“He who feeds a hungry animal feeds his own soul.”
The quote from silent films star Charlie Chaplin is the title of Hyacinth Lumagbas’s Facebook album containing photos of her feeding stray dogs and cats.
“Feeding your soul is more than just doing what makes you feel good,” says Hyacinth, the 34-year-old businesswoman and veterinary medicine student from Butuan but now based in Aklan. “Feeding strays is what makes me feel good. When you accomplish or meet the goals of your mission, you feed your soul.” (Read: #AdoptDontShop Trends Online After Death Row Dogs Rescue in Bulacan)
My Pope Philippines caught up with the animal lover (and “hooman” to 13 cats and three dogs!) to ask her about her passion project— and why she keeps at it despite the challenges.
When did your love for animals begin?
My love for animals began when I was just a kid. I grew up on a farm in Bukidnon, watching the sunrises and sunsets, being surrounded by animals. No farm kid grows up without learning responsibility. Every day, I got to feed these animals and feeding was one of the responsibilities I needed to fulfill before the day ended. These animals were my playmates when I was a kid.
Why do you have a soft spot for dogs and cats?
I have a soft spot for dogs and cats because they were my only greatest friends and companions during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life. I only have a few trusted friends, and I have this deep attachment and connection to animals rather than humans. Dogs and cats are my stress reliever. (Read: ‘Adopt, Don’t Shop’ Like These Four Celebrities and Their Shelter Pets)
Tell us about your feeding project.
It started on June 28, 2017, and we feed strays in the towns of Pilar and President Roxas, Capiz, as well as select barangays of Roxas City, like Baybay, Culasi, Dayao, Tanque, and Tiza. We feed about 30-40 strays 2-3 times a week. Last December we fed hundreds of strays in the heart of the city, and we are doing it again this January.
When I started feeding the strays I bought dog food and rice out of my own pocket. Just this year, a few kindhearted people and some good friends noticed my feeding activities, and they contributed, some in cash, others in kind.
We give them dog food, sardines mixed with Ivermectin for mangy dogs, rice, and chicken. Last December 25, a donor donated hotdogs and chicken bilogs; that was our first time feeding strays with processed meat.
How do you help stray animals with mange, fleas, and malnutrition?
For serious cases like abuse, I report them to shelters that cater to the needs of animals that need immediate treatment and rehab. I am also an active volunteer of Aklan Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, and Delgado Animal Day Care and Rescue Center. I participate in the actual rescue of dogs being harmed and abused.
What are the challenges of your passion project?
The lack of donors and willing volunteers. When the pandemic started I tried to save as much money as I could because there were no donors. In hard times, I wasn’t able to feed as many strays as I wanted. Whatever money I had was all spent on animal food. (Read: 5 Tips to Keep Your Pets Safe During a Disaster)
What makes you go on?
The challenges are insurmountable but doable. I don’t allow matters like these to affect my inner desire to lend my voice to the voiceless—animals that are neglected, abused, abandoned, and starved by their irresponsible owners who find them ugly, old, sick, and mangy. Most people want to own a pet. Pups are cute but the novelty wears off when they get older.
What has taking care of stray animals done for you as a person?
Taking care of strays sharpened my senses to become one responsible individual. It makes me feel I am doing the right thing and it lowers my stress levels. Volunteering makes me feel like I am involved with my community and I am making a difference, it helps me build stronger social connections especially with people who also share my passion of being an animal carer, volunteer, and rescuer. It’s been a great ride so far and I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.