To Calm the Pig Inside

Written by Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde


“Memories catch up as a girl visits a ravaged port city.”

This documentary short is the closest thing to poetry I have ever seen on screen. How can something so devastating be so beautiful at the same time? What director Joana Vasquez Arong and her team were able to capture in this black and white piece was unbelievable. The sound design contributes to the piece immensely. I felt chills listening to and seeing the fury of the storm leveled on Tacloban City. Not only did Arong capture the fury of typhoons that caused havoc in the Philippines, she also told us stories of resilience and about how communities came together when the government failed to check up on them. “The storm brought out the best in us,” the townspeople say.. 

Another effective device used by the filmmakers was the allegory of a pig inside the center of an earthquake. Whenever the words Buwa buwa were invoked, it was supposed to “calm the pig inside.” Buwa buwa was a reassurance that after the storm passed, everything would be okay and normalcy would return. However, there wasn’t a similar word that could provide reassurance and calm the winds of a typhoon. 

The difference in how communities cope with different kinds of natural disasters makes this a remarkable watch. Arong also manages to bring a moment of levity and color into this short by including colorful pictures, drawn by school children, that depict the devastation of the storm. This choice was incredibly effective and allows audiences to understand how children cope and make sense of the devastation around them. 

It is strange to describe a documentary as atmospheric, but that is the lasting impression this piece will have for me. To answer the question I posed at the beginning, what made this so devastatingly beautiful is how community members were there for each other, offering comfort and kindness even after they lost everything. I’m sure they will be there for each other in the future as well. 


To Calm the Pig Inside Trailer

To Calm the Pig Inside is currently seeking distribution and has screened at Slamdance and Shorts Mexico

Thanks to David Magdael & Associates for providing this film.

You can follow Maria Manuella Pache de Athayde on LetterboxdTwitter, or Instagram and view more of what she’s up to here.

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