Menagerie Puss in books: Mooncake becomes DLSU’s first feline professor
Menagerie Puss in books: Mooncake becomes DLSU’s first feline professor
Puss in books: Mooncake becomes DLSU’s first feline professor

Typically nestled on a pile of unmarked quizzes, Mooncake was a common sight at the Faculty Center, often dozing off in the company of the University’s faculty members. Now, the beloved feline has transcended man’s idea of a cat’s role in society by joining the ranks of the University’s esteemed faculty, and becoming DLSU’s first feline professor. 


Cathropology

“It started as a joke really,” Mooncake says through the translator device on her collar. After having been bestowed with a Doctor of Arts in Feline Studies degree, honoris causa, Mooncake found herself flooded with congratulations from the University’s faculty. The particular idea came up when she was sitting with then-professor Dr. Shrew Dinger from the Biology Department, who has since reportedly disappeared after the encounter. Dinger encouraged her to be a voice for the feline community, especially within the academe. 

“With so much uncertainty surrounding felines, he told me it was time I stepped out of my box,” Mooncake recalls. Support from members of the Animal Science Organization (ASO) and other school organizations soon followed, with an online petition on the DLSU Community Forum reaching 20,772 signatories.

Shortly after, Professor Mooncake arranged to offer the University’s first course focusing on feline behavior and society. Currently, Mooncake teaches the pioneer class of Introduction to Cathropology (CATHRO1), which is the first part of a two-term course. CATHRO1 in particular aims to enlighten students about the increasing relevance of felines in the modern world, as well as clarifying what constitutes proper feline-human interactions. 

“Originally, I only saw myself teaching one course. But while assembling the syllabus for CATHRO1, I realized there was simply too much to learn about feline behavior, culture, and society to fit into one semester. I decided to teach more,” Mooncake says, a cheeky grin forming on her face. “You could say I have too much time on my paws.”






Lost in translation

Principal among the struggles of a feline educator is their inability to communicate using human speech. To circumvent this problem, a team composed of students from both the College of Science and the College of Computer Studies, under the guidance of Dr. Hayopka Forver—the venerable zoologist from the Philippine Welfare of Animal Protection and Conservation—were tasked to develop a ground-breaking device at the request of ASO. The device is small and rectangular—similar in size and shape to a Sony Walkman MP3 player—and is built with a collar specially designed for Mooncake. Currently in its prototype form, it translates the purrsand meows of cats into comprehensible speech, allowing Mooncake to communicate with humans. 

“Mooncake—sorry, Professor Mooncake; I have to remember to address her that way from now on—was really happy with the device,” Forver shares. “One of ASO’s requests was for the device to have different voices that Mooncake could choose from.” 

More than just an extensive selection of unique, computer programmed voices—1,911, to be exact—the team also included recordings of popular DLSU cheers, such as Rektikano and Bumakaya, should Mooncake find herself at a UAAP game cheering for the Green-and-White. Furthermore, at the request of DLSU President Br. Raymundo Suplido FSC, a recording of the Alma Mater Hymn was also included, along with a piano rendition of Stephen Foster’s Beautiful Dreamer.

However, like most new inventions, the device has not been without teething problems, apart from just the occasional translation errors. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for this [device], but it just malfunctions [too] often,” lamented the newly-minted professor. “I was giving a lecture one time, and [it] just started belting out the Alma Mater Hymn in full volume!” 

Dale Oryan (IV, BS-CAT) confirms this incident, recounting his alarm and surprise, “I was walking past Professor Mooncake’s classroom at that moment when suddenly the room erupted into chants of ‘Hail! Hail! Hail!’ Grabe, nagulat talaga ako.” 

(Wow, I was so shocked.)


Humble beginnings

Mooncake credits her astounding level of intellect to the many years she spent at the Faculty Center, absorbing an inordinate amount of information on various subjects by listening in on the faculties’ many academic discussions. “At first, I just liked to hang out there because of the aircon and they had really comfortable chairs, you know? But honestly, they have all these academic discussions all the time. You really can’t help but listen in. They never tried to kick me out either, so I [was able to] stay as long as I wanted.”

“It all makes sense now. She was always around whenever we had discussions on subjects and what-not,” shares Associate Professor Luca Pacioli of the Accountancy Department. “Mooncake often slept on my desk, but [there was] one time [when] I was surprised to find her soundly asleep on top of a completed worksheet—which I don’t even remember making. What was crazy was that [the worksheet] was full of debit and credit entries, all in good accounting format!”

But Mooncake’s ascent to the Assistant Professor post has also come with challenges. “The discrimnation is very real. Some [members of the faculty] just don’t see me as their peer,” she says. Mooncake also recalls a particular incident during a faculty meeting, “I was raising a completely rational point against the study of therapy dogs—as opposed to the more general study of therapy animals—when my colleague started scratching behind my ears.” 

“I couldn’t help but purr, and the machine translated it rather embarrassingly,” Mooncake admits, pointing to the device on her collar.


Felines for a cause

While it has taken no time for Mooncake to become a Lasallian icon in the hearts of many students, she refuses to limit herself to the role of a conventional professor. Outside the classroom, Mooncake champions a number of causes—from the dismantling of the canine hegemony to the closure of Master Siomai—but the foremost among them is the empowerment of felines. “We have had a long record of being seen as passive, cunning, and even evil,” Mooncake says. “Just look at feline representation in the media—why are supervillains’ pets almost always cats?”

In addressing this, Mooncake has been holding a series of workshops, titled Catmunication 101, to educate other cats on campus about how to contribute to the University and properly interact with its human population. “A big thing we’ve done so far is to limit the number of scratching incidents. Most of the time, our jumpier friends mistake what humans call ‘petting’ as a threat,” she discusses.

Mooncake notes, however, that they have had to move the workshop’s location from the Agno Gate benches to an undisclosed location to avoid their sessions being interrupted by human well-wishers.

Keeping up with the rigors of academic life, Mooncake finds inspiration in the example of Archer. The beloved unofficial mascot of the University, Archer had been Mooncake’s closest companion before his “graduation” in 2019. Mooncake believes that the popularity of Archer proves how felines and humans can come together in the Lasallian spirit. “He inspires me to this day. Everything I do for this community, I do in memory of Archer as well,” she concludes.