I would have gone on blaming poverty for what happened: If that area of Mandaluyong had been more affluent, if the houses had been gated, if the dogs in these houses had been vaccinated against rabies, or at least fed well to keep them from being rabid, if I hadn’t had to walk, if I hadn’t had to buy oily to-go dinner.
But poverty can’t be a generic scapegoat, in fact it can never be a scapegoat because it’s futile to file a case against it before a judge, or flog it to death, or gas it. It was an uneventful Saturday evening that was to be stirred by an incident I found funny and sad at the same time.
I just finished working out in a gym a few blocks from the condominium where I lived when, thinking that eating out is too much of a hassle and expensive, I bought deep fried chicken from the nearest Ministop on my way home and like a mouse coming from a rampage of a farmer’s produce in the village, I carried my loot home with insouciance. I could not remember anything that was ominous that night. It was like any other.
From afar, I saw a pack of thin dogs, standing steadily, not in a pouncing stance, at ease, but obviously in a prowl for something. I sensed the stench of their hunger still I did not mind. I was never scared of dogs, not even the stray ones, not even the rabid-looking stray ones. As I went closer to the pack, the smell of deep-fried chicken must have caused them to panic. Food was close. What got between them and dinner was a figure of a sweaty man whose pheromones never meant anything for them but a stumbling block to be intimidated or annihilated.
At first, they attempted to intimidate me with their fierce barking. It did not work. My dinner was with me intact. One of them couldn’t be satisfied with a mere display of the pack’s braggadocio and mustered enough gall to bite me.
I went blank. My dinner was with me, still intact.
The dogs stopped barking and ran away. I was left on the middle of the street, trying to recall what my fourth grade Science and Health teacher told the class many years back–thoroughly wash the wound with soap and water. I ran to my unit, did exactly that, took a quick shower, and ate my dinner.
While eating those chicken breasts, pictures of my life flashed before me. Was I going to die, I asked myself. I imagined myself salivating profusely, limbs bound to my bed using a nylon cord, hydrophobic, afraid of the ray of light that passes through a slit in the window pane, waiting for death, my mother crying by my side, my head turning a complete 360 degrees. Finally, I begin spitting green goo.
Although I have no interest in going past the age of 50, dying in my 20s is unfortunate, and dying because of rabies is tragicomic. So I finished my chicken, took a jeep to Mandaluyong Medical Center and went straight to emergency. I was advised to go to the nearest animal bite center. There are three in Manila: RITM in Alabang and San Lazaro Hospital in Manila, which are both government hospitals, and Victor Potenciano Medical Center which is a few steps away from my building. The last hospital charges like Saint Luke’s and RITM is in the other end of the Metro, too far I sometimes suspect the existence of Alabang is a stuff of fiction.
Before I flew to San Lazaro, I had myself injected with ATS (anti-tetanus serum) and tetanus toxoid.
(to be continued)..