OPINION | The film Oro: Caramoan Massacre

The Price of Gold

by Margret V. Basmayor

I am also honestly heartbroken by the cruel slaughter of the helpless dog that was explicitly shown in the movie, but BEFORE YOU JUDGE "ORO"...

I would like to reiterate that this beautiful work of art is actually the retelling of the CARAMOAN MASSACRE, which is narrated in detail in the link that I have attached.

I have watched the movie myself, I can tell that the narration of events was spot-on, as it was tightly based on the tragedy of the four gold panners who were massacred. Even the places where the film was taped were the real deal  yes, including the ball mill, and even the hut where the killings happened. In fact, before filming the scene of the killings, the crew had gathered to pray for the souls of those who were murdered there.

Even the gunshots were fired at the exact same places, as shown in the movie. (Yes, one of the victims had actually been shot in the eye  imagine! And another one of them had not yet even swallowed the rice that he had been chewing, when he was shot in the back.)

All of this violence, this bloodshed  it was a lot to take in, even for a movie. As a lover of fictional stories and dramas, this movie, which is packed with heart-wrenching emotion, had kept me occupied from the moment that I had seen it. What had made it most 'disturbing,' as one of my closest friends had described it, however, was the fact that it ACTUALLY HAPPENED.

The people of Lahuy island lived in peace until this unsettling tragedy. They came to a point where they feared for their safety, especially after sundown, which forced them to cut their work hours short. They were harassed and detained in their own land by people who were outsiders and who did not have the authority to do so. The village's traditional means of livelihood, which was mining, had been seized from them by the so-called "Patrol Kalikasan," because of the latter's "concern for the environment"  obviously a mere cover-up for their insatiable lust for gold and power.

Because of this, the village people had to live in uncertainty for months, not knowing whether they would have some food to lay on the table when the dawn breaks, as they gaze in worry at their sleeping children while they shoo the mosquitoes away  despicable creatures that are no different than the selfish, bloodthirsty barbarians who took the lives of the miners.

Above all the the abuses that had happened in this period of darkness in Caramoan, however, the worst had to be the killings (both human and animal).

Beloved pets were nabbed from their owners, skinned, cooked over a roaring fire, and then eaten with rice and an occasional swig of alcohol. It cannot be denied that the eating of the fluffy animals we love to cuddle and play with is a common practice in some places. It is, however, banned by Philippine law, and it is not something that we can easily tolerate because of the norm. Besides, why would you want to feast on such a lovable creature, which had looked you desperately in the eyes as it pleaded for mercy, only a few moments before you had shot it in the head and dragged its bloodied corpse into your kitchen?

Perhaps they had consumed the pure, untainted flesh of man's best friend in an attempt to neutralize the evil that flows like poison through their veins. The nerve of those people  if they can do those horrible things to pets without as much as the slightest inkling of guilt  I daresay that they are more of beasts than humans!

It is no surprise, then, that the same people who had committed these heinous crimes were also responsible for the manslaughter of the four innocent men. They were only eating their dinner after a hard day's work at the gold mine, for crying out loud! They were no threats to anyone at that moment, not even to the pesky mosquitoes that were once again attempting to feed off the blood of another unsuspecting and unwilling host. Still, they were gunned down without a hint of hesitation or conscience, butchered like the poor animal that the culprits had devoured before.

How could one even ever justify such a crime? How would you explain to the children that their fathers are never coming back, because a group of men armed with guns had simultaneous temper tantrums? How would you calm the wives who became widows, and the mothers and fathers who lost their precious sons in the blink of an eye? How would they, experts of their craft, then pass on their knowledge to aspiring miners of the next generation, when THEY'RE DEAD?

The movie "Oro" had expertly captured these events in its frames, radiating pure agony from the big screen towards the audience. I couldn't give it five stars, though, because of the actual reenactment of the events where dogs were abused  a crime which I personally will never forgive, and an offense that will forever scar my animal-lover heart. They could have given the idea in a different, more subtle way, rather than just throwing the image of a skinned dog directly to our faces! The members of the team behind the film were obviously gifted people  they could have at least used prosthetics, or innovated other ways to deliver the message.

Perhaps they thought that showing the 'real thing' would create the most impact and generate plenty of feedback from the viewers. Still, I stand firm by my disapproval of the animal abuse. Even if they did have a noble purpose, teaching a virtuous lesson should never come at the price of taking the life of a living being, even if it is that of an animal.

However, I still recommend watching the film, especially to those who are also from Camarines Sur. Remember, the massacre took place somewhere in Caramoan  once your ideal, go-to tropical paradise, correct? The fact that it had happened so close to home, that it had actually taken place, and that it was NOT just commercialized fiction written for the movies, still sends chills to my spine.

Indeed, the movie is an excellent eye-opener, warning us that not all that glitters is gold, that some people, even authorities, may take you for a fool and manipulate you into doing their bidding, that monsters like the murderers portrayed in the film do exist, and that some people will do anything  even kill another  to get what they want.

I am truly hoping that instead of, or at least more than generating anger for the slaughter of the dogs in the making of the film, that this movie spreads awareness among everyone regarding the situation in our society. The massacre happened in 2014  years have passed, and probably today, similar events are still happening and we don't even have the slightest clue about them.

Therefore, we should start being more cautious and alert of what is happening in the society. We must learn to protect ourselves, as well as our fellow citizens. Even when we are scared, we must stand up to those who think they can put us down and take what's ours. We must listen to one another, negotiate, and cooperate. We must learn to fight, not to charge into the battlefield, but to defend our rights and create peace.

This is our land, our home. Let us not allow it to run red with the blood of our people.