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Rice - Estrella Alfon

Rice - Estrella Alfon

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Published by Clara Buenconsejo

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Published by: Clara Buenconsejo on Feb 13, 2011
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It is open st'ason lor politics in the country again, and dema-' gogues en/er the world of the lamished, make

capital 01 their 'chronic hunger, and enable uS to witness the latter's despair.

Characters: CLARO: an indigent young man who looks old at the age of 30 LUMEN: his wife, a thin, famished-looking woman whos~' gaunt frame belies her 25 years MRS. HASPLENTY: a wealthy matron another matron but of much more

means of their owners - in a remote corner of such a village forgotte~ wh!le some newly rich estate owner has not yet though; of erecting his ~ream house on it, some of the unendowed daring have-nots of this day have had the temerity to put up barong barong shelters that cower in the shadow of the beautiful mansions of the rich. These are the typical eyesore structures of the impermanent, the hounded, the often dispossessed. TiD hammered to flatness, leftovers from some cruel fire, shakily ereCted, intended to be as quickly torn down as they have been so. quickly put up. T~ese then are the houses of the people - are they people? _ in this play. LIGHTS OUT COCKCROW on high note Crow 1: Crow 2: BLUE Light RED Light

MRS. TAMALAMANG: modest means BOY: ENING: a child of about 8

COUGHING, prolonged fit of coughing from man on ;~"ft in CENTER of stage draped in red but looking Jlkc • coHin bier.

younger sister to Boy a hungry-looking man of about 35 a woman, again-looking older than ..~: ' Ening " Boy LUMEN .


THIRD NEIGHBOR: a pregnant woman who carries a sloall child, about a year and a half, on her hip '. OTHER NEIGHBORS: mostly raggedy, including the little children, mostly half-dressed and mostly in tatters, with unwashed faces

(Enter ESCO, with cock in arms. He sits on tree stump. fondles rooster, flies it in air several times to test its wings. Walks around dais, off to another side, calls to man lying on raised bed.) .

One of the modern, very prosperous subdivisions in the suburbs, where the land has been subdivided by the well-to-do into fenced lots, grown with well-tended, well-manicured Bermuda grass and lushly £lowering bougainvillaeas and fragrant roses. Among these beautiful houses, fairly shouting their prosperity and the status and

Pareng Claro. Claro! The sun is high. Wake ~p! Tanghali na, Pare. Cising na ang Kristiano. (Enter STREETWALKER. Slightly drunk, as seen by the way she walks. And tired, with her night wor~, wearied

with the coming of the bright day. Sits on the same tree stump ESCO sat on. CLARO coughs.)

LUMEN (Calls to children off scene): Boy... Ening ...

Psst. Hey, Rosie! Why are you running away? Are you afraid?


. Afraid? Afraid of what? (Pausing, looks back. Hesitates. Then goes slowly away.) It is none of your business. Oaro. ESCO Wasn't he your querido for a long time? ROSIE Oh, shut up! So what?


Mahol. Wake up. It is morning.

(Looks up at the day, the listless tired look.of the sleeper who has found no rest in his slumber, tortured through. the night by his coughing, and fearful now of the traits' that the relentless day brings.) ..

That was a long time ago.

Nangangamoy kandila na yang bata mo, Rosie. naman..

Tuluftgan mo
It is Sunday.

LUMEN What do you want for breakfast?

dren ...

Why should I?

After all, he has his wife and .. , chil~

(She has been busy with the small things a wife finds to dp around a sick spouse. The pillows to flu££; The blankets· to smooth out. She walks around to the other side of him so she can change his clothes. She is never still. While the conversation here takes place, there are motions for her to go through, all of them connected with the duties of a housekeeper with a helpless husband.)

ESCO We haven't any money. cent? What breakfast can you get without",a

Hey.' Walang t.b. ito.' Materiales fuertes, blue seal, Choy!
ROSIE God is always kind. Aling Bibang.

LUMEN Maybe I can still borrow something from


'.. .. ··1

Bastos.' Walong hiya.' Manok mo na lang ang pagtiagaan mong himasin! ...

(LUMEN proceeds to change the shirt CLARO has sIep,tdd for a ~ean one. The process is often interrupted ~by CLARO'S coughing, and LUMEN massages 'his baeJt ashe

struggles with his phlegm. She wipes his back with the shirt she has taken off him, wipes his agonized face with it. Then she lays it aside as he rests his head on her bosom. She reaches for a T-shirt and puts it on him as he submits to her attentions with the limp docility of a baby. As this goes on, there's business off-stage of a group of men fighting their cocks. Shouts and calls typical of a cock-fight crowd.) LUMEN In fact, Aling Bibang said she would bring a Mrs. Hasplenty with her. From the S. W. A.l You know the S. W. A. (OFF STAGE: SOUNDS) VOICE #1


!~I ".~




Sa pula! Sa puti! Sa pula! Sa puti! Tumakbo! Naka! Tumakbo ang manok! 'Duwag! Iluto na lang natin 'yan! Ang 1010 mo ang duwag! Sa pula! Sa puti! Sa pula! Sa puti!
(Sounds of cocks in furious wing beat and tattoo of cockfight. Yells and shouts of excited onlookers.)

Mang Esco, subukan natin 'yang manok mo.


Ang ganda! Blue seal!

Siyanga naman, Mang Esco.

MUSIC, strains of a march.

Aba, huwag. Isasabung ko ito sa Linggo.

Si Aling Bibang, pala. Si Aling Bibang. Mga kapil·bahay, ito ';~ " si AJing Bibang.

Magandang umaga po, Aling Bibang.
(Enters ALING BlBANG on scene, followed by crowd, and arm·in-arm with MRS. HASPLENTY, who III dreslIed In stylish kimona and patadyong and retinued by a uniformed chauffeur bringing big boxes under each arm; a photograph'er with his camera and flash at ready, and several re~rter. with bored looks, pencils ready to take notes on small note. books. March music. Cheers.) ~

ESCO Huwag, sabi. Bakit matataleoO Ha!


Magsisi ka, 'pare. Hindi takot ita.
1 S. W.A.: SocIal Welfare Administration, a relief agency of the government.

(Waves her hand flutteringly at people to make them quiet down so they can hear her.)



Good morning, mga people. Mga kapitbahay, I brought witll me my boss from the S.W.A., our beloved Manang Eniang. Our good Manang Eniang. She wants to see all of you. (Crowd cheers. Photographer takes one picture ilS. the crowd come up to MRS. HASPLENTY and shake her hand. She does it very gracefully, with the sincerity and devotion ~f a really sincere person. She has an'arm around each w~man s shoulders very briefly, presses the arm of each man JUst'as briefly. Her smile brilliantly includes them all, and all her gestures are charming, including the fingers she gracefully raises to her head to pat her coiffure in place and the hand that she places on the head of each child in loving solicitation. She has candies she takes out of her handbag that she passes on to them,) (Music of her march plays on,) MRS. HASPLENTY My very dear people of this looban. Ako', ,tagaga/ak na ,?,akita kayong lahat na maligaya. I want you to know .that thi~ of you all the time. Kaawa-awa naman kayo. Altng Blbang told me about you, and I want (holds her graceful hands to bre~st), oh, I want so much to help you. '

(Motions to the chauffeur, who deposits th~ boxes at MRS. HASPLENTY'Sfeet. She looks around at the crowd and bends to take other things' from the big:boxes. .Hands out a few dresses to some women, moving around in the same graceful manner. All the while the crowd try to get their share, but MRS. HASPLENTY sweetly shakes her head and moves back again to where LuMEN watches 1111 this show with dumb reality. CLARO has looked up onco to watch the commotion and then, like one already sepll' rated from the affairs of the world, turns' his eyes away. In the meantime, MRS. TAMALAMANG has been eEfl· dendy, although superfluously-for this i. all routine to Manang Eniang's retinue-stage-managing the proceeding., pulling some neighbors to receive Manang Enlang'. dole, and nudging the photographer to take tho shots he doe.' with the boredom of one who has been doing nothing but the expected.) MRS. HASPLENTY My dearest friends. Mga kapatid. Mahal ko kayong lahat. But today, through the information given to me by your good Aling Bibang, my friend, I came to help Lumen and Claro. So today I must give rice and things to Lumen. It is SUnday, and th~ S.W.A. is closed. But tomorrow I will come back, and I'll bring you all, the things I know you need. (Turning to ALING BIBANG) : Magpasalamat kayo that you have here among you such a woman as Aling Bibang. (The praise so overwhelms ALING BIBANG, she takes MRS. HASPLENTY'S hand and quickly kisses it.) (Music stronger, but not enough to drown her voice, which takes on a platform tone.


(Music on a more triumphant note. People clap their hands at her charming words and gesture.)

Mga people, visitahan na natin si Claro. (In gen~ral aside to people around): Pumarito si Manang Eniaag dahsl kay Claro.. (Sees LUMEN.) Alam mo, Eniang, kawawa itong si Lumen at St Claro _ wala sila'ng matirahan, kaya dito na ho sila pinatira., Ab, heto pala si Lumen.
MRS, HASPLENTY (Embraces LUMEN briefly, who partly draws back in abasement.)

ALING BIBANG directs her, however, to formally hand over
the rice and the canned goods that are intended for CLARO and LUMEN. . But even as MANANG ENIANG turns over the boxes to LUMEN with the same implacable cool sweetness, she

Kumusta si Claro, Lumen? Kumusta ang asawa mol Alagaan mong mabuti si Claro, hal Malapit na ang eleksiyon, kailangang makaboto siya.


doesn't abandon her stance: head held back and.' lovely throat lengthened the better to deliver the lines she can say so well. The photographer is at the ready. ALING BIBANG has inserted her own person into the tableau so that when the picture is taken, she will be right there with MANANG ENIANG.) MRS. HASPLENTY Babalik aka nang talagang matutulungan kayo. ways weeps for you. (The people cheer.) I will bring you clothes. Aling Bibang will distribute them to you. (Cheers from the crowd.) If we could work ... We could earn ... ' And we could buy ... It is better if you distribute these yourself, Manang Eniang. si Nena. Ita RICE: YES, RICE. For my peart al-

MRS. HASPLENTY Food. .. I shall bring you food. (Cheers. ) For when you hunger, I hunger too. you what I can. Oh, I want to really give

Trabaho, Manang Eniang. Trabaho ang kailangan namin! (Rest of crowd murmur their loud assent.)

Opo, Manang, bigas po!

Rice, Manang!

RICE, YES, RICE! (The crowd takes it up like a cry.)

(MRS. HASPLENTY nods her head in solemn agreement, like a beautiful doll.)

Abaw! Katahum guid. Madamo guM na salamat. Baw! H~stong husto pa sa aleon. .. ay!

Mga kapitbahay, handa siyang tumulong. But she can more if she were ~ senator. Let us make her a senator.

~ .10-

naman si Fidel; wa/a aleong para sa iyo, pero ilo, para sa alawa mo.

(The crowd raises their hands to her in enthusiastic endorse-:~':;4" m~t of this wonderful plan. ~S .• TAMALAMAN~'~7~ raIses MANANG ENIANG'S hand In tnumphant sign ana ....•.. 'n'·, she screams hysterically at the crowd!); ':~~


~;~ :r;,.;

Mabuhay si Senadora Eniang!
(The crowd shouts its riotous answer. MRS. HASPLENTY" puts her free arm about LUMEN, who looks up in adoration at the beautiful would-he-senator.. The photographer takes the picture. It includes, besides the crowd, the miser-, able CLARO curled lfP on his miserable pallet.) . MRS. HASPLENTY (To LUMEN): This is really very little. Just a few gantas 6£ rice and several tins of sardines. There's some corned beef, too., (Peers into the box, takes out several tins so as to rapidly, inventory what else there are. To herself):

I am. That houseboy of mine has snitched some of the rice and canned stuff I told him to put in this box. He's a thief that's all. I'll dismiss him. ' LUMEN No, please, po, he may be another poor one like us. there is enough here. Anyway,

(Gladness finally overcomes her timidity. She kneels down . and thrusts her hand into the little sack of rice and clench~, her fists on the precious grain.) Rice. Rice. (Looks up atMRS. oh so many times.. _. HASPLENTY)~ ::Thank you, \"

Salva;e that boy of mine. I told him five gantas and this looks
like a mere three gantas. And I said 5 tins of sardines, and 5 tins of corned beef. Comorte na naman. MRS. TAMALAMANG (Bends down to help EUGENIA inventory the box's con· tents. Appeasingly): Never mind, really, Eugenia. what il here. (To LUMEN): Lumen will be glad enough about

(The neighbors reach the group, exclaim am~~g themselves" about the box of foodstuffs. LUMEN'S children even detach ~emselves .from th~ mother's skirt and shyly, wiused to havmg anyth4tg to display, hold out the tins of sardines an~ corned beef to the neighbors so they can see, until the.tr mother motions them to desist.) MRS. HASPLENTY (Looks around at the neighbors gathered and smiles at them. But she wants to escape, and she nodS to LUMEN): Do not thank me yet. You want me to come back, don't you? (Surreptitiously places some bills in LUMEN'S· hand on the pretext of making LUMEN stand up from her kneeling. Whispering. ) And here's something to buy a few things with. (Turns away. Takes MRS. TAMALAMANG with her.) I really must go. I have to see Inday Lilang yet. But Bibang here must tell me if you, Lumen, should Aeed anything in an emergency. I can always help, in a small way. .. ' MRS. TAMALAMANG They have really no one else to go to but me, and I know no .J:l1lewho can help you.

Ano, Lumen, isn't this better than nothing? LUMEN

(Holding her skirts tighter around her as the children threaten to unskirt her with their clinging.)

Naku, pol
what to lay.

(Almost in tears) :

Naku, po, I don't even know

Thank you, oh thank you ... MRS. HASPLENTY No, no, don't thank me. I should have been here sooner if Bibang here had told me earlier. But you don't know how angry

ESTRELLA D. ALFON (Turns to LUMEN): Lumen, dahan-dahanin mo no 'yan, ha! If Claro still does not get well, come to see me, hane. Or if he gets well, let me know that also. He will ask Manang Eniang to give him a job. MRS. HASPLENTY Paa/am na sa inyong lahat. . Senator. Thank you. Do not forget me for But why should she be so good to us? LUMEN Mabuhay s; Manang Eniang! Mabuhay s; Senadora Eniang!

LUMEN A friend of our landlady's, Mrs. Tamalamang. It seems her name is Mrs. Hasplenty. Did you see her? Did you see her jewel.? And her dress? You should have smelled her. She smelled .0

Who knows, maha/? She brought rice and tinned viands. even put some money in my hand. (Opens her hand clenched about the money.) CLARO How much is there, maha/? You could buy yourseH a dress.


(Exit MRS. HASPLENTY, MRS. TAMALAMANG.) (Lumen dumbly nods her head and watches as the two go oH stage. The neighbors surge to her. One or two men help LUMEN lift the box just inside the barong·barong, on to the plank and beside CLARO.) (The children speak to their father.) ENING
Ifay, did you see? A lady all dressed up came and gave us food.

(Fondles LUMEN'S rags. His eyes are eloquent with despair.)

Are you crazy? (Feels under the pillows CLARO lies on. Pulls out a slip of paper. Shows it to CLARO, then folds it and gets up, hands futilely trying to pull her rags into some semblance of neatness.) I can buy the medicine in the doctor's prescription, Caro. know that? (Scornfully.) A dress indeed! CLARO You

And money, Itay. I saw it.

I saw her put some in the hands of [nay.

(His voice half a whisper and a rasp): Who was she? Can your mother, call her. (LUMEN comes back to the barong.barong. The neighbors have made their goodbyes, but lingeringly; LUMEN takes' out the tinned stuff, arranges them at the foot of the papag floor. She smiles tremulously at the sick man.) Who were they, mahal? Who were those good people? (Counts the money.) LUMEN Why, there's all of ten pesos here, maha/,. CLARO (Wistfully.) Perhaps you'll have something left over. When did we see ten pesos last, dear heart?

LUMEN Ten pesos. For want of it, we were driven out of the ~oom we rented in Paco. And Mrs. Tamalamang, for whom I washed told us to make use of this little space. And it is from lying on 'these boards so close to the ground that you have this fever in your bones, Claro. I should havep'lked that dressed-up lady to give us ,,~ a place to live, too. But I co, ld not open my mouth.
I .

I'm sorry I'm sick, my poor one. .•. 'late to be lying down while "' you make yourself so thin with the washing you do. Oh Lumen perhaps if r just died, it would be better. One less mouth to feed: And perhaps you could even get II. : .~w husband. A better partner. LUMEN Hush your mouth! You dare to talk that way today, of all days, when we have food to eat. I'll buy your medicine. You'll get well. Things will get better, you'll see. I'll go. Here's a' stone. (Picks up a stone from outside the barong-barong.) Hit the walls when you need to call the children. Do not exert yourself., (She fixes the pillows so CLARO will be more comfortable. Settles the foodstuff to the end of the plank floor~ away from Claro so he can have a bit more room.) ,' (To the children): Boy! Ening! .Don't go too far from your father. He can not shout for you. He'll just bang the walls with a stone. (Pemonstrates.) Do not make him exert himself. Boy? Ening? . BOY

stuff, he reaches for other things placed on makeshift nails and flanges on tin on the walls: a small mUk-can for measuring rice, a pencil stub, some wrapping paper he flattens out to write on. He coughs in weakness and fatigUe with even these exertions. He reaches for so~e other pape~ and smooths it out on the planking, and on this improvised mat, he ekes out the rice in measures with the tin cat), piling it in small equal piles. and to each he juxt~poses I can of viand. The mat of paper is filled with these little piles of rice, and he counts them and makes calculations of their number on his little piece of writing pad and his small stub of a pencil. His frenzy with this work,' his preoccupa-' tion with it even, makes him forget his cough' or his lnalaise. ' Yet his labored breathing is definitely observable so that it is the observer who feels anxious for his state of health.)

(To himself): If we cook two cans a day for each meal, we can eat breakfast,' lunch, and supper for eight days. If we only boll rice for lWl~' and supper, this will last twelve days. Maybe by that time I~ be well and strong again. Enough to work. (Rea"anging his tins of viand and his mounds 01 rice.) But on the last days" there wouldn't be any viands to eat with the rice. Well, we've t>c;en hungry enough for so long. Salt with the rice will be good enough. (The two children enter and approach and gaze solemnly at him. By this time CLARO is leaning against the shaky' walls. His shortness of breath alarms even himself. )

Opo, Inay,
(LUMEN goes off-stage.) CLARO (He gets up from lying do'Wuto a sitting position. He inches his way toward the foot of the planking moving on his thin buttocks to do so. As he reaches the box of tinned CLARO (Smiling I;Itthem wanly): I am counting the days of our eating. Look. Here Is for to~ay. And for tomorrow this. If we eat three times a day, thl. wIll last only eight days. So breakfast, we won't eat .ny rice.

If you don't run about so much, children, you won't get so hungry. ENING You only lie down, Itay" but you eat too. You get hungry too.

drifts into the scene. A woman. Then, from another comer of the stage, another neighbor, a pregnant 'woman with a sickly-looking baby on her hip. The CHILDREN ~o.~4lessly touch CLARO and indicate the neighbors' presence. CLARO wipes his tears away on the l~wer part of his shirt and looks up at his neighbors, his tears still in his eyes.) FIRST NEIGHBOR (Sitting down on planking, which creaks ominously with his weight so that he hastily jumps up.)

I'm trying to get well, Ening, child. can all eat regularly again. ENlNG And then perhaps buy me a dress, Ita,? BOY Humph!' My clothes are even more tom than yours. But I don't care, Itay. I only want you to get well. We Then I can work and you

Claro; are' you crying?

I hate being sick. I hate having to see my children and my wile starve.

rt'lIl1y llno 1111 III ""~llllh'l CIIlI'1l flllt

Wt' .'1111 lilt. 1'1'"

PIWUNAN'I' WOMAN Today, at least, you should not do any crying. You're lucky. You have these. .. (indicates the mounds of rice and viands on paper mat.)

(Turning his face to the wall to hide his tears.) Why do I have to be .ick anyhow? What business have the poor being .ick? (Beats his palms against his aching joints.) What rlBht, even, have the bones of the poor to achel
'! ~

(Tries to rise and finds the effort completely beyond him. Beats at his weak knees in despair.) " Stand, standi Oh, knees so weald Standi

SECOND NEIGHBOR And tomorrow too, and the day after. PREGNANT WOMAN We all give thanks when anyone of us finds some Godsend.

(Sobs against the wall in a fit of hysterical despair. The children stare at him and then te:ltatively pick It the mounds of rice, throwing some,grains into their mouths. The face. of a 'oeigh~r peeks in, looks at CLARO, waits for him to notice him, then gestures at the children to desist from putting the raw rice in their mouths. Another neighbor

(Slowly, because of his weakness, yet with a feeling of haste, his claw-like fingers put the mounds of rice. together, .and with the tin can he strives to put it all back into the little

sack. The tinned goods be also tries to put back into the

box. Then tremulously):

Thanks be to God indeed. Now I pray I'll be· able to get up and work before this small plenty is gone. FIRST NEIGHBOR You know, Oaro, that's what we thought. SECOND NEIGHBOR Yes, that you and we-we all know what hunger is.

And you having this, please therefore let me borrow a little for .our own cooking. We haven't a grain in our own house today.

Claro, you remember how we all helped carry you home - that day when the fever in your bones made you drop the water pipe you \Were carrying? It dropped right on your chest and we thought you were dead. But we took you home and took you to bed and called a doctor for your troubled breath.

PREGNANT WOMAN Most of the time we put out the very morsel we are on the verge of swallowing, because our children must first be fed. (Thoroughly harassed, cornered and set upon. He frenziecIly tries to put away at last all of the rice and the tins. Feverishly) : Please, please, wait for Lumen. , ,

(Looking cornered and harassed.) These past few days, I have tried not to eat at all because there was so little and my poor wife ana children did not have enough, even for just themselves. But I grow so weak from the sickn~s and hungering. PREGNANT WOMAN In my house, too, it is that way. But when we hear that your children are crying because they haven't got even one mouthful at least, then we can not eat but we must send a little food here to you.

(Shrewishly): We came to borrow some rice, a little each. But you sound as though you don't want to let us have any. If 'I were you, I would be happy to be able to have my turn at feeding my neighbors. Anyway, it is only rice we wish to borrow.

Well, if I can have a tin of sardines too, I could put some mongo with it, and we could have some hot soup. And I would bring you some, Claro. But if you don't want to ...

Yes, yes, my good neighbors, I know if it hadn't been for you, all of you, yes, we would have starved, all of us, by now. Thanks be to you indeed. FIRST NEIGHBOR But God is always kind. Just when one thinks there isn't going to be any of God's mercy on earth, He sends evidence of it. Look at this windfall come your way. Like a jackpot, ha, friend Claro?

I am not, please (sounding dtsperau), only, please, to wait for my wife.

not 'refusing. I wish you

Why, what will Lumen say? It is she herself who manages to always be there when our own rice pot boils. She doesn't object, but we know her need and before she can ask, we always ladle out some for her. Knowing you are sick. Wanting to help you.

ESTRELLA D. ALFON And anyway, I need it now so I can cook it for supper. (Turning away. ) But if you want us to wait, that's just as well as saying No. I'll borrow the rice somewhere else. But I'll remember this, Claro. Anu 'yon? , (Sadly, angrily, helplessly): Wait. Please take the rice you need. (Little girl comes on scene. Runs to them.) (As the neighbors eagerly approach the carton): Take what you need. Take what you want. (The neighbors each take their measure of rice. .FIRST NEIGHBOR puts several tins full into his gathered-up skirt. SECOND NEIGHBOR tears off It piece of the paper mat to make a cornucopia into which she puts her own dole. PREGNANT WOMAN has a capacious pocket in her skirt, and she puts down the child on her hip for a little while as she' scoops out her own need, pouting the measures into her pocket. When they go away, CLARO watches them at first, then he takes the stone anq bangs away It the tin walls with it. The boy comes to hiin.) Help me. Itay says we should hide this.


(The two children tug at the box. They can only succeed in pushing it down the length of the plank flooring.) Where can we hide this, Itay?

(Looks around. There is no place in his cramped quarters to hide anything. He looks at the pillows he has been" lying on. He drags himself back to that place on the planking near the pillows. At the same time, he helps his children push the box. He empties a pillow case of its pillow and hurriedly, frenziedly, places the rice in the pillow case.) BoyI Ening! Warn me if anyone approaches. I don't want any- . one to know where we hid this rice. Bring out the tins too. Put them among the rice. (Smooths out pillow somehow, bulging unevenly with rice and tins.) Now, this left-over rice. Range it' here, where I will hide it with my b6dy if I He down. (Children do as he tells them to. He lays the uncovered pillow over the tin cans to the sIde. Now there seeml no evidence of the rice and tinned goods. Claro can be leen to have become desperately exhausted by all this effort. He gestures to the children to put the carton back at his feet, he lies down slowly, desperately tired, on his lumpy pillow and closes his eyes in exhaustion.

BOY (Tugs at carton. Finds it too heavy for him. CLARO tries to help, but. the effort only produces a fit of coughing.) Where will I hide this, Itay? But I don't think I can lift this box, Itay, and you are no help at all. CLARO

· '. . ,

~ ~,~~

CIDLDREN Aren't We going to cook, Itay? some of that canned stuff. We're hungry. We'd like to eat (Her fear and frenzy have communicated to the children and they go about their tasks obediently. LUMEN massages '" CLARO's limbs. She keeps shaking. his head to "make hiiD~:' conscious of her. But his head 10Usgroggily on the 'lumpy~:' ,,1110w. S~~ keeps massaging the thin limbs, the thin arms/' As she does this, NEIGHBOR peers in, watches. her !.or.·.. : I while until she notices him. She smiles a fleeting, sickly smile at him, then goes back to her anxious, almost hysterical ministering to her husband. NEIGHBOR goes away, but soon comes back, bringing others with him. Among' them are our previous characters. They .tand around, help LUMEN massage CLARO's limbs. In the manner of ignorant folk they press at his solar plexus. They cltch at hI, heels and press at this cruelly. But CLARO does not he~ or return to consciousness. ' (In the meanwhile, the children have built a fire and have a pot bolling on the fireplace on the ground, three stones set apart to hold up a pot over flames. (LUMEN has started to whimper with fear. The children blow at the fire. When the neighbors help hermass8Se. / CLARO's limbs, she goes to the children, perhaps thinking" she can hurry up the rice cooking. This sh~ tries to do,' frantically trying to make a bonfire of the cookirig. She goes back to CLARO, touches his forehead, and whimpers.) His sweat is so cold. (Wipes at CLARO's forehead with the comer of a bandanna over her shoulders.)

CLARO (Faintly.) for her. Wait for your mother. She'U be here soon. Watch


Here she comes. We'll go and meet her. (They tuni to run, bui the girl notices the ghastly look on her father's face and she pauses. She holds her brother's 'It'l:Q and he, too, looks at his father more closely.)




(CLARO does not answer. Slowly, perceptibly, his limbs straighten out and his fitlgers unflex limply. His mouth drops open, and the boy shakes him.) BOY Itay, what is the matter? Itayl

(LUMEN enters. She glances quickly at CLARO and immediately feels his forehead and his neck. Hu;*dly, the woman looks at the medicines she has brought, gets a glass of water, and wordlessly lifts her husband's head and tries to force him to drink the medicine. The man~s lips are closed, and swallowing is out of the question for him in his state. In wordless frenzy, LUMEN once more tries to get him to open his lips and swallow. But it is no use. Finally she places the little envelopes to one side, looks around for the' rice, finds the carton empty, quickly surmises that it is all hidden under CLARO's head, and hurriedly draws a measure to cook. She gestures to BOY.)


I only went away to buy him medicines. I should have fed him ' first. NEIGHBOR (Whispering):

Pahiram ng bigas. ~

Boy, build a fire. And get your sister to wash the rice. cook some broth for your father.


Help me.. Please help me. (Calling to her husband) Claro! What's the matter with you? . .



Let me have the rice I wish to borrow. supper. LUMEN His head is pillowed on the rice. Please let's not disturb him. As soon as my gruel boils and I have fed him,.I will bring the ri~ to you, AIing Etang. I'll give you a tin of sardines too. But don't let us disturb him now. (Other NEIGHBORS whisper among themselves. The pregnant woman digs into the same capacious pocket, fishes out an assortment of things, including a dirty towel with ;which she wipes her baby's face, a length of string, a pair of old baby shoes, finally a rosary. She gives it to an old woman among the neighbors, who immediately lets CLARO clasp his inert fingers around the crucifix. She kneels and gestures at the others to kneel, and they follow. LUMEN has in the meanwhile gone to the pot on the boil, stirred it, and ladled out some into two bowls she gives the children. A third portion she pours in and out of two bowls to cool. Then she puts a little salt on it, stirs it, and turns to give it to CLARO. She notices the women kneeling, and the crucifix that CLARO's hands are' now curved around. She almost runs to CLARO. She kneels and shakes him while with the other hand she holds the bowl of gruel.) Oaro! Claro! Are you foolish, indeed I Here is some gruel. Eat and you will feel better. Claro! Here's eating, and you're sleeping. Claro! . (The woman who has put the crucifIx in CLARO's hands pulls LUMEN away. She turns up CLARO's eyelids and shakes her head. She kneels down again and loudly prays the prayers entrusting the departing spirit to God.) PRAYER· LEADER Jesus, Maria, y Josefl NEIGHBORS I want to cook it for ,

ESTRELLA D. ALFON LUMEN (Realizing the significance of the prayers, she puts her bowl of gruel back near the foot of the planking where CLARO's feet cannot reach them. Unclasps CLARO's hands from around the crucifix.) (Shouting at the kneeling neighbors.) of you. Stop! No! No! Stop that, all

(Shouts into CLARO's ears, shaking him slightly by the shoulders.) Oaro! Claro! Wake! They are thinking you're dy. .. (She can not say the fatal word.) Wake! Wake! (The children are eating their gruel. They are so hungry they have forgotten anything but the pleasure of eating. The boy goes to the pot and ladles out some more gruel into his bowl, as well as into the bowl his sister holds eagerly out to him.) (To the children.) Boy! Ening! Shout it into your father's ears. Tell him to wake. Tell him how good the gruel is. (Puzzled, the children pause in their eating. The old woman's praying interposes into the pause.)

Jesus Maria 'Y Josef ... PRAYER LEADER

(Shakes CLARO more violently. Turns to the praying throng, almost pushes at the old woman leading the prayers.)

(In pntiphon):

Jesus, Maria 'Y Josef ...


I said No! Stop that praying. Claro! Claro! CHILDREN (Getting up but not abandoning their eager eating. Approaching their mother, making their way through the' kneeling throQg. but bowls still in their hands.) , Claro! '(She answer.)

LUMEN raises her head to watch him and see if he will

Claro! (Half-whispering.) May bigas tayo. (She remembers a forgotten nickname. whispers it like a sibilant demand: Clarita! ) (Suddenly, terribly. wails): Claro.o.o!... I

Why. Ina,? [na" what is the matter?

ENING (Tearfully): Is


going to die?

1. What is the function of the prologue Involving Esco and Rosie? Would you suggest that it be made to recur at the end?'


(But even as they ask this question. they are still holding , their bowls to the4' lips, afraid to let any morsel of the soft rice pap go to waste. LUMEN keeps shaking the prostrate man. NEIGHBORS keep up their lead and antiphon praying. In her frenzy. LUMEN's shaking of the tired sick man has caused _ tear in the old pillow case and the rice trickles down. LUMEN finally stops. She looks at the sick, thin frame and sits back on her haunches: As the neighbOrs keep up their praying. LUMEN tenderly places her own thin hand against the gaunt. hollow cheeks. She smooths the pillow under his head. realizes the lumps the tin cans make. The rice trickles down. LUMEN watches it. then slowly picks the grains in her hand. She whimpers like a sick dog as she looks at the rice in' her hand. then suddenly puts a thin arm across the still bosom of the man on the planking floor. dislodging the crucifix as she does so. (The NEIGHBORS. praying. touch her; she turns her head around to look at them. She rights the ends curved thinly around the little crucifix. Then she lays the lit~~ handful of rice in her hand on the now still chest..•.·Suddenly. terrifiedly, she buries her head on the thin shoulders and wails.) :

2. Identify,the object of, the author's criticism in this play. What is her view of the nature of hunger? of unemployment? of.,1;,:~ disease? of gambling? Do you think this is the only rationa1f#'l~j view one can take on these social problems? Discuss. 3. Give the chief character traits of the following: Mrs. Hasplenty Mrs. Tamalamang The Neighbors Lumen Claro 4. How does the author make use of large mUi'les of people to produce her effects? What effects? Could she have achieved them just as well by means of fiction? poetry? an essay? In other words. was the author's choice of her artistic medium a happy one? 5. Can you justify the mixture of E'nglish and TI18alog in the dialog? 6. Define your feelings about the neighbors' and the children's behavior in the presence of food. particularly at the death, scene. Is this behavior defensible? Is it human or beastly? j., In view of it, what seems to be the main point the author, :t,'; wishes to drive home? ""


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