Basurero by Eileen Cabiling [Review]

BasureroSebastián Nadilo shares his comments on the short film “Basurero” directed by Eileen Cabiling (Philippines).


Basurero by Eileen Cabiling – Philippines | 2019 – 17 minutes

Cast: Jericho Rosales, Althea Vega, Matt Daclan, Soliman Cruz, Yuna Tangog, Skyzx Labastilla, Marife Necesito, Shane Patrick Carrera.


I had the fortune to found out about Basurero some weeks ago while covering the 2019 Busan International Film Festival. What attracted me was its topic and how the director offers a new approach on the War on Drugs in the Philippines and the violence it produces.

Basurero tells the story of Bong, a Filipino who struggles to support his family and his sick daughter. To make things worst his daily job as a fisherman is not leaving him much of an income. Desperate by this situation he decides to dive into a more profitable job. He becomes part of the country’s violent and cruel War on Drugs. As a basurero (garbage man) he is tasked to dump the bodies of drug addicts killed by the authorities. After a close neighbor – a small-time pusher- gets killed his wife decides to confront him. Bong tries to justify himself by saying “it’s okay they are trash anyway” but the cold stare from his wife makes him reflect on his actions. Bong tries to distance himself from the situation by trying to get a job abroad but very quickly he realizes he can’t leave. Like drug pushers those helping the authorities are in a dangerous position because they know too much. Entangled in the net of endless violence he is left hopeless as he is pulled down into the abyss.

The War on Drugs in the Philippines is facing both political and artistic resistance. We can quote films like “Respeto” by Treb Monteras and “Nakaw” by Noel Escondo & Arvin Bellarmino; and documentaries like the recent “On the President’s Orders” by James Jones and Olivier Sarbil. These films show how cruel and anti-poor the War on Drugs is. Basurero also focus on the War on Drugs but instead of showing us a violent perspective the director chose a psychological approach on those trapped in the endless circle of violence and poverty. Despite being a debut film, the director managed to create an immersive film from the start. The story is based on an article published by Al Jazeera about fishermen working for the authorities by getting rid of the bodies of drug addicts and small pushers at the Manila Bay. Jericho Rosales (a well-established Filipino actor) does a good job in portraying this contradictory and desperate character. On the other hand, Althea Vega (Bong’s wife) only appears for a few minutes but its enough to stab Bong’s conscience with one single cold look.

I would like to thank Eileen Cabiling and her producers for letting me see this film. As always thank for your time and support.

Sebastián Nadilo

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