Nene Lungay is in the hearts of the grieving art and culture community of Bohol.
Retired University of the Philippines professor Victoria Rico Costina is one of the most underrated literary writers of Baguio. A bit receding where her gifts are concerned, Costina returns to the scene with a second book, And God Also Made a Cat: 90 Devotions for Cat People, which is a fine partner to her first, the out-of-print Those Who Love Cats.
Published by the Church Strengthening Ministry, the small book that can snugly fit one’s pocket or purse is meant to “use” the cat and those who love them to help “meditate on God and His ways.”
In the time of the coronavirus, people active in social media have begun posting pictures of their pets to counter the flow of negative or depressing news. Costina’s book is thus timely for the comforts, humor and wisdom it offers.
In her preface, she writes about undertaking interviews of people with cats as the preliminary stage of her research. Then in typical Costina moment of self-doubt, she “came to realize that I simply was not equal to the level of spirituality that devotional writing requires. But the Lord led me to just keep going on. What was I concerned about: making a good impression, or seeing this project as a way to honor God from my level best? The Lord sees our hearts and still opens up ways for us to reflect of His goodness and His light.”
Using cats like her Bluebell, Kuting, Muning, Ziggy, Antonia, Elanor, Tugger, Lavender, Tala—names that betray her once being a comparative literature teacher at UP Baguio—as take-off points, the author narrates first her day in a life with these creatures, then goes inward and finds the spiritual link that gives this book its unique sheen.
Antonia, for example, named after the hardy Willa Cather heroine, follows Ma’am Vickie from the UP campus, determined to be “owned” by the woman who feeds her daily. The cat’s behavior reminds her of the book The Tribe of Tiger: Cats and Their Culture by anthropologist Elizabeth Marshall Thomas. Costina writes, “We exercise ownership over cats we tend, but cats also own us, their source of food. This explains the markings in urine spray that they make on our furniture and us, to our dismay. Antonia, by coming home with me, was laying claim: Ma’am Vickie is mine.”
She right away segues into this reflection: “Actually, everything belongs to God. The Bible proclaims this truth: ‘The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, and the world and those who dwell therein.’ We see the magnificence of God in the infinite richness of His creation. This teaches us to embrace our roles as its stewards, and take on the responsible stewardship of all creation under our care…”
Stewardship, not mastery, over the earth and its creatures is a good lesson to imbibe in these times. A small book like Costina’s leads the reader to realize where humankind may have gone wrong in its bid to be sovereign over all things. Or even the practice of catching stray cats or endangered animals, for that matter, selling them for food—humanity is experiencing the backlash now in terms of a pandemic whose source remains a mystery.
Costina’s voice with its gentle admonitions seeks to offset the compassion lacking in this world. She is not above confessing to her own transgressions in her cat rights advocacy. In the devotion entitled “Petty Theft,” she writes of “a time when I regularly stole cats from their rightful owners” the minute she sees that a cat “looked thin and hardly cared for.” She would obsess on carrying out a rescue involving, in her riskiest attempt so far, snipping off ropes tied to a cat, using a fish bait to lure it out of captivity and stuffing it in a cage to bring home.
She has since quit doing this sort of thievery the minute she realizes the commandment “You shall not steal.” She writes, “Whether it’s cats or public funds, God will not tolerate wrongdoing. The Bible lists “a lying tongue” and “wicked schemes” as among the things that God hates…May God continue to cleanse us of these inclinations.”
For inquiries on how to order And God Also Made a Cat, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Website is located at csm-publishing.com.