Ghost Month and International Cat Day

Ghost Month and International Cat Day

An artist’s illustration of the legendary Queen of the Nile, Cleopatra, with two of her precious cats. (Photo: Twitter)

A cat has absolute emotional honesty. Human beings (. . .) may hide their feelings, but a cat does not.

— Novelist Ernest Hemingway

QUEZON CITY, METRO MANILA — In case our readers don’t know, Ghost Month started last Friday, July 29, and it ends on August 26. This is the time when the souls of the dead are released from the Gates of Hell and into our human realm.

Ghost Month, or Ghost Festival, is also known as the Zhongyuan Festival (in traditional Chinese: 中元節or simplified Chinese: 中元节) and among Buddhists, it is held on the 15th night of the seventh month (14th in parts of southern China). In Chinese culture, the fifteenth day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar is called Ghost Day, and the seventh month, in general, is regarded as Ghost Month (鬼月), in which ghosts and spirits, including those of deceased ancestors, come out from the lower realm. Distinct from both the Qingming Festival (or Tomb Sweeping Day, in spring) and Double Ninth Festival (in autumn) in which living descendants pay homage to their deceased ancestors, during the Ghost Festival, the deceased are believed to visit the living.

On the fifteenth day, the realms of Heaven and Hell and the realm of the living are open and both Taoists and Buddhists would perform rituals to transmute and absolve the sufferings of the deceased. Intrinsic to the Ghost Month is veneration of the dead, where traditionally the filial piety of descendants extends to their ancestors even after their deaths. Activities during the month would include preparing ritualistic food offerings, burning incense, and burning joss paper, a papier-mâché form of material items such as clothes, gold, and other fine goods for the visiting spirits of the ancestors.

Elaborate meals (often vegetarian meals) would be served with empty seats for each of the deceased in the family treating the deceased as if they are still living. Ancestor worship is what distinguishes Qingming Festival from Ghost Festival because the latter includes paying respects to all deceased, including the same and younger generations, while the former only includes older generations.

Other festivities may include buying and releasing miniature paper boats and lanterns on water, which signifies giving directions to the lost ghosts and spirits of the ancestors and other deities.

Feng shui expert Hans Cua on Friday shared some dos and don’ts during Ghost Month, which this year runs from July 29 to August 26. These include avoiding starting a new business or career, construction and repairs, moving to a new house, traveling, and arguments.

On the other hand, some dos, according to Cua, include prayers, wearing ‘happy’ colors, and keeping the home ‘bright’. He also suggested doing rituals that will attract luck, such as food offerings, using protection amulets, and offering incense.

Pet loving Pinoys

MORE and more Filipinos are becoming pet owners and it looks like many of our countrymen are steadily getting interested in adopting a pet, especially during this Covid-19 pandemic.

According to a survey conducted in 2021 by online market research group Rakuten Insight, the Philippines recorded the highest rate of dog ownership in Southeast Asia at 67 percent, followed by cats at 43 percent, fish at 13 percent, and birds at 10 percent. But since the world will soon be celebrating International Cat Day on August 8, we will be focusing today on our feline friends who have been humankind’s companions since the days of the fabled pharaohs of ancient Egypt and even beyond when civilization dawned in the Valley of the Twin Rivers in Mesopotamia.

Apart from Rakuten, Google Searches likewise held a study but under a different theme and it found that Filipinos had the most number of pet searches on its platform, roughly at about 12.9 million searches. With these numbers, too, comes the demand for pet-related products and services. However, the lack of awareness on the availability of it, such as pet insurance, keeps owners from understanding how beneficial it is to them and their pets.

I myself am a pet lover but my love for animals sometimes tends to veer towards the weird and the unusual. There was actually a time when I owned a huge Burmese ball python, named Babajee. And talk about taking care of a newborn tiger cub we called Daktari, which I eventually returned for proper veterinary care to the Manila Zoological and Botanical Garden during the time of its director Dr. Jimmy Boton.

But I also have the usual pets we find in common Filipino households; meaning dogs and cats. We have a dog named Perry and two cats—Siomai and her offspring Putol.

Still, we realize that dogs have always gotten all the glory. There are books written about them, parks devoted to them, and they’re known as “man’s best friend,” for goodness sake. But more recently, cats are coming into their own and since we’re going to celebrate International Cat Day in four days, let’s saddle up with a bad rap for being cold and icy for years because more and more people are coming around to the furry felines.

Maybe it’s thanks to Instagram where cute photos of cats (and funny ‘cat-ch’ phrases and captions) have helped turn the tide. Perhaps it’s the prospect of naming a fancy cat something like Broccoli or Lord Puddington. It could be that more folks have been mesmerized watching a cat play a game or play on a cat tree—more fun than a day at the dog park and you don’t have to throw a ball a single time.

Still, think of cats as standoffish? Take a moment to reconsider! You’re simply witnessing self-sufficiency at its finest. Cats require less attention than dogs—they’re perfectly content being left alone for the day. They don’t require walks (although you can take them out on a leash if you—and they—so choose). And unlike dogs, cats groom themselves, so there’s no need to spend extra money on a groomer or attempt at-home baths.

Finally, let me say this: Filipinos sure love their pets and we often consider them part of our family. They have made the pandemic more bearable for many, that’s why it’s important to also take special care of them.

For your comments or suggestions, complaints or requests, just send a message through my email or text me at cellphone numbers 09054292382 for Globe subscribers and 09391252568 for Smart. Thank you and Mabuhay!


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