The hauntedness of Kevin Piamonte’s ‘Dog Eaters’

“Dog Eaters.” Image: University of the Philippines in the Visayas

That would be suspicious, if not terrifying, in the absence of progress and modernity. Mariana relies on Elpidia’s (Ceci Pefianco) folk medicine and method in accomplishing abortion. This is suggestive of the recuperative power of romantic nostalgia on indigenous knowledge and ways, as well as a critique of the Catholic religion and patriarchy. The absence of modern science and access to healthcare and facility for a case like Mariana unsettles the triumphalist ending. Her vehicle, a traysikad, is also noteworthy as her mode of transportation to “elsewhere” and a channel to transformation into her aspirational self. It reiterates Filipino ingenuity and resilience, and signifies the slow and uneven development in a dog-eat-dog world while manifesting as anxieties, eating up Victor and Mariana alive. There is also Ramir the dog, Victor’s alter ego and trope of primitivism, the cannibal culture.

“Dog Eaters” compels us to rethink our prevailing assumptions in light of obscene disparities in a country grappling with globalization. It drives us to pay attention to the following: the interplay of not-readily-seen powers that cause characters like Victor and Mariana to become victims; the intersectionality of class and gender; and the monstrosity of poverty. This is the universality and enduring relevance of Deriada’s work. Piamonte’s brilliance is in his acknowledgment and humility; leaning on the strength of dialogue, he let the original text speak in the vocabulary of light and shadow, natural soundscape and staging. In “Dog Eaters” as this film, we hear Deriada, we see Piamonte, and we face our rage and resistance against our collective nightmare of disposability.