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Para sa paborito kong aso

A COUPLE OF years back, a non-government organization (NGO) based in Hawaii spent $50,000 to retrieve a captain’s dog from an oil tanker that burned in the middle of nowhere. The gutted derelict was found. The famished dog was still aboard, probably still waiting for its owner.

By coughing up some P2.5 million in a dogged resolve to reunite an abandoned pet and its master, the NGO showed its blessed breeding – this firm is a retriever, a canine type favored by hunters to collect felled prey. That’s so unlike a locally based hog of an NGO that chomped on some P2 billion from the sale of government debt papers that sounds like “piss bonds”; taxpayers will have to settle the debts, cough up P35 billion after 10 years, but that’s another horror story.

Going back to our story, that sea dog of a captain either doted on man’s faithful friend or he shares with us some long-held beliefs on dogs that we haven’t grasped in full yet, but we hold onto still.

Say, local folklore insist that a dog would willingly give up its soul to prolong the life of its master. That captain was last to leave his sinking ship but he survived, didn’t he?

I guess such a belief stems from Vedic cosmology, a hand-me-down knowledge from the nomadic Aryans who subdued the Dravidians of India’s Indus Valley around 1700 before the common era.

Unlike unlucky Israelis who carved a nation amid hostile Palestine real estate, the fierce Aryan nomads had total control over their conquered territory – no sneak attacks from mujahideen groups, no suicide bombing missions. No oil embargo. No pressure from the civilized international community for the conqueror to pull its punches. Ah, those were the halcyon days, mwa-ha-ha-haw!

Like our cherished beliefs about dogs, an Aryan religious symbol remains much with us to this day: the swastika, from Sanskrit words sva (one’s own) and stika (it is) which represents a being in perpetual motion. The swastika also symbolizes inner divinity or the gods within. Warrior monk Boddhidharma brought the symbol to a Shaolin temple in China and steeled ‘em wimp monks in the arts of hand-to-hand combat. One Adolph Hitler (of Aryan stock and murderously intent on showing Israelis how Aryans do geopolitics) well, this Hitler foisted a skewed swastika as a magical talisman for his rabid pursuit of world conquest. Boddhidharma’s martial lessons flourished and flowered throughout the world. Hitler’s martial megalomania bit the dust.

Hey, our down-to-earth beliefs on dogs were mined from this rich loam of Vedic lore. There’s divine beauty and love in a dog sacrificing its soul to lengthen its master’s life. This notion comes from Vedic astrology – a dog serves as sacrificial lamb to the so-called Dragon’s Tail (Cauda draconis, the lunar south node or Ketu) in the heavens. As Vedic astrology texts have it, Ketu is a fiery malefic force that can trigger accidents, injuries, feelings of helplessness, spiritual turmoil, mental instability, skin diseases, drug addiction, alcoholism and plagues.

To ward off Ketu’s attacks, the family dog takes on the role of paschal lamb -- yes, that’s where the genuine spiritual “Pasko” came from. As the paschal offering stayed the Angel of Death’s scythe from harvesting souls of Jewish families’ first-born offspring during Moses’ time, the poor dog hurls its fleas, ehek, howls earnest pleas to Ketu, then willingly lays down its life. The howling sounds too close to a verse from the Gospel: “Greater love hath no man than he who willingly lays down his life for his friends.” That may throw light on a still-dim idea of dogs as man’s best friend.

Here are other feel-good omens related to dogs. Call these silly superstition but I’m a sucker for ‘em:

 A dog seen playing is a very auspicious omen for the seer;
 A dog peeing on any object in the household signifies gain of money for the homeowner. To pump up money gains also means we ought to grin and clear up the stink as the family dog or dogs spread piss on earth, at every nook and cranny of the household;
 A dog mating with a bitch inside the house portends arrival of many guests in the household;
 Dog sniffs left thigh, the sniffed chap becomes popular with women, and they’re likely to be bitchy types;
 Dog sniffs left knee – gains in business or service are coming;
 See a dog with meat, fish, bread or any morsel of food on its mouth at the start of a journey? Money benefits are coming to him/her who sees the dog;
 A dog howls at midnight facing north means loss of a loved one – but it’s usually loss of the dog, giving up its life in lieu of loved one.

Dog spelled backwards is, well, quite divine. Daemon est deus inversus, that is, a mirrored image reverses itself. That ought to explain why I rifle through warlock’s grimoires, gnostic texts and the sort of tomes a Harry Potter would pore over to pick out apt names for my dogs. Something appropriately sweet-sounding that befits their asokal (or asong kalye) lineage. Why, Phantom mauls bad guys with some help from his Devil; Herge’s boy-hero Tintin plunges into tight spots with Snowy; Marimar’s Fulgoso acts like a mafioso; and student activists in the 1970s howled their lungs out with pet peeve, “Marcos-Hitler-Diktador-Tuta!”

One of my favorites is Zahrim, named after a demon demi-urge that can slay thousands at one throw. He kept me company as I did gardening on our subdivision’s vacant lots. Another favorite is frail-looking Osrail, after an intelligence that rules the human lifespan. Osrail had nails resembling wee scythes. It’s tough on one’s pockets keeping a dozen dogs or so in one’s homeyard but pet curs somehow make sure the cash flow in torrents. That keeps ‘em well fed.

Understandably, most Filipinos love doggerel lyrics in their songs, the sort bayed out with rabid glee in videoke joints whether the moon’s waxing or waning. And not unlike dogs, majority of Filipinos are often afflicted with politics. The word comes from poly meaning “many” and “ticks” or blood-sucking insects often found on dogs.

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