Last February 14, cat lovers everywhere were heartbroken upon discovering that One Bonifacio High Street Park’s friendly neighborhood felines had suddenly disappeared. Rumors circulated that the adjacent Shangri-La at the Fort hotel had hired a pest control company called Pestbusters to get rid of the cats, and the online backlash was immediate.
This Facebook post decrying Shangri-La at the Fort and Pestbuster’s actions went viral, and as of press time has over 10,000 shares, 2,400 comments, and 20,000 reactions.
In another statement issued on February 18, Shangri-La clarified that they did not have the cats killed, and that their employees had adopted 12 cats while another 11 were relocated to residential areas on Ilaya Street and Anastacio Street in Taguig City.
But Facebook users remained skeptical and demanded proof that the cats were alive and well. Cats of BGC—a group of neighborhood volunteers who collaborate with CARA to care for the cats in the park—came under fire as well. Alarmed to find that their charges were missing, they sought a meeting with CARA and Shangri-La at the Fort on February 15, and released a statement the following day:
They explained that while they were just as heartbroken and outraged as everyone else, they wanted to put the cats’ welfare first. In their meeting with Shangri-La, the hotel management pledged to help them promote awareness regarding the adoption of their cats.
They reiterated that while the volunteers behind the Cats of BGC Facebook page work to feed, tag, spay, neuter, and vaccinate strays, they also emphasize the importance of adopting cats to save them from the dangers of living on the street.
Their followers quickly accused them of being paid off by Shangri-La Fort. Out of frustration, volunteer Timmi Bandian left the group and posted a long statement in defense of Cats of BGC.
She rebutted accusations that the Cats of BGC had been bribed, and clarified that the group doesn’t accept monetary donations. They often personally shouldered the expenses of caring for their feline friends, or worked with CARA to get them neutered and vaccinated.
Bandian also explained that they wanted to verify the cats’ location and find them before disclosing any more details, so as not to “make false claims or create short-lived joy.” She revealed that Shangri-La initially told them that the cats were relocated “in Buting and near Kalayaan,” only to post on Facebook that the cats were brought to two locations within Taguig City. She appealed to the public to help in finding the cats who had been relocated, and to find the remaining felines permanent homes. Her post includes photos of the “Shang cats” they cared for, along with updates on whether they are adopted, deceased, missing, or in need of fostering.
Earlier today, the Cats of BGC page posted another statement addressing their followers’ most common questions and criticisms. They explained that while they have not forgotten what has happened to their charges, antagonizing Shangri-La would be counterproductive. They considered it good news that the hotel management promised not to relocate the cats again, and to assist them in finding homes.
They also reiterated that they are not an animal welfare group of organization, but a group of four ladies who live and work in Bonifacio Global City who feed and medicate the cats using their own resources, or those of CARA. The post ended with a challenge to their critics to help find the missing cats and get them adopted, rather than being keyboard warriors. Together with CARA, they are currently conducting searches of the areas indicated by Shangri-La.
If you have any information regarding the missing cats, tag their page and use the hashtag #FindingCatsofBGC.