On the Peculiarities of the Ateneo Cats
On the Peculiarities of the Ateneo Cats
by Carlo Rivera
It's not very clear how I was inspired to read T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. Perhaps I was reading a collection of his and felt oppressed by “The Waste Land.” Perhaps I was made late for class by the sight of two cats frolicking in the zen gardens. Perhaps I was having a late breakfast with a very pretty young stage actress who loves musical theater in general and Cats in particular. I'm not telling.
It is a perpetual delight to incoming Ateneans to get acquainted with the local troupe of felines. The sight of a fearless tom imperiously inspecting the garbage bins or the discovery of a quartet of kittens asleep in a flower pot is the perfect antidote to the academic anxiety that thrums beneath the happy-go-lucky atmosphere of the campus. Yet cats and academics are not incompatible. I once saw a student quietly reading his assignment on the library steps with a sleeping tabby curled up in his lap. For all the machismo bandied about during UAAP season, it seems that Ateneans are softies at heart, making it easy for felines and humans alike to solicit handouts. You don't need to look at the cats to know that. Not for nothing does Katipunan have the fattest street children in all of Metro Manila.
The interactions are telling. I used to be moderately sheepish about whipping out my cell phone camera to take snapshots of cute campus cats, until I ran into another student taking photos of them with a full-sized Nikon with a lens that looked like the barrel of a small howitzer. Student traffic parts like the Red Sea around a smug-looking tortoiseshell cat who has decided that he and he alone shall occupy the middle of the corridor. I am told that the De La Costa Cat has his own web page and a collar provided by a generous student, and I have heard the feline who stalks through Kostka hall referred to as Kostkat. Ever contradictory, they are as likely to beg plaintively for a piece of your chicken teriyaki as they are to ignore you while napping on top of your school bag.
The Rum Rum Tugger is a terrible bore:
When you let him in, then he wants to be out;
He's always on the wrong side of every door,
And as soon as he's at home, then he'd like to get about.
He likes to lie in the bureau drawer, but he makes such a fuss if he can't get out.
Yes the Rum Rum Tugger is a Curious Cat-
And it isn't any use for you to doubt it:
For he will do
As he do do
And there's no doing anything about it!
Yet for all the cuteness they exude, these cats refuse to be clingy. A search for a bright orange kitten with a crooked tail who allegedly jumps into people's laps at Faura Hall came up empty. They go where they please. They're never where you expect them to be. They're cool.
Macavity, Macavity, there's no one like Macavity,
He's broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,
And when you reach the scene of crime – Macavity's not there!
You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air-
But I tell you once and once again, Macavity's not there!
And yet, sometimes, they come out in force, kittens and full-sized cats alike. They frolic for a few minutes, then disappear, rather like last Monday's Ateneo Shuffle flash mob event.
He is quiet and small, he is black
From his ears to the tip of his tail;
He can creep through the tiniest crack,
He can walk on the narrowest rail.
He can pick any card from a pack.
He is equally cunning with dice;
He is always deceiving you into believing
That he's only hunting for mice.
He can play any trick with a cork
Or a spoon and a bit of fish-paste;
If you look for a knife or a fork
And you think it is merely misplaced-
You have seen it one moment, and then it is gawn!
You'll find it next week lying out on the lawn.
And we all say: OH!
Well I never!
Was there ever
A cat so clever
As Magical Mr. Mistoffelees!
The Literature teacher in me says that it was the characters that made Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats and the musical it inspired, Cats, such a success. I love how Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer go about causing mischief while joined at the hip. I love how the ever-contrary Rum Rum Tugger was based on Mick Jagger, and how he veers schizophrenically between feline aloofness and wild enthusiasm. I love the world-weary gentleness of Grizabella. Most of all, I love how variations of these personalities show up all over campus.
And I don't mean just among the cats.