Jon Snow White, a domestic short-haired cat made history as the first pet to be repatriated to the Philippines due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic.
The cat’s repatriation was made possible after overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Karen Vinalay, an art director for 10 years in Myanmar, wrote Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. requesting that she and her pet be rescued citing the current political situation in that country.
Vinalay told Locsin that the Philippine Embassy in Myanmar earlier denied her request to include pets in the rescue plane the Philippine government will dispatching to repatriate distressed and stranded Filipinos on May 24.
“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 in her letter
“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,” the OFW added.
Vinalay’s letter has caught the attention of Locsin who immediately directed his department to make the proper coordination on how to accommodate the feline on the repatriation flight.
“Hi Karen, kindly send us a DM with your contact details so we can assist you. Thank you,” Locsin tweeted in response to Vinalay’s May 10, 2021 letter that she posted on Twitter.
Locsin also advised Vinalay to call the Philippine Embassy in Yangon and use the magic word “Cat”.
“Cats are family,” the DFA secretary said in his tweet to Vinalay
In her letter, Vinalay stressed the importance of having her pets with her as an OFW 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,” Vinalay said.
Vinalay, together with her cat and 54 other Filipinos from Myanmar, Cambodia, and Thailand arrived in Manila on Saturday, May 29, 2021, onboard a chartered Philippine Airlines sweeper flight
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the repatriation flight was organized to assist stranded Filipinos in Myanmar due to the unavailability of commercial flights brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is the fifth government-funded repatriation flight since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the sixteenth Philippine Embassy-organized flight to repatriate Filipinos from Yangon, according to the DFA.