Filipino Cats in Angkor Land
We arrived in Siem Reap on June 5, 2012.
After enjoying a week’s stay at the Baca Villa GuestHouse, we were able to get a good deal for a room for one month at the Green Village Angkor Hotel.
I accepted a teaching job at one of the schools in Siem Ream and started working after the queen’s birthday (June 18th) which was a national holiday. I lived in the hotel for a month. During that time, Ronald flew back to the Philippines to pack our things, have the cats documented for their travel to Cambodia, and return the keys to the landlord.
It was quite admirable of Ronald to volunteer to go back to my home country to take care of everything. All that packing, sorting, moving, and arranging storage for the things we had to leave behind. Talking to people and arranging export permits and all that’s needed to get the cats out of the country. Luckily, we found a reliable pet movers company, GRM International, whose people managed to take care of legal documents quickly and efficiently. Many many thanks to our contact Ms. Naty Castillo (firstname.lastname@example.org) for all the help and prompt correspondence!
Ronald, with the help of my brothers who were in Manila then were able to store our boxes and trunks at the spare room at my sister Patti’s house, also in Imus.
After almost a month, all eight cat passports, health certificates (issued by our favorite vet Dr. Elena Labutan who also administered the vaccinations), and other documents were ready. Import and export permits and flight arrangements were also in order.
On July 14, 2012, eight furry creatures were ready to board a Malaysia Airlines flight to Siem Reap via Kuala Lumpur.
On the way to the airport in Phnom Penh that day, it worried me heaps thinking about what the furries must be going through hearing strange voices and noises around them and being inside an airplane up in the clouds on their way to be with me. But they survived.
I was truly overjoyed to see them all alive and well staring back at me wide-eyed from their cages at the cargo terminal.
I was met and accompanied by our Cambodian friend Linna and her then boyfriend Theng Vipheak who were both instrumental in procuring an import permit from the ministry in charge in Phnom Penh. Without their help, it would have probably cost us much more time, effort, and $$ to get what we needed from the government offices in the capital.
I let Linna and Vipheak do all the talking in the vernacular with the officials at the cargo terminal to avoid standing out as the foreigner who arranged to export-import almost a dozen cats to their country. Needless to say, there were shocked exclamations from the officials at each stop.
Pram bey! “Eight!?!? Why eight?”
Right. Why not one? Or two? They probably wondered what special type or breed of furry creatures they were that they had to be flown across the South China Sea to be with their owners. I was afraid that the costs would turn special too at the end of the conversations.
Finally, I was asked to pay the $8 something indicated on the receipt at Customs and that was it. A big big sigh of relief. That was lucky. Cheap for eight cats!
Afterwards, we were allowed to summon the taxi I hired for the trip to enter the building where the cats and cargo were being stored.
There was barely enough room for all the kennels in the back seat. We had to collapse two of the four kennels and store them in the trunk. We fitted the two others in the back of the taxi with four cats in each. After we were done arranging the kennels I bid farewell to Linna and Vipheak and we parted. Seated beside the driver, I could not wait to head back to Siem Reap with the furries.
As expected, it was an uncomfortable eight-hour long ride for everyone.
After an hour or so, the cats started to cry and some of them urinated in the cages. The taxi driver kept scratching his head in annoyance or frustration and surely with some regret while complaining loudly in Khmer at every meowing. I felt so helplessness it was almost funny sitting there listening to him twitch and let out a string of incomprehensibles each time the cats made a sound. I could think of nothing to help improve the situation aside from reassuring the furries now and then, hoping my familiar voice would soothe and calm them down.
We stopped for dinner at some point and I tried to let the cats out one at a time to make use of the planter box in the parking area as a litter place. But all they did was sniff cautiously along the length of the planter boxes and the bushes.
We finally arrived in Siem Reap and at the house on Lok Ta Neuy Street an hour past midnight.
My auntie Susan was there waiting to open the gates. To add to the frustration, we had to wait for the SUVs owned by the wealthy customers of the big KTV castle across from our house to clear out from OUR driveway as usual.
It was such a big relief to finally be able to set the furries free inside the house and watch them get settled in what for them was a strange new environment.
Ronald was able to join us the following day flying directly to Siem Reap from Manila via Cebu Pacific.
Below: The villa we lived in for a year on Lok Ta Neuy St., Wat Bo Village, Salakamreuk Commune, Siem Reap.
Welcome home furry babies!