White Goose Award makes ‘Aswang’ Oscar-eligible

Published September 28, 2020, 5:51 AM

by Rica Arevalo

Alyx Ayn Arumpac wins in the 12th DMZ International Documentary Film Festival

IN GRAVE DANGER A scene from Aswang, the documentary on the war against drugs

Despite the pandemic, Asia’s largest documentary festival, the 12th DMZ International Documentary Film Festival took place in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, Korea, which ended on Sept. 24. The biggest winner is our very own, Alyx Ayn Arumpac who took the prestigious White Goose Award for her debut film, Aswang. Her film is now eligible for The Academy Awards.

Alyx was born and raised in Mindanao. “My sisters and I studied at West Elementary School, a public school with students from all walks of life,” she tells the Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “Being from Mindanao particularly General Santos City, which was founded by settlers means you grow up around multiple cultures and religions with respect and recognition to the people and their land.”

VICTIMS OF MONSTERS Another scene from the award-winning film

A cash of KRW 15,000,000 (620,750.00) was given to Aswang in the International Competition section.

As a child, roaming around the forest was her playground until her neighbor’s nanny warned her about an aswang (shape shifting evil spirit). “She [nanny] said I should stay in bed and keep my eyes tightly closed because the aswang or sigbin might be circling my house,” Alyx recalls.


“I shouldn’t look at the window because its red eyes might look back at me. They said this aswang also killed dogs and we had new puppies at the time so we made sure to lock them inside the house at night too,” added the Philippine High School for the Arts graduate.  

When the government’s war on drugs went full blast, Alyx was on the streets documenting the operations. “When I saw the first images of the war against drugs 25 years later, I recognized that they were making a statement with these nightly brutal spectacles,” she muses. The journey of Aswangstarted with this seed of an idea. 

Alyx loves the films of Wong Kar Wai, Patricio Guzman and ApitchapongWeerasethakul.  “For this film, I did my homework and watched docs about genocide and crimes against humanity,” Alyx explains.

‘When I saw the first images of the war against drugs, I recognized that they were making a statement with these nightly brutal spectacles.’ The journey of Aswang started with this seed of an idea.  

After its premiere at the 2019 International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), the 85-minute documentary has won awards in FIPRESCI (IDFA), Amnesty International Award (Thessaloniki), and Beyond the Screen Award (Docaviv).

FOLKLORE BEHIND BARS Another still from the film showing a cramped prison

When faced with adversities, violence, and harsh conditions, how does Alyx cope?  “I suggest to try to work with empathy and kindness. Surround yourself with people who do the same,” says the 34-year-old filmmaker. “I would not have lasted long if it were not for a group of like-minded individuals and journalists who were also covering the war against drugs.”

Alyx finished her MA in Documentary Filmmaking in Europe’s DOC NOMADS Erasmus Mundus.   

What are her future plans? She volunteers, “With the present situation, I really just look forward to seeing and hugging my family and friends again.”