As every good story should begin, “Once upon a time, there was a beautiful dog.”
Mitzi and Tony had fostered several cats for The Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) before they met Howie. He was a senior dog who had spent his entire life at the PAWS shelter. No one wanted a fearful dog with lots of scars, a bald face, and a number of health problems. Fostering Howie started the succession of senior and special needs shelter animals that the couple would take home because no one else wanted them. As expected, they were all foster fails.
It became their mission to give animals like Howie a chance to experience a furever home. Moving from Quezon City to Pampanga was the first big leap they needed to make for their growing furry family. With the help of their fellow animal welfare advocates Tina, Alice, and Angelo, BFFS was born.
We continue to grow with the support of our generous donors and of course PAWS — our “mother ship” and animal welfare BFF.
Best Friends Furever Sanctuary, Inc. is a registered non-stock, non-profit, non-government organization. Our operations are funded solely by donations.
President and Co-Founder
Mitzi Cruz is a graphic designer and web developer by profession, working alongside her partner, Tony, as COO of ROI Media Limited. As a PAWS volunteer, she has participated in a variety of volunteer work, including graphic design, social media and website management, humane education, adoption counseling, rescue operations, outreach programs, and disaster relief. She eventually served as one of their shelter managers, with focus on streamlining their digital processes and promoting adoptions. Out of all of these volunteer activities, she enjoyed fostering the most.
As her involvement with animal welfare increased, she found herself spending more time doing hands-on animal care than fulfilling her corporate duties. A self-confessed dog person, she has also been called a “crazy cat lady,” “crazy rabbit lady,” “crazy bird lady,” and at times just CRAZY. Her typical day involves giving butt baths, getting scratched during medicine time, cleaning eye boogers, and other tasks befitting the co-founder and President of BFFS.
A co-founder of BFFS, Tony Gavin is an Australian-born entrepreneur who has lived in the Philippines for over a decade. An accountant by profession, his career spans business and financial advisory, finance, insurance, franchising, marketing and digital publishing. For the past 12 years Tony has been CEO of Hong Kong based ROI Media Limited, a digital directory publisher and marketing agency, and the major corporate sponsor of BFFS.
In addition to using his business resources to support BFFS, he is also a doting furdad to our residents. He claims not to play favorites, but he displayed a clear bias towards Fonzie, a senior Alaskan Malamute who was abandoned by his first owners. They shared a strong bond before Fonzie crossed the rainbow bridge at 10 years old. To this day, Tony will deny being a softie as he cuddles with our latest foster — especially when caught using baby talk.
Tina Pimentel is an independent consultant with a focus on policy development and advocacy, governance, and stakeholder engagement on social justice issues. She has over 20 years of local and international experience with multiple non-government organizations and research firms. Tina’s passion for social justice extends to animal welfare – a journey which began in 2018, when at the prodding of her then 9-year-old daughter, she volunteered at the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), where she is now an adoption counselor, novice cat fosterer, and incessant cat cuddler. Through PAWS, she met BFFS co-founder, Mitzi, with whom she shared a passion for animal welfare.
Tina is also fur mom to Alyanna, a white special needs puspin and BFFS resident. Alyanna reminds her of her cat, Khione, whom she adopted from PAWS. Tina and her family are now proud to include Khione, along with four other cats, two dogs, and a turtle.
Alice Sarmiento is a cultural worker and curator who is finishing her Masters degree at the University of the Philippines, Diliman, with research interests in gender and how contemporary art and cultural practices might be built on frameworks of care and interdependency. Her interest in care and collective action is deeply informed by her work with the Philippine Animal Welfare Society, where she has been volunteering since 2011, as a fosterer and adoption counselor for the shelters hundreds of cats, before joining the board of BFFS.
Alice is currently working towards The Dream of becoming a full-time cat parent (preferably in a castle, like Enya). Along the way, she has commissioned art and coordinated exhibitions through grants and residencies with the Japan Foundation, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, and the Akademie Schloss Solitude (an actual castle that serves as the template for the future castle she plans to fill with cats. Like Enya). Along the way, Alice and her partner have also amassed a rotating cast of fosters, foster fails–and foster wins–with the average cat count at their apartment often bouncing between 12 and 16.
Angelo Gabrillo serves as BFFS’ Corporate Secretary and is responsible for the maintenance of corporate records. He has professional experience in the fields of nursing, animal welfare, and law, having started his involvement with the Philippine Animal Welfare Society in 2011. He began volunteering for PAWS when he wanted to adopt a dog of his own but knew he wasn’t ready for the responsibility. Since then, he has taken care of hundreds of animals at the shelter, all of whom were treated with as much love and care as if they were his own. It was also at PAWS where he developed a knack for the administrative and legal aspects of animal welfare.
In 2012, he finally decided he was ready for the responsibilities that came with being a fur dad and adopted “Navy”, one of the many dogs he helped rehabilitate at the PAWS Shelter. Today, he has ten fur kids of his own, composed of five dogs and five cats.