. Noel donates part of his income to his pet missions projects.

And, over the last two years, he started another project called "Animals Helping Humans,” where people afflicted with hydrocephalus and cancer are provided help with the funds he gets from treating pets.

Minsan may mga homeowners’ associations that ask us to service their pets,” he said. “So I make sure that whatever money I make from these endeavors I use to help people in need; this time the pets give back to humans.” 

The project has gained a following and there have been several homeowners who have started to ask for the services of Doc Noel so that their pets can help humans, too.

Rabies bite started an advocacy

“I remember when I was five years old I was bitten by a rabid dog,” he shared. “That experience stayed with me no matter the pain I had to endure over the anti-rabies vaccines; I knew I wanted to become a vet so I could make sure that dogs and cats would never get rabies.”

His desire to help pets in need is what is most important for Doc Noel, and it is a mission that he continues to accomplish head-on.

It is because of this veterinarian’s commitment to helping pets and humans that Mars Petcare, the producers of Pedigree, Whiskas, and other pet food brands, will soon unveil the “Better Cities for Pets Movement” (BCFP) in the Philippines and other parts of Southeast Asia.

The program aims to end pet homelessness by elevating the reputation of stray animals, heightening awareness about stray pet adoption, and working with public and private stakeholders to create a warm and welcoming environment for pets, be they in animal shelters, homes, or public spaces.

The Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) shared that there are around 12 million stray dogs and cats in the Philippines that usually end up in pounds where they are euthanized after a certain period if no one adopts or claims them.

The Animal Welfare Act of 1988 allows the killing of animals when the purpose is for animal population control. Those that are not captured by local animal pounds are vulnerable to starvation, diseases, and animal cruelty.

BCFP aims to end homeless by showcasing the beautiful and unique traits of stray animals. BCFP will encourage stray animal adoption, and educate people to become the best pet parents they can be. It will work with the public to create safe and warm spaces for stray animals, whether they are in an animal shelter, at home or in a public space.

Better cities make for better animals

Mars Petcare believes that pets make the world a better place and is committed to making a better world for pets. BCFP will have Doc Noel among its animal welfare advocates as it creates meaningful partnerships with animal welfare organizations and other animal welfare advocates.  At the end of the day, BCFP hopes to ensure that no animal is unwanted, unwelcome, or uncared for.

“I recently rescued a dog, too,” shared Doc Noel. “I didn’t use to have a pet because it was hard to care for just one with all the traveling for my work.”

But one day, Doc Noel chanced upon Bambi, an Aspin aimlessly walking and starving. He decided to take her home.

Alam ko naman that real pet help begins with commitment,” he shared. “It is a lifetime commitment and sometimes it comes with pain. But alam ko na ’yon since I was five years old — and that is why I am here.”

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