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Story Review: The Dog Eaters by Leoncio P. Deriada

The Dog Eaters is distinctly Filipino because of the subject it tackles: consumption of dog meat as pulutan or appetizers taken with alcohol. I am not certain if there are other countries or people who partake of dog meat in the same manner, though, so forgive my limited knowledge on the matter. In any case, in The Dog Eaters, we witness the quite violent, domestic conflict between husband and wife, Victor and Mariana, over the former’s penchant for eating dog meat and drinking the local liquor called tuba with his friends instead of eking out a decent living for his pregnant wife and child.

And that is practically what we will read in this story: a prolonged marital squabble that gets interrupted by the arrival of a witch-doctor, and resumes as soon as the latter leaves and the husband returns from his drinking spree across the street.

She closed her eyes and pressed her belly hard. She felt the uncomfortable swell, and in a moment, she had (a) ridiculous thought. What if she bore a pair or a trio of puppies? She imagined herself as a dog, a spent bitch with hind legs spread out obscenely as her litter of three, or four, or five, fought for her tits while the mongrel who was responsible for all this misery flirted with the other dogs of the neighborhood.

Mariana’s frustration and anger at her good-for-nothing husband is quite palpable, and I felt for her – completely sympathized with her. Who would want a husband who had no stable job with which to support his family, and to make matters worse, spends his time drinking with equally unreliable men and eating dog meat? There was a point however when I questioned the cause of Mariana’s anger: was it the fact that her husband ate dog meat, or the fact that he was out there being totally useless and unable to give her the life that she thinks she deserves? Would she have tolerated his fondness for eating dog meat if he had a job, was putting food on the table, and showering her with comfort?

Their protracted fight eventually exhausted me, however. And while I laud Mariana for the strength of her convictions, at the end of the story, I wondered how intact her sanity was. Did her situation take a toll on her mental faculties?

It didn’t help either that there were so many typographical errors that consistently distracted me from the narrative. I cringed at each one that I encountered. But I will take the typographical errors any day over the reference to dog meat as “aw-aw meat.” Something is so disturbingly wrong with the phrase, and please tell me I’m not the only one.

Rating: 2/5
Published in The Dog Eaters and Other Plays


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