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  • By Diana G Mendoza

I need a hug, a parodia magnifica, and a panda

Manila — When I do my morning walks, I watch people walk with their dogs. A few people bring their cats. I grew up with cats and dogs at home. I lived with more animals while growing up in the countryside – birds, chickens, ducks, pigs, goats, cows, carabaos or water buffalos, and horses, and they are all fascinating. I had encounters with rattle snakes in the ricefields and snakes that show up in gardens and near water pumps. I loved the wonder of seeing owls and the curious fright of encountering bats. I miss them all.

What I miss the most are fireflies. I have the fondest memories of watching them at night on trees and bushes, especially during the summer. The perfect time to be with them is to climb a tree and watch them gather in front of you, all flickering hundreds of them. When I was a child, I wished that when I die, I should be in the company of fireflies.

But at home, my favorite were dogs. I still love them now. Nothing compares to their ability to provide comfort and to communicate. I remember one celebrity who loved her dog so much that when she lost her cherished companion, she said it was like losing a perfect human in a dog suit.

My liking for cats is more of seeing myself in them: they can be sweet and distant at the same time. They cuddle one moment then choose to be alone in a quiet corner next. They can watch and stare the longest. I think that's why people call cats judgmental. My rough experience with cats was when I was a kid playing with other children and having to prove that cats indeed have many lives. I didn't know it was cruel back then but carrying a kitten one day, I went up the house and dropped the kitten from the window. It didn't die.

I was proven wrong as I grew older when I saw cats' carcasses on the roads. They can indeed die from being hit by cars.

Having a pet has many health benefits, according to something I read. They help us cope with loneliness or depression and manage stress. They motivate us to leave our phones and gadgets and just play or go outdoors. When we bond with our pets, we also keep our cholesterol below danger levels.

I can go on about pets but I really don't have one. I have allergic rhinitis so I can love the furry creatures only from a distance. But if I would want a pet now, it would be a baby panda. They just play, hang on trees, munch on leaves, and hug you and never leave you. But then, I will be there for the hugs and loving alone, not the furs that would provoke a sneeze.

What I do have are plants. I have succulents, cacti, peppermint and ornamentals. They're great company even if they don't talk back. They don't need to be walked. They just need sunlight and water. They can be outside your door, by the window pane or indoors. They're cool and easy on the eyes. They're green so it helps when I glance at them for the few minutes I take my eyes off the computer glare.

Plant care is simple. Their need for love lies in dusting off their leaves, regularly loosening their soil and rotating the pots for even sunlight. It is also helpful to also know what they are and how to take care of them.

Suddenly one day, a plant bloomed with a yellow flower. I searched online about what it's called: parodia magnifica, a species of a flowering cactus. I should buy one again. I want one more of this magnificence.

Diana Mendoza is a journalist based in Manila.

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