Statue for Beloved Hero Dog Erected in the Philippines

Kabang became an icon for animal welfare and made headlines around the world for saving two girls from an oncoming motorcycle.
August 10, 2021, 9:52am
kabang the hero dog
Left: Veterinarian Anton Lim arrives in Manila after Kabang's successful rehabilitation in California. Right: Lim poses with Kabang's statue. Collage: VICE / Photos: AFP  

Many tears were shed when Kabang, a street dog in the Philippines that rose to international fame after getting injured while saving two young girls, died earlier this year. But now, Kabang’s loyal caretakers have set up a statue to honor her courageous life.

This week, Filipino veterinarian Anton Lim announced that Kabang’s statue, believed to be the first of its kind in the country, was finally completed in Zamboanga City in the south, where the dog spent most of her early years. The life-size statue fashioned from a 400-kilogram hunk of solid aluminum sits on a concrete pedestal with golden artwork representing cultural symbols from Kabang’s hometown.

The monument will also serve as Kabang’s tomb.

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“For us, Kabang is more than a hero to the family. We want people to remember her legacy and what she did,” Lim told VICE World News. 

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The statue of Kabang erected in Zamboanga City, Philippines. Photo courtesy of Anton Lim

In 2011, Kabang leapt in front of a speeding motorbike that was about to hit the two girls, aged three and 11 at the time. The courageous canine saved the girls’ lives but lost her snout, which got mangled by the motorbike’s wheel. 

The incident turned Kabang into a media sensation, which in turn helped save her life. Her injury required urgent medical attention, and she went though seven months of rehabilitation at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in California. 

Kabang bounced back and became an icon for animal welfare in the Philippines. She was not a prized breed but an “aspin,” a local name for dogs of mixed breed. Lim noted a rise in aspin adoptions since Kabang’s story went viral.

“That is Kabang’s legacy. Any dog—any breed for that matter—is capable of becoming heroes, depending on how owners take care of them,” he said. “Love begets love. You get what you give.”

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Kabang's paw print were taken before she laid to rest. Courtesy of Anton Lim

Kabang died in her sleep in May. When Lim broke the sad news to the public, Filipinos honored Kabang with artworks and caricatures displayed on social media.  

Dog statues vary from place to place. Perhaps the most famous is that of the canine Hachiko, who waited for his master for nine years outside a train station in Japan. The leader of Turkmenistan also erected a gold-leaf statue honoring his beloved dog breed.

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Kabang’s distinct profile was sculpted by Kublai Millan, while the pedestal was designed by Keith San Antonio, both Filipino artists. Near the memorial stands an image of St. Francis of Assisi, the Catholic patron saint of animals. The park hosting Kabang’s memorial is pet- and pedestrian-friendly, and is located near an orphanage named after the same saint popular among Filipinos. 

Plans to honor Kabang with a monument were drafted even before she died. The project was funded by an American family who are Kabang’s fans. Other fans and pet lovers tried to get a glimpse of the statue as it was being sculpted, and many turned up to take photos when it was transported to the park.

“You don’t need to put a name for Kabang. If you see her iconic side profile, you will know it’s Kabang,” Lim said, referring to the dog's appearance after the accident and surgery.

Lim said some mall owners and pet-friendly establishments in Manila and other parts of the Philippines have approached him about setting up similar statues in their locations. 

But wouldn’t that mean Kabang’s statue in Zamboanga will no longer be unique?

“Kabang doesn’t belong to one family or to me. Kabang belongs to everyone,” Lim said.

Follow Anthony Esguerra on Twitter.