Roy Vadíl Aragon
Translated from Ilokano by Amado Anthony G. Mendoza III and Roy Vadíl Aragon
Art by Kimo Nelson
From Ulirat: Best Contemporary Stories in Translation from the Philippines, to be published by Gaudy Boy Translates in March 2021.
Ilokano original available here.
I just woke up one day as a cat. No explanations. It wasn’t any different from Franz Kafka’s novel—a man who suddenly transformed into a cockroach or a beetle—that I wrote a term paper about. I was awoken from the sudden tugging of my blanket. It was pulled away from me and brandished in the air several times. As a result, I slid and fell from the bed. I was a bit startled. But it was just Mother. Didn’t she see me? I am fully aware that our cats snuggling their way to our beds, especially in the dead of the night, gets to her nerves. According to her, cat fur, when inhaled, can cause asthma. The meowing and growling of cats whenever they try to smuggle themselves between our warm bodies also annoy her. But she isn’t as bad as she used to be. In fact, she did want to raise cats in our house.
I forced myself to sit up, stretched like most cats are wont to do, arched my nimble back, and let out a yawn. I jumped onto the floor and ran to the kitchen. And just like most of my sleepy mornings: I rinsed my mouth, washed my face, and quickly dashed to the table to make myself a cup of coffee. But just as I was about to take a seat, someone, who was cooking fried rice from last night’s leftovers, shooed me away. I tried to speak but I was curtly reprimanded: “Stop your annoying meowing.” It was my older sister, Ate Mating, who works as a call center agent. She then followed her initial scolding with an endearing assurance: “You can feast on the fish heads later. Just wait.” My Ate Mating loves cats. She patiently and lovingly bathes our cats, even using her own Dove soap on them. She doesn’t believe that bathing cats will cause storms or heavy rainfall. Even with the availability of various medications, she diligently removes fleas and lice from our cats. I also remember her bathing our dog, Sister Joc-Joc (named after my sister’s favorite nun during her days as a college student and a former government official who allegedly plundered millions and then ran off to the US), with Safeguard. But she’s not with us anymore. She was probably caught and butchered by our drunk neighbors.
I approached my sister and started curling and whipping my newly acquired tail between her legs. I pointed at my wet nose using my tongue. I started to feel hungry. This does not come as a surprise, I guess. Cats are always known to be hungry, always pestering their owners for a morsel of food. In my case, it was all the more true when I started to get a waft of the fish that my sister was frying. Fried dried fish is my favorite, especially when served with unripe tomatoes and dipped in Ilocos vinegar. It’s a pity that I only get to feast on the head, scales, and bones of the fish, just like most cats are accustomed to.
Oh, and here comes Garfield and Exodus, our two un-neutered cats. I am sure they already smell what’s cooking. They also snaked and bunted their way between Ate Mating’s legs while letting out a chorus of meows. I just find it strange that they’re not surprised or threatened by my presence in their territory, the kitchen. Exodus even approached me and licked my behind, probably sniffing the faint scent of last night’s dinner, catfish stew in tamarind leaves. I even recalled giving them one catfish head each last night.
I’m a bit scared of the possibility of them ganging up on me, similar to what they normally do against other male cats, especially their rivals who seek the affection of flirtatious female cats. But I guess I am safe for now. Exodus just licked me. Not just because of the leftover scent of last night’s catfish stew. Licking and grooming are ways for cats to show their affection to their fellow cats. With their own tongues they will clean you with care and affection. How is this different from Jesus washing the feet of his own disciples?
Could it be that they recognized me as their master, Ranilio? And that it is only natural for their master to loiter and saunter around their domicile? Or maybe I am yet to truly become a cat and they still see me as human? And just like that, I sank further into my thoughts: Why didn’t mother notice that a cat was curled up in bed when she entered my room? Why didn’t she look for me, I, Ranilio Callautit, Jr., her son who just finished his AB English degree two years ago; I, son of a former civil servant who died during my second year in college. Why wasn’t she surprised by the presence of a new cat in the house? Why didn’t she notice the presence of a black-and-white cat, far different from Garfield’s solid orange shade and Exodus’s ashen fur? Why didn’t Ate Mating say anything when we spoke earlier?
My mind is in shambles. Why did I become a cat? Could it be that I transformed as a cat? Am I still human now that I’m a cat? Am I cat now even though I’m still human? Perhaps. Thoughts and questions like these won’t ever cross the minds of cats. Is there a cat who knows Franz Kafka? Is there a cat who loves to read? In any case, how will I regard myself? Am I now a human cat? Or a cat human? But there’s no question about it: I am as feline as any cat could and should be. That is, if someone would say that I still resemble my mother or Ate Mating. Where I’m from, there is a belief that cats, given time, (even dogs sometimes) will eventually start to resemble or take the appearance of their owners (but even back then, my Ate Mating and I resemble our mother, who won in a beauty contest in her town back in the day, both in face and in complexion; our father is not too shabby as well, even though he had darker skin and a shorter stature). Or maybe it is only my mind that remained human, my ability to think and to reason. But aren’t cats the same? Even in their cat-ness something human exists in their consciousness.
It has been a week since I became a cat. Apart from my transformation, nothing of note or amazing occurred. Everything remained normal in our house. And I am yet to be regarded by my mother, sister, and even by Garfield and Exodus as someone (or something) different or strange. There’s nothing to fret about. Mother’s not looking for her son, Ranilio. Ate Mating is not looking for Ranilio who used to driver her to and from work in the city center. Perhaps Ranilio was never really lost in their eyes. Probably because I’m always out and being a pain in the ass during mealtime. Probably because I can still enter my room through the window in the morning. Mother will still wake me up even when I am tucked in my Inabel blanket. I am a sleepyhead and I’m rarely never asleep. The only thing that’s different is Mother’s habit of staring deeply and longingly at my graduation photo at the bedside table. She would even caress and hug it sometimes. On the other hand, not even my acquaintances, colleagues, and closest friends asked where I went or looked for me. I also missed the opportunity to follow up my job application in a newspaper company where a close friend works as a layout artist. He didn’t even give me a call. Not that I mind. I just find it unusual.
Everything seems normal even after I became a cat. It even got to a point where I don’t see it as a problem, with the only exception being moments where I question whether I’ve completely become a cat or if some part of me remained human. Not that I wish to return to my old self. I don’t even miss or seek the things I was accustomed to when I was still human: reading books and magazines, fiddling with my computer and surfing the internet, listening to music, watching movies, and riding the motorcycle. I can still read. I can still recognize the words and letters in my midst. I still know how to use a computer (I might find it difficult to use a computer because my hands are now paws, even if there is this “mouse” to be chased, nay, used). And of course, I can still listen to music and watch movies because my Ate Mating often listens to music on the stereo and watches DVD movies. Even with my hands turning into paws, I can still use my beloved iPod. But I don’t know about my Nokia N95. With my small claws, I’m pretty sure that I’d have a hard time pressing its keypad. Au revoir to my textmates. I’d also probably miss riding my Honda XRM. The only thing that comes as a surprise is its current state: it’s already in shambles, a bump or two away from being scrap metal. Someone must have borrowed and crashed it while I was busy being a cat. Again, not that I mind. I am not even remotely interested in reading, fiddling with computers, and riding motorcycles anymore. I can barely appreciate a good song or film. I would much prefer to play with Garfield and Exodus. Or perhaps sleep all day. Or just like any cat, continue to pester our masters for food.
Be that as it may, there are still things that make me doubt my complete transformation as a cat. For example, even if they don’t understand a single word I say whenever I talk to them, I can still understand my mother and sister’s words—I can still understand their fluent Ilocano. I am also surprised that I understand Garfield and Exodus. It is not meows that I hear from them but fluent Ilocano as well. And when I talk to them in Ilocano, they can perfectly understand me. Am I now speaking the language of cats? This is, of course, not new. There are people who have been known to understand and speak the language of cats. Take, for instance, Nakata, the wandering old man in Haruki Murakami’s (my favorite Japanese writer) Kafka on the Shore. Or the talking cat in Neil Gaiman’s (another favorite writer of mine) novel Coraline. Yes, I’m fully aware that both are stories of fantasy. But how do I distinguish what’s real and what’s not if I’ve indeed become a cat?
This is probably what I get from reading too much fiction, especially those of the magical realist and fantastical subgenre; the works of Kakfa, Murakami, and Gaiman; and of stories about cats. Perhaps I am now in a situation that most people would describe as Kafkaesque. But why be so literal about it? Is there really anything magical about my situation? In the term paper I wrote about Kafka’s work, apart from the allegorical, psychological, and social interpretation of his work, I suggested that the events in the novel can be read as a sign of reincarnation or karma. Not that I believe in reincarnation and all the New Age shenanigans that were the craze during my college days. It’s just all fluff, something to impress my professor. And impress him I did. I got full marks for my term paper.
But what really bothers me, what really makes me nervous and sends chills to my spine, is the fact that my mother and sister call me by my name Ranilio. At first, they don’t call me that name whenever they talk, call, feed, or reprimand me. But one day, my mother suddenly started reprimanding me like this: “Wake up, Ranilio. You were even snoring while asleep in the hammock.” This incident happened again in the kitchen. My sister started reprimanding me like a cat: “Ranilio, get off the table! Go to your feeding bowl in the corner! Ranilio, don’t be such a bother!” That’s when I realized that they were really talking to me as a cat. But why did they use my human name to address me? If I have indeed become a cat and they’re aware of it, why would they use the name of a person who just happens to be their own son and sibling? They still see and know me as Ranilio, right? But why don’t they seem surprised or disturbed by the fact that I’ve become a cat? Could they have known about my situation from the onset? Am I the only one who doesn’t know?
But if I am really to be a cat, I need to change my name—a name that would separate my being a cat from my being human (or my humanity from my cat-ness?). Just like how Garfield and Exodus get to have their own names.
I was the one who gave Garfield his name. It was right around the time we adopted him from our neighbor. It was my Ate Mating, on the other hand, who gave Exodus his name. I don’t know where she got “exodus,” but she said that it wasn’t from the Bible. Maybe it was from famous Bong Revilla films during that time. For her, “exodus” had this cool and mystical ring to it. On the other hand, I obviously got “Garfield” from the popular cartoon series featuring a fat orange-shaded striped tabby cat. Our Garfield also has the same orange-shaded fur.
Ate Mating and I realized that we were the only ones who knew the names of our cats. We discovered one day that Exodus and Garfield didn’t know their own names, let alone have a penchant for names and naming. They ignore me whenever I call them using their names. It is only humans who possess names, who like to name things. I thought this to be only true in fiction, a flight of fancy, just like how Coraline’s cat friend explained to her why cats don’t need names. According to Wuss-Puss, cats don’t need names because they already know themselves. From what I know, just being called “cats” already suffices for them. I also noticed that they recognize themselves and others through scent. You know me when you smell me. But I will also tell them that they still need names to set them apart from each other. And that is why I insist on calling them the names that we gave them.
As for myself, I need a new name—a cat name—so that I can respond when Garfield or Exodus ask for my name. A name will also help when the time comes for me to introduce myself to cats outside the house. I will also give them names, especially the females.
And just to be safe, I’m just going to be the one to name myself. How does Haruki sound? No go? Yes, its final syllable does not sound good in Ilocano. It might raise some eyebrows. What about Murakami? Nah. Doesn’t sound good. Sounds like the word for cheap in Tagalog. The cat names in Murakami’s novel—Mimi, Kawamura, Goma, Okawa—also just aren’t cutting it. Even the names of cats from popular films, TV shows, books, and comics like Tom, Felix, Puss ‘n’ Boots, Cheshire Cat, or Cat in the Hat sound flat to me.
I know! I’ll just call myself Kafka, a fitting tribute to the writer who presaged this mystical feline phenomenon I’m going through. Naming someone Kafka, albeit uncommon, isn’t something new. Murakami named Kafka on the Shore’s protagonist, Kafka Tamura, after his favorite author.
I am Kafka, a cat, now a cat, bow! Prettier than Franz, because naming someone Franz is akin to naming someone who is human. Kafka, like Exodus, has a cool, mystical, and exotic ring to it. A very fitting name for cats.
Kafka, a cat, that’s me. Kafka is more suitable than Ranilio—the name I was baptized with, my dad’s name—and my surname Callautit.
I have yet to roam the streets outside. I only go out at night to dig up a hole in a sandy patch near our house in Block 34 in order to cover my poop. I’m still scared of the outside. Rabid dogs might chase me. Or I might encounter someone who butchers cats on a whim. That bastard Romy who lives in Block 36, an old, unmarried man who works as a medicine salesman—he shot both Garfield and Exodus twice with an air gun just because he felt like it. Fortunately, both of them survived. Maybe cats do have nine lives. As for Garfield, the bullet only grazed his thighs. Exodus, on the other hand, was hit on the back, between the cartilaginous part separating the flesh and the skin. Both Garfield and Exodus suffered dearly from the wounds. The two could barely walk, mustering only enough strength just to crawl. They lost their appetites, refusing to eat even when fed their favorite catfish stew or fried fish. At that time they were almost skin and bones. To treat their wounds, I used betadine, sulfathiazole powder, and amoxicillin diluted in Nido. They eventually got well. I didn’t need to bring them to a vet. There weren’t any in our town during that time anyway. The bullets from the air gun remained in their bodies. I was livid and bursting at the seams during that time. I confronted Romy and I almost came to blows with that skinny and balding motherfucker. I really want to beat him up bad. According to him, and he was adamant about it, both Garfield and Exodus tried to steal food from his table, that they were stray cats. But that’s impossible. Garfield and Exodus had plenty to feast on in our home. There was no need for them to sneak into other people’s homes for food. Romy was clearly mistaken. He probably thought that they belonged to the gang of strays who were terrorizing the subdivision. But that’s also impossible! Both Garfield and Exodus regard those strays as enemies. I even remember Garfield getting into a nasty scuffle with a dirty big black cat who tried to enter our house (because we forgot to close our windows) a few times. There was also this cat with a color pattern similar to that of Exodus. Most of them, especially the males, were their rivals for the affection of females. But even if both Garfield and Exodus were strays, it still does not give Romy the right to have a go at them, to shoot them. In fact, most of the cats he shot were house pets. As a result, a lot of residents filed or reported their pet cats missing. They also probably thought, like we did in the case of Sister Joc-Joc, that they were caught and butchered by the drunks in our subdivision. It turns out it was Romy all along. He is the only person in the subdivision who owns an air gun. Aside from that, somebody witnessed him just before nightfall shooting cats who were mating and fooling around in a vacant lot near his unit. He didn’t admit to anything, of course. According to him, he only shot birds, stray cats, and civet cats.
But I have to go outside. Damn that old Romy! I’m gonna shit all over his backyard. I’m going out with Garfield and Exodus to look for mating partners. Why bother myself with plans and details? The only important thing is that I’m going out. And I’m really stoked about it. And even if I’m still inside, I can already smell in the wind a waft of an in-heat female’s pheromones. Cats truly have a strong sense of smell. They can smell any scent from afar. This is my chance. I had a girlfriend before (when I was human), but because I was too timid and inexperienced, I wasn’t able to do anything with her. The only thing I could muster was a kiss (that was more like a gentle boop with my lips) and nervous caresses and touching. Even when I was at the peak of my lust, I was still scared to go for it. I was scared of being rejected, of her breaking things off with me. I was also scared at the prospect of being embarrassed, of being laughed at because I didn’t know what to do. If only I had started to think about these things when I was a bit younger. And now that I’ve become a cat, I’m starting to feel this great urge to mate. Cats are indeed lustful beings. And I don’t even feel an ounce of shame. Cats don’t feel an ounce of shame when it comes to expressing their desires and feelings. Or maybe this is what animal instinct is? I suddenly recalled the time when I tried to observe what Garfield and Exodus were up to when they go out at night. There was this one time when I was able to secretly watch Exodus have a go at a female cat in front of my room. I saw how Exodus tried to make the female cat submit to his will, skillfully (and forcefully) grabbing her neck and getting on top of her. This went on for a few minutes, with the female wriggling and spinning around the floor while Exodus was trying to woo her. Their groans and cries got louder, sometimes even leading them to break off from their embrace and chase each other anew. Yes, they do mean business. This is feline foreplay in the flesh. After the long-winded wooing by Exodus, he was finally able to get on top of her once again and mate to their hearts’ content. I wanted to take video footage of them doing their business, but it was just too dark outside. I was supposed to upload it on YouTube with the title “Tuguegarao Scandal.” I’m sure shameless fools will come rushing to watch it, thinking that it’s another video of an unfortunate couple caught doing the act. But let’s leave the prurient interests of humans behind. Now that I’ve become a cat, I can finally experience it! I can finally mate with other cats! The only thing that worries me is that Garfield and Exodus will beat me to the punch. That they won’t let me score with female cats. But I don’t care. If they dare cross me, I’ll fight them tooth and nail. It’s funny that even in the world of cats, women are still the root and cause of all discord. While this is true for humans who think with their balls, I hope this isn’t the case with cats.
And then it finally happened! I never knew it was that good! That’s probably the reason why cats let out a loud meow after they climax. Her name is Lolita. And that night, everything was ours. It was the first for both of us. Ha! I was able to best both Garfield and Exodus. From outside the subdivision, I was able to smell Lolita’s scent, and oh boy was I in for a treat. Her scent is like a drug, like the traveling scent of dried squid being fried, or dinengdeng saluyot leaves and bamboo shoots for dinner. I named her Lolita because if she were human, she probably would be around twelve to thirteen years old. Young, so young, like the character in Vladimir Nabokov’s popular and controversial novel. She spread her wings (and legs) too early. If I was still human, considering everything we did together, I would already be facing corruption of minor and statutory rape charges. It’s a relief that stuff of that sort are a wash in the world of cats. With that said, I promised to visit Lolita every night. I just hope that I’ll be able to give her more kittens than any potential rivals in my midst. That’s just how female cats are. No one male cat can ever own them. Everyone gets to have a go in order to multiply their progeny. I have to retract my previous statement. Cats are different from humans. Female cats are not the root or source of discord in the feline world. In fact, it is the females who encourage solidarity among all cats.
But I’m worried that mother and Ate Mating will get mad and fed up with our nightly rendezvous. Back then, there were times when Garfield and Exodus would be out for weeks. This is normal for most male cats. There are even cases where male cats would completely be without homes and become strays. Mother and Ate Mating might think that it’s best to neuter Garfield and Exodus—to keep their sexual urges at bay. Of course, as I’ve also become a male cat, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that I get neutered. But you see . . . just imagining my testicles being crushed makes me feel very queasy. What scares me the most is the way they neuter cats in my place. They would tightly tie the testicles with a rubber band until they slowly and gradually separate from the body. They would get swollen, eventually dry up, and finally fall off the cat’s body. Goodbye, testicles. No more midnight rendezvous for you, Casanova! No more chest-puffing for you, tomcat! You’ve got nothing to brag about anymore. Nada. Zilch. What a tragedy for a young male cat at the peak of his virility. To be neutered when you’re just about to hit your stride. While it is true that neutered male cats become fat, fluffy, and timid house pets, they are also sure to lose their urge to mate, become vulnerable, and grow old to be listless and useless.
Nothing beats mouse flesh, especially those that come from the little ones! When I was still human, I once tasted a stew made out of rodents in the farm. It wasn’t so bad. A bit gamey, but it was tolerable. But now that I’ve become a cat, I like them better raw, marinated in vinegar like ceviche. Garfield and I saw a small one last night after having feasted on fish head, bones, and scales mixed with rice. We were just lounging around the doormat placed beneath a sofa made out of narra wood, rubbing our bellies full with food. Both Exodus and Garfield were busy grooming themselves, while I was preparing to doze off, when something moved from the other side of the room where Mother’s old wooden chest containing her Bannawag magazine collection is stored. We were sure that it was a mouse. It had been long since a mouse got lost in our house. Poking holes and gnawing at mother’s magazine collection had been a long source of joy for these rodents. I don’t know. Perhaps they find the taste of Ilocano poems and stories printed in old paper so good that they risk becoming the snack of resident cats. Ever since we adopted Garfield and Exodus, rodent invasions into our house became very rare. But this time, Garfield, Exodus, and I weren’t mistaken. It was definitely a mouse, a small one at that. Not even the sound of the smallest of movements can escape our ears. In addition to that, a rat’s sweet smell wafting through the air is a treat for us cats—a clear proof that a mouse has entered the house. For a cat, a rat’s stench is the most aromatic scent, far better than the scent of grilled catfish, dried squid, dried fish, or smoked fish. If you’re a cat, a rat’s stench means heaven. This is all the more true when you are able to grab, claw, and coil your limbs at its soft flesh. That’s when you’ll start to slowly and gently tear and gnaw at its mouthwatering flesh—you’ll finish off everything until no trace of that rat remains in this world. You’ll gobble up everything: flesh, bones, intestines, skin, tail, head, and even its fur.
And after just a few seconds of discerning its movement, we finally pounced onto our unsuspecting prey. The rodent let out a scream before scampering away and hiding in the recesses of the chest where our claws couldn’t reach him. Garfield and Exodus were waiting for him at both sides of the chest, while I kept watch from above. The rodent’s fear was palpable, clueless as to where to hide or escape. Finally, the rodent tried to escape by going between Exodus’s legs. Exodus tried to grab the rodent but it was able to go past Garfield’s legs as well. With all the speed and accuracy in the world and his claws unsheathed, Garfield struck the rodent and was able to bloody it before it escaped his jaws. With the blood gushing out from its body and the feverish scent it gave off, my desire to catch the rodent became more pronounced. As it moved away from Garfield, I quickly pounced on it and dug my claws on his wounded body. Better luck next time, Garfield and Exodus. I won tonight’s derby. What’s the use of sharpening one’s claws if they can’t catch a prey?
I hissed and growled at Garfield and Exodus when they tried to get a piece of my bounty. There’s no sharing in the feline world, especially when it comes to hunted prey. If you’re unlucky, then jealousy and regret are sure to be your dinner. And if you even try to snatch or filch the hunted prey of a fellow cat, rest assured that all hell will break loose. If a fellow cat is feeling charitable, he might leave you a morsel of skin and fur. That is if he’s already full or already had enough. In my case, since it was my first catch, I didn’t share any of it with Garfield and Exodus. It wasn’t even enough to fully satiate me. If what I caught was as big as those sewer rats, I would’ve definitely shared the bounty with them.
I saw a kitten’s flea-ridden carcass at the road near our house. He was so small, probably a week old. We shared the same fur pattern: black and white. He was just like me. Yes, just like me. I suddenly felt nervous. Could it be that he was one of my offspring with Lolita? Or with the other females I had ties with? I wouldn’t be able to tell. It’s been months since I last saw Lolita and the others (cats don’t really pay heed to these things). Garfield and I are in the dark when it comes to the pregnancies of our “girlfriends.” It’s not like they give us monthly updates after we’ve planted in them the seeds of our new progeny. And of course, they’re not obliged to inform us if and when they’re impregnated by others. But one thing’s for sure: Garfield and I indeed got our partners pregnant. All the signs are there: after the deed, they started giving us the cold shoulder, scampering away when we tried to approach them. I can’t get the dead kitten off my mind. A mama cat won’t ever abandon her children. She would definitely protect and love her children. She would not let them out of her sight, she would hide them when she goes out to look for food, and carry them from time to time.
People won’t really understand the importance of cats in households. Cats are normally viewed as indolent, voracious, and useless creatures. Asleep for most of the day, their movements, or their willingness to move, are primarily motivated by food. They can also be bothersome as they counter-surf and snatch food from the table. They also snack on the neighbor’s fowl—just one of the many reasons to get into a fight with them. The worst would be their “zooming” behavior, or their penchant to unleash their pent-up energy fighting, mating, or just plain wrecking anything in their path during the dead of the night, when everybody’s already asleep.
But there are far more good cats than bad ones. As long as the master’s patient, kind, and loving, like Ate Mating and I to Garfield and Exodus, a cat will surely repay his/her master with affection and loyalty. If you have a cat, no mouse will dare to enter or establish a territory in your house. Your beloved books, papers, documents, and clothes are safe from the gnawing of rats. The same goes for the rice grains that they love to munch on.
And besides, people won’t get anything much from cats since they can’t be butchered and sold to the market like, say, chicken, pork, or goat meat. Only drunks, who view cat meat as barchow, would try to butcher cats.
And besides, it’s rare for people to buy and have cats as pets. That is, unless you’re an imported cat with a certain pedigree like, say, a Siamese or a Persian. If you’re just a lowly domestic or stray cat, especially if you’re a kitten, you’ll just be given up for adoption. Most of the time, you’re seen as another mouth to feed, a child that needs potty training. In some cases, you’ll be abandoned or drowned in streams, or placed in a sack with your siblings and thrown into the river so you won’t be able to find your way back home. To hell with your lives! To hell with you starving or being vulnerable to dog and human violence! Just hope you get lucky to come across a person with a golden heart who would pick you up and give you a home.
Yes, of course, there is also racial discrimination among cats. If you’re a native cat who is ugly and scrawny, you have no right to live. No one will buy or pay for you. Only people as wretched—people who can’t afford imported cat breeds with majestic fur (that require a score of imported cat food, shampoo, and soap to maintain and protect from lice and fleas) and puffy cheeks—as you are will give you affection. If only you were a native chicken. People would surely pay top dollar just to have a sip of your delicious and piping hot soup (when stewed).
The Philippine cat truly arouses pity—it has no worth in this world. Just take, for instance, the everyday image of a cat being run over by a car. When its crushed body is for all the world to see, not a single soul will dare approach or pick it up. People will just ignore it until a hundred more cars and trucks run over it and flatten it to the ground, until it becomes as flat and thin as paper, until it disintegrates, until it completely vanishes from the road, like dust becoming one with the wind. No one’s interested in a dead cat. No one will pick up its carcass like, say, a dog, chicken, goat, or pig. If one of the aforementioned got run over, people will surely be on each other’s throats, with the aggrieved party asking the assailant for some kind of reparation or settlement.
I’m saddened by these thoughts. But what can I do? Do I just accept my being a cat? My cat-ness? Even if I’m not so sure that I want to be one. Do I treat everything as a dream? Will I wake up one day and find myself back to my human self? So many questions. But none of them really matter. What’s important is I’m here. Existing. Alive. I enjoy my life as a cat. Why would I wish to return to my human form when I’m satisfied now and in what lies ahead for me in the future as a cat?
There’s one more thing that worries me: that people will take notice if I continue to act and think like a human. This is what normally happens when animals display some sort of human in them. A lot of people become intrigued or interested in that sort of stuff, but not when a human displays his/her animalistic side. I’m scared for my life. They might try to catch me, sell me, and pass me off as some sort of carnival attraction. Or perhaps be brought to a laboratory and be studied by scientists. I will surely be subjected to many forms of abuse. What’s worst would be them performing some sort of lobotomy in order to properly scrutinize my brain, my body, and the source of my intellect. A cat’s nine lives won’t be enough to survive such a procedure. That’s why I really need to be a cat—a normal and ordinary cat. I will never think about my humanity again. I will abandon my human self from back then. I will teach myself to forget that I ever existed as a human. I am a cat. I am Kafka, a cat. I am not Ranilio Callautit, Jr., human. I am a cat. It is only proper that I act as a cat and not as a human. Meow. Meow, meow. Meow! Meow, meow, meow. Meooowww! ♦
Roy Vadíl Aragon
Roy Vadíl Aragon is a fictionist and poet who writes mostly in Ilokano language. Besides writing, he edits and designs books, works as a freelance translator-editor, maintains the food blog Pinakbet Republic, and administers the widely popular Ilokano Food page in Facebook.
Amado Anthony G. Mendoza III
Amado Anthony G. Mendoza III teaches courses on Southeast Asian literature and creative writing at the Department of Filipino and Philippine Literature, University of the Philippines Diliman. He is the author of the novel Aklat ng mga Naiwan (Book of the Damned) (Balangiga, 2018) and co-edited and co-translated an upcoming volume of Wiji Thukul’s poems titled Balada ng Bala (The Ballad of a Bullet) (Sentro ng Wikang Filipino, 2020).
Kimo Nelson was born in Honolulu and grew up moving between the US, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. He received his MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and was an artist-in-residence at the Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program in Brooklyn, NY. He has exhibited at venues that include Danese/Corey Gallery (NY), 532 Gallery Thomas Jaeckel (NY),Projekt722 (Brooklyn, NY), Disjecta (Portland, OR), and Chase Young Gallery (Boston, MA). Kimo lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.