In landslide-hit villages, pets also saved, get care | Inquirer News

In landslide-hit villages, pets also saved, get care

/ 05:06 AM February 17, 2024

Responders, backed by heavy equipment, comb the ground zero of a massive landslide in the village of Masara in Maco, Davao de Oro, in this photo on Feb. 10, four days after thetragedy struck. The landslide killed nearly 100 people with more than 30 others still missing.

GROUND ZERO Responders, backed by heavy equipment, comb the ground zero of a massive landslide in the village of Masara in Maco, Davao de Oro, in this photo on Feb. 10, four days after the tragedy struck. The landslide killed nearly 100 people with more than 30 others still missing. —FRINSTON LIM

TAGUM CITY—As sniffer dogs like the Philippine Coast Guard’s (PCG) Appa grabbed the headlines following the miraculous rescue of a 3-year-old girl four days into the devastating landslide at Masara village in Maco, Davao de Oro, dozens of pets left behind by their fleeing human families were stuck at “ground zero” hungry, scared and traumatized.

When a photo of an abandoned “aspin” (asong Pinoy or mongrel) perched beside the Masara welcome marker went viral, it tugged many heartstrings and moved dog trainer Heart Ching Bernil into action.


Together with other dog lovers, Bernil went to the landslide-hit community in Masara’s Zone 1 with a mission: save all pets still stuck there. Bernil’s Good Samaritan of Tagum organization brought pet food for the starving animals as well as pet crates and leashes.


“It was risky, but didn’t we realize that when we needed help during those times dogs are there 100 percent, risking their lives to save humans?” Bernil told the Inquirer.

She said her group rescued Luna and Kopi, both aspin, during their first mission a week after the tragedy.

The canines’ owner sought help through social media after her brother left the dogs when he fled Masara following the landslide on Feb. 6.

The pet rescuers found the dogs scared and hungry in a spot near the house of their owners. They also saved a cat.

“They are part of our family,” Bernil said of the abandoned animals. “Their owners fled but the pets were left behind stressed, hungry and in a situation where they could be in danger when another landslide hits.”

“They missed their fur parents too,” she added.


At least 27 dogs and 23 cats had been rescued in Masara and in the nearby village of Mainit, whose residents were also ordered to flee to evacuation centers due to the landslide, the provincial veterinary office (PVO) said.

Bernil clarified that one of the rescued dogs was located and recovered inside an abandoned house and not underground, a week after the disaster.

“We want to extend our deepest gratitude to all who extended their effort and time in rescuing Luna and Kopi,” Amelie Biego wrote on Facebook. “What you did to rescue Luna and Kopi was not easy. The area was dangerous, but you did not hesitate to save (them),” added Biego.


The rescued pets were immediately given care like providing them food, vaccination and vitamin supplementation, according to PVO assistant head Headily Cenabre.

Bernil said she was elated by the outpouring of support from government and private groups in trying to save and take care of pets and other animals affected by the Masara disaster.

Mawab Mayor Ruperto Gonzaga has opened a portion of the town’s slaughterhouse in Nuevo Iloco village as temporary shelter for the unclaimed pets.

Davao de Oro Rep. Ruwel Peter Gonzaga also gave P50,000 for the purchase of more pet crates and leashes.

Bernil’s rescue efforts were also supported by Tagum Obedience Kennel, Dog Owners of Tagum Association, as well as pet shops and pet clinics in Tagum, and responders at ground zero like the military, police and the coast guard.

Search for bodies

Meanwhile, the Philippine Coast Guard’s (PCG) three search dogs—Britney, Ivy and Tiffa—had helped in the marking of possible locations of six cadavers under tons of debris in Masara on Thursday as the toll in deadly landslide neared 100.

“The (search and rescue) team, composed of dedicated handlers and their highly trained dogs, has been tirelessly scouring the affected areas, utilizing the keen senses of their canine partners to navigate through challenging terrain. Through their combined efforts, they have provided crucial assistance in locating sites where individuals may have tragically perished in the disaster,” the PCG Southeastern Mindanao said on its social media page.

“These findings represent a crucial step in the recovery process, offering closure to grieving families and ensuring dignified handling of the situation,” the PCG added.

On Thursday, Appa, the celebrated coast guard sniffer dog, finished its mission, with PCG veterinarians recommending rest for the exhausted 9-year-old canine, according to Commander Angela Tobias, PCG Southeastern Mindanao spokesperson.

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With efforts now shifted to search and retrieval of the victims in the landslide starting on Wednesday, many rescue teams had been sent home after over a week at the site of the tragedy.

TAGS: Davao de Oro, Landslide, Mining

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