by: Kimberly Samia
“If John Wick sees this film, I’m sure he’ll get triggered.” says one Facebook user on his comment about the alleged lying of the director and producer of 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) entry, Oro.
I have heard good things about the film during its December run. Some of my friends have seen it and left positive reviews on how it is compellingly realistic and culturally inclined, and that it does not only center to the “woeful massacre of miners that puts forward issues that demand attention, it also forces its audience to confront their own priorities and to examine their own definitions of equity.” Said Oggs Cruz on his film review for Rappler.
But, the film’s initially good publicity turned sour when the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) called out how one scene seemed too realistic, to the point that it is real. It was December 31, 2016 when PAWS released their initial statement on Facebook.
At one scene, a village dog was “slaughtered” to serve as pulutan for the Patrol Kalikasan’s drinking session. Prior to the screening what the film’s producer and director told the executive committee of MMFF was the dog did not die, they used a goat and it just so happened that their make up and prosthetics team did well on their job of making it “too real”.
Oro won three (3) awards during the 2016 MMFF Awards Night: Best Actress, Best Ensemble Cast, and Fernando Poe Jr. Memorial Award.
However, when PAWS called out their attention through Facebook, that was when several cast members and production staff shifted sides to let the public know about what happened. The post earned more than a thousand reactions, shares, and hundreds of comments.
And that was how it went viral.
Oro actress Japo Parcero turned to her personal Facebook account to expose what really happened on set. She wrote three (3) days after PAWS released their initial statement,
“A day prior to the shoot, I was sent an email containing two pages of script. They sent only the excerpt, only the sequences which my character in the name of Lorna, has. This was quite disappointing as even in smaller roles I’ve performed before, I was always given the entire script. This is common courtesy, even if you’re playing a character with absolutely no lines.” Parcero was already skeptical when she was sent parts of the script where her role was included.
“…at the after party attended by the entire crew and cast, I was made aware that A DOG WAS KILLED IN THE SHOOT. In fact, two dogs died, one accidentally and one deliberately. The production bought the first dog, and the owner, in his excitement to deliver the dog and receive his payment, tied the dog in a sack and unknowingly killed him by suffocation. The production, bent on shooting the scene which apparently was in the script, bought another dog for butchering. That night at the after party, the story relayed to me was that the actor was asked to bludgeon the dog to death. Someone said he was even reduced to tears by the end of the scene because he also didn’t want to do it, he was just following directives. I also learned that there was a great delay to the shoot because the lead actress, after knowing what they planned to do, stood her ground and threatened to refuse shooting if they killed an animal. I don’t know how they were able to convince the ENTIRE CAST AND CREW to ever agree to such an unspeakable act, but the words often used that night were ‘for authenticity’ and ‘we believed in the vision’. I was downright shocked and sickened when it finally dawned on me that I unwittingly became part of a film that killed an innocent creature. I cried and I cursed. By then I didn’t know how to tackle it. Here they were, celebrating the victory of becoming part of MMFF.”
“’…at the expense of two dogs’ lives’, a voice in my head screams. In a few moments, they gathered us and inconspicuously asked us never to tell anyone about the incident. That we have to LIE about it. It was unacceptable.”
“If anybody has seen the trailer of Oro, Kapitana says these words, ‘Nawalan ba kayo ng dila at wala man lang isa sa inyong nakapagsalita? Wala man lang nagreklamo sa inyo?’ I say no. That’s why I am making a stand. Now I ask the twenty or so people on the island who were there and bore witness to the dog’s murder. Asan na po ang mga dila niyo?”
Her post received more than ten thousand shares, reactions, and thousands of comments. Parcero hopes that her status will serve not only as an exposition, but as a call for those who know something about the killings to speak out. Her post earned more than ten thousand reactions, shares and thousands of comments, and was also shared through multi-platforms, and quoted by several news outlets.
In turn, Filipino animal lovers on social media took the issue as a serious violation of the Philippine Animal Welfare Act (RA8485), and that it is a sad excuse for trying to achieve realism as an artist.
The virality of the issue had the MMFF executive committee to once again, probe the alleged lying of the producer and director.
“The representative of the film present during the executive committee screening admitted lying. According to the representative, the previous statement of using goat and prosthetics in the dog slaughter scene was just a lie since a real dog was killed during the filming. They said it [alibi] was out of panic.”said Film Development Council of the Philippines chair Liza Diño-Seguerra.
In response to opinionated posts and comments about the issue, director of Oro (Alvin Yapan addressed the issue on the official Facebook page of the film
“Hindi totoo na inutusan ko ang isang aktor para lang pumatay ng aso… hindi ko ilalagay ang sinumang aktor sa ganyang posisyon… at sino naman akong burgis na tagasentro na bigla na lang lelecturan sila na barbaro ang kanilang ginagawa ni wala nga akong naitulong para iangat ang kanilang antas ng pamumuhay para naman baboy at baka na ang kanilang kainin? Bahagi ng tradisyon ng Pilipinong komunidad (Brgy. Gata, Caramoan) ang pagsasama-sama at pagkatay ng hayop para makain sa isang salo-salo. Nariyan ang baka, baboy, kambing, manok, kasama ang aso. Kung ano ang natatagpuan sa kanilang lugar, yaon ang kanilang kinakain.” Yapan wrote.
[Translation: It’s not true that I ordered an actor to kill a dog. I wouldn’t put anyone in that position. Who am I to lecture them on being barbarians when I’m incapable of doing anything to help improve their standards of living so they can eat pork and beef? Filipino communities (Brgy. Gata, Caramoan) have a tradition of eating and slaughtering animals for food. There’s beef, pork, goat, chicken, and also dog. Whatever’s found in their place, that’s what people eat.]
The Facebook page of Oro was deleted, so I can only provide what was accounted by CNN.
Consequently, the Filipino netizens did not like their response, as the director took a defensive stance by saying it is “culturally accepted” for Filipino communities to consume dog meat instead of clarifying whether they did or did not violate RA 8485.
Furthermore, the virality of the issue have caused the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to get involved. The Program Chair for an Animal Rights Organization called Animal Kingdom Foundation Inc. wrote to the Regional Director of NCIP Caramoan, Camarines Sur (location of filming) to clarify Yapan’s testimony that eating dogs is a cultural tradition for locals of Caramoan. NCIP denied the practice.
The controversy went viral during the New Year’s Eve of 2016, and its impact retained in mass consciousness for more than three weeks. The longevity of its repercussions appeared to be long and sustaining because the key people involved in the issue used social media as the avenue for their statements—and we are very much aware about the tractions that comes with the use social media.
In addition, it was also highly publicized by news outlets that it caught the attention of the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), exposing it to criticism from westerners. PETA also encouraged their followers to tweet to MMFF’s official Twitter account, or share the link to their post so that Yapan and his producer will face charges.
Senator Grace Poe, daughter of the late Fernando Poe Jr., took a stand on the issue and revoked the Fernando Poe Jr. Memorial Award of the film.
The controversy even resonated to the Senate last January 25, three weeks after it went viral, they held a Senate Committee hearing on the recent MMFF where they also talked about the dog-killing controversy of Oro.
Of course, not every Filipino netizen liked how their kababayans, especially the animal lovers, are taking the issue seriously. Some commented that it was absurd for us to become very affected about the killing of two dogs for a film when our country is in crisis for extra-Judicial killings, while others argued that those people who were complaining are missing the true essence of the film.
(I personally believe those two are false arguments because we are talking whether the director and producer did or did not allow the dog killings, which violates a law of our land.)
The controversy eventually subsided when the consequences for the producer and director were announced by the MMFF executive committee: they are banned from joining the film festival for a year.
Although not everyone is happy about the outcome (because some are still waiting whether Alvin Yapan and his producer will be jailed), I believe social media users did so much in bringing this controversy to limelight. The only thing that PAWS had to do was to post their initial statement on their Facebook page, and the rest was viral. Animal lovers did not even need to stage a protest for this controversy, all we needed to do was to tweet our opinions and share links about the post until it became a trending topic on Twitter and on Facebook.
Evgeny Morozov considers this form of online activism as “slacktivism”, or simply “pack behavior”, because it does not involve an offline action for the controversy to get act upon, but I would like to argue that it still contributed a very important factor, which is widespread awareness on the issue. Besides, we have animal welfare organizations who are doing the work. I know these organizations are well aware that posting it on social media will help elicit consciousness.
Like what Ethan Zuckerman wrote, new new media allows participatory civics, which refers to forms of civic engagement that use digital media. And as a millennial who is also an animal lover, I feel hopeful whenever I read a comment that is in line with my advocacy (animal welfare), and I feel a sense of belongingness online whenever I see like-minded individuals rooting for the same outcome: for the truth to come out, and charges be filed if found guilty.
I do not believe that being an online activist, or a keyboard warrior (as others refer to it negatively) constitutes to doing nothing. As what we always say in class, social media is a double-edged sword, and we have the platform in the palm of our hands, so why not utilize it to create awareness or educate those who are ignorant?
Here’s a smiling swimming Shiba Inu for everyone who read up to this part:
CNN Oro Director statements: http://cnnphilippines.com/entertainment/2017/01/03/Oro-director-reacts-dog-killing.html
MMFF Bans Oro Producer and Director: http://www.philstar.com/metro/2017/01/07/1660380/mmff-bans-oro-producer-director
MMFF withdraws Fernando Poe Award: http://www.rappler.com/entertainment/news/157272-mmff-executive-committee-announces-withdrawal-fernando-poe-jr-memorial-award-oro