He was Archer, a ginger-white feline with out-of-this-world charm. His kingdom spanned the expansive and manicured green grass in front of Henry Sy, Sr. Hall of De La Salle University (DLSU), the cozy school benches under shade and the entrance that is called North Gate that welcomed students and visitors alike. Almost always, he acted like a security guard, patrolling the campus with dignity and authority. His reign went far beyond his territory: He was the official mascot of De La Salle University-Professors for the Upliftment of Society’s Animals (DLSU-PUSA) and was dubbed the Lion King of DLSU community.
He was Archer, but he was first called Yanyan by a security guard who fell in love with him. She saw Archer around June 2013; he was still a small cat who kept evading those who wanted to catch him. The nice lady guard also won the heart of the elusive feline because she shared her packed meals with him until she retired in 2017. Two years later, by a twist of fate, the kind lady would become his mother. Jenny Enopia was chosen to adopt Archer by DLSU-PUSA, the organization that was instrumental in caring for the community cats and making sure that both humans and cats coexisted harmoniously. This was decided in March 2019 when Archer was diagnosed with severe kidney and liver problems. It was a bittersweet decision, but nonetheless the best choice an animal welfare organization could give an adoptable cat, most especially a cat with special needs.
He was “Archer the Lasallian Cat”, as his lifetime alumni ID card read. Normally, human alumni like us had to apply and pay a handsome fee. Archer truly broke boundaries being the beloved cat of DLSU, which was why the De La Salle Alumni Association gave him a free lifetime card to support his graduation. As for his Graduation Day, also known officially as his Adoption Day on March 7, 2019, it was a legitimate one with complete stage setup: The Graduation March was playing in the background and the event sold out entrance tickets, with commemorative items and a cat tour made available. The historic event was all over the news, most especially when he ran offstage all of a sudden. The elusive little kitten who ran so fast was very much still in him when he graduated. After the pandemonium of screams when he ran, a collective “awww” was heard as the emcee told everybody he went into a favorite hideout he shared with his best friend GoodAnimo. It was as if Archer wanted to say goodbye to his pal first.
He was Archer, the adopted cat with a doting mother of two children and three other cat siblings. Archer’s life at home was witnessed by many supporters as Ate Jenny – whom she was fondly called in the DLSU-PUSA community – frequently posted pictures of him loafing on his bread-shaped bed. It was a peaceful life filled with love, affection, and dedicated attention; it was everything he needed and more. Most people did not know this, but Ate Jenny regularly medicated Archer and was even trained to give him subcutaneous fluids at home. Cat parents would know that administering subcutaneous fluids was way outside of anybody’s comfort zone. Each day was precious when you had a cat with chronic kidney disease.
He was Archer, and so we collectively cried and reminisced on June 29, 2019 when he died. His chronic kidney disease progressed to Stage 4, and he experienced complications involving his liver, and possible even lymphoma. That Saturday felt grey with heavy rainfall, as if mirroring the many personal accounts and memories flooding everybody’s social media feeds. Those who were fortunate to have met him, and those who followed his story out of cuteness and curiosity, were united in grief. A silent memorial on July 4, 2019 was held near the North Gate, where the DLSU community was given a day to pay tribute before his ashes were turned over to Ate Jenny. His DLSU foster mothers – Laureen Velasco, who wore an Archer t-shirt as she comforted Ate Jenny, and Carmel Puertollano, who offered her home to Archer during the Lenten break – lingered near his ashes and made sure everything went well. It was a beautiful and sacred memorial. As for me, I was lucky to have taken many photos of him and to have written about him twice in this magazine. Archer, in his innocence and inherent magnetism, served as an inspiration for all of us. His death only made our advocacy stronger. Amid the sea of letters and sharing of personal stories about Archer, I overheard two volunteers proudly say that Archer scratched them and that he literally left his mark on them. It was funny and true.
He was Archer, and he certainly left his mark on us forever.
This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s August 2019 issue.