‘My pet is my family’: OFW in Myanmar pens letter asking DFA to bring her cat back to Philippines

May 11, 2021 - 5:43 PM
Photo of a cat owned by an overseas Filipino worker in Myanmar. (Karen Vinalay/Twitter)

An overseas Filipino worker in Myanmar wrote a letter asking the Department of Foreign Affairs to rescue her and her pet cat.

OFW named Karen Vinalay, an art director for ten years now, shared that the Philippine Embassy in Myanmar earlier denied her request to include pets in the rescue plane the Philippine government will be sending for them on May 24.

Vinalay said she used to have two cats—Yoda and Jon, however, the former passed away in December.

In her letter, she also cited that other Filipinos in Myanmar also wish to bring their pets back to the Philippines with them.

“It pains me when the Philippine embassy here denied my request together with the other Filipinos working here to bring our pets with us in the rescue plane that the government will be providing,” Vinalay said.

“Maybe, they have less appreciation on the importance of pets for people who have been away from home just to make a living in a foreign land,” she added.

The OFW also stressed how important these pets are to her and her fellow OFWs in Myanmar, especially when homesickness kicks in.

“For us, pets add life to our lonely life when homesickness sets in from time to time. My pets helped me get through the struggles and adjustments in a foreign land. As I said, my pet is my family here, my one and only family,” she said.

Because of this, the long-time migrant worker resorted to writing a letter addressed directly to Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. to ask if OFWs like her can bring their pets with them in the upcoming repatriation.

The OFW said that she had already secured all the necessary documents. She also said she is willing to shoulder additional expenses her request may incur.

“I hope you understand my predicament and I will be very grateful if you can help facilitate the approval of my request. I will appreciate hearing from you as soon as possible. My family resides in Cainta, Rizal,” she wrote.

She then tagged the Twitter handles of Locsin and the DFA.

‘Cats are family’

This letter eventually got the attention of the DFA.

“Hi Karen, kindly send us a DM with your contact details so we can assist you. Thank you,” it responded.

Locsin also later responded to Vinalay in a quote-retweet and inquired: “Are you the one with the cat?”

In response, Vinalay confirmed by tweeting a photo of her and her cat.

In another tweet, Locsin instructed and tagged the DFA to call Myanmar and make arrangements.

“@DFAPHL, please call Myanmar. @kvinalay, you said the magic word: CAT. Cats are family,” he said.

Another Twitter user in the same thread asked if married couples could also be part of the repatriation flight, citing they have been seeking help for 14 months.

The country’s top diplomat then responded that every migrant worker, including their pets, should be able to return home safely.

“I sympathize with your plight 100% and think it is unfair. IATF should seriously let you in. You can vouch for your loved ones; we can’t vouch for the businessmen who come in. But the cat thing is serious,” Locsin said.

“We are evacuating Filipinos from Myanmar who made a nice life there to a place of greater safety—back here. To help with their transition back to this s… (I vowed to Twitter no more cuss words) I said they can bring their pets so this place feels a bit like the home they made over there. Burma is a beautiful country with beautiful people,” he added.

Vinalay, on the other hand, thanked Locsin for his response with a photo of her cat and a thank you note.

In February,  the DFA reportedly raised the alert to Level 2 for the safety of 1,273 Filipinos in Myanmar after a military coup.
The DFA’s website said that alert Level 2 is raised if there are “real threats to life, security and property of Filipinos due to internal or external threats.”
The agency has been repatriating OFWs in Myanmar since last year due to the COVID-19 and political situation there.